How to Save Weight While Hammock Camping
Now that we know how to make hammock camping better, its time to lighten the hammock load and go for bigger hiking days.
To begin: Get a baseline weight for all current gear (Excel or similar spreadsheets work well) for comparison purposes. Then start trimming ounces by exchanging or modifying gear for lighter items. As a setup evolves, items can turn into multi-use, and other items can be left behind.
It’s important to note that in general, with weight comes comfort. Everyone has to decide for themselves what level of comfort they are willing to give up for weight savings. Some people can take this overboard and end up adding a few things back, winding up with an optimal setup. Hammockers are no exception.
Now the slow degrade of comfort begins.
1. Hammock Size
In ounce (gram)-counting land, less material equals less weight. To lose material, a hammock can get shorter or narrower. Prior to going to a smaller hammock, make sure to consider your own height and stature. Ed Speer (hammock pioneer) recommends the distance between the knots of the hammock equal the user’s height, plus two feet.
While my 11′ hammock is very comfortable I have experimented with length and found a hammock with about 9′ length to be tolerable at a height of 5’7″.
Material weight can also be saved by getting a narrower hammock. This is tricky, because the narrower the hammock, the less of a lay angle you get. You could wind up not getting that nice flat lay, or getting too much shoulder squeeze. Again, experimentation is key to finding the right width.
Example: Material is 1.6oz/sqyd
Original: 11’x56″ (9.1 oz)
Shorter: 8’x56″ (6.6 oz)
Narrower: 11’x47″ (7.7 oz)
Shorter Savings: ~2.5 oz
Narrower Savings: ~1.4oz
Also, if using a double hammock for weight capacity reasons, it may save some weight to go to a single hammock but use a heavier material. For example Hexon 1.6 (1.6oz/sqyd), has a weight limit of 350 pounds.
Option 1: Hummingbird Single
Dimensions: 8′ 8″ x 3′ 11″
Weight: 5.2 oz (Made in USA)
Option 2: ENO Sub 6
Dimensions: 8’9″ x 3′ 11″
Weight: 5.8 oz
2. Hammock Material
Advances in materials have ended the days of 1.9 ripstop hammocks for the gram-counters. Changing materials could possibly net savings in the ounce range. The lightest material I have worked with is Hexon 1.0 (200# weight limit). Alternately, check out 1.1 material from companies like ripstopbytheroll for higher weight capacities. Going from a 1.9 weight to a 1.0 weight material can yield significant weight savings. Check out Hexon 1.0 and 1.1 Ripstop Nylon.
Note: A lighter hammock material should only be considered if the user meets weight requirements for the fabric.
3. Underquilt Length
Many long-distance hammock hikers choose a partial-length underquilt to save weight and pack volume.
When switching to partial length, bring something (reflectix) for the back of your legs, and a pillow for your head/neck. This will insulate the areas the partial underquilt doesn’t cover. Even after theses additions, backpackers often net baseweight savings.
For example, a standard 40F full-length underquilt weighs 16.15 ounces, while a 40F 3/4 quilt weighs 11.37 ounces. Even by carrying extra insulation (can be multi-use, like pack frame or sit pad) weight savings are still found.
4. Ditch the Underquilt for a Pad
Full disclosureI’ve tried this and find it uncomfortable, but others have had luck with pads, including at least one Triple Crowner. The weight saving is clear though. A 1/8″ pad from Gossamer Gear weighs 2.8 ounces, versus even the partial under quilt at 11.37 ounces. Having a pad is also useful if all the odds are against a hammocker and they have to sleep in a shelter or on the ground.
Tip: Cut pad into to pieces and form a T to insulate the back of the shoulders(pictured below).
The Z-Lite pad below is a thru-hiker favorite but with a 10-ounce weight for the small, other pads may be a better option.
5. Lighter (and Fewer) Stakes
Carrying many stakes for multiple tie outswhether for side pullouts or doorscan add up quickly. During my AT thru-hike, I carried four stakes for corners and found creative ways to pull the sides of the tarp out if needed (rarely). Lightweight plastic buckles can help avoid door stakes (no-stake door setup here). For lighter stakes, check out carbon fiber or titanium shepherd hook stakes.
6. Tarp Material
Material advancements have made it possible to make tarps from extremely light material that still offers good coverage. The lightest material on the market is Cuben Fiber, or Dyneema. Though expensive due to high material costs, a Cuben Fiber tarp offers considerable weight savings for long-distance hikes… for hammockers and ground sleepers.
Hammock Gear’s Cuben Fiber Tarp (0.50 oz/sqyd) with 11’x8’6″ coverage weighs in at 5.19 oz.
Xenon 0.9 Sil, a lightweight waterproof tarp material at 0.93 oz/sqyd would weigh in at 9.66 oz for the same coverage. A material change with equal coverage can save 4.5 oz… or just over a 1/4 pound.
Note: Zpacks sells 0.31oz/sqyd cuben fiber, but the description says to only use it for tarp making if you’re feeling brave. This a bold statement coming from a cottage manufacturer who has been pushing the envelope of ultralight backpacking for over a decade…. so I’ll wait before getting a tarp from this material. Check out Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Tarp and Zpacks Cuben Fiber Tarp
7. Tarp Coverage
Less tarp equals less weight. If you go with this method, make sure to practice setting up the tarp, especially if using an asym tarp. I have heard myths that these can keep someone dry in a rain storm, but my experience in talking with users leads me to disagree. Check out Dutchware Wide Asym Tarp and ZPacks Cuben Fiber Asym Tarp.
8. Lighter Suspensions
While the beetle buckle suspension with 15′ straps are awesome, and have made hanging on giant trees possible, they also weigh 6.4 ounces. Lighter suspension options can save ounces off a hammock setup. For example, the Hummingbird Tree Strap combo tips the scale at 2.3 ounces, and with a slight suspension modification, you can get away with no hardware except the hard plastic button on Hummingbird’s button hook suspension. Professor Hammock even went so far as to make a suspension with no hardware.
Hummingbird Tree Strap Combo
Weight: 2.3 oz
Eno Helios Suspension
Weight: 4.1 ounces
9. Bug Net Options
There are several bug net options (varying in weight) that may save a few ounces.
- If not integrated, leave the bug net at home for low bug areas or cooler weather
- Detach integrated bug net and leave at home (Half of the zippers will still be on hammock)
- Hammock with bug net zipper on one side
- Hammock with no zippers. Uses weight to hold bug net in place
- Hammock with partial bug net
10. Tarp Cordage
The material and amount of cordage used on a tarp adds up. My experience has been that a sturdier line is needed for the ridgeline, while lighter cordage can be used on other guylines.
After all those tips, it’s time to get the scale and sizers out and cut that weight. Comment below if this article trimmed even 0.5 oz off your hammock setup, or if you have any tips to share!
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