Hammocks: How to Choose
You can’t beat a hammock for a cozy night’s sleep close to nature. Hammocks have become increasingly popular with backpackers, campers and scouting groups because they not only keep you out of the dirt, they can also offer protection from pests and the elements.
To become a hammock enthusiast, follow the shopping tips in this article.
Shop REI’s selection of hammocks.
How wide should your hammock be? Hammock widths vary from around 4 feet (48 inches) to 8.5 feet (102 inches), with 6 to 7 feet (72-84 inches) comfortably accommodating either a single user or a couple. Solo sleepers usually go narrower; it depends on how much extra room you like to stretch out. Keep in mind, though, that too wide of a hammock will wrap farther around you and make you feel claustrophobic.
Lengths vary much less than widths, but tall sleepers should shop for models longer than 8 feet (96 inches). Again, it is largely a matter of personal preference.
Hammock Suspension Systems
Hammock setup requires a suspension system and a pair of carabiners. Sometimes these are sold with the hammock; sometimes manufacturers offer one or both of these items separately as accessories. Suspension options include webbing straps (make sure they’re wider than 0.75 inches so they don’t risk injuring the tree when weighted), synthetic tree slings and nylon ropes (beware of overly stretchy ropes that could leave you on the ground). Look for hammocks with lots of attachment points. They allow more setup adjustability and more flexibility in the types of trees you use.
Hammock Weight Capacity
Hammocks have weight limits ranging from 150 to 500 pounds—check the specs before you purchase one. If you expect to frequently lounge with your Great Dane, be sure to get a heavy-duty model. Note that weight capacity refers to static weight. Any jumping up and down in your hammock will shorten its lifespan and performance.
Hammock setups can weigh as little as 7 ounces or as much as a few pounds. Lighter ones will likely be shorter/narrower than regular hammocks, so shop carefully. Add your chosen suspension system to the total item weight—this generally adds 10 to 15 ounces. Going ultralight? Many hammock companies create an ultralight version of their hammocks.
Most hammocks use lightweight, breathable nylon to keep you cool throughout the summer months—much cooler than an enclosed tent.
Note: A few hammocks are made of cotton. These are intended strictly for casual home use since they are heavier, harder to transport and dry slowly once they get wet.
For hammocking in chilly and windy conditions, though, you’ll need to warm up with optional accessories such as underquilts, topquilts or sleeping pads. The key to underquilts is to attach the insulation under the hammock and not inside. Why? Your body weight compresses the insulation and reduces its effectiveness.
More Hammock Features and Accessories
Insect-thwarting options range from integral 360° screens (best for those who camp in perennially buggy areas) to permethrin-treated models (net-free bug protection best for those prone to bug-net claustrophobia). A third option, an add-on bug net that’s sold separately, offers maximum flexibility.
Unexpected rain can put a damper on any camping trip, so it's a good idea to prepare for it. Most hammock makers offer an optional weatherproof tarp specially designed to shield hammock sleepers from anything Mother Nature throws your way. A few models include the tarp as part of the hammock purchase price.
Shop REI's Selection