Tents vs hammock camping – I’ve come across the debate quite often, lately.
A tent is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of camping. It goes together like bread and butter, coffee and cream, campfire and smores, or copy and paste.
However, hammock camping is a growing trend. Are hammocks going to win the battle, or is it just a fad?
Our team of avid and open-minded campers has collected all important information to help you break the tie. We’ve sifted through dozens of opinions and considered all of the aspects.
So, here’s a head-to-head comparison of what tents and hammocks can and can’t provide to enrich your outdoor experience.
|Feature||Tent camping||Hammock camping|
|Price||Wide range of prices||More affordable option|
|Sleeping comfort||Depends on the type and size of the bed (sleeping bag, cot, air mattress,…)||Exceptional comfort, but for back sleepers only|
|Setup||Wide range from under 60 seconds to 30-40 minutes||5 to 15 minutes. Has a learning curve|
|Weather Protection||Depends on the quality. Can be outstanding||Poor. Can be upgraded with additional accessories|
|Critters and animal protection||Excellent bugs and creepy crawlies protection||No protection without additional gear|
|Weight and portability||Weight can vary from 2 lbs. to 60+ lbs.||Weigh 0.5 to 3 lbs. Ultralight, super-compact and portable|
|Versatility||Harder to pick a spot, but can be used in all seasons and landscapes||More options to pick a spot as long as there are trees available. Not the best for winter|
|Warmth||4-season tents can retain warmth well||Can’t retain warmth without additional equipment|
|Additional accessories||Lanterns, fans, table and chairs, coffee makers, cooking equipment, cloth hangers,…||Not too many: rainfly, bug net, undercloth, possibly lantern|
Tents vs Hammocks – Price
Let’s face it, price always matters. No one wants to splash money on an under-par product.
Both tents and hammocks come in a wide range of prices based on quality, size, features, and brand. To cut to the chase, on average, hammocks are more affordable than tents. Let’s break it down.
Tents have so many different styles, shapes, and sizes so it’s natural that the price range is huge. However, 2-person budget options typically cost around $50 to $150. As your requirements scale up, so do the prices.
Mid-range tents can cost anywhere between $150 and $350. High-end tents’ price range begins at roughly $350 and there’s almost no upper limit. The MSR Habitude 6 Tent is an example of a high-end, high-quality tent. Some large top-notch tents can have whopping 4-digit prices.
We have a comprehensive article on how much you should spend on a tent. Feel free to check it out.
As for hammocks, you can find plenty of options in the range between $20 and $50. Similar to tents, the prices go up with the quality and premium brands. Still, high-end hammocks cost between $200 and $300.
So, tents are more expensive than hammocks. It’s only natural since hammocks have a simpler design, less fabric, and no poles. Still, if you’re looking for top-notch products, they don’t come cheap.
Tents vs Hammocks – Comfort
Winner: hammock, but only for some
Speaking of comfort, it comes down to sleeping. Yes, tent comfort encompasses much more than just a good night’s rest, but you can only sleep or sit in a hammock.
So, what’s more comfortable?
Sleeping in a tent comes with a couple of challenges. The ground can be unforgiving. The surface may be uneven. Sleeping bags are too snug for tossing and turning. An unnoticed rock or a tree root can make you feel miserable and consider repositioning your tent.
On the bright side, there’s a wide variety of options to overcome the challenges. From sleeping cots to air mattresses of different sizes and thicknesses.
So, at the end of the day, sleep quality doesn’t depend on the tent. It mostly depends on your sleeping gear. The tent plays a part only in colder or rainy weather.
But, the real question here is how comfortable are hammocks? Yeah, a hammock between 2 palm trees on a tropical island sounds super comfy. But, what about sleeping in a hammock night after night?
There are 2 roads from here and no definite answer. For example, dedicated side or stomach sleepers won’t appreciate the experience. Hammocks have a U-shape that allows you to sleep on your back only.
Bridge hammocks have bars at the ends creating a sort of channel from one end to another. This allows more freedom and side sleeping. But bridge hammocks are heavier, more expensive, and more difficult to set up.
Truth be told, many side or stomach sleepers get used to sleeping on their back in hammocks. One user who describes his usual sleeping style as “tossing all night long”, sleeps on his back in a hammock and doesn’t move at all.
I have read many similar experiences of restless sleepers who manage to sleep tight without turning and tossing thanks to hammocks.
On the upside, many people believe that sleeping on your back in the hammock provides ultimate comfort. After all, it’s the sleeping position that most doctors will recommend as the best for your health.
