Tents – Hammocks… The Weight Saga

Posted: August 27, 2011 in Hammock Camping

Usually there seems to be an ongoing conflict between tenters and hammockers on backpacking forums. Why… no friggin clue. Well I may have a clue. Most tenters dont think hammocking is a viable shelter system while the hammockers tend to try and “spread the word” of hammocking a little too much.

Now the conflict doesn’t bother me most of the time. What bothers me is that many non-hammockers or short term hammockers toss out that hammocking weighs more than tenting and tarping.

First off… using just a tarp is right now the lightest option out there period. Undisputed. I get it and I have ZERO problem with that.

In this gangsta rap of a blog I’m going to see if these non-hammockers are right. Does a hammock weigh significantly more than the current basic ultralight tent option? Well since my 3 season base weight is at the 8.5lbs mark the answer is probably not. BUT I hate it when someone just makes a comment and doesnt back it up with thuggish facts. So let the Water Monkey spit some hot fire and lets be surprised together (since I’ve never done this much research in the subject before):

In this comparison lets look at the shelter in 4 areas for 3 season – Structure, Weather Protection, Bottom Insulation, and Top Insulation. All figures will be taken from the manufacturer’s website and the assumption will be an average 5’10” individual weighing 180lbs.

Tenting Option (Basic):

Structure/Weather Protection – Tarptent Contrail – 24.5oz ($199)

Bottom Insulation – Neo Air Medium – 13oz ($140)

Top Insulation – Montbell Down Spiral Hugger 30*F – 21oz ($285)

Total Weight (cost) = 58.5oz or 3.67 lbs ($628)

Hammock Option (Basic with some knowledgable UL changes):

Structure – Warbonnet Traveler 1.7 Single Layer ( 12.5oz) with dynaglide whoopies & Tree straps (3.5oz) = $93.00

Pappa Smurf Bug sock = $60 (2oz)

Weather Protection – Warbonnet Edge Tarp silnylon (11.5oz) with guylines = $100

Top Insulation – Warbonnet 3 Season Mamba (19oz) = $250

Bottom Insulation = Warbonnet Yeti  (12.5oz) $189 & Gossamer Gear Thinlight Cut down pad (1.5oz) $30 = $219

Total Weight (cost) = 62.2oz or 3.89 lbs ($722)

 So what’s the difference…. 

3.7oz or .23 lbs Favor Tent in weight. Less than a quarter of a pound.

$94 difference in favor of the tent.

So there you have it… This is where it becomes subjective. Is 1/4 of a pound a big difference to you? I’m not sure, I’m not you. But that’s fairly comparable if you ask me.

Now the reason that I threw in the prices also was because I know hammocking does cost a little more than tenting. And based on the basic version with some UL suspension  swap outs you are looking at $100 more. This could be the deal breaker for many people so the Water Monkey wants to keep it real for ya.

You can go lighter on both sides by tossing in cuben fiber to the equation for the tent. You can also do the same for the hammock and even choose a smaller/lighter hammock (GT Nano Hammock). You can play the what if’s till you are blue in the face. I chose what I chose because it was easy to research and many who are on the quest for UL backpacking on both sides are familiar with those products and manufacturers.

Thug Life,

Water Monkey

  1. Stick says:


    This is a great post. And I agree with you. You nailed it from the get go.

    IMO, no matter what you carry hiking, it is all personal. That said, with a little money, and a little research both set-ups can be pretty dang light-weight. And for those that are good at MYOG, either can be quite inexpensive.

    As you know, I am new to hammocking. Since I started bp’ing I have been a “ground dweller” and to be honest, I am fine with that. Even though I just found the sweet comfort of a hammock I am not looking to get rid of my ground set-up. It is nice to have options.

    But to add to your post…here are some figures from my set-ups…(good to at least 20 F)

    Ground dwelling:
    Structure/Weather Protection – SMD Skyscape Trekker – 25.5 oz ($219)

    Bottom Insulation – Neo Air Regular – 13.8 oz ($159)
    Bottom Insulation – Gossamer Gear 1/8″ Thinlight – 1.7 oz ($15)

    Top Insulation – Marmot Helium – 34.5 oz ($380)

    Total Weight (cost) = 75.5oz or 4.71 lbs ($758)

    Structure – Grand Trunk UL with whoopies, Tree straps & toggles = 14.4 oz ($68.50)

    MYOG Bug sock = 2.5 oz ($10)

    Weather Protection – OES 8×10 Sil tarp with SLTRL, guy lines & skins = 22.4 oz ($140)

    Top Insulation – Marmot Helium = 34.5 oz ($380)

    Bottom Insulation = HG 20 F CF Phoenix with foot pad = 16 oz ($240)

    Total Weight (cost) = 89.8 oz or 5.61 lbs ($838)

    So, obviously my ground dwelling is about a pound lighter and $80 cheaper. But to be fair, I have just gotten into hammocks…at the same time though, I was still looking to get my ground set-up lighter before I busted into the hammocking scene…

    To be fair, for $175 more I could cut 12 oz off of my tent weight and still have the same amount of comfort. Of course, for about the same amount of $$$ I could go with one of Joe’s CF tarps (as you mentioned) and save about 18 oz off of that weight…

    However, I do plan on upgrading some of my hammock gear. For $309 more I could get one of Adam’s 20 F Burrows using the 7D and save about another pound off of this set-up. Then of course if I got one of Adam’s cf tarps for $324 I would save yet another pound off of the hammock set-up.

