Why I Hammock Camping on the Appalachian Trail
When you are hiking, shelter is one of the most essential pieces of equipment. I mean, we call him one of the “Big Three”, don’t we? So it must be important. Well, after many years of hiking, planning, training, and deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that I will be using a hammock as my primary shelter while I hike the TA. This article will explain why I chose to go with a hammock over a tent and will address some of the downsides to my choice. If you want to use a hammock on your hike, or just want to get into hammock camping in general, this article may be useful for you. So enjoy!
(How many times do I say the word ‘hammock’ in this post ?!)
# 1 – comfort
The main reason I use a hammock is for comfort. After many years of sleeping on the floor, I was convinced that I just couldn’t sleep well while camping. I was always the last to fall asleep and the first to wake up.
Everything changed the first time I pulled out a hammock on a hike. I slept like a log. I could take a nap at camp! It was a revelation! I found that I could sleep well while camping, but not on the ground. Every time I have slept on the floor since entering the hammock campsite, I have sorely missed (pun intended) my hammock.
So if you have trouble sleeping well while sleeping on the floor, try a hammock and see if that doesn’t help.
# 2 – cost / convenience
I put them together because they’re kinda the same to me right now. Having some hammock camping experience, I already had some of the equipment, knowledge and skills to hammock. For this reason, it is just easier and cheaper to stay with the hammock.
Now can you get a tent cheaper than a hammock system? Sure. In fact, some really nice tents may be cheaper than my hammock setup. But since I already have some of the material for a hammock and should buy a brand new tent for this hike, the hammock is cheaper for me.
# 3 – Ideal for the environment
Finally, my last reason has more to do with the Appalachian Trail itself than a hammock. Because the AT is so wooded, a hammock is almost an ideal shelter for it. With so many trees, finding places to set up my hammock will be effortless. While some campers may have a hard time finding flat or open ground, I should have little problem finding space.
It also makes me feel good that the hammocks are a bit better for Leave No Trace. That’s not to say that the tents are bad for the environment or go against the LNT, but the hammocks create less of a footprint and less impact on the land around the trail. As long as they’re set up properly with the right equipment, a hammock setup will leave little to no impact on the pitch. And that makes me feel good!
Now I am not going to lie to you and tell you that a hammock is perfect. It’s not. There are disadvantages. For one thing, hammock camping can be tricky. While it’s possible to keep it relatively straightforward, you’ll still have a bit of a learning curve to really dial in your setup. With tents, it’s pretty easy to just throw them away, set them up in the poles, and pitch them up.
Second, hammock campers have a little less privacy. One advantage of a tent is a private, enclosed space for changing or just spending time alone. Hammocks don’t. Hammocks also generally lack a good option for storing gear as tents often do.
And finally, the weight is a bit of a drawback. Can hammock setups be light enough? Absoutely. Will the lightest possible hammock setup be lighter than the lightest tent option? Probably not. In the end, you can probably find a tent that weighs less. But when you’re about to embark on a hike where you’ll sleep outside almost every night, the extra comfort can be worth it sometimes.
So what shelter do you use for long hikes? And what made you choose this refuge?
If you are interested in my list of weights and equipment with my hammock system, here are my detailed equipment lists for cold weather and warm weather on the AT (subject to change):
Cold weather: https://lighterpack.com/r/d7nrmw
Hot weather: https://lighterpack.com/r/48jdjx
(30 times. I said the word ‘hammock’ thirty times.)
Please consider a donation to Hike for Mental Health to help fund research and treatment for mental illness:
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps support The Trek’s ongoing goal of providing you with quality hiking advice and information. Thanks for your help!
For more information, please visit the About this site page.