The SOLUTION for campers who hate hammocks!
In the Hammock Camping Myths and Mistakes series of articles, we discussed how to erect your hammock and tarp for sleeping comfort. There are MANY advantages of sleeping in a hammock over a ground tent, including:
A guaranteed SOFT bed regardless of the ground, that is, rocks, roots, thorns, etc.
A guaranteed DRY bed regardless of muddy ground or rain during the night.
A guaranteed SECURE bed with no poles to blow down, raised above anything that walks or crawls.
There are other benefits, too. A hammock is superlight, compact, and breezy in the hot summer weather.
Yet - many campers have tried traditional gathered end hammocks and gone back to tent camping. The hammock was too confining, uncomfortable, or cold. For all these people who WANT the benefits of hammock camping there is an alternative: the "bridge" hammock.
The Bridge hammock design takes its name and inspiration from the iconic suspension bridge.
Supports at each end create the flat surface that is suspended in space. To match this design, hammock designers add poles at the ends of the hammock body with the bed surface suspended from the ends of the connecting ropes.
In theory, you are provided with a flat sleeping surface. The direct advantages also include a fixed separation at the ends of the bed area eliminating the "squeeze" common in other hammock designs. The flat surface is also perfect for the addition of a sleeping pad or air mattress, which adds another layer of comfort and insulation - reducing or eliminating the need for an under quilt.
With these objectives, I have been evaluating the Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) Skylite bridge hammock.
The ENO Skylite hammock has many innovative features:
The Skylite includes an integrated bug net. This net is supported by shock cords at the ends which connect to loops on the tree suspension.
The "bridge" is formed with a lightweight spreader pole at each end. These poles have three shock-corded section and are exceptionally light. They attach to the lines with hard plastic clips - eliminating the sharp points of other brands that have exposed metal ends which can damage your tarp.
The Skylite is specifically designed to pair with the excellent ENO Helios suspension that uses a loop and toggle attachment.
The Skylite hammock is constructed of thin 40D ripstop nylon and weighs only 2 pounds (not including a few ounces for the suspension, and excluding your tarp.) It is rated at 250-pounds and has a bed area of 7' x 3'
My Review of the ENO Skylite Bridge Hammock:
VERY fast to set-up with the Helios suspension, loops and toggles. Effortless to adjust to the right height and angle of the head/foot ends.
Spreader poles are the best design I have seen and won't damage the waterproof inner coating of my tarp. The three sections break down into a shorter package that is perfect for bikepacking.
Soft, supportive fabric is comfortable without a sleeping pad.
Bug net is not too close and doesn't feel confining.
Lighter overall weight than many competitors
The flat and rectangular bed works great with a traditional sleeping bag for those who don't like mummy bags or top quilts.
There is room for my rectangular air mattress, which adds comfort in the summer and insulation in the cooler months. No need to buy a special under quilt.
Lower cost than the competition.
The lightweight body of the Skylite also means LOTS of stretch and less firmness to the sleep surface. If you like a soft bed you will love it. If you are used to a firm mattress, you will not. unless you add a foam pad for stiffness.
The light hammock means a rating of 250 pounds. This may be optimistic. I weigh 175 and the sag was significant.
Related to the weight rating, when you are in the Skylite, there is a lot of tension on the bug net zipper. You must pull the hammock body up to meet the zipper or it will not function and may separate.
While the fabric is 3-feet wide, the actual sleeping surface is less than 24-inches wide. There is room for a narrow pad or air mattress. The Skylite is roomier than any gathered end hammock but it may still feel confining to bigger people.
Overall, I give the ENO Skylite Bridge Hammock my Five-Star Rating
I have other bridge hammocks that have more integrated structure due to added seams and heavier fabric - but they also weigh more. You can buy hammocks with a larger sleep area, but the weight and price is higher. It's possible to spend TWICE as much for other brands - and some of these have the metal spreader poles that I reject. Some spreader poles have only two sections which makes them harder to pack. The ENO Skylite bridge hammock isn't perfect, but it is comfortable, well made, and easy to pitch - especially when you pair it with the excellent ENO Helios suspension.
Here is a video explanation of setting up the ENO Skylite Bridge Hammock:
ENO also sells rain tarps. However, one of the advantages of hammock camping is the ability to mix and match tarps, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and more. I prefer a larger tarp that has "doors" to protect me from driving rain. In the summer months, these end flaps also create a still air pocket that helps reduce mosquitos when paired with my Thermacell! See the related review article of my favorite tarp: CLICK HERE.