No tent, no problem! Here we provide our #ExpeditionEssentials on the best gear, health benefits, and opportunities in the Detroit region for hammock camping throughout this summer's outdoor season.
Waking up on a camping trip: one of the most polarizing aspects of the outdoor experience.
On one end of the spectrum, we've all suffered through a "worst case scenario" morning. Your air mattress deflated, leaving you with the hips of a chiropractor's fever dream, permanent imprints of rocks or sticks into your sides, and chilled to the bone. Or your tent flooded from a misplaced staking location amidst a dried runoff pool. Either way, you certainly did not obtain the coveted recovery sleep that you so desperately needed.
On the other end, there's bliss - a perfect night's rest under the stars, where the gentle birdsong and warming sun beckons you to rise from your cocoon of rejuvenation. This my friends, is the holy grail of successful camping. A good - no, perfect - night's rest in the great outdoors. One that restores, energizes, and propels you forward towards accomplishing all of your wildest ambitions in the unwritten adventure ahead.
The team at Expedition Detroit has experienced both ends of this unforgiving dichotomy. Through our decades of divine and damned nights on the trail, we have arrived at the following two conclusions:
Tent camping, even when done properly, can easily result in both outcomes.
Hammock camping, when done properly, almost always results in a blissful night's sleep.
New to hammock camping? Spent one too many sleepless nights in the woods? Looking to upgrade your on and off-trail relaxation gear? Oh my friend, you have clicked on the right article.
Here's everything you need to know for kicking off your adventure into hammock camping this summer!
THE BENEFITS OF HAMMOCK CAMPING
Why even bother with hammock camping? That's an honest question, which we at Expedition Detroit are big fans of receiving. Fortunately for our position, the pros of hammock camping far outweigh the main con of the shelter option, which is lack of enclosed storage space (see our breakdown of hammock camping vs. tent camping below).
Here are the main operational, logistical, and health benefits of hammock camping:
LIGHTWEIGHT: Most hammock systems - such as Eagle Nest Outfitter's ("ENO") full hammock, suspension, bug net, and rain fly system - collectively weigh less than most tents. Ultralight solo backpackers would especially benefit from eliminating a pound or two from their tent system by simply converting to hammock camping.
TRANSPORTABLE: Especially with ENO hammock products, each component of the hammock compacts into backpacker-friendly, self-containing compartments.
VERSATILE: Assuming that suitable trees exist at your campsite, then hammock camping eliminates tent camping's mandatory search for dry, level ground.
PROTECTIVE: Hammock camping - especially with a bug nut and rain fly - removes several variables that commonly plague tent camping. Ground water leakage, air mattress failures, and ground insect or animal intrusions are inherently removed from your list of worries.
DEEPER SLEEP: Studies have demonstrated that hammock camping actually promotes deeper sleep vs. ground camping. In summary, sleeping in a slightly swinging bed can increase the transition from wakefulness to sleep, lengthen stage 2 sleep, facilitate internal sleep rhythms, and curate a neurologically calming sensation.
PRESSURE POINT RELIEF: Studies have further supported that hammock camping can result in pressure point relief on your shoulders, back, and butt (fellow backpackers, rejoice!).
HAMMOCK CAMPING VS. TENT CAMPING
Before diving into gear specs, we'd like to address the elephant in the article. We're willing to bet that if you're reading this article, then you probably also own a tent. A time-tested tent. A tent that has comfortably protected you and your loved ones for years against the harshest elements that our region's outdoors could unleash against it.
Yeah. Us too. In fact, I own two tents - one of which I've relied on for last-ditch solo trips for the last twelve years. It's got a few patches on it now, but I have no intentions of tossing it anytime soon.
Why? Because hammock camping is not a substitute for tent camping, but rather a better-suited alternative for certain conditions. Here's the breakdown:
WHEN YOU SHOULD OPT FOR HAMMOCK CAMPING
FAMILIARITY: You have visited this campsite before - or reviewed photos of your exact camping location - and know that there are ample trees for hanging your hammock.
DURATION: Your trip will either only last for 2-3 nights in the backcountry, or you will be car camping for roughly a week.
