Camping is one of the best ways to spend your free time during the summer. It’s great for the family or going with friends, and sometimes a weekend of solo camping is just what you need to recharge for the week ahead. Planning and preparing for your future camping trip is the best way to ensure that you’ll be fully equipped and able to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.
If you are preparing early in the offseason and looking at purchasing new equipment, or if you’re someone new to camping or enjoy car camping and what to know what gear to go with then you may find yourself in this dilemma: Do I get a tent or a hammock? Which one is better?
We are here to help you figure out which one will be the best option for you! Information is the key to making an educated choice, you don’t want to go out and buy either one on a whim. It requires research to choose the best option for you.
There is a lot for us to cover so you can see the pros and cons of each camping system, so let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Tell Me The Deal With Tents
All campers, experienced or new, will find that there are a plethora of choices when it comes to tents. There are different styles like dome tents, cabin tents, instant setup, all ranging in sizes from 1 person to 12 person size tents. They can be a single season, 3 seasons, or 4 seasons too so you can make the appropriate choice depending on the times of year and climates you’ll be camping in the most.
Tents are the best option for long camping trips, family trips, or if you camp with a group of people. They offer ample shelter for not only you but your other camping gear as well. If you are a tent camper then there may be no end to the benefits you could come up with, and with good reason. They are great.
But they do have shortcomings too, and it’s those shortcomings that could determine if a person chooses a hammock over a tent. It can be as simple as your preferred sleeping position or just getting a good night’s sleep that can make it or break it for someone.
Which those reasons alone are some of the main ones that people are concerned with. You want a secure shelter, but a comfortable one too that you’ll be able to sleep in for however many nights.
So, let’s go over some of the pros and cons of tent features:
Reliability and convenience
Tents are easy to set up, but when getting a new tent it is always important to practice pitching it so you can figure out all the ins and outs. The first time you set up your tent will always take the longest, but after that, it will only get faster. Some, you may not even have to worry about that because they are instant setup tents that are made so that you can literally have them set up in a matter of seconds.
Countless people use tents as their main shelter for camping, they are a tried and true product that comes in many varieties. Most perform excellently in inclement weather, which is the time when a proper shelter can be the most critical.
During times of storms, rain, wind, or snow, you’ll be completely covered and protected in your tent. The rainfly offers extra protection, and the tent fabric is designed to be as waterproof or water-resistant as possible. They may feature things like welded floors, inverted seams, or heat-sealed seams to ensure no leaks.
Many offer a quality of life features as well as storage pockets on the walls, a gear loft, electrical cord access port, or screen room. All of these things help to improve your camping experience.
Having reliable rain protection and the ability to keep your gear inside may be all that you need or are really looking for, and tents offer just that kind of convenience and security. Once you purchase your chosen tent you will likely have it for several years too. As long as you take appropriate care of it then it is an incredibly reliable piece of camping equipment.
For more on the different varieties, seasons, and styles of tents check out the video below:
Sleeping in a tent
Tents offer a lot of great features which may appeal to many people, but let’s take a look at them from a different side: how are they to sleep in?
Tenting is ground camping, which means you will be sleeping on the ground and that may not sound like the most comfortable thing in the world. Yet, if you are properly prepared then it won’t be a problem at all.
First of all, if you have concerns about your tent leeching moisture inside from the wet ground, then you can use a tarp or tent footprint as an additional barrier to protect you from the ground. Lay it out on the spot you want to be your tent site, then pitch your tent on top of it. This will help prevent any moisture soaking in from the ground gathering on your tent floor.
Getting a good and comfortable sleeping pad for your tent will help a lot. Not only does it keep your body off the ground, but cushions you too so you don’t feel all the lumpiness of the ground beneath you. You can get a self-inflating sleeping pad or a foam one. Both are great options, so it is up to you to check them out to find the one you think will feel the most comfortable.
Sleeping pads also provide a buffer so that you don’t leech the cold from the ground into your body and lose all your body heat. An air mattress will offer you even more of a buffer, but that is only if you can fit an air bed in your tent, and if you will be staying at a designated campsite the whole time and not backpacking to different campsites. Having to carry all of that around won’t be ideal!
If you add your sleeping pad with a sleeping bag on top and it makes for a comfortable combination. Your sleeping bags provide you with not only warm, but additional cushioning to help you get a good night’s sleep.
This sounds great and all especially if you are someone who likes to sleep on their back or stomach. This may be very comfortable for you to sleep in for a couple of nights. However, those who change sleeping positions frequently or who sleep better on their sides may not find this to be the most comfortable long term.
Laying on your side even in your sleeping bag and on a sleeping pad for an extended period of time will begin to make your hips and back become sore and achy. You don’t want to have you’re camping trip ruined if you can’t sleep comfortably.
If you are planning your first camping trip, then this is something you should definitely consider before purchasing a tent.
What About Hammock Camping?