To avoid a “banana” shape you should slightly tilt your upper body to one side and lower body to the other. This diagonal position reduces the curve of the hammock to allow you to sleep like a baby.
And don’t worry about flipping over. Modern hammocks are designed to prevent it.
So, if you’re a back sleeper, you won’t be just elevated off the ground, but you’ll get an elevated sleeping experience.
Hammocks help your sleep in several ways. Obviously, fresh air is helpful. Also, there are no pressure points, and these are the greatest enemy of good sleep. Finally, a perfect position allows your neck and back muscles to relax while breathing properly.
A gentle swaying motion helps to fall asleep faster and deeper. This is backed up by scientific research.
A final decision? Sleeping in a hammock is more comfortable but not for everyone. A baby sleep-hammock analogy fits here pretty well. Just like babies, some people sleep peacefully and wake up invigorated. Others would rather wake up and cry.
Tents offer a range of other comfort perks, but I didn’t consider them as it would be comparing apples and oranges.
Tents vs Hammocks – Setup
This may come as a surprise, but tents are slightly easier to set up than hammocks. Yeah, I know hammock lovers will jump to prove otherwise, but here are the facts.
Pitching a tent can take anywhere from 10-20 seconds to 30-40 minutes. Back in the day, tents were notoriously difficult to erect properly. Mastering it used to be a source of pride.
But, modern tents are designed to be foolproof and easy to pitch. Instant tents, color-coded poles and sleeves, and precise instructions allow pretty quick and easy setup. For example, the Coleman 4-Person Pop-Up Tent can be erected in 10 to 20 seconds.
Moreover, it’s the same every single time. So, once you get the hang of it, it becomes a routine.
While hammocks aren’t that difficult to set up, there’s a learning curve. First, it’s not easy to get the perfect hang angle. You also need to consider the distance and the size of the trees. Finally, if you’re using an underquilt or tarp, it needs to be set independently.
Even though you’re using the same hammock, the setup process is slightly different every time. Because of the distance between the trees, possible terrain inclination, and so on.
So, getting a consistent hang requires time and practice. It may take longer than a camping season to become fully proficient at it. However, once you grasp it, it should take between 5 and 15 minutes. Which is quick enough if you ask me.
The final verdict – I give a slight advantage to tents. Some tents are super quick and easy to pitch and others take some time. While all hammocks can be set pretty quickly, it’s the learning curve that shifts the balance.
Tents vs Hammocks – Weather Protection
Okay, it’s obvious that tents offer better protection from the elements. But, it’s not that simple. Tents vary wildly when it comes to weather protection. And there are ways to improve your hammock to be less exposed.
Tents come with a variety of weapons to battle the elements. They have rainflies, waterproof fabric, sealed seams, and inclined walls and roofs to prevent water from entering the tent. Or building up on the roof.
4-season tents commonly can weather all kinds of storms. It’s easy to come across dozens of stories of campers who slept tight and stayed dry through torrential storms.
Tents designed for warmer weather come with lots of mesh panels and large openings to allow airflow. Also, some tents have blackout fabric to keep the tent dark and fresher.
While some of them can’t handle a lot of rain or wind, all of them offer some level of protection. After all, a tent is a fully enclosed shelter.
Check out our article on the Best Tents For Bad Weather.
While it may appear that hammocks are made only for perfect weather, it is not so. There are a couple of accessories that can provide protection.
A waterproof tarp is one option. Many modern hammocks come with it. It is usually a bit larger than the hammock. The bottom line – it will protect you from the rain just as if you’re in a tent.
Well, you’ll be lying down, but the point of the tarp is to be able to sleep and stay dry if it rains.
When it comes to wind, there’s not much you can do. Hammocks are exposed and the wind can make you uncomfortable. You can improve your position if you use an underquilt. It is an insulating layer that attaches underneath the hammock.
On hotter days and nights, you don’t have to worry about the weather. This is where hammocks shine. No airflow issues as you’re completely in the open air. Your trees might provide a generous shade if you want to take a nap during the day.
So, there are options to enhance the weather protection in hammocks. But, there’s a trade-off as well. Additional accessories add weight and volume, so you won’t be super-light as with a simple hammock.
To sum it up, tents provide better weather protection. Hammocks basically don’t protect you from the elements unless you sacrifice the lightweightness and portability.
Tents vs Hammocks – Protection from Insects and Animals
While campers commonly love nature, creepy crawlies, bugs, and animals are not welcome inside our shelters. Tents excel at this department and win this lap.
