I’m finding as my friends and I get older it gets harder and harder to get out for trips. I’m finding that my urge to camp is increasing with age. I also found (it's been a summer of discovery) that I didn’t actually own a tent, my unavailable camping friends own them. With these conclusions reached I began my search for a great solo tent-with so many options available it was an absolutely daunting task.
After many discussions and some research I gave up on the tent idea and purchased a hammock instead, specifically, a Hennessy Hammock complete with tarp and tree straps. After adding some descending rings and carabiners for super fast setup and takedown, and some “snake skins” for storage, I spent around $340 before tax.
I have used the hammock on two separate trips now, totalling 4 nights, so I write this as a beginners overview based on 4 nights observation.
On the first trip I didn’t use a sleeping pad and woke up in the early hours with a cold back. On the second trip I used a Thermarest and slept straight through the night- something I’ve never done in a tent. I’m not sure how it does in cold weather, but I think it will be better than a tent simply because your body is off the ground.
During our last trip we had about 8 hours of driving rains and the tarp over the hammock worked perfectly and I didn’t experience the dampness I had in the past using a tent. The rain at some points was so heavy water was streaming under a few tents- not an issue with the hammock.
Setup and takedown is an absolute breeze with a hammock- I’m down to about 6 minutes total setup time. The hammock can also be used as a ground tent in the event there are no suitable anchor points. Hammocks can be set up in rocky, sloped, or wet terrain. Check out this quick video on the setup using the descender ring/carabiner method.
The weight of the hammock is about 3lbs, so there's not much weight savings compared to a tent, but I don’t have to worry about tentpoles anymore -in my opinion a huge bonus. Another plus- the hammock is more compressible/packable than the tent option.
Cons of the hammock- A stomach sleeper would have some issues, but a side sleeper or back sleeper are quite comfortable. The hammock I purchased is an asymmetrical design, meaning you sleep a bit diagonal in the hammock, almost flat (no banana body bend) There is gear storage, but no room to really change in the hammock; for me a non issue as if you’re going solo, who cares. In bad weather one could manage lying in the hammock.
I have heard that hammocks are banned in some areas due to a concern of damaging sensitive trees. Unlike a leisure hammock with simple rope to fasten, most camping hammocks have wide tree straps that won't damage bark. As always, check your local areas before you go.
My conclusion- based on 4 nights- I’m hooked. Yes there is a bit of a learning curve initially, and I did end up on the ground the first time i entered it(i didn't tie off the rope :/) but I’ve never had such great sleep, or slept in as much. For solo camping the hammock is a perfect, comfortable, low impact solution as a sleep system. Check them out as an option, it may be what you’re looking for.
Here’s a link to the hammock company I purchased with lots of tips and info: http://hennessyhammock.com/