Confused about which hammock style is best for you? We’re here to help! In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the two main types of hammocks: bridge and gathered end.
As camping becomes more popular, knowing the differences between these hammocks helps you find the one that best fits you.
From construction materials used in each design to comfort levels and price points, this post offers a deep dive into what sets these styles apart. So you can make an informed decision when purchasing your hammock.
Take Away Key Points:
- Both hammock types are ideal for camping, but the bridge models use two-point and four corners while the gather ending uses a single-point attachment
- You can better sleep in bridge units as they allow more sleeping positions and more weight. But, they're heavier to carry when hiking and add more weight when you use a tarp unlike the gather-ending models
- Gathered-ending hammocks are cheaper, and easier to use and install than their counterparts, so they are more popular among the campers
Table of Contents
- What is a bridge hammock?
- What is a gathered-end hammock?
- What is the main difference between the gathered and bridge hammocks?
- When should you use the bridge and when gathered-end hammock?
- Pros & cons of bridge hammocks
- Pros & cons of gathered-end hammocks
- Bridge or gathered-end hammock: A full comparison
- So, gathered end vs. bridge hammock: Final verdict
If you cannot decide between the bridge hammocks and gathered end hammocks for your hammock camping experience, we've got your back.
This guide will compare the two categories so that you can select the best solution for your needs. Let's start right away.
What is a bridge hammock?
A bridge hammock is a category of spreader bar hammock. It uses plastic or wooden bars at the head and foot of the unit. This design creates a rectangular shape and a flat, head-to-foot lay that is similar to a traditional bed.
The name comes from the same basic principle used to build suspension bridges.
The spreader bar hammocks help keep the fabric taut, allowing for a comfortable sleeping surface, and adding more space for the most comfortable position.
The spreader-bar hammock is lightweight and easy to set up, making them an ideal choice for camping and backpacking trips.
What is a gathered-end hammock?
A gathered-end hammock is a type of hammock that uses a single piece of material that is bunched together at each end.
This type of hammock has a relaxed, catenary curve when properly hung, allowing the occupant to lay across the fabric in a recumbent position. It creates a banana shape.
The hammock is lightweight and simple to set up, and they provide more sleeping positions and better sleep than bridge hammocks.
What is the main difference between the gathered and bridge hammocks?
The huge difference between the two is in the way they are designed.
Bridge hammocks have spreader bars at each end, which create a flatter surface and a more comfortable position for sleeping. This makes them more comfortable for a back and a side sleeper.
Gathered-end