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Tents Vs. Hammocks

Last Updated on June 11, 2016 by mountainswithmegan

Rocking my ENO hammock in Pennsylvania.

During my thru-hike I started with a tent, switched to a hammock, and ended without a form of shelter.  At the beginning of the trail I had a two-person, 5-pound tent.  I already owned it, and I didn’t want to spend any money on a new shelter.  I carried my 5-pound tent all the way to Pennsylvania.  My parents came to visit me there, took pity on me, and drove me to the Baltimore REI to replace my gear.  I picked out an ENO hammock, and I absolutely loved it.  I carried it all the way to Maine.  I mailed it home in Monson because I was heading into the 100-Mile Wilderness and my pack was heavier than it had ever been.  For the last section of the trail, I just shelter hopped.

There are pros and cons to each form of shelter.  I’m still not entirely sure which I like better, but I do know the pros and cons of each option.



  • Tents do an excellent job protecting you from rain and snow.
  • Your body heat gets trapped inside the tent, keeping you extra warm.
  • It’s pretty easy to find tent sites anywhere along the trail.
  • Tents are quick and easy to set up.


  • Tent poles and stakes add extra weight.
  • You’re sleeping on the ground, so it’s going to be uncomfortable.



  • Hammocks are really comfortable.  When I had my ENO hammock, I got my best sleep on the trail.
  • They’re lightweight.
  • You can throw a bug net over top for the middle of summer, and you can hang a tarp over head for when it rains.
  • They’re great for hot, summer months because your body heat doesn’t get trapped inside.


  • Theirs no room to keep your gear inside of the hammock with you.
  • You need trees to set it up.
  • If it rains really hard, you’ll probably get wet, even if you have a tarp.
  • Hammocks aren’t great for cold weather, because they don’t trap body heat.

No Shelter, or Just a Tarp


  • You have a very light pack.
  • You can cowboy camp a lot, meaning just sleep under the stars.  Many hikers prefer cowboy camping.


  • You have to make it to a lean-to if the weathers bad.
  • You can’t start the trail without shelter.  There’s too many people on the trail in Georgia, and you probably won’t get a spot in a lean-to if it’s raining.

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