If you’re looking to get closer to nature while still being protected from the pests and elements it can bring, a hammock is a fabulous choice. It wraps you in relaxing comfort while keeping you suspended and out of the dirt, making it perfect for any occasion from lounging in the backyard, to camping in the wilderness.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating which hammock is best for you:
How big do you want your hammock to be?
Are you sharing it with your better half? Are you planning on stuffing it full of people? Are you just going to be hanging solo?
Even if you intend on making it your sole domain, you may want some extra room to stretch out. Hammock sizes can vary from around 4′ wide all the way up to 8.5′ wide. On average, between 6-7′ is a comfortable size for both a single user or two sharing.
The DoubleDeluxe is 8’4″ wide, 9’4″ long and is perfect if you plan on turning it into a hammock version of a party bus. Just make sure that the party-goers are okay with getting friendly with each other!
The DoubleNest is 6’2″ wide, 9’4″ long and is ideal for snuggling up with someone special. It’s also great for solo hangs, as the extra material allows you to cocoon yourself in cozy luxury.
The SingleNest is 4’7″ wide, 9’4″ long and is designed with a single occupant in mind. Sharing is possible – if you don’t mind being stacked like firewood.
The ProNest is 4’6″ wide, 8′ long and is made for the ultralight backpacker. A 6-footer could fit into this hammock, but if they would like a bit more roominess, they should opt for the SingleNest or DoubleNest.
How attractive are you to bugs?
Do stingers and skeeters love you, or are you OK with the occasional spider dropping in to say hey? Considering how much and what kind of insect protection you need is an important step before you hit the trail.
There are various options in insect protection, ranging from 1) built-in screens, 2) add-on screens or 3) permethrin-treated fabric.
1) Built-in screens: For those who get bitten year round, the best choice of protection is a bugnet that is integral with the hammock. Look out for the release of the JungleNest, which gives complete 360° coverage.
2) Add-on screens: If you only get bitten seasonally, the best choice is to supplement your hammock with an add-on bugnet like the Guardian BugNet. Simple to put up and take down, you can make a quick getaway from those biters and skeeters.
3) Permethrin-treated: For those who want effective insect protection but are prone to feeling claustrophobic, the Insect Shield Hammock is perfect. With no net blocking your view, you can enjoy that picturesque overlook with clarity.
What’s the temperature?
Selecting a hammock made from a lightweight and breathable material that will keep you cool throughout the summer months is a good idea – no more stuffy tents that are more like saunas than a home-away-from-home! And if you are expecting to keep using it when winter weather rolls around, it’s super easy to warm up that lightweight hammock with cold-weather add-ons.
Cold-weather comfort is dependent on adding products to the hammock set-up. While blankets and sleeping bags work as a basic wind breaker in mildly cold temperatures, the best protection will come from hammock-specific products: underquilts and topquilts.
The important thing is to make sure the insulation is under the hammock and not under you – if you just use a regular sleeping bag or blanket, your body weight will compress the insulation and allow the wind to still get through, giving you the Cold Butt Syndrome. Hammock-specific underquilts are constructed to match the natural contours of the body and most efficiently keep the warmth in and the cold out.
- The Vulcan Underquilt, with a temperature rating of 30-40° F, is most suited for extreme conditions. It uses Primaloft® Synergy Continuous Filament Insulation for superior warmth, softness and loft. It is a full-length quilt, complete with adjustable shockcord suspension and a DWR finish that creates a moisture-resistant barrier.
- The Blaze Underquilt also has a temperature rating of 30-40° F, though its insulation is different from that of the Vulcan. The Blaze uses 750fp duck down insulation, which is warmer and tends to be less bulky than synthetic insulation. The downside to duck down is that it is more expensive than synthetic, is less hypoallergenic and loses its insulating properties when wet (however, the DWR finish on the underquilt repels water, so you don’t have to worry about that).
- The Ember Underquilt is built for milder conditions, with a temperature rating of 40-50° F. It’s the longest and widest underquilt of the bunch (8’6″ x 4’4″), though this makes it the heaviest in weight.