Keeping the bugs away used to be difficult to achieve with old-fashioned tents. These days, you can fully enjoy your outdoor experience without being bugged (pun intended) by bothersome critters and insects. Not to mention the snakes.
Modern tents have mesh panels to provide views while keeping insects away. The panels cover the doors, windows, and often the roof as well.
While you still have to get in or out of the tent and open the door for a brief moment, chances are your tent can stay bug-free.
When it comes to animals, well, the tent fabric won’t stop any stronger and determined animal. Still, if you don’t keep your food in the open it’s unlikely that you’ll have visitors. Tent structures can be large and intimidating for most animals.
After all, most animals don’t like to deal with humans and avoid us. Especially if they are in groups like in designated camping sites.
Hammocks, on the other hand, are pretty exposed. Basically, it’s a bed hanging on 2 trees. The elevated position means the ground creepy crawlies won’t bother you. But, mosquitos or tree-dwelling critters will have an open invitation.
This is easy to solve with mosquito nets, though. They are not heavy and won’t add lots of extra weight or bulk. It will slightly reduce the airflow and compromise the beauty of an open view. However, if the area is infested with insects and critters, you’ll be much happier with the net.
Many users from Florida and other “buggy” states shared stories about sleeping peacefully only to wake up with dozens of mosquito bites. Yeah, these pests can bite through the thin fabric. So, an underneath tarp is also needed for full protection from bugs.
As for the animals, I don’t think the hammock can help. Some people call hammocks “bear burritos” or “bear soft tacos”. I love the nickname, but in reality, hammocks won’t attract larger animals.
At the end of the day, neither tent nor hammock will protect you should the bear decide to visit you. But, an outstanding bug and critter protection and shelter-like structure make the tent a clear winner.
Tents vs Hammocks – Weight and Portability
Looks can be deceiving but not in this case. Hammocks are lighter and more portable than tents.
So is there any real competition here? Maybe not, but there are a couple of things that can shift the balance.
Tents can be heavy, but backpacking tents can challenge some hammocks. Modern, ultralight backpacking tents should weigh less than 4 pounds. That’s pretty light and impressive.
With the backpacking in mind, carry cases are also compact enough to fit into the backpack. Actually, weight and portability are among the most important features of backpacking tents.
However, family and car camping tents are typically larger, bulkier, and much heavier. So, tents can be lightweight and portable, but you may almost need a forklift to move the heaviest ones.
On the other hand, hammocks excel in this department. This is actually a major advantage of hammocks. With ultralight equipment, you can cover great distances and feel free as a bird.
Hammocks are also super packable and portable. When packed, hammocks are barely larger than your smartphone. Okay, they are thicker, so you probably can’t fit them into your pocket, but they will take almost no space in your backpack.
But, if you want to upgrade the comfort, warmth, and weather protection your hammock will not be as light anymore. Adding a bug net, rainfly, underquilt, or hammock stand can increase the weight.
Obviously, a bug net won’t make a big difference, while a stand will make it heavier than some tents.
The final verdict – hammocks easily win. While backpacking tents are very lightweight and portable, hammocks are lighter and way more compact.
Tents vs Hammocks – Versatility
As expected, tents offer more choices and camping opportunities than hammocks. It is only natural as tents are larger and designed to fulfill more purposes.
But, it’s not a one-way road. Both tents and hammocks have some advantages and limitations regarding placement options. Hammocks have some aces up their sleeve as well.
Hammocks offer more options when choosing a perfect spot in forested areas. Whether it’s a wet grassland or a rocky hilltop with a lovely view, you can set up your hammock as long as there are trees available.
The ability to be on the go and cover distances also provide more options to enjoy your adventures.
There are also fewer legal limitations as to where you can set up the hammock.
Hammocks obviously win this leg in forested areas. However, strength can also become a liability. In deserts, grasslands, or any other landscape with little or no trees, it can be challenging or impossible to find a place for your hammock.
Yes, you can use hammock stands that make trees completely unnecessary. But, the use of the stand nullifies one of the major features of hammocks – being lightweight and super-portable. Hammock stands add extra weight and they can be cumbersome to pack and carry.
On the downside, hammock versatility is limited by poor weather protection. Yes, it’s possible to sleep in the hammock even in the winter. But, you’ll need a winter sleeping bag, underquilt, and high-quality rainfly to stay warm and dry. It’s not a very cozy experience.
And, of course, you can’t use your hammock if there are no trees in the area.
