[This post is a follow-up to our last post 5 Reasons Why You Should Switch From A Tent To A Hammock]
“Think Outside The Tent.” That’s the advice I gave at the beginning of my last post and I attempted to give you a very convincing argument for why you should leave the tent behind and instead bring a lightweight hammock on your next camping excursion.
But, as someone who has said that camping in a hammock changed my life, I want to avoid any sense of bias and make sure we look at this from all angles. Any time I discuss the benefits of hammock camping there’s always the one magic question that pops up and I’m going to tackle it head on in this post.
What if there are no trees?
Are there times when a tent is a better option than a hammock?
The answer is Yes, but more often than not…No. Let me explain.
There are definitely some camping environments where you won’t easily find places to hang your hammock – wide-open desert camping, high alpine camping above tree line, etc. Life is always about using the right tool for the job and if you know you’re going to be camping somewhere void of all trees then your tent may be the better option.
But, let me present you with two important points in defense of your camping hammock remaining your #1 choice for each and every trip:
1.) No trees? No problem. Trees are only one way to hang your hammock.
Even when above tree line you can still use rock outcroppings and boulders to hang your hammock straps from. Same goes for rock formations in the desert. We’ve even heard stories of people hanging their hammocks from large cacti and other ‘non-tree’ objects you’ll encounter even in the barest of landscapes. Even at high altitudes that are considered above tree line it doesn’t mean there are zero trees. They often grow shorter, yet much stronger to withstand the wind, and can be fully capable of supporting your hammock. Of course if you’re car camping in any areas devoid of objects to hang from, don’t forget that your car makes an excellent spot to hang your hammock from. Get creative and you’ll quickly realize that you can often still hang a hammock even without a tree in sight.
2.) When all else fails, you’ve actually got a ‘Make-A-Tent’ kit with you.
Whether you spent $400 on your tent or $40, a tent at its core is simply this: a shelter that gives you a place to sleep (on the ground) while protected from the elements.
Believe it or not, when you’re hammock camping with the proper gear you’ve already got a tent with you when you find yourself with nowhere to hang. You can easily use sticks, branches, or hiking poles to set up your hammock tarp just like a tent, using stakes, rocks or tie out line to secure it in exactly the same manner as you would with your tent. You’ll have your sleeping pad with you to insulate you from the ground and a sleeping bag to keep you warm. If you’re worried about bugs or critters you can even setup your hammock bug net for an even more tent-like experience. It could take a little more work than assembling your tent (depending on your tent it may even be easier), but you’ll sleep and camp almost exactly the same way you would in a tent. Your unused hammock isn’t dead weight either – your can use your hammock in the pouch as a pillow for sleeping, open it and use it as a sleeping bag liner or sheet, or, if you do have one tree available, you can even use it to hang your food and gear out of reach from bears and other animals.
Get Off The Ground
As you can see, the ‘What if there are no trees?’ question isn’t as much of a knockout punch for the hammock as it first appears. After reading this post hopefully you’ve learned that you don’t always need two trees to hang your hammock – and, when you find yourself with absolutely nothing to hang from, your hammock camping gear actually functions as a tent with just a little bit of creativity. Your tent definitely doesn’t convert into a lightweight hammock and tarp system when you need it – score another one for the hammock.
Thanks to technology and innovation, the reality of a backpack-able hammock frame is also getting closer. For a glimpse at where things are headed, check out the Handy Hammock stand (pictured left) from our hammock loving friends across the pond. In the years ahead the lack of places to hang your hammock will matter even less, and the argument for bringing a tent over a hammock will be even harder to justify.
Hammock Camping is about learning to upgrade a piece of gear we’ve always taken for granted and replacing the tent as your everyday go-to camping shelter. It’s about thinking outside the tent and realizing that there’s a better, easier and more comfortable way to camp in most environments. It’s about realizing that even when you wind up in a pinch your hammock camping gear can still give you the shelter you need.
But, being a hammock camper doesn’t mean you have to throw your tent away and vow to never use one again. It’s been years since I’ve slept in a tent but that doesn’t mean that I’ve sworn off tents forever or would be ashamed to find myself using one again (I’d probably complain a whole lot and miss my hammock though, that’s for sure). What I’ve found though through first hand experience is that my Trek Light hammock has worked out perfectly on every camping trip, backpacking trip and adventure I’ve been on since I made the switch. I’ve camped in multiple states, terrains and climates around the country with my hammock and fallen more in love with the outdoors on every trip. Sometimes I’ve had to be more creative than others to get myself off the ground, but I’ve never found myself regretting bringing a hammock instead of a tent.
Another very valuable thing I’ve learned along the way is that the ‘What if there are no trees?’ question I hear almost every day is far more unrealistic than most people realize. If you don’t believe me, start looking around you every time you camp in a tent from now on. See all those trees, rocks, posts and other places you could hang a hammock? They’re just about everywhere you’ll find yourself camping in the great outdoors. If you spend 99% of your time camping in wide open fields, deserts, and places with absolutely no trees – well then you’re probably the exception to the rule and you’ll definitely want to consider an option like the Handy Hammock stand mentioned above. (Notice I didn’t say “keep using a tent”? Where there’s a will, there’s a hammock to sleep in.)
When you bring a camping hammock with you you’ll be sleeping in comfort, you’ll be able to camp over rocks, roots and wet ground where tents can’t go, and you’ll fall asleep and wake up more refreshed than ever before.
The worst case scenario of hammock camping when you absolutely can’t find a place to hang? You’re still prepared for a night outdoors and just going back to how you always camped before – sleeping in a shelter on the ground that requires a little bit of assembly before you can use it. I’d call that a pretty strong reason to make the hammock your #1 choice whenever possible.
Is there another angle you’d like me to look at when it comes to hammock camping vs. tent camping? Do you still have questions about making the switch? Let me know in the comments below.
If you’re ready to try camping in a hammock instead of a tent this summer, make sure you read our Sleeping In A Hammock Guide and check out Trek Light Gear’s line of amazing camping hammocks and accessories. If there’s anything I can do to help just let me know.