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…
Latest update: August 2019
What to look for in a bivvy hammock or tree tent
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 previous top picks are almost impossible to find in the UK. We do update our articles every couple of months or sooner, but apologies if something we recommend here proves elusive.
Hammock camping basics
Tip 1: You definitely want a mosquito net
Most hammocks designed for camping rather than lounging have a zipped-in mosquito net.
If you decide to use (or already have) a hammock without a net, get one of these easy-hang mosquito nets to keep yourself bite-free. It fits singles and doubles.
Tip 2: 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.
Tip 3: 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.
Tip 4: Get a rainfly or tarp
Lots of hammocks come with a rainfly or tarp either included or as an add-on extra. Unless you’re absolutely sure of good weather, you’ll need one! It’s a versatile bit of camping gear, so you can use it as a day shelter too, especially if you get yourself some folding poles to hold it up.
The Sky Bed comes in an attached stuffsack and opens up easily to hang from two ropes.
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.
Weighs around 875g (without tarp) and costs around £50.
- 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
- 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.
What makes the Lawson Blue Ridge special is that it’s both a ground bivvy and a hammock.
The clever spreader bar splits in two, so it’s not huge to pack away. You simply roll it out, peg it down with one peg at both ends and then insert the shock-corded aluminium hoops to give you head and foot room.
Lots of space, a couple of hanging loops and pockets inside, a mosquito net, zip door and a detachable rain cover. Weighs just under 2kg and packs to 56cm x 16cm. Cost? Around £180
A tip….practise at home first, though, as you need to get the tensioning right and make sure you have a non-slip mattress inside.
- Can be used on the ground or as a hammock
- Comes with a tarp
- Hoops at both ends make it light and airy
- Takes some practise to get comfortable
- Not cheap
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 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.
- Easy to set up with a ridgeline
- Insulated options
- Strong and durable
- Lots of models, including jungle hammocks, double bottom hammocks, insulated winter hammocks, ultralights, and different lengths.
- Not absolutely flat
- Pricier. They start from around £120
We love Klymit’s specially designed hammock pad and we’d probably advise buying this and using it with a regular hammock.
But, they also do the Lay Flat – a simple hammock that’s fairly flat in its own right. The spreader poles stop the sides falling in on you and there are two footstraps to adjust the hammock vertically and horizontally for a more stable slumber.
Costs around £120, but there’ll be import fees on top of that. We met a UK distributor at the Outdoor Trade Show, so the Lay Flat may be more easily available in the UK next year. We’ll update this when that happens.
- Easy to set up
- Very light at just a tad over 1.3kg
- Small pack size: 30.5 x 22.9 x 10.2 cm
The Qaou (yep!) is a multifunction tent and hammock for around £120.
It transforms into two hammocks, tarp, beach shelter and tent with porch, and is lightweight thanks to its single aluminium poles.
Another option is Tentsile – a range of hammocks and tree tents that are strung at three corners to make them flat.
Tentsiles 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…be warned!
The Una – at around £200 – looks the closest in features to our other bivvy hammocks. It has a net and rainfly. It comes with all the webbing and ties you’ll need, plus Tentsile tell us you can manage with just two trees if you tie it cleverly!
It weighs only 2.8kg and packs to just 25 x 12 x 12cm.
- Gorgeous designs
- Truly flat thanks to the three-cornered hanging
- Lots of accessories
- You need three trees!