Got trees? In the wooded backcountry of the Northeast, the appeal of hammock camping is obvious—you can pitch a comfortable, sleep-worthy hammock in far more places than a tent.
But hammock camping has its challenges as well, from learning to pitch one appropriately (and with minimal impact) to protecting yourself from rain and weather.
For me personally, one of the challenges of hammocks has been learning to sleep comfortably on a flexible surface and avoid the ‘banana effect’ while sleeping. (A problem exacerbated by my 6 foot, 5 inch height, which can be too tall for the design of some hammocks.) This challenge is often made more difficult by the narrowing effect of most hammocks at either end, which can make positioning your head and upper body more of an effort.
So I’m intrigued by a new backcountry hammock from REI, which combines elements of both tent and traditional hammock design. Most notably, the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock features rigid poles at the two ends of the hammock’s bathtub-like floor, which creates a nearly rectangular sleeping area (23″ x 81″). Also notable is the zip-door entry in the bug-proof (and very tent-like) mesh top of the hammock, which creates a perfectly seamless and smooth floor surface for sleeping. (In bug-free conditions you can just flip the hammock over to hide the mesh underneath and sleep out in the open.)
The hammock comes equipped with a separate rainfly for protection from the rain. It’s a bit on the small side, which makes pitching it appropriately all the more important. Everything else you need to hang it—strap kit, guylines, etc—are included as well. As backcountry hammocks go, it’s a bit on the heavy and pricy side (minimum weight 3 pounds, 2 ounces; $219) but to me it most represents one of the more remarkable things about outdoor gear—there is always space and opportunity for innovation and new ways of thinking.