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Camping Hammock Length and Comfort: How to Choose

When size matters. How long is your hammock?
When size matters. How long is your hammock?

If you’re thinking about buying a camping hammock or looking to upgrade, the length of a gathered-end hammock can make a big difference in your comfort.

The 4 foot rule of thumb

Most hammock experts recommend getting a hammock that is 4 feet longer than your height so you can lie nearly flat in it for sleeping. So if you’re 5′ 10″ tall, you’d want a hammock that’s 9′ 10″ long.

Why the extra length? The ends of a hammock hang at an angle so you can’t use the full length of fabric. So, the extra 4 feet of fabric gives you enough length to get a fairly flat “lay” for sleeping when you’re stretched out at night. Longer hammocks also make it possible to stretch out diagonally in a hammock, which is good for side sleepers who want a flat surface.

If your hammock is not long enough, you’ll sleep in a banana shape, which can lead to hyper-extended knees and knee pain. That’s why shorter length hammocks are best used for seats or lounging, rather than camping, at least for taller people.

HammockLengthWeight (oz)NettingRidgeline
ENO SingleNest9' 4"16----
ENO DoubleNest9' 4"19----
ENO Sub 78' 9"6.4----
ENO JungleNest9' 4"27YesYes
Kammock Roo10'24----
Kammock Wallaby8' 4"10----
Sea-to-Summit Ultralight8' 6"4.9----
Sea-to-Summit Single Pro10'12.7----
Sea-to-Summit Double Pro10'16----
Hummingbird Hammocks Single8' 8"5.2----
Hummingbird Hammocks Single+9' 8"7.6----
Grand Trunk UL Starter9' 6"12----
Grand Trunk Nano 79' 4"7.3----
Grand Trunk Single Parachute10' 6"20----
Grand Trunk Double Parachute10' 6"28----
Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter10' 6"26.5YesYes
Hammock Bliss Ultralight7' 11"13----
Hammock Bliss Single9' 10'17----
Thermarest Slacker Single9' 8'19----
Thermarest Slacker Double9' 8"23----
Byer of Maine Moskito Kakoon9' 8"22YesYes
Byer of Maine Traveller Light9'10----
Hennessy Hammock Leaf Asym9'19--Yes
Hennessy Hammock Hyperlight Asym Zip10'14YesYes
Hennessy Hammock Expedition Asym Zip10'naYesYes
Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker Asym Zip10'naYesYes
Hennessy Hammock Explorer Deluxe Asym Zip11'naYesYes
Nemo Tetrapod9' 1"27YesYes
Warbonnet Blackbird10'25YesYes
Warbonnet Blackbrid XLC11'27.5YesYes

This table lists the most popular camping and backpacking hammocks that people can buy off the shelf without buying a custom made hammock from a cottage manufacturer. While you can order a custom hammock from a cottage gear manufacturer, just understand that they have pretty long backorder delays and it’s not really necessary when buying a simple net-less hammock, unless you want a special color, fabric, or design.

Custom-made gear is nice, but it’s easy to make a mistake when you spec one out. I’ve done it myself. If you’re looking to buy your first hammock, I really would recommend that you buy one off-the-shelf. Most of them are quite inexpensive, like 25%-50% less than a simple custom-made hammock. Use it for a season and compare it to your friends’. It’s best to understand what you changes you want and why before you invest in custom-made gear, since there’s no return policy.

As you can see, longer hammocks are usually heavier than shorter ones. But the motivation for using a camping hammock is usually comfort and easy campsite selection, not gear weight. When you add in all the other pieces of gear needed for hammock camping such as tarp, bug netting, back insulation, and a quilt or sleeping bag, hammocks are not that much lighter weight than a ground-based ultralight shelter and sleep system. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the lightest weight hammock will be the best one for sleeping, just because it’s lighter weight than others.