If you use a tent, it might be challenging to pick the right spot. It needs to be flat. You should consider sun and wind exposure. Cleaning the spot is often necessary to remove sticks, small rocks, or anything that can damage your tent.
You need to avoid hills, wetlands, or rocky ground.
You’ll probably want to leave some space between yourself and other tents on the site. You can make friends on camping trips, but it’s not very pleasant if you can hear every word spoken in the neighboring tent. Or vice versa.
I could go on more, but you get the picture. To place a hammock you only need 2 trees. No worries about slopes, uneven ground, rocks, and stones.
Tents also have different designs that allow them to excel in all kinds of conditions and locations. From deserts to high, snow-covered mountains. From tropical forests to plains and treeless drylands.
3-season tents can provide great protection against the elements, as well as a home-like experience inside the tent. 4-season tents will make winter camping trips comfortable and enjoyable.
To sum it up, while hammocks have some advantages regarding picking the spot and changing the location, tents can perform throughout the year and in all landscapes.
Tents vs Hammocks – Warmth
All said and analyzed, you already know this answer. Hammocks can’t compare to tents when it comes to warmth.
Let me be clear, most tents are not insulated and they will struggle to keep you warm in the cold weather. But, the tent is a shelter with walls that acts as a windbreak, so it will always be warmer than the outside.
High-quality, 4-season tents can maintain a decent level of warmth inside the tent even in the freezing cold weather. But, even a modest, budget tent will protect you from cold to a certain extent.
With an addition of a warm sleeping bag and warm clothes for the day, you will be just fine inside your tent.
Hammocks can’t keep you warm. It’s as simple as that. Basically, you’re sleeping in the open air and the wind and airflow will cool you down very quickly.
Yes, you can use an underquilt and a top cover to get some insulation, but it will work throughout 3 seasons at most. And your gear will be heavy and bulky, so you won’t be able to walk far as easily.
Some hammock lovers sleep in their hammocks even in winter. But, it’s the extra gear that will keep you warm, not the hammock. People who climb Mt Everest or other high and cold mountains don’t sleep in hammocks for a good reason – it’s not what the hammocks are meant for.
So, tents are better at keeping warmth than hammocks.
Tents vs Hammocks – Additional Accessories
There’s always room for improvement and it doesn’t always mean switching to a higher-class product. Put simply, tents have more options for accessories.
To get the best out of your tent, you can use lanterns to get a nightlight. Ground tarps can increase the lifetime of your tent.
Guylines and pegs can make the tent more sturdy in strong winds. Not to mention cooking equipment, coffee makers, or even fans and AC units. Okay, you need power access at your campsite for some of these.
Still, as long as you can get them into the tent, you can safely store all kinds of equipment and have a livable and comfortable place to stay.
On your hammock camping trips, you can also cook or prepare some tea or coffee. But, these gadgets will have to stay outside and be exposed to the elements.
So, it pretty much comes down to a mosquito net, rainfly, and underquilt.
Thus, it’s obvious that tents offer much more ways to upgrade your shelter.
Other Perks of Hammock Camping
We’ve covered most of the features of tents and hammocks. However, they come with a couple of extra advantages.
- Visibility – While some tents can offer almost panoramic views they can’t match hammocks. Simply, you’re out in the open and you can enjoy or observe the surroundings without any unnatural obstacles.
- Airflow – No need to explain. The hammock is as airy as it gets.
- True outdoor experience – Apart from sleeping, this is probably the greatest thing about hammocks. There’s nothing between you and the great outdoors.
Other Perks of Tent Camping
- Capacity – It’s great when you can share your experience with people. Large tents can accommodate your whole family and then some.
- Convenience – While hammocks provide a true outdoor experience, tents allow you to include amenities that you’re not ready to give up. They call it a home-away-from-home experience.
- Storing space – From sheer space and additional vestibules to pockets and loops, tents can provide plenty of options to store your gear.
So, what’s the final score? Tents have won more categories but it’s only natural. It is a larger structure designed to provide comfort in many ways. Hammocks have some unique features that make them more appealing to many campers.
At the end of the day, I will not call the winner. The outcome depends on your preferences and camping ambitions.
Tents come in so many designs to suit anyone from mountaineers to backcountry campers to those who want home-like comfort in the outdoors.
Hammocks offer the ultimate outdoor experience and unimaginable level of sleeping comfort (for some people, not all).
The question is not which style is better. It is which style will enhance your experience more. Now you know all the facts. So, give it a try.