    So, bottom line, for me, I am looking at about a 3.8 pound ground set-up for $714. For hammocking, I am looking at about a 3.6 oz set-up for $950. Either way, I will be happy! And hey, gear nuts like me don’t mind having all that gear…

    Sorry for the long post, just got caught up…


    • My man Stick in the Hizzy Son!

      Thanks for such a very thought out post. As always if you want any advice on hammock gear… cause I am also a self proclaimed gear nut…. Holla at your boy!

      I leave thee with a quote from my man Gunnery Sgt Hartman after I let him try my Black Bird Hammock:

      This is my Hammock. There are many like it but this one is mine
      My hammock is my best friend. I must master the hang as I must master my life.
      My hammock without me is still awesome. Without my hammock, I lose sleep.
      I must hang my hammock true. I must sleep better than the ground dweller who is trying to ridicule me. I must prove him wrong before he heckles me. I will…..

      Keepin it gangsta,

      Water Monkey

  2. johnabela says:

    Hey WM,

    It is nice to see you and others starting to take on this issue, it has been an issue I have been pushing for over a year now – though most of it has been towards getting hammock users to realize all their touting is for naught.

    I would like to start by saying that I very much, 100 percent, agree with everything you wrote in your blog. Your numbers are dead on and exactly like I would have compiled them – you used common setups for both the ground and non-ground configurations. It was not slanted and you should be proud of that fact.

    To share a brief bit about my own hiking setups and style. I have owned and used hammocks and tents. On the hammock side I have had the all famous WBBB to bridge hammocks to custom made 100 gram cuben fiber hammocks. On the tent side I have owned TarpTents, ZPacks, Hyperlight Mountain Gear, and even some heavier tents. I have three primary setups: A four season (winter) setup that is in the 3000 gram range (6lbs), a three season setup that is in the 2400 grams range (5.3lbs) and a summer season setup that is 771 grams (1.7 pounds). It has taken me a lot of years to get down that low and still be safe, and feel the summer time setup is a weight level that very few people should be at – I question it myself many times I head out – but I just want to share that I have spent my time with both spreadsheets as well as out under the moon.

    Here is what I would like to point out:

    Your two setups are ideal setups for summer and shoulder season hiking. Your two setups are also idea setups for those who only hike once or twice a year, and even for those who might get out a dozen or so times a year, however not so much so for avid hikers or thru-hikers, but that is perfectly ok because in the larger scope of things, thru-hikers and avid hikers make up the smaller percentage of overall hikers.

    Where this issue really starts to take a turn for the worse – for hammock setups – is when you reach the 4 season (winter) setups. It is at this level that you really begin to see why hikers (such as myself) have had to abandon hammocks and go to the ground. Again, I have no desire (and will not) to counter or challenge what you blogged about, for as I already indicated you have nailed it right on the head. What the numbers did not take into account was anything in the winter season category – which you did clearly indicate.

    So I would like to present those numbers, using like you did above, the most common winter setups. For this, the only things that realistically needs to change is the sleeping bag (for the ground) and the TQ/UQ (for the non-ground) hikers.

    A large majority of those who hike the PCT and CDT (the AT is often times a bit warmer) use the “Western Mountaineering UltraLite” (or the “Marmot Helium”) sleeping bag, so I feel it is perhaps the best base-standard for a 20f bag.

    Western Mountaineering UltraLite: is 29 ounces.

    In order for us to reach that same 20 degree range for a hammock setup we need to (typically) switch away from a half-length or 3/4 length TQ/UQ and move to full length quilts. These days it seems that stormcrow owns that market, so I will use his.

    TQ: Burrow at 20.1 ounces
    UQ: Incubator at 22.5 ounces
    Combined: 42.6 ounces

    This results in a 13.6 ounces (0.85 pounds) [385 grams] difference between the ground and non ground setups, for winter time conditions.

    For the weekender, an additional near pound is probably not a big deal. For thru-hikers or those who have a lot of snow gear, another 0.85 of a pound can be noticeable.

    So basically we have gone from a difference of “3.7oz or .23 pound” (to quote your blog) to 13.6 ounces or 0.85 pounds.

    Like you so well put it, it really all just comes down to the hiker and the hike. Being a very active hiker, at the base weights that I am, an additional 13+ ounces is a significant percentage of my total base weight. I think all to often we fail to factor in percentages. A question I typically purpose is: “If you have a base weight of xy pounds, and one item you carry weighs xy-ounces, what percentage of your overall weight does that equal out too?” – this is a question that I think many hikers who are moving from the UL world into the SUL/XUL have to begin to ask themselves.

    Again Paul, great blog, and I hope many who are both ground sleepers and non ground sleepers will take the time to consider the math behind all of this. A lighter backpack is a healthy thing!

    Above all remember:

    Managed Core Temperature + Proper Sleep + Proper Food + Proper Gear = a Successful Trip!

    John B. Abela

    • Redwood Outdoors all up in the mix!

      First John thanks for the compliments. When doing something like this being objective is important especially when you are trying to convey the facts as they are without skewing the results.

      Now as far as winter set up I am still dialing that in thus the reason I dont have my Winter gear list video out yet because that is still being refined. After some tests this year I should have it mostly dialed in.

      But having spent a good solid 2 winter seasons hammocking I believe I have enough to give you a well informed response to your question. But first I’d like to define winter weather. For me Winter Weather is Highs in the low 30’s and lows down to zero. Why? Because the basic hammock setup for 3 season in my blog goes down to 20*F. That’s 20*F comfortably with a person who sleeps normal (neither hot or cold). The rating is true. I’ve tested my 3 season down to 27*F and was fine (that was before Warbonnet was overstuffing the yeti).

      I’m not sure the normal 3 season tent option will work for winter down to 0*F. I’ve seen people use 3 season tents in snow and in a snow storm. But the wind blown snow was an issue. Also, would the medium neo air have the adequate R value to ensure the hiker wont become cold? I’m not sure but I think it really becomes iffy at those temps. Finally, the WM UL is rated at 20*F. I’m not sure that will be sufficient to cover the winter chill I’m looking for in my definition of winter. Having a zero degree bag would add roughly 10oz more to your set up. So it seems the set up you are comparing to is apples to oranges, based on my idea of winter. Basically comparing a 20*F set up to a zero degree set up.

      Also, your presumption of the need for a full length underquilt for winter down to 0*F is not necessary. I’ve tested the winter yeti down to 3*F and lived to tell about it. I was cool but my inexperience in winter camping was my main problem (proper diet, hydration, and set up of the hammock correctly). Subsequent winter testing proved much more effective with the same set up.

      But lets take this basic UL hammock winter set up rated to 0*F (I’m going to stay away from Cuben Fiber for now to be consistent with my blog).

      Shelter – Same as blog (less bugnet) – 16oz ($93)

      Weather Protection – Warbonnet Superfly w/guylines 20oz ($130)

      Bottom Insulation – Warbonnet Winter Yeti 18.5oz ($215), Gossamer Gear Thinlight pad 2oz ($30)

      Top Insulation – Winter Mamba 26.3oz ($275)

      Total set up = 82.80oz or 5.18lbs ($733)

      I’d imagine a winter set up to achieve a 0*F rating would also come quite close in weight but I’m also sure the disparity in money spent will range in the $200 range. I’m interested in the set up you would recommend get down to meet that rating.

      A couple things my blog really didnt mention, and it bears mentioning. In the end it is really difficult to defeat the weight savings of a tent set up. For one thing a tent doesn’t suspend the user. Therefore, only certain materials can be used to reliably suspend the user and be durable as well as comfortable for extended use. Tents will always have a slight advantage in the weight savings because of this. But as the 3 season set up shows this advantage is really close. Perhaps one day we will HAVE to measure that advantage by grams instead of ounces.

      Volume. By design hammocks will take up less volume compared to tents within your pack. I’d bet the 3 season hammock and tarp will pack down better than most tents including the tarptent.

      Water Monkey keepin it real!

      Raul… not Paul. Simple mistake most people make.. including my family doctor whom I’ve been going to for over 15 years!

    • John, did you leave your pad weight out of your calculation or did I miss it?

      • johnabela says:


        I made the statement: “For this, the only things that realistically needs to change is the sleeping bag (for the ground) and the TQ/UQ (for the non-ground) hikers.” within my post, so no, I did not include a pad in the weight, as Raul (got it right that time 😉 already included a pad in his listed gear.

        If you care to see my own gear lists, they are available at http://bit.ly/ojku20 (which is a google spreadsheet) or linked directly from my gear blog site at http://www.RedwoodOutdoors.Com – but please note I do not have a hammock setup included within my gear list. I should probably put one together one of these days.

