This category contains hammocks, tents, tarps, as well as any accessories/gear directly related to setting up, maintaining, or weatherproofing them. There are plenty of other companies and brands out there making similar gear to what you’ll see here; these are just some of the popular shelters that have proven their worth to me and many others.
I used this model during my thru hike of the AT, and all I can say is “WOW!” I was living large and sitting pretty! One of the few hammocks that comes with a built in weather shield, Clark is pricey, but they are the Cadillacs of the hammock world (IMO). Nowhere have I found a tougher, better made, more functional and feature rich hammock… ANYWHERE! The Clark Nx-270 is definitely on the heavy side, and you will pay out the nose for it; however you will know where that money went when you climb inside it for the first time. I don’t recommend it for ultralight, but I recommend it for anything else. Hell, if you decide it’s one of those things you can’t live without… then add it onto your ultralight gear list as a “luxury item.”
I used the Clark Tropical Ultra for my PCT thru hike, as well as part of my CDT thru hike; I love with it. It has the same durability as any other Clark Hammock, but it’s their lightest model that still has two storage/insulation pockets underneath. Nearly all of your gear can still be accessed from the comfort of the nest, with no need to get out. I set it up between the trees when they were available, and used it as a crude bivy when there were no trees and bugs were thick. After being spoiled by the features of a Clark Hammock, it’s hard for me to switch to anything else.
The Warbonnet Blackbird is one of the most popular hammocks amongst thru hikers, boy scouts, and hammock enthusiasts in general. They come in several different options (single or double layer, different fabric thickness, design, etc.), and for their spacious size, they’re one of the lightest and most comfortable options out there. I have not thru hiked with a blackbird, but I do own one. It’s hard to match the comfort and function for its weight.
Hennessy Hammocks are probably tied, if not more popular than the warbonnets. They aren’t quite as spacious (in my opinion), but they come in countless other designs, weights, and functions. There are so many options for the Hennessy, it’s hard to believe there isn’t a perfect one out there for you. They come with the option of a zippered side entry, or a very unique bottom entry. The people who use them, swear by them, and wouldn’t be caught dead with anything else.
The Eagle Nest Outfitters Hammocks are the most widely distributed of all the hammocks out there. They are also the simplest, most traditional hammock. They have many options, but most of their hammocks are fairly “bare bones.” For the most part they are nothing more than a piece of fabric you lay in, and nothing more. They come in many different sizes and weights; however, the bottom line is if you are looking for light and compact…these are the most trusted and widely used hammocks out there. ENO does sell different accessories to go with their hammocks (suspension, bug nets, etc). Quite literally anyone and everyone can and does use these hammocks for every purpose you can think of.
This is a larger version of the ENO Single Nest hammock pictured and described above. Worry no more you restless sleepers, larger people, and couples campers!
The following three tents are some of the most popular and widely used tents among newbie and veteran thru hikers alike. They have proven their worth and stood up to the tests of the trails. They’re light, simple to set up, and easy to put away. I’ve never used a tent, but I have good friends who have used every one of these tents; I’ve heard almost no complaints. Click on the images of the tents for more information and purchasing options, or search the models on google for more firsthand reviews.
The Hexamid Solo falls under the category of “Tarp Tent.” These are the lightest tents in the business right now. There are lots of companies making tarp tents out of various materials right now; this is only one of them, from one company. Tarp Tents have taken the long distance community by storm over the past several years. There is a learning curve to setting them up quickly and efficiently, but it’s not rocket science.
Atlas straps are without a doubt the simplest, most straight forward form of hammock suspension. They are also probably the heaviest. Their biggest advantage is their simplicity, as anyone can pick these up and learn to properly hang a hammock with them pretty much right away. I used Atlas Straps for my AT thru hike, but have since moved on to lighter options.
After the Atlas straps, the Whoopie Sling suspension system is probably one of the next most popular and simple set ups. They are also probably the overall lightest form of hammock suspension, pending what type of tree straps you pair them with. Made from Amsteel, they are tough and versatile. They can be a little tricky to figure out at first, but once you grasp the very easy concept, you’ll never go wrong again.
This is the suspension method I use. They’re not lighter than Whoopie Slings, however they are stronger and more versatile in regards to how close to the tree you can hang; as a result, you can hang between trees that are closer together than you would using Whoopie Slings. When using Muletape for suspension, it is best to use the “Becket Hitch” knot. It’s easy to make your own Muletape suspension straps (I do), but if you follow the link, there are illustrations, as well as videos on how to tie the Becket Hitch knot perfectly.
If you’re going to be hanging hammocks between trees, then you’re going to want a pair of tree straps. The length and thickness is up to you, but the thicker the tree strap, the better grip/less damage it’s going to do to the tree.
My hands down favorite tarps for overall weight, design, function, and price… are Hammock Gear’s tarps. I used their standard hex tarp for my PCT thru hike and my CDT thru hike. Available in lots of different sizes, styles, and weights; I can promise you won’t be disapointed. A cuben fiber tarp or shelter can be tough to get used to at first, but once you get the hang of them, it’ll be hard to go back. You won’t find a lighter option out there, but the downside is they can be noisy and difficult to set up in windy conditions. As with anything, practice makes perfect. You can use these tarps as a rain fly for your hammock, or as your stand alone shelter.
There are about a million options out there for ground stakes, but the MSR mini Groundhog Stakes are my favorite. They are incredibly light, as well as affordable, and I’ve never had one pull out of the ground on me when properly secured. There are both lighter and heavier options out there, but these are my favorite. I’ll be using the same set for the foreseeable future, and I have zero complains as of yet.
In the world of Groundsheets, the Polycro groundsheet is the lightest, hands down. It is also the most frail and most affordable; however, many people routinely get a thousand miles out of them before needing to replace them. I used a polycro groundsheet on the PCT and made it last 700 miles, even with a dog sleeping on it. They are clear and may remind you of cellophane, however they will serve their purpose in the lightest way possible. They are certainly a personal preference, and there’s really no need to even fold them up when you’re done; you can simply scrunch them up and throw them in your pack or ditty bag. You can always cut them to whatever size you want. Most hardware stores near you will carry this material in the aisle with window accessories/repair products.
The Tyvek Groundsheet is one of the most common groundsheets used among tenters and cowboy campers. They can be a little heavier than other options out there nowadays, but they are the toughest thing around for the price. They will help protect your sleeping pad from puncture, as well as keep your gear dry from any moisture on the ground.