So, what’s the deal with hammocks? Well, first of all, hammocks are much cheaper than tents, which makes them pretty convenient. They are extremely lightweight and are packed into a small stuff sack that can fit easily into your backpack without taking up much space. Unlike the large bags that tents come in and the separate bags for the tent poles and stakes. All of which take up a lot of room.
Camping hammocks still offer some of those convenient features that you find with tents, but in a smaller and lighter package. You may even find them to be much more comfortable to sleep in. Let’s look at some of the great features and conveniences of using a hammock camping system.
Types of hammocks
Just like tents, you can find a variety of different hammock styles. There aren’t as many options, especially because hammocks are really only for one person, even if it says two people can fit in it.
Depending on what you are looking for, you can find lightweight hiking hammocks that are just as they sound: extremely lightweight and compact so they take up virtually no space in your pack.
There are parachute hammocks that, when suspended, look like the shape of a deep boat hull. They are great for one person, but some can accommodate two depending on your body composition.
All-in-one hammocks are camping hammocks much like the parachute ones we previously mentioned, but they come with everything you could need like a mosquito net and a rain fly to go over your hammock. This way you stay dry and bug-free.
Similar to all-in-one hammocks, there is a camping hammock that is designed with a suspension system, and almost appears like a laying-down tent. Just hammock style. Awesome for one person it is an enclosed space with a completely mesh top to keep it bugproof, and so you can see the stars at night. You can zip yourself into this cozy cocoon for a restful night’s sleep.
If you expect rain on one of your camping trips, then making sure you have an appropriate rain cover for your hammock is key. When it comes to dealing with rain, a hammock may actually hold up better than a tent.
Let’s go over why:
The way a hammock system works already is a step above a tent when it comes to being rainproof. Being suspended above the ground means that you don’t have to worry about moisture leaking into or coming from the floor. You are off the wet ground entirely. The next thing is that as long as you have a rain fly or some kind of rain tarp, and you have it positioned right above the hammock, you won’t have to worry about getting wet.
Your tarp or rainfly should be completely waterproof and will easily cover your hammock and more. You can have a couple of tarps covering the area between the two trees your hammock is suspended from so that you can assure any wind won’t blow sideways rain into your sleeping area.
Hammocks are the way to go if you are looking to stay dry and comfortable! They’re just a lot more convenient in rainy harsh weather.
Sleeping in a hammock
Most people love lounging in hammocks and know that they can be quite comfortable, it is quite natural to find yourself falling asleep in one during a mild summer evening. So, sleeping in one while camping will offer much of that same experience.
Rather than sleeping on bumpy or flat ground, you’ll be suspended between two suitable trees and nestled into a cozy cocoon when settled into your hammock with your sleeping bag for the night. For side sleepers, this may be the best option because your hips won’t end up sinking through the cushion and onto the hard ground all night.
Instead, you will be supported so won’t wake up with aches as you would sleeping in a tent. Also, when you sleep in a hammock you’re out in the fresh air, unlike when you’re enclosed in a tent. That alone can help you sleep better.
If you are worried about bugs you can get a bug net if your hammock doesn’t come with one, and you can stay entirely bug-free all night even when you’re out in the open.
Most hammocks are only one person and really trying to sleep more than one person is less than ideal. Unlike a tent where you can each have your own sleeping space, in a hammock you will inevitably be squished together. That’s just how a tent works, and sleeping like that all night won’t be comfortable for anyone. For the best night’s sleep, you’ll want to keep your hammock all to yourself.
Comparing The Limitations Of Hammocks Vs Tents
Tent camping and hammock camping are very similar, yet still have their differences and offer their own perks. We’ve discussed above some of the features and benefits of each one, but let’s go a little more in-depth and really make up a list of pros and cons to look at.
Remember this is an important choice that requires much consideration and research. You want to pick the right shelter for you and the kind of camping or backpacking that you do.
Advantages of tents
- Convenient due to the wide variety of styles and sizes: You have choices like dome tents, cabin tents, and instant set up. Ample choices for size like two-person tents, 4 people, and up to 12 person tent options.
- Tents offer an enclosed and protected sleeping space: With enough room to also have your camping gear inside with you.
- Many tents offer various amenities: Like storage pockets, gear lofts, an E-port, or even a screen room.
- Tents don’t require a steep learning curve on how to set them up: They are simple and once you set up one you’ll find other ones to follow the same basic steps.
- You remain protected during inclement weather when inside your tent: Many have various weatherproofing features and materials.
- It’s easy to find a tent campsite
- You can find and purchase tents almost anywhere
Disadvantages of tents
- You may experience issues with your tent: Like broken tent poles, rips in the tent fabric, issues with zippering the doors, missing tent stakes, or leaks even when it is advertised to be waterproof. You’ll find there will be reviews like this in just about any tent you look at. But always weigh in the bad vs the good because there are usually fewer people that experience issues than those who find the tent to be excellent.
- Not all of them offer a warranty: So that you can replace the tent without issue if something does go wrong.
