Tent or Hammock & Tarp? For Family Camping, Car Camping & Backpacking.
Tent or hammock and tarp?
Oh. This old chestnut. But before we go any further, let me be clear. This is not a one-sided poorly strung together argument about how great hammock camping is. Having done both, I believe that I might just be able to help answer this question.
However. What scenario are we looking at? Family camping, car camping, or backpacking?
Both have their pros and cons. Both have advantages and disadvantages. And both are equally valid methods of spending a night outdoors. So why choose one over the other?
Family camping tents can be things of pure luxury. A real home from home. If this is your camping style, then I suspect that you might think that hammocks are irrelevant to you? And therefore the choice is easy. Yep. Tents it is.
Whoa!! Stop there folks. Bearing in mind the amount of kit you carry around for the big family tent, you may as well throw in a few hammocks. If for no other reason that they make fantastic camp chairs, and unlike those inflatable ones that always seem to deflate.......... Apart from anything else, they make great places to take an afternoon nap, to read a book or just get away from everyone else.
Tarps can be incredibly useful, as they can be used to create a larger common area, extend a vestibule or be used as an extra layer of rain or heat protection over the family tent. This heat protection feature is underestimated as us Brits don't often consider camping with hot weather! But it will make sleeping at night a lot more comfortable.
Car camping, by which I mean that you're away for a night or two, with friends or family, and everything is carried in the car. I know that it means something slightly different in the US.
This could swing either way as to whether a tent is preferred, or a hammock and tarp set up. Traditionally speaking, tents are the obvious choice. Something small enough to be able to be pitched quickly, but big enough to offer some comfort. Some will have standing headroom, some will not. You'll probably not have much in the way of camp furniture, and all you probably want is somewhere to sleep, and protection from the rain. And to be fair, is exactly what I would choose........ however.
Tarps can be used as a group shelter, a cookhouse, shade on a hot day, and rain protection on a wet day without feeling cramped in into a small tent. They can also be used in a 'tent' style for sleeping under, whether you choose to sleep on the ground or in a hammock.
Talking about hammocks. There's no need to carry a hefty camp chair if you have a hammock as it can also be used as a very comfy camp chair.
As far as this section is concerned, it's a 50 50 split. But for what it's worth, I'm more tempted with the hammock option.
Backpacking tents have evolved massively over the last 40 years. No longer are they heavy, bulky items that require you to have the stamina of a Marine to lug around. Even two-man backpacking tents can weigh less than 1.5kg. Especially those that utilize your walking poles as tent poles.
They provide all-round protection against the worst the weather can throw at you and if that is what I needed during a backpacking trip then a tent is what I would choose.
But. If you're out in more moderate conditions, the flexibility that a hammock and tarp combination offers is overwhelming. Buy the right kit and you will easily have enough protection and warmth. Thinking about weight. No matter which route you take, the kit will probably weigh about the same, depending on what you buy and take with you. Sometimes the tent option will work out lighter, other times the hammock and tarp option will work out lighter. There is such an array of kit available that you could easily have your sleep system and overnight accommodation weigh less than 2.5kg.
So far I have avoided the rather huge elephant in the room. Yep, he's stood there pulling up trees, making a lot of noise and taking a huge dump. The issue is that of what if there's nowhere to hang a hammock and tarp. Which I grant you, is a consideration.
Many campsites in the UK, be it holiday camp type of campsites or grassed fields, essentially do not have areas with suitable hammock hanging locations. This is a concern. Personally, I do avoid these types of campsites, and not just because they represent council estates built from nylon. But because they do not generally have trees, and because they are often hideously over-crowded. Not my idea of getting away from it all. But the tree argument is a valid one.
The elephant that comes with tents is that finding a suitable level, unfloodable, and tree root, rock free bit of ground to sleep on is damn difficult. Not so much with the aforementioned types of campsites, but certainly with the more remote campsites or when wild camping.
There isn't one. Sorry folks. It depends on your circumstances, what you want to get from your camping trip, where you'll be staying and what you find comfortable to sleep on. And not to mention, what your budget is. Because ideally, it would be great to be kitted out with both options. Which is why I started Outdoor Essentials UK.com as I wanted to be able to provide these options as an affordable solution to meet everyone's needs.
If you have any views or experiences that could be added, it would be great to hear from you.