Taking hammocks vs. taking tents has been the question for campers and hikers alike no matter where they end up going and Havasu Falls is no different.
Due to the nature of the hike, I prefer to take hammocks simply because of the fact that they’re super light and take up little room.
My bias aside, I’ll go over the pro’s and con’s of hammocks and tents so that you can make the best decision.
Pros for Hammocks
For the Havasu Falls campsite, you have to bring in everything that you’ll need for the entire trip, sleeping arrangements included. As stated before, that is one of the main reason I prefer to use hammocks when camping down there. The most popular hiking hammocks will top around 12 ounces and the top insulated hammocks at about a pound.
Another reason to take a hammock would be the ease of set up and take down when the trip is done. All you need is a couple of nicely spaced trees, solid ground beneath you, and about a minute to get it ready. Hammocks also allow you to feel more open while sleeping as well as letting you look up into the night sky much easier than a tent. While these are more subjective, they are something to consider while making your choice.
Camping with hammocks seems like a no brainer right? They’re super light, easy to set up, keep you off the ground at night, and let you enjoy the nights while going to sleep. Well, like everything, there are downsides to camping with a hammock.
Cons for Hammocks
The first and foremost issue with hammocks is that they leave you way more exposed to the weather than a tent would. You can buy an insulated hammock or one with a cover to shelter you from the rain, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of winds and precipitation coming in from the sides.
In general, if you hammock camp you have to have trees to tie to or else you essentially packed a glorified blanket with strings. Because of hammocks reliance on trees, picking the right camping spot could be tricky. While finding a spot with trees was incredibly easy, as they are everywhere, when we went down in September, it could be an issue during different months.
For those looking for the four walls and a roof style feeling that tents give you while sleeping, hammocks don’t generally do that. Even though the hammock walls surround you on either side, you still end up feeling like you’re a little exposed. And while I can’t speak for everyone, that’s what I’ve felt every time I use a hammock while camping.
Pros for Tents
When people think of camping, tents are almost always at the top of the list right next to campfires and marshmallows. They’re the icon of camping and can be used at nearly every campsite in the world. Something that tents do very well is allowing for multiple people to use them at the same time as well as letting people store their gear in them.
Because Havasu Falls has hiking no matter which way you turn, you will be away from your campsite most of the time during the day and leaving all of your belongings out in the open alone can make some feel uneasy.
Even though it’s just a thin sheet of plastic, keeping items hidden in one place helps the campsite stay neater and it also keeps wandering eyes from identifying valuables from a distance or walk by the campsite. While we were there, stealing seemed like a non-problem but you can’t always count on campers respecting camping codes.
Tents have always felt secure, at least personally, from the outside while sleeping because of the four walls and a door. Like I said before, tent walls are only thin pieces of plastic but that opaque piece of plastic gives you privacy and a sense of safety that a hammock really doesn’t. If privacy is a huge deal to you, tents are the way to go.
Lastly, major advantage tents have over hammocks is their ability to resist the weather. When secured properly, tents can withstand surprisingly strong sustained winds without rocking the campers within as a hammock would. Tents are also, personally, preferred when it comes to rain and snow because the slope of the walls makes the water roll off without the worry of it collecting under you turning your hammock into a bathtub.
I’ll also pick a tent over a hammock in the winter simply due to the fact that tents can act like little ovens if you have multiple people sleeping in one. Although it may only warm up the air by a few degrees, those few degrees can make a world of difference when trying to stay warm.
Cons for Tents
Now it’s time for the ugly side of camping with a tent at Havasu Falls campsite. The obvious one is the weight. Most of the backpacking tents I found weighed around two to four pounds and while that seems like a cakewalk, remember that every pound you carry in is felt after 10 miles of hiking.
Another problem with tents is the potential set up. Most, if not all, tents will require poles and anchors to make sure the tent has some sort of stability and structure to it. Again, it may not seem so bad, but after hiking anywhere from two to even five hours, the last thing you want to do is fumble around and getting frustrated at your temporary home that you’re trying to set up.
Tents will always have to be in contact with the ground making every bump and divot felt while trying to get comfortable. Because the campsite is in the middle of the Grand Canyon and not in the flat open plains of Kansas, finding level ground can be an issue.
Even though this one is a more personal issue I have with tents, the dangers they add to a campsite should be stated. I’m not saying that the tents are going to conspire against you and kill you at night, but I am saying that the spikes and ropes tents need to stay up pose a threat to everyone at the campsite at night or even during the day.
If I had a nickel every time I tripped over a tent rope while walking around campsites, I would probably only have like $10 to $15 but that’s still easily over a couple of hundred times and nothing feels worse at night than trying to shimmy to the bathroom without waking everyone up to only activate a tripwire and yell timber as you fall.
To sum everything I’ve just said up, both tents and hammocks will have their ups and downs and if you want a quick reference for what they could be, I’ll list it out below. I still prefer to use hammocks when I go down to Havasu Falls mostly because of the weight and ease of set up. The other cons that come with hammock camping don’t really bother me but if they did, I would start weighing tent camping a little more.
+ Easy setup
+ Easy to take down
+ Keeps you off the ground at night
+ Feels more natural while sleeping
– Prone to bad weather
– Doesn’t feel as secure from the outside
– Bad coordination = bad time with hammocks
– Requires two nicely spaced trees or supports
+ Can hold multiple people
+ Better at weatherproofing
+ Feels secure while sleeping
+ Allows for gear storage at night or when you’re out and about
– Tends to be on the heavier side
– Can be draining to set up after hours of hiking
– Not the best for uneven or craggy ground
– Adds a danger element to the campsite with ropes and spikes