Which bivvy hammock? A head-to-head tree-tent test

Sleeping off the ground and under a net means you’re safe from mosquitoes and mud, but the ‘banana’ slump of a traditional hammock doesn’t suit many backs.

Flat-bed bivvy hammocks use a variety of systems so that the fabric is taut enough to keep you flat. Here are our favourites…


We’ve sung the praises of flat-bed bivvy hammocks for a while, but we’re always on the look-out for the VERY best. We’ve found that many of our top picks are almost impossible to find in the UK. This versatile Amok Draumr hammock has been a firm favourite, but tricky to track down. So, what can you do instead? Read on…

 


What to look for in a bivvy hammock or tree tent

You definitely want a zipped in mosquito net. And in wet weather, you’re also need a tarp. Some hammocks have a matching tarp as an add-on extra. You might also want to read our article on bivvying, with tips and suggestions.

Choosing the right sleeping bag is important too. We’ve found that slippy material can send you sliding into an uncomfortable position, so would prefer cotton or something with a bit of ‘drag’. For preference, we’d choose a duvet-style bag (or even a duvet) because it’s easier to wrap around once you’re in the hammock and you can pad the area around you to prevent sliding.

Obviously, a bulky bag won’t be suitable if you’re backpacking or have a lot of other kit to carry. Remember too that it gets colder in a bivvy hammock, so you’ll need a warmer bag than you would in a tent.

Some of the best bivvy hammocks and tree tents use a camping mattress (self-inflating or blow-up) to give you more horizontal and comfortable sleep. You need to check whether the sizes match up, and remember that cold air LOVES the underside of hammocks (and your bum and back), so insulated mats are best.


The Hammock Bliss Sky Bed Bug-Free

Sky Bed 5Sky Bed 6

The Sky Bed comes in an attached stuffsack and opens up easily to hang from two ropes. Nothing fancy there – just a couple of strong ropes to tie around your trees. Inside the zip-around mosquito net, the hammock has a ‘sheath’ sewn in at a diagonal. The idea is that the slumpiness of a hammock comes from lying in a straight line from tree to tree. You may already have found that you get a flatter position if you shuffle sideways a bit in a traditional hammock, and the Sky Bed helps you with that because your camping mattress slots into this sheath to give you an insulated ‘platform’. There are also a couple of handy pockets inside.

  • Weight – around 875g (without tarp)
  • Price – around £50

Pros

  • Cheaper than many
  • Simple to set up and take down
  • Comfier to sleep in than an ordinary hammock
  • Great head clearance for the mosquito net

Cons

  • Larger or wider mattresses won’t fit into the sheath
  • You’re not really flat. Even the company’s own promo pictures don’t show complete flatness. Sky Bed’s Dov Fraser tells us that it can be made flatter by adjusting the hanging tension, however.

Hennessy Hammocks

While this wide range of hammocks isn’t absolutely flat-bed, they do use an asymmetrical design to let you sleep in a more natural position. They cost between around £60 and £200. They come with a matching waterproof rainfly tarp and tightly woven mesh to keep even tiny mosquitos out.

They’re a serious piece of expedition gear so you know you can rely on them for durability. All come with support ropes and a stuffsack.

Pros

  • Easy to set up with a ridgeline
  • Insulated options
  • 24 models to choose from , including jungle hammocks, double bottom hammocks, insulated winter hammocks, ultralights, and five different lengths.

Cons

  • Not absolutely flat

 


The affordable workaround hammock

As we mentioned in the intro, the following flat-bed hammocks are nigh-on impossible to find. Apologies if the links take you to out-of-stock models. We do update regularly, though. Our workaround solution, if your favourite flat-bed hammock isn’t available, is also the cheapest way to camp off the ground.

There are lots of hammocks with mosquito nets for next-to-nothing. The downside, of course, is that you’ll sleep slumped.

But, you can make an ordinary hammock extra comfortable with a Klymit hammock pad. We’ve recently discovered these and they’re brilliant. The extra sides keep the fabric from swallowing you and there’s an insulated option as well as a standard one. Around £100. More sleeping pads here too.

If you get a wide enough hammock, you’ll find that sleeping on the diagonal will keep you flatter, and your mat will help to even things out too.


The Exped Ergo

exped 2Exped Ergo HammockThe Exped Ergo is built around a diagonal design, using a fiendish web of ropes. It’s light and easy to unpack, and a doddle to attach to your trees thanks to the cleverly made ropes. Every toggle and adjuster has been really well thought-out, a large mat fits perfectly into the sheath (zipped at the bottom of the hammock). There are pockets inside and an adjustment toggle for the net, which also has a carabiner to attach a light.