- Not ideal for hot weather: If you don’t set them up appropriately in hot weather, then the inside of your tent can become unbearably hot and stuffy. Tents tend to hold warm air, so choose hot weather tents carefully.
- Quite bulky: Some tents are very large and bulky so they aren’t good for backpacking.
- Not ideal for side sleepers: If you’re a side sleeper or roll around a lot in your sleep, you may find tents to be very uncomfortable especially if you don’t have some sort of sleeping pad or air mattress to cushion you.
Advantages of hammocks
- Affordable: A hammock system is generally cheaper than a tent.
- Lightweight: Hammock camping is much more lightweight and takes up little space in your pack. Ideal for backpacking or thru-hiking if you’re trying to save on weight.
- Very easy to set up: You just need two trees to hang your hammock between using your hammock straps or tree hugger straps to secure it.
- Can provide excellent shelter from the rain when you set up a tarp or rain fly over it: Ensure it is set up so any water slides off the tarp, and you’ll stay drier in a hammock than a tent!
- Can provide the best night’s sleep for side sleepers: Very comfortable and cozy with your sleeping bag.
- Easy to find hammocks at various sports stores: Or major places like Walmart, and of course online
- Bug-free: You can make your hammock bug-free with a mosquito net
- Available for 2 people: There are two-person hammocks as well.
- Waterproof: Being suspended over the ground means you won’t have any moisture seeping through the bottom of the hammock.
Disadvantages of hammocks
- It may not be ideal during windy weather: Because you and the trees your hammock is strapped to will end up swaying quite a bit.
- Not allowed everywhere: You’ll have to check campgrounds and existing campsites to see if hammocks are allowed. Some areas restrict hammock use.
- You may have a hard time finding suitable trees: Or any trees at all for you to set up your hammock.
- There is limited space in a hammock: So you won’t have anywhere to store your camping gear, you’ll have to leave it outside, but under your rain tarp with you.
- Not comfortable for 2 people: There are two-person hammocks but they aren’t really comfortable for two people because of how cramped they are. No matter what you’ll end up squished together because that’s just how hammocks work.
- Not ideal for cold weather: You’re open to the air which is great in hot weather but is not ideal for colder weather. You won’t have a great way of holding in heat.
Key Insights & Takeaways
We have gone over everything we possibly could to draw a comparison between hammocks and tents. Again both have some great features and some features that leave a bit more to be desired.
However, we have given you a great baseline of information to consider as you start your search to find the right tent or hammock. Your decision should be made on your own personal preference, the kind of camping you typically do, the kind of climate and environment you are in, and what you know you need to sleep comfortably.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a hammock better than a tent?
There is no true answer to this question because it is based on opinion. There are people who swear by tents and won’t ever use a hammock, and vice versa. Both have great qualities and some lacking ones, but it is really personal preference.
Tents offer privacy and an enclosed space to stay out of bad weather. You can keep all your camping equipment inside with you, and you can get tents large enough to fit multiple people. But your tent may not be as waterproof as you thought and experiences leaks, it gets way too hot in the summer, it’s expensive, and you may have to replace or patch it if parts break or rip.
Hammocks are cheap, lightweight, and ideal for warm-weather camping. They can be even more waterproof than a tent because you just need to set up a rain fly or tarp the right way, and you won’t get any leaks or moisture dripping down on you or soaking through the floor. But some areas restrict hammock camping, or you may have a hard time finding two trees that are stable enough to hang your tent on. They are really only suitable for one person, and you can’t keep your gear inside with you.
Is it safer to camp in a tent or hammock?
This depends on the area that you are camping in. Neither of these is full-proof shelters that keep a bear or mountain lion out. A tent gives you a false sense of security because it is enclosed, but you also won’t be able to see what is going on, and getting out of your tent in a hurry isn’t exactly easy nor quiet.
A hammock will feel less secure because you’re out in the open, but you are at least suspended a little way up, and you’ll be able to see what’s going on and easily get to your feet if you have to.
ALWAYS plan and prepare accordingly by researching the place you plan to be camping. Talk to the local forest ranger who can let you know if there has been an increase in bear sightings in the area so you know to set yourself up appropriately. Never leave any food in your campsite to attract wildlife, always put it in a food locker, bear canister, or hang it up in a bear hang.
Keeping food and scented items the appropriate distance of 150 feet away from your campsite will help prevent animals from coming into where you sleep.
Are hammocks comfortable to sleep in?
Yes, but it also depends on the way you sleep, or if you’re someone that needs more support for your back. If you’ve ever been in a hammock then you know it’s very easy to get cozy and fall asleep for a nice nap.
A camping hammock is much the same especially when you’re set up with a sleeping bag. You get a lot of airflow and circulation because you are out in the open, and that alone can help people sleep more soundly.
Are hammocks worth it?
That’s up to you if you are someone that wants to try and get started hammock camping. It is cheaper than buying a tent and far more lightweight and convenient. They are super easy to get set up and great for backpacking and thru-hiking. If you liked what you read in this article about hammocks then it may just be the thing for you.
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