COMPANIONS: At most, you and one other person will be sharing the hammock. Ideally, you will be sleeping solo.
CONDITIONS: If you anticipate moderate to heavy rain, then you should opt for hammock camping over tent camping.
AIR MATTRESS RELIABILITY: Based on personal experience, if you anticipate an air mattress failure while out in the field, then opt for hammock camping. Your back will thank you when your mattress fails while suspended over air vs. over rocks and dirt.
WHEN YOU SHOULD OPT FOR TENT CAMPING
FAMILIARITY: You have no insights into the terrain or natural features of your desired campground.
DURATION: Your trip will last for longer than 3 nights in the backcountry or you anticipate needing additional, sheltered space for gear storage over longer periods of time.
COMPANIONS: You will need to accommodate an additional person or two, including their respective gear, within your shelter.
CONDITIONS: Especially if you anticipate snow, then you should opt for tent camping over hammock camping.
As we say in the legal profession, selecting whether to go tent or hammock camping ultimately comprises of a "totality-of-circumstances" analysis. One or more of these conditions may work for or against hammock camping, so ultimately weigh the pros and cons and rest assured knowing that you made the best decision given the variables of your trip!
HAMMOCK CAMPING 101: GEAR ESSENTIALS
Spoiler alert: you'll need a hammock. As we mentioned before, the Expedition Detroit team is all-in on ENO products due to the reliability, universality, and simplicity of their system. You can find ENO products at virtually all online retailers or at select trail town retailers, such as Blue Birch Outfitters in Milford, Michigan (they are one of our #ExpeditionPartners, so please be sure to say hi for us when you stop in).
Our featured hammock is ENO's "DoubleNest Hammock," which we purchased at Blue Birch Outfitters in Milford. Although perfect for one user, this hammock comfortably fits two and has an attached stuff sack for effortless packability. The 1lb 4oz hammock supports up to 400lbs of weight, has a 2 year warranty, and comes in multiple colors to match your style.
Your hammock selection is undoubtedly the most important component of your hammock camping system, but is also just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the other key elements of a complete system:
SUSPENSION: The industry-standard suspension system is ENO's proprietary Atlas Suspension System. Weighing just 11oz and featuring a total of 30 adjustment points, these straps can support up to 400lbs while facilitating 18ft.+ of hammock-hanging capacity. Better yet, these straps are designed to leave minimal to zero damage on trees while providing maximum safety to the hammocker.
INSECTS: ENO's "Guardian Bug Net" provides the ultimate two-for-one combo. For starters, ENO's SkyWeave Mesh keeps out mosquitos, ticks, and any/all other creepy-crawlers while permitting airflow. The spacious interior not only keeps the claustrophobia away too, but also doubles as a suspended storage system for hats, extra layers, and any other items that you'd prefer to outside of your hammock's interior.
ELEMENTS: Last for the ENO-specific products, we have the all-important "ProFly Rain Tarp." As you should expect, this rainfly is ridiculously easy to set up and connects directly to the Atlas straps and tierra firma via a 6-point guy system. Correctly tightening the guy lines will keep you nice and dry even during the strongest torrential downpours. In full transparency, the only downside to ENO's rainfly includes some difficulty with repacking into its separate storage sack, but given the "ease of stuffability" with the hammock and bug net, this is a minor inconvenience worth bearing.
SLEEP SYSTEM: In spite of the aforementioned benefits of hammock camping, each of these will be rendered useless without a proper sleep system. Fortunately, if you already have a solid backpacking sleep system figured out, then you just need to transfer those items to your hammock camping setup. These include an inflatable camp pillow, properly-rated sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner (if expecting very cold temperatures), and a sleeping pad. As my backpacking crew can attest, I have had horrific luck with sleep pads in the past. Klymit's inflatable sleeping pads are the best that I have ever used, including both their single and double options. Full Expedition Detroit endorsement.
Looking for your next adventure? Check out our recent articles on the Detroit region's best weekend destinations, such as our best campgrounds, canoe camping locations, and other world-class destinations. We also now proudly offer the largest selection of guided outdoor adventures across 11 Michigan state parks.
We can't wait to see you out there.