Now that your underside is covered, it’s time to focus on your front. The Ignitor Topquilt has 750fp duck down insulation, a soft nylon taffeta lining and moisture-repelling nylon ripstop shell with a DWR finish. A temperature rating of 35-45° F makes it a superior choice when cold-weather hammocking. And with its convertible footbox that gives you the option of tucking in your toes or sticking them out the sides, you can keep toasty warm and still be able to get in and out of your hammock for late night bathroom runs with ease.
Wind can be a welcomed visitor during warm weather, as nylon material is very breathable and allows you to feel any breeze that blows through the bottom of it. However, when it’s cold outside and you’d like to feel the breezes at a minimum, a great way to warm up is to block the wind, whether it’s by hammocking farther in from the treeline so that you’re protected by trees or by draping something on either side of you to act as a barrier.
Nylon vs. Cotton Material
Material is a very important factor to consider when choosing a hammock. The two most common hammock materials are nylon and cotton. And between the two, nylon always comes out ahead:
- Compresses down smaller than cotton, making it easier to pack.
- Is HydroPhobic – meaning it actively repels water. This allows it to better handle iffy weather and work as an outdoor staple.
- Lighter weight than cotton.
- Has a higher strength-to-weight ratio, making it very strong.
- More versatile
Easier to tear with sharp objects
- Because of its weave, it can be printed with elaborate designs and patterns, as opposed to nylon, which only allows for solid color.
- Could be considered more “hip”-looking to some people.
- Heavier than nylon.
- Is HydroPhyllic – meaning it attracts water. Because of this, cotton does not do well in wet/adverse weather, as it seems to never ever completely dry!
- Can really only ever be used in one place – cotton hammocks are harder to transport because of their weight and bulk.
What’s the weather like?
Unexpected blizzards and sudden rain storms can put quite the dampener on any camping trip. If you’re going to be venturing into an area with unpredictable weather patterns, it’s a good idea to prepare for it. Remember, unlike tents, hammocks do not have a cover, so tarps specially designed for hammocks are versatile and will most efficiently shield you from anything Mother Nature throws your way.
Here is a handy chart comparing all of ENO’s tarps:
How heavy do you prefer your hammock to be?
Would you cut your toothbrush in half just to make your pack a little lighter? If you answered yes, then your hammock’s weight could make or break a backpacking trip. The ProNest, which weighs in at only 12 oz, is a great choice for ultralight backpacking. Just remember that the lighter in weight the hammock is, the smaller in size it will probably run. Also, bear in mind that your chosen suspension system will need to be included in total weight.
What kind of suspension system are you looking for?
To suspend your hammock, you need a suspension system and a pair of carabiners. There are many different choices as far as suspension systems go. From webbing straps to nylon rope to synthetic tree slings, variety is wide when it comes to your hammock straps. You also have options for attaching your hammock to the straps. Some hammocks come with carabiners and some do not. Make sure that you have checked what comes with your set up before heading out the door.
Generally, the longer the suspension straps are with more attachment points, the better they are. That is, the more adjustability you will have and the better you will be able to work with various types of trees. Straps with less stretch in the nylon are better if you’re using your hammock to sleep – no one likes waking up on the ground.
Above all, pick a suspension system that is tree-friendly. Tree-friendly straps are generally wide (0.75″+), flat and made from nylon or polyester webbing. They spread the force out on the tree trunk to prevent damage to the bark.
The Atlas Suspension System, made from non-stretch polyfilament webbing, is both long and wide (9′ x 1″). It’s also the most adjustable of all ENO straps, with overlapping attachment whorls. And with a weight capacity of 400 lbs, you can rest assured that you’ll be securely suspended.
The Slap Strap PRO System, made from nylon webbing, is long and wide (9’4″ x .75″) and is the lightest in weight (8 oz).
The Slap Strap System is also made from nylon webbing and a bit shorter in length (7’4″ x 1″). It is the heaviest of the straps (12 oz), though it is the least expensive.
How much weight are you going to putting in the hammock?
All hammocks are made from different nylon qualities and have different weight limits, varying from 150lb- 500lb. Make sure to check the weight limit before you purchase it. If you’re going to be frequently lounging with your great dane, pick a hammock with an appropriate weight capacity!
Every ENO hammock has a 400-lb capacity; so whether you’re packing in a group or lounging solo, you know you’ll be safe and sound in your hammock.
NOTE: The weight quoted is a static weight, so jumping up and down in your hammock will shorten its life and its performance.