Which hammock? Often the first question asked when hatching a plan to try out hammock camping. Well, without doubt a longer hammock is more comfortable, with hoards of would be hammockers turned away after been scrunched into an 8 or 9 footer. My first hang being no different; a two toned silk Chinese job that required curling in the foetal position and toughing it out ’til morn. Anyway, I personally even struggled with 11′ hammock due to previous knee damage from sports, so I definitely couldn’t sleep properly in the sub 9′ ones. I think it’s a shame that so many would-be swingers are left on the damp, slug infested ground, having tried to like hammock camping but the hammock itself wrong.
Hammocking rocks! providing, of course, that the hammock doesn’t suck, but there’s a hump of knowledge that needs to be climbed before it beats the arse off of a tent. If there are trees about you’ll invariably find me in the hammock due to it being such a comfortable way to enjoy nature, more immersed in it while being even more comfortable.
A hammock of 10.5′ to 11′ is just about perfect for most adults and makes for a supremely comfortable, nearly flat, diagonal lay. This flatter lay reduces the banana shaped lay of a smaller hammock, which is usually fine on the hips, but can put strain on the knees (hyperextended) and often times shoulder squeeze too. The hammock itself needn’t be expensive and I actually try to steer my customers to the cheaper, super simple, rectangular (with maybe a knotty mod to handle flappy edges). A DIY/MYOG is a brilliant introduction to hammocks, easily shortened, modified etc. Mostly, more complex and fiddly designs don’t add to the comfort but can add drastically to the cost (there are great exceptions but for brevity I’ll ignore them here). With many long time hammockers there’s generally a shift away from the all in one designs and instead favouring much simpler hammocks (there’s only so much new fangled doodads on forums to try out). In my opinion a hammock should be easily cleaned (they get stinky) and cheaply replaced as a simple snag can quickly make it unusable, a long day on trail makes this all the more likely.
However, there’s a small snag …. long hammocks just plain don’t fit under bog standard tarps which poses an issue if you are trying out hammocks and not quite sure about them, yet. So with this in mind I realised that you can add a bit of pseudo length with a stretch footbox, as your feet rest in the area just beyond the main body of the hammock. This goes slightly against my usual ethos of removing what isn’t necessary but did make a hammock thats about as comfortable as a hammock ~12″ longer, and as the footbox stretches you can still lay sideways, relax and enjoy the view. A shorter hammock at 9.5′ length should fit under your more bog standard tarps without having to shell out on a fancy hex tarp.
The most important aspect I want to get across is length! We all know it matters no matter who you’re getting it from or if you’re doing it yourself. Don’t deprive yourself of some good swinging folks 😉