I have several of the gathered hammocks listed: the 10′ Warbonnet Blackbird, a Thermarest Slacker Single, ENO Sub 7, and Hummingbird Hammock Single, and sleep best in the Warbonnet because the extra length lets me lie flat. I’m 5′ 11″ and it’s the perfect size for me.

The best hammock length for you will be one that you enjoy using. The four foot rule is just a guideline, but I’ve found it very helpful when buying hammocks for backpacking and wanted to pass it along.

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29 comments

  1. Another option when considering a hammock is to have one custom built. I have been a dedicated hammock camper for years, and Simply Light Designs (http://www.simplylightdesigns.com/catalog/index.php) has proven to be an excellent resource. There are several hammock styles to choose from, and each can be customized with any of a number of options – including fabric, lengths up to 12′, etc. The customer service is outstanding. When I ordered a hammock recently, it was in my mailbox within 72 hours. Amazing.

  2. I never heard the four foot rule but I like it Maybe I would suggest to modify it to 4 + 4 + 1. I am 5 ft 9″. My first backpacking hammocks were the HH UL Backpacker Asym Zip, gave me calf ridge. So after looking at reviews, I got the Warbonnet Traveler (before the XL model). Calf ridge was gone, but it wasn’t the ultimate comfort. I decided to try the Hummingbird Single +. It gave me calf ridge, but my shorter wife was happy to take it off my hands. Since they all seem to be 10 ft and about 60″ wide more or less, I decided I needed to try wider or longer. I got an 11ft netless Dutchware hammock with a knotty mod. I love it, and I am never looking back. Very light also. So I got a significant weight reduction compared to many of the list in an appropriate length. I think I read somewhere that Hummingbird Hammocks is also coming with an 11 footer… But I don’t see it on their site, so it may be a while…

    As to the list you posted, I think the Warbonnet Traveler and Traveler XL should be on it. Also, without getting into the discussion of whether Dutchware is a cottage manufacturer or not, you get your hammock as fast as any of these other guys, and he ships for nomimal prices. All my pre-Chameleon orders shipping within a day or two. Not sure whether that has changed since the recent release. I have bought many things from him, and I would buy again without blinking my eyes.

    And for those looking for fast shipping and custom, Simply Light Designs has amazing customer service, and superfast and nominal shipping prices also. I have not tried SLD hammocks, but I have purchased many accessories from SLD through the years, and I think the customer service is the best!

    • I didn’t add the Chameleon since It’s not available. Plan to add it when it is. I purposely left off manufacturers from the that make custom hammocks, since there is no fixed length and the weights vary so much on the materials chosen. Custom hammocks are fine if you know what you’re ordering and why, but the learning curve is expensive.

    • For the benefit of beginnners, calf ridge means that your feet are higher than your knees, which results in knee hyperextension and pain. The fix is to buy a longer hammock or put a bolster under your knees, like a stuff sack full of clothing, so your knees are relaxed and not locked out when you sleep.

    • +1 on the 11′ (x 58″ wide). Have also used the same cottage manufacturer & well-pleased with both chosen fabric & hang setup. Did spend a lot of time researching online through various forums to get exactly what I thought I wanted. FYI I’m 5’11’. Total hammock setup is 12oz including hammock, whoopies, straps & hardware.

  3. Good information for those starting out with hammocks. When I started with a hammock there were just a few choices and very little information available – that has changed dramatically. I own several gathered end hammocks, but have gravitated to a Warbonnet Ridge Runner (bridge). I will measure it next time I get it out, but since I use a Neo Air pad in the summer with it, I have to think it measures 7′ long or less and is advertised for someone up to 6’6″.

    • +1 on the Ridgerunner. I don’t think the length matters so much with this hammock. When I first got mine, I thought it was way too short, especially since it is rated up to 6’6″. That being said, once I got used to it ,it is by far the most comfortable hammock in my collection. I’d take it all the time if not for the weight.

  4. Is there any benefit to height + 5′ rather than 4′ ?

  5. Where did the 4′ rule originate? Although I’m not a hammock (yet), I don’t recall reading that on any manufacturer’s website. Just curious to know. Thanks as always.

