I read a question recently on the Facebook forum I run, Hammocks UK, and it got me thinking. The question was;
“Does anyone else end up with a sore back when you go back to a bed after a night or two in your hammock”
For me, I think it’s all about the hammock.
When i first started hammock camping I would regularly return exhausted and slump on the couch. The reason for this was I would spend my weekend away tossing and turning and waking up at all times through the night.
After some experience and switching to better hammocks then finally stripping back the fluff, seeing through the marketing bluster and understanding what makes a hammock comfortable, I have never slept better in my life.
Going out hammock camping should be a great experience and that includes the sleep. For me it took me years to get that right. Now, I rarely wake through the night in my hammock and actually wake less than I do in my bed. I have a wonderful mattress but my hammock is far comfier.
Regularly we get newbies and upgraders looking for hammock suggestions. It frustrates me that people are not getting proper guidance but instead folk are throwing brands and models at them without even considering if it will be the right fit.
So, to that end, I thought I would delve in and hopefully give folk the benefit of my knowledge. I don't proclaim to be an expert but I have tried and tested countless hammocks over the years. I have experienced the good, the bad and the uncomfy. This is not an exercise in promoting or decrying vendors but rather a helpful insight into how best to determine what will work for you.
First off, please remember that no hammock is universal. What works for some won't work for all for a number of reasons. Hammocks are entirely subjective and much like a mattress different people will have entirely different experiences with each.
Consider your weight, height, sleep position, seasonality and what type of camping you'll be doing, as hammock weight may also be a consideration.
There’s an incredible disparity in pricing of hammocks and that’s for a variety of reasons; Fabric type, mass production versus cottage vendors, hammock style, hammock size, hammock length, accessories, purpose but mostly, mostly it's about marketing and lack of awareness.
Vast expense may very well equate to quality, but I don't subscribe to the viewpoint that money equals comfort. I’d rather be comfortable in a cheap simple hammock than toss and turn all night in something costly, aesthetically pleasing, tricked out and marketed to within an inch of its life just to appease the gear junkies.
Expensive hammocks may well mean that every stitch has been meticulously planned and the material handled with the greatest of care but that does not in any way suggest they are comfortable for the user, nor should it. The only way to determine that is to try it.
There's also a lot of well meaning but ignorant advice out there. You can listen to all the advice you like but if your purpose is to drive to camp, walk 3 minutes and pitch up at your favourite spot where you shall remain for the weekend, is it really wise to take the advice of a gear snob who weighs 6 stone less and spends most of that same weekend crag hopping? His/ her needs are entirely different to yours and they will sacrifice comfort over practicality.
Please also consider when you buy from out with the UK that import duty and postage alone will cost a small fortune. If you're going to drop that much on a hammock then try to at least experience a night in one first. You wouldn't spend good money on a mattress without first laying on it.
Finally, listen to suggestions but try some first. Get along to local meets. I can't speak for all vendors but I'm always happy to lend someone a hammock to try overnight at meets. Listen to what they have to say, the pros, the cons (if they’ll tell you), and when listening if they’re not able to profile you, profile the hammock and see if it meets your needs.
Remember, consider your weight, height, budget, sleep position, seasonality and what type of camping you'll be doing but above all where possible Try BEFORE you Buy!