Before we can talk about this hammock, we have to back up and figure out why you’re considering buying a hammock in the first place. Oh, because you thought camping in a hammock would make you look cool? Owning a portable hammock is your way of showing the world you can live off the grid and go hike up Machu Picchu at a moment’s notice, sleeping in trees along the way?
Yeah, I didn’t think so! But isn’t it weird how a) hammock companies market that way, with glossy pictures of some guy drink a camp mug full of coffee in his hammock while staring out at Kilimanjaro, and b) how the price of some of these over-glorified tarps makes you think it should be part of an Everest expedition’s gear?
Let’s talk about a real reason to buy a hammock: because they’re freakin’ awesome! (Says the lady who has a hammock in her office…yes, hanging, in her office.)
Hammock camping really is a viable option, if you have a few considerations in place. It eliminates sleeping on the ground and gets rid of the need for lugging an airbed and a pump with you if you’re not a sleep on the ground kinda person. They’re actually really comfortable, if you do it right.
That’s a HUGE if, by the way.
Think about the last hammock you tried out. It was possibly made of woven rope and was stretched wide by a wooden bar across the top and the feet. You know, the kind of hammock that Goofy gets tangled up in and flips out of on TV. That’s not the right kind of hammock for camping, which is why the gear companies developed these “nest” style hammocks.
These hammocks, which are giant swaths of parachute nylon gathered at each end, are a lot more like a cocoon. In fact, the first time you get in one and you lose your peripheral vision because of all the extra fabric, it’s a little disorienting. But once you learn how to stretch out in your hammock, you’ll see why I’m in love with it.
The design of the nest hammock means you can sleep in the traditional bent V shape with your head and your feet pointed up, OR you can lie on the diagonal using the extra fabric to support your head and your feet. You can lie on your side or even sleep on your stomach in this style of hammock.
Just be warned: the one in my office? We call it the coma hammock. People seriously get in it just to “try it out,” and end up passing out and waking up two hours later, very disoriented.
Now… once you have a hammock, how do you make sure you can take it camping and that you’ll find adequate tree coverage to hang it? You can’t. You can hope your campsite has enough trees spaced the adequate distance apart, OR you can purchase a portable hammock stand. Mine was about $50 on eBay and is literally five poles that snap together using a push-button mechanism (no tools). The poles fit in their own carry bag and end up being about the size of a portable camping chair from a discount store. It’s awesome… after all, it’s how I have a hammock hanging in my office! The poles are quite sturdy and two of the poles are the foot braces that keep you from flipping. (See the first photo to get a better idea of the hammock stand.) If you are using trees, make sure you have adequate straps to hang the hammock, and that you hang it high enough so that you don’t land on your butt when you get in it. The typical amount of give means that your hammock should be suspended at slightly higher than your waist height. Once you push on it and get in, it will drop dramatically.
While you’re hammock camping, you’ll also need a way to keep bugs off and stay dry. Mosquito netting is pretty common over hammocks, and a tarp or tent fly strung between your trees and anchored to the ground at the corners is the typical way to keep dry during the night. Be warned, if the weather is the least bit chilly, your butt and back will freeze during the night as air circulates beneath you, so you’ll need some kind of thick blanket to sleep on as well one to sleep under. The nest hammocks are actually designed to be used with your sleeping bag without fear of falling out.
So here’s the gear review part: I was disgusted by the $70 to $100 price tag of some brand-name nylon hammocks. Folks, I promise you’re just paying for the fancy label. Instead, I bought the OuterEQ Hammock on Amazon and could not be happier with it. Check it out, I promise you won’t be sorry. It comes in two sizes, so make sure you get the one you need. The smaller single is plenty big–even for my husband/guinea pig who tested it out for me–although they sell a “double nesting.” The double nesting is NOT intended for two people to sleep comfortably! Think of it more like having a couch in the woods with you, where two people could recline in it and drink coffee. They are not going to be comfortable sleeping together in it!
The OuterEQ comes in a ton of fun colors (so each kid can pick his own!) and folds right back up into its sewn on pouch. The pouch doubles as a place to store things while you sleep, like your car keys, glasses, or a flash light. At just under $20, it was the best one I’ve come across. I put them up inside a screen canopy at our campsite and we can all sleep comfortably.