    • Not sure where it came from, but it’s a very accurate rule of thumb for comfort. I expect that the manufacturers who produce short hammocks aren’t that keen to make it known. :-)

  6. I have been using a Hennessy Expedition for the past several years. I am very happy with it. My postal scale tells me it is 42.6 oz., with tree huggers and bag. That is heavy, but that does not trouble me much. Anything under three pounds is light enough for me.

    • I’m with you Mark. I bought the expedition after getting tired of tenting in the mud on the LT. I never intended it to be my full time shelter, but outside of a few winter trips, I use it exclusively.

      They are great for New England. My only complaint is, when your stuck in a down pour, it can be a challenge to set up without getting the interior wet. You can kind of pitch the tarp to give you space to work, then set up the hammock and try to move the tarp into place….

      Allot of tents have the same issue.

      • The solution is to get a larger tarp. My first hammock was a HH backpacker asymmetric classic and I thought the tarp was too small so I replaced it early on. Today I use the Warbonnet supershelter with doors and can easily pitch in the rain without getting everything wet.

      • That’s just way too easy and practical!

        Besides, the Hennessy hammocks look so cool with the stock tarp! And isn’t that why we do this?

  7. Ive been hammlcking for years and never heard of this . I love my 9 footer , and I’m 5’10”. I can lay just fine in any position…

  8. I’m surprised Arrowhead Equipment doesn’t make the cut. I had no problem getting their standard hammock kit, it shipped in a few days.

    11 foot long, 60 inches wide, 17 ounces

  9. I’m 5’10” and I prefer an 11ft if I’m sleeping overnight. A short 9ish footer is fine for quick naps and lazy lounging.

  10. You’re missing a big point regarding hammock comfort in that it is determined by not just length but width as well. The ENO hammock should be too short for most but many people do fine with the Doublenest because it is so wide. The ultimate in comfort for a gathered end hammock, IMHO, is an 11 foot 72 inch wide model. The new fabrics (HyperD XL, and Xenon Wide) are really a step forward.

    • 11ft / 72in width is absolutely the best lay. Even better is having a single panel hammock so the full 72 in can be enjoyed!

  11. I’ve been using a Hammock Bliss “Skybed” for years and it’s not only long enough, but comes with a built-in sleeve that’s sewn 30 degrees off center for use with a 20-inch wide pad. Automatically flattens the hammock out and adds a level of insulation and comfort as well. I’ve been amazed that the big American hammock manufacturers haven’t stolen this idea yet. (Of course, maybe they have and I haven’t noticed because I don’t look to buy hammocks any more.)

  12. I have a Snugpack Hammock that only cost £49.00 in the UK that is just under 12ft has a mosquito net came with tree straps and hanging set up is also made from parachute material. I highly recommend this hammock for quality and price as well as comfort.

  13. I’m not familiar with the 4-foot “rule”, but I do agree with the sentiment that “longer is often more comfortable” because of how it helps reduce leg hyperextension. Leg hyperextension is a common problem with short hammocks because the sides barrel up restricting the lay angle to about 10 to 15 degrees. This puts your legs directly across the ridge of fabric that is formed when your heavier torso pulls the center of the fabric taut.

    One way to help eliminate leg hyperextension is to raise the foot end higher than the head side, thus shifting your heavier torso more to one end (instead of the center of the hammock) so your legs can lay across the fabric bias after the ridge instead of right on top if it. This is easier shown than explained.

    I think this 4-foot “rule” really only works for an average height because the length should be proportional to the occupant and in relation to the width, hang angle, and lay angle, not just a standard length tacked on. It’s a little more complicated than this post has described. This is why there is so much subjectivity in comfort with hammocks. A short, narrow hammock, for example, when hung with a shallow hang angle (10-15°) and a slight lay angle of 10° can achieve the same ergonomic “flat” lay as a longer, wider hammock hung with a deep hang angle (30°) and a larger lay angle (15°).

