During my thru-hike I started with a tent, switched to a hammock, and ended without a form of shelter. At the beginning of the trail I had a two-person, 5-pound tent. I already owned it, and I didn’t want to spend any money on a new shelter. I carried my 5-pound tent all the way to Pennsylvania. My parents came to visit me there, took pity on me, and drove me to the Baltimore REI to replace my gear. I picked out an ENO hammock, and I absolutely loved it. I carried it all the way to Maine. I mailed it home in Monson because I was heading into the 100-Mile Wilderness and my pack was heavier than it had ever been. For the last section of the trail, I just shelter hopped.
There are pros and cons to each form of shelter. I’m still not entirely sure which I like better, but I do know the pros and cons of each option.
- Tents do an excellent job protecting you from rain and snow.
- Your body heat gets trapped inside the tent, keeping you extra warm.
- It’s pretty easy to find tent sites anywhere along the trail.
- Tents are quick and easy to set up.
- Tent poles and stakes add extra weight.
- You’re sleeping on the ground, so it’s going to be uncomfortable.
- Hammocks are really comfortable. When I had my ENO hammock, I got my best sleep on the trail.
- They’re lightweight.
- You can throw a bug net over top for the middle of summer, and you can hang a tarp over head for when it rains.
- They’re great for hot, summer months because your body heat doesn’t get trapped inside.
- Theirs no room to keep your gear inside of the hammock with you.
- You need trees to set it up.
- If it rains really hard, you’ll probably get wet, even if you have a tarp.
- Hammocks aren’t great for cold weather, because they don’t trap body heat.
No Shelter, or Just a Tarp
- You have a very light pack.
- You can cowboy camp a lot, meaning just sleep under the stars. Many hikers prefer cowboy camping.
- You have to make it to a lean-to if the weathers bad.
- You can’t start the trail without shelter. There’s too many people on the trail in Georgia, and you probably won’t get a spot in a lean-to if it’s raining.