Pros

  • A design like no other
  • Very flat sleeping position
  • Good mosquito net and tarp that attaches to the horizontal line above the hammock.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can be a bit fiddly to get set-up
  • Not all that easy to find in the shops

By the way, the hammock next to the Ergo in the second picture is a Ticket to the Moon one, ‘customised’ with a mat inside. It’s a cheaper, if less comfortable option. You might want to add the matching net, though. And you’ll definitely need a hammock pad


The Amok Draumr 3.0

Amok 3 Amok 2Before you even open up the pack, you know you have something special – from the classy stuffsack to the packaging that dares to be funny (instructions to turn it into a hat) rather than just functional.

The quality of the fabric, ropes and carabiners is immediately obvious. The Amok Draumr is a truly innovative design and did exactly what they promised – a flat, hanging bed and the option to pull a couple of straps and have a chair or recliner. We loved it.

It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of the hanging, and there are quite a few straps and strings to get used to. Getting into it requires some good bum positioning, but then…well, the comfort is fantastic. Utterly flat in any sleeping position, plus pull on two straps and you’re sitting up ready for a cup of tea.

Amok

Pros

  • Totally flat and you can sleep on your side as well as your back
  • Jaw-droppingly well-designed and well-made
  • Option to use as a chair or recliner
  • A thing of beauty

Cons

  • Won’t work without a mat, unless you want slumpy slumber
  • Getting harder to find in the UK, so apologies if our link is no longer working
  • May be too short for some. One of our testers, who’s 6’2″, found he only just fitted
  • Expensive, especially if you add on the matching tarp

Lawson Blue Ridge

Our latest test, and a definite favourite. We loved it for its simplicity, roominess and the fact this hammock can be used on the ground as well as in the trees.

The Lawson has an arched pole and spreader bar system that means it’ll stay flattish and the built-in mosquito net won’t flop onto your face. There’s also a detachable, waterproof rainfly. It’s not as flat as the Amok, but the extra space makes a lot of difference.

There are internal storage pockets, a ring for hanging a lantern and a stuffsack. Weight is around 1.9kg.

Price is around £150, and no need to buy an extra tarp. You will need to buy tree straps, though, as it doesn’t come with a hanging kit. We were also underwhelmed by the bit of elastic that holds the arch clip and the coloured bit of rope that attaches to the tree straps. Small things, but they just showed a lack of attention to detail. However, don’t be put off – the versatility, space inside and ease of erecting (ground or trees) makes this a winner.

Pros

  • A ground tent and a hammock in one
  • Loads of space inside
  • Easy to put up
  • Rainfly included

Cons

  • No hanging kit
  • Not absolutely flat-bed
  • As with the others, getting harder to find in the UK

By the way, we’ve got recommendations for other ground-based bivvy tents too.


Tentsile

Another option is Tentsile – a range of hammocks and tree tents that are strung at three corners to make them flat. They range in price from around £150 to over £500. They also do a range of three-corner hammocks – the Mini (around £130) and the Trillium (around £220). Tentsile take some amazing photos and then Photoshop them into temptation, but hold back – we haven’t been able to test these yet and some reviewers haven’t been overwhelmed.

The Una – at around £160 – looks the closest in features to our other bivvy hammocks. It has a net and rainfly. The downside is that you have to find three trees, though it does come with all the webbing and ties you’ll need.

It weighs only 2.8kg and packs to just 25 x 12 x 12cm. We’ll report back when we’ve tried one.


Finally,  thanks to reader Steve Rundle for drawing our attention to a new option from Crua. It looks to be an interesting and versatile bivvy tent that can also be hung as a hammock. MkII is on the way, but not yet available in the UK. We’ll tell you more after testing it out. Follow us on Facebook to get an instant update as soon as we publish that review (and new articles), or subscribe for free.



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4 Comments

  1. The Amok Draumr is a revelation. I’ve had mine for 2 years now and would not go back to a tent unless treeless! The mat is important for a good nights sleep. Choose well and go long wide and length wise baffles. I got an exped synmat UL with good insulation which you need. For warmth and the size for good structure for the hammock. Experiment with inflation. I fiddle with mine a lot to get it just right.

  2. How durable is the airmat for the Amok? From what I gather, it is absolutely necessary for use in the Amok. What happens if it develops a leak, as most airmats are prone to do. On a beach in California, not much of a problem, but in Alaska in 20 degrees below zero? Big problem!ED: That’s an interesting question, Bob. It’s true that the Amok won’t work without the stability of an airmat inside. It takes most standard airmats, so you can certainly choose one that you have faith in. Have a look at our article on camping mats. In our experience, decent mats are very durable and they always come with a repair kit just in case an Alaskan bear sinks a claw through the fabric. Cheap mats tend to develop leaks at the valve, which is why we’d avoid those for a serious trip. If it’s a real worry for you, the best bet is the Lawson Blue Ridge, which can be used on the floor and as a hammock – the best of both worlds.

  3. I like the look of the Amok Draumr – someone had one out at our Beech Estate Woodland Campsite a few weeks back – looked very snazzy hanging in our woodland.

  4. There’s a new hybrid from Crua Outdoors in Ireland that’s worth a look as well. Seems very impressive and functional

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