tent vs bivy vs hammock

I have a rei quarterdome or something like that tent and it works real good. It comes in at just under 4 pounds. I kinda wanna shave a little weight off pack though. The bivy idea looks essentially the same as tent, just lighter and obviously less room. The other option would be hammock. I keep hearing and reading about hennesy hammocks but, I am a shitty sleeper even in a bed and i must lay on my sides. I have always thought of hammocks as a lay on your back kind of thing.

I usually go camping/backpacking in the Olympics but occasionally go out to the desert seeing that i go to wsu. What are your guy's opinions and experiences in terms of bivy's and hammocks?

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
I prefer a tent over a bivy but have done plenty of bivy outings. Never used a hammock. I shave weight by eating fewer cheeseburgers and sleeping more comfortable. You are much younger than I, you could probably handle any of those options.


Active Member
Growing up in SE Alaska, my camping evolved to using a hammock. Low weight, small amount of back pack space, not sleeping on wet ground or snow and the rain fly was very easy to put up. Disatvantage, you do need to be below tree line and they need to be big enough so they don't bend or break.


Active Member
As a guy that has spent far more than a year of his life sleeping outdoors on desert floors, glaciers, in winter snows and above timber line the answer is simple: A modern light weight tent with a decent rain fly. I have camped and backpacked and climbed with so many people that had poor shelter and never for a minute envied them their lighter loads.

To me no hammock has ever been comfortable even if it is beside a swimming pool with a beer cooler underneath. I have slept in bivvy sacks roped to a headwall but you could hardly call it sleep under those conditions. Rather a comatose state due to exhaustion would be a better description. But a small tent where you can stretch out flat and keep your gear dry will not only allow you more comfort and better sleep but may indeed save your life at some point. Three or four extra pounds is a small price to pay for the security a tent will provide in an unexpected snow storm or a torrential downpour.


Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
I have to agree with Ive. Growing up I used them all. I even bought a jungle hammock. Built in tent. Used that a few times and tossed it. Was just as fast to setup my tent, and more room to boot. Plus, easier to get in and out of the tent. LOL. I prefer my popup camper of course, but still use my tent occasionally. Not a problem with using it.
For me it depends where I am at. I take a hammock if I expect wet and warm. I prefer a bivy + a light tarp for everything else.

Set up the tarp and bivy underneath it. You get maximum fresh air and you can still stay extremely dry even in torrential downpours (as long as u pick a good campsite)

If you are gonna get a bivy, drop a few extra bucks and get one that breaths well, because the biggest problem with bivy sacks is condensation. I almost always have my upper body under a tarp so i can roll the bivy back around the shoulders. Also, get a bivy with big netting, for camping in mosquito rich areas.

As far as hammocks, I have a hennesy ultralight. It wont work if your 200+ lbs, but for smaller guys its great.
I've read quite a few misconceptions about sleeping in a hammock. "They're not comfortable", "you sleep curled like a banana", "I'm a side sleeper and you have to sleep on your back", etc. I've used double wall tents, single wall sil nylon tarp tents, tarps with a bivy, tarps w/o a bivy, a bivy by itself. They all work, and all have their advantages, disadvantages and applications. For the last few years, I've been using a hammock when I do solo trips and a single wall sil nylon tent when my wife can go with me. What a lot of people don't realize, is that you lie diagonal to the center line in a hammock which allows you to get flat. You can then sleep on your side just as easy as you do at home. I started with homemade hammocks complete with bug netting and home sewn tarps. I finally ended up buying a Warbonnet hammock, and it's really a sweet piece of hiking gear.

I find a lot of things to like about a hammock. I like being off the ground. If it rains all night, I don't worry about puddling under me and my tent. A few years ago I was doing the Elwha trail all the way up river, over low divide, and out the NF Quinalt. I was trying to set myself up for an easy last day out and so I was trying to get to the last camp spot within about 5 miles of the NF Quinalt trailhead. It was a holiday weekend, and the place was packed. It's pretty common that a lot a backpackers just don't venture very far from the trailhead. There was not one tent site to be had anywhere. Luckily, I was hammocking and there was no shortage of trees and good hammock sites that would not have worked for a tent.

A hammock is one of the easiest things to make.They're not for everyone, but if you're at all interested in trying one, you can make one to try for backpacking for about $10-15. You still need a tarp to cover it though. Here are some easy directions............ Hammock

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
What Randall said. I poo-pooed hammocks for years until a couple of friends convinced me to take another look. I'm now the proud owner of a Hennessey Expedition Asym that weighs a whopping 2.5 pounds - less than half the weight of my lightest 3-season tent.

I will cast my vote for the hammock as well. I picked up a Hennessey asym like Kent's last year and love it. When I first got in I was expecting to lie down the center line like a hammock in your back yard but since you lie diagonally it is much more comfortable. I also like the fact that as long as you have two tie points (doesn't need to be trees, just two tie points) you are sleeping nice and level and it doesn't matter what contour the ground is beneath you. No rocks, roots, etc to worry about either.

There are some downsides to sleeping in them and you will need to determine if they are a problem for you. So far they haven't been a problem for me. Hammocks do rock when you move and it can be exacerbated by tying up to smaller trees as those will bend and move more than larger trees. Plan well and the movement is very slight. Wind can also cause you to rock a bit so pick a spot with some protection from the wind. You have air all around you so it can get cold. A good lightweight sleeping pad takes care of that problem. Lastly if you move around a lot when you sleep or wake up disoriented then there is the possibility that you could flip the hammock and be sleeping on the ceiling which makes getting out a bitch. I have never had this happen to me but a friend of mine admitted to doing just that.

My advice would be to find someone you know that has a hammock and try sleeping in it. Just set it up in the backyard and test it out.

All in all I love my Hennessey and for solo trips I will be using it exclusively.
I bought a Tarptent last year. I too wanted to save some weight as a friend and I spent a week in Colorado's backcountry doing some serious beaver pond fishing. I used the tent on two separate trips and even got into some summer thunderstorms. Plenty of room, great protection for a single wall domocile and it only weighs two pounds. I certainly see the wisdom and use of a hammock, would like to try one some day, but for most of my backpacking in the mountainous west a tent serves me best. To each his own. The ultra-light shelters available today give the outdoorsman
better choices than what was available not so long ago.


In search of Blinky...

Another WFF member reccomended this site a few weeks back. I highly reccomend it! I just bought a Grand Trunk ultralight (can be had for about $20). I have about another 15-20 bucks in DIY suspension. I'll be blue tarpin it until I get a better one, but so far it works great. I'm sure I'll be looking into a Hennesy or similar hammock eventually - it's addictive. I've always hated sleeping on the ground when camping and I enjoy the gentile rocking in the breeze.

This guy's videos were very helpful (and entertaining):

He demonstrates a lot of the options you see on the hammock forums. I reccomend you watch all 3!