    Using the 4-foot “rule”, a youth only 4 feet tall would get a hammock 8 foot long, but a 6-foot-tall person would have a hammock 10 feet long. The first hammock would have a 1:2 ratio where the second hammock would have a 1:1.6 ratio. If we use the 1:1.6 ratio for the 4-foot-tall youth, they would only need a hammock that was 6.6 feet long. So simple ratios or lengths are just good starting points.

    • Not many 6.6′ hammocks are there? What this post tries to do (in the absence of much guidance from manufacturers or pundits) is explain how to get a comfortable hammock. A big part of the equation is length. So a parent can know that a 4′ child can sleep comfortably in a 8’9″ foot hammock and that they don’t need to buy a 10′ or 11′ one. I was mainly thinking about adults of course, since most outdoor gear is made for them. Being a scoutmaster, I can see how you’d be more child-centric, but that still doesn’t explain why they’re aren’t any 6′, 7′, or 8′ hammocks around.

      • To your point, and the answer to your question, is that most hammocks are made for a “mass consumer” market. It’s a simple question of market demand.

        My observation wasn’t to advocate for smaller hammocks, but to explain that the 4-foot rule is just a starting point for an average adult market, and gets complicated when you factor in how you hang the hammock (hang angle) and how you lay in it (lay angle). Length alone isn’t the only factor, but it is probably the simplest one to help folks determine which hammock to buy.

        Given two hammocks of equal width, I would recommend getting the longer one.

  14. My wife and I are full time hangers. We’re 5’4″ and 5’3″. We have physical ailments/injuries that unquestionably affect our comfort level and thus opinions.

    Last summer while trying to decide on the optimum tarp length for us, we realized that we first needed to figure out what our minimum comfort length is for the hammock. After a couple weeks of nightly testing, we decided that 11′ was it. More is ok, but with diminishing returns. BTW, we used long hammocks and whipped them to the various lengths we wanted to try, between 10′ and 11’+. We used adjustable ridgelines to help find the best amount of sag, turns out 83% was close enough in nearly every case.

    I also made a hexon wide at 11’9″. Again I whipped to various lengths. My thought was that maybe we could get by with a 10 footer by using more sag. It didn’t work out that way at all. The extra fabric was a waste for us and more sag meant that both the hammock suspension and the tarp would have to be mounted higher, which is kinda tough for those of us short-of-leggers. Plus, depending on the tarp, it could leave you more exposed to wind blown rain etc.

    Oh, we also have a GT Ultra Light. I think the claim is 9’4″, but that includes the poor suspension cordage and S hooks. By my tape measure, the actual hammock length is only 8’6″. I don’t recall measuring the width, but 48″ sticks in my mind. Even our young granddaughters find it unacceptable.

    My suggestion for those who are comfortable in say a 10 footer, especially taller folks, don’t ever try an 11 footer!

  15. Note: I suspect the heavier weights listed for mass market hammocks like GT includes the steel carabiners, whereas the weights posted for the boutique hammocks does not include biners at all. Definately lose the heavy biners and drop 8oz or so. But to the subject at hand, I’ve felt the distance to the trees makes a big difference in comfort as much as hammock length. Too far apart and I can’t get enough sag. Perhaps I should start using a permanent ridge line to make it more consistent.

    • I’d definitely recommend a ridge line. A midshipman’s hitch is a useful knot to make it adjustable. Although I have my preferred amount of sag, occasionally the only two trees available are so far apart that they are only just usable and no more. In this case, increasing the ridge line length helps to take some strain of the gear (plus reach as high as you can to fix the tree straps and hang the hammock low, just off the ground).

  16. For best comfort, I’d suggest a height x2 rule. I’m 5’10” and 11ft (3.3m) is a minimum for me. The longer the better really.

    Longer hammocks can be hard to find but it’s easy to make your own if you have access to a sewing machine. Put a hem round the edges, make a cord channel at each end (for whoopie slings) and you’re done.

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