this is my first post here in the backcountry forum. This thread is of particular interest to me as I approach that "over the hill" category.
I just HAD to comment after reading this quote...
My gf prefers her hammock (JRB bridge) to a tent. She sleeps great in it and can even sleep on her stomach. When we are out I have to wake her up most mornings..lol
I am with your gf - hammocks are AWE-SOME!! I am a 46 year old female and I recently tried sleeping all night in a hammock (a Byer of Maine Mosquito Hammmock) on a camping trip out near Yosemite. I have always had trouble sleeping (even at home) because I'm a chronic insomniac. The first night camping I used my Therm-a-rest Luxury map on the ground and I tossed and turned all night and spent most of it awake. The next 2 nights I used my hammock and was amazed that I actually SLEPT! I woke up refreshed, happy, not sore, it was fabulous! The second night in particular I literally slept all night long (never even waking to pee!) and only woke because the sun was in my eyes around 8 something A.M. I found it interesting that I woke up so content and happy, and yet the rest of my family rolled out of bed later than me and they did not look rested AT ALL. My 20-something sons in particular had puffy tired eyes and they were unusually grouchy. We had other hammocks so I tried to tell them to try it out, but we didn't have bug netting for them so it didn't work out because we were camping right next to a stream.
I am an absolute convert now and am looking up more information for hammock camping. I am outfitting my ENO hammock with bug netting and also getting tarps. I will be buying my sons some nice hammock systems for Christmas this year so we all can sleep in comfort. My nice new tent is unfortunately going to be gathering dust from now on.
If anyone is considering giving up camping/backpacking because they find it hard to get up off the ground in the morning or they have trouble sleeping at night you SERIOUSLY NEED to at least try it out. After my own hammock experiment I read a news article where researchers are studying the effects of sleeping in hammocks and they found many people slept deeper and more soundly in a hammock. I believe that research to be true based upon my own experience in one.
Tips for Hammock Comfort:
You will want a bug net, either attached or one you can add separately. Most travel hammock makers sell bug netting that is compatible with their hammocks. Byer of Maine sells a VERY affordable Moskito Traveller Hammock for only $31.35 via Amazon.com (Check the size carefully, this may not work for really tall people. I'm only 5'6" and it worked perfect for me). There are much better hammocks on the market (I got my eye on the Hennessy systems for my sons).
You will also want a hammock rainfly in case you encounter bad weather. I don't have a rain fly yet but am ordering one now from Hennessy Hammocks (the XL asym one). Lucky for me the first time I slept in my hammock the skies were perfectly clear (and beautiful as well, saw a few shooting stars before I drifted off to sleep).
You will still want to use a thermal pad: first of all bugs can't bite you through the underside of the hammock if you use a pad, and second your body compresses your sleeping bag ruining it's warming properties underneath, so you need a good thermal pad that is large enough to wrap up the sides a little as well, because in a hammock the sides get somewhat compressed as well.
The Proper way to sleep in a hammock is to be slightly diagonal (Brazilian style?). I was able to get basically completely horizontal if I wanted that way.
A hammock is able to help sufferers of acid-reflux sleep better. I have that and I found I had no trouble at all in my hammock because I was able to keep my head and chest slightly elevated.
You don't need a pillow if you use a hammock, it's perfectly comfortable without one.
And that's about it so far. Just wanted to add my two-cents worth in case it helps someone else experience a more comfortable nights sleep in the outdoors.