Is a Hammock a shelter?

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Hammock Camping

So as I sit in my hotel room bored out of my mind after doing accounting work I find myself reading hiking forums and as it turns out I find something worth evaluating a bit deeper…. Yes another hammock blog. You’ve been warned if you hate hammocks stop reading now and save yourself.

What, you still reading?

OK so there’s a debate that I seem to find myself in…. is a hammock a shelter at all? OR is the Tarp the shelter? If you paid careful attention to my previous blog about Tent-Hammock weight you will know my stance on the subject. But I’ll elaborate for ya.

Now before I begin my dissection of this topic lets define what a shelter is based on the current dictionary definition:

Shelter – something that provides cover or protection.

Now some definitions out there define the “protection” from either a) Weather or b) Danger

Lets define the hammock – A hammock that has either an integrated bugnet or a removable. Why??? Keep reading playa.

Can the Hammock Alone Be Defined As A Shelter?

The short answer, I believe so. It depends on the circumstance.

Let’s say it is a nice early summer night. No chance of rain but the bugs are in at full force. You retire to you hammock and are within your bugnet. At that point I believe your hammock has effectively become a shelter. It provided protection from what was danger or a high annoyance which were the bugs.

Would this situation be any different than someone using a tent without the rain fly? My argument is no. The structure you are entering (ie tent without rain fly) is offering you the same protection you are receiving in a hammock with a bug net. The structures may be different but they both provide the same protection.

When Can The Hammock Not Be Defined As A Shelter?

I’ve been tossing this around my noggin a bit the past couple of days and I have to be honest. The times a hammock does not fit the definition of a “shelter” are when it is raining and when you are in the winter seasons.

When it’s raining you will need your tarp. When those conditions are present your hammock alone does not conform to the definition of a shelter. Your tarp is providing the protection you need and not your hammock.

In winter conditions your main enemy is the cold. As any experienced deep winter hammock user knows, you need protection from the cold winds which rob you of your warmth. During this season most hammock users invest in larger tarps which basically fully enclose and reach near or on the ground. Also, the need for a bug net is no longer required. At that point the tarp yet again is your shelter and not the hammock.

A third and final scenario also came across my wild monkey mind. And that is the times where bugs are not an issue and the night weather is clear and calm. At that point you don’t need a bug net or a tarp. What would this be considered? And it came to me… Cowboy Camping. Cowboy camping is basically sleeping under the stars. The norm is sleeping on a pad and in your sleeping bag. At this point you are not considered using any shelter at all.


So is the hammock itself a shelter? Sometimes. When the weather is good, the bugs are out and you have a bug net on your hammock with no tarp up. Yes.

When the weather requires a tarp… No.

When the weather is good, bugs are not an issue and you don’t need or use the bug net and tarp… No. At that point you are not considered even using a shelter.

Kickin It Like Bruce Lee,

Water Monkey

  1. STinGa says:

    Here’s another point or two to ponder … Does hanging off the ground provide protection from non-flying pests (snakes, ants, etc.)? This could turn the non-integrated bugnet hammock into a shelter. Or is the hammock being used for an afternoon nap or for a over night sleep It depends on how flexible your definition is.


    • Yes you are correct you can be a bit liberal and argue those points. However, there are many out there who don’t even consider a hammock a viable shelter system. I was trying to keep it fairly close to the definition in response to those that shall never try a hammock out of mere speculation alone. But again, very good points.

  2. I feel that what defines a shelter depends on what you need to be sheltered from. For example, if it is buggy, then you need to be sheltered from bugs. Something that shelters you from rain (a tarp without an integrated bug net) is not a shelter in that situation but a bug-netted hammock would be. Similarly, if it were raining, then the aforementioned tarp becomes a shelter.

    If you need shelter from snakes then a hammock, even without a bug net or tarp, is a shelter. Unless the snakes are arboreal snakes. In which case you are screwed.

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