      • @John

        I went to your blog. You are a total head case and I mean that in the most admiring way possible. Except for your failure to drink fully of the hammock kool-aid, I’m in awe! I look forward to spending more time at RedwoodOutdoors!

    • John.. I looked at your gear list and it seems your Winter gear only gets down to 30*F… Maybe 15*F if you wear all your insulating layers which I suspect that you do. Is that because the Redwoods dont dip that low or get that much snow? I’m not very familiar with your temperate zone. How low have you gotten that set up?

      Here in NY from late Dec – Feb it gets down to the teens and single digits and dips into zero. More upstate it actually hits -30*F. That’s why my winter set up is geared toward 0*F.

      • johnabela says:

        Hey WM,

        My winter and shoulder gear lists are directly targeted towards thru-hiking as that is mostly what I do these days. Based on solid data provided by previous PCT thru-hikers ( http://mailman.backcountry.net/pipermail/pct-l/2010-December/042944.html ) the lowest temperature is in the 20(f) range.

        You are correct in your 20(f) analysis of my gear. Like all hikers, we have to options: (1) we can go with a heavier bag (say, 15f marmont helium, or 20f WM Ultralite/Alpinlite) and not take a down jacket, or (2) take a lighter sleeping bag (30-35f) and than take a down jacket. I prefer having the flexibility of a down jacket, so I have chosen the latter option. Together with my 30f bag and my down jacket I can get into the 15-20 range and still get a few hours of sleep at night. I suffer the dreaded “2am chills” as many people do, but I am still able to get enough sleep to make it through a few days of colder weather.

        Here in the Redwood region of Northern California it rarely gets below 20 degrees. In the 17 years I have lived here, I think 18f is the coldest I have seen it get (and I happened to be out camping that night).

        None of my gear is designed to get below 20-f, with the exception of the ColdAvenger Expedition Balaclava.

        I spent a year in Buffalo NY and got to experience the adventures of going to sleep with nice weather and no snow on the ground, and than waking up the next morning and there being 6-feet of snow on the ground. That was way awesome, but really freaking cold for this West Coast boy.

  3. Bigdumbman says:

    @johnabela For serious hammockers that are considering thru-hikes in “extreme” cold I would think they would probably be looking more at a peapod type system which would be lighter in the end. I personally think the Speer peapod is too heavy and large, but it has also kept me warm down to -8* which i wouldn’t feel comfortable taking my Western Mountaineering UltraLite down to.
    With a lighter peapod I could easily see getting close to the weight of the Western Mountaineering UltraLite and only be 5 to 6 oz heavier at the most. That being said I still believe that you can not get as light for winter camping in a hammock as you can on the ground, but I do think you can get pretty darn close.

    • johnabela says:

      Hey Bigdumbman,

      Sorry for not replying sooner, I missed seeing your post.

      Yeah, I have always wanted to pick up one of those peapod systems. I almost did once but than I realized it would probably just be overkill for my needs. Plus, I really really prefer bridge hammocks, and those peapod systems just do not really work all that well on them.

      I think as this thread and all of the comments have shown thus far, for the smart hikers, for those who are serious about having as light as possible setups, there *are* ways to make the two different systems very very close to each other – for both winter and should season setups.

      It does seem that I am buying a lot less stuff for sleeping on the ground than I did when I was a die hard hammock user. Seems like I was always being some new thing to try out for my hammock, but just not the case for tents or tarps, other than maybe buying a few different sleeping pads until you find the one you like.

      A long standing contest between myself and the other hammock guys I hike with at times is the age old “which is quicker to setup?” factor lol – which has not been talked about yet. I swear I must be the slowest person in the world for seeing up a hammock. The amount of time I spend jerking around with getting it “just right” was/is crazy. Where as with a tent, just throw it down, throw my pole under it, and I’m done. Of course, hammock condoms (or whatever we are suppose to call them these days) are a nice way to safe yourself a few extra moments. I kept both my tarps and my hammock in them. Made packing them a bit harder, but oh’so much faster to setup!

      Anyway, yeah, I think we are all pretty much able to say that we have been able to properly solve this age’old arguement, with, as you put it, “I still believe that you can not get as light for winter camping in a hammock as you can on the ground, but I do think you can get pretty darn close”.

  4. jacobtatum01 says:

    I enjoyed reading this post. Interesting reading the difference in weight and cost.
    Personally, I prefer a good mixture of both when I’m camping. When I’m sleeping, I prefer to be in the tent, but I do take my hammock with me (it balls up about the size of a grapefruit) to lounge around in and do some reading and napping.
    I think I could get used to hammock camping, I’ve just never really tried it. This post makes me curious to test it out. Might have just figured out what I’m doing this weekend! Gonna get out and hammock!

  5. Wow! Thank you! I continually wanted to write on my website something like that. Can I implement a fragment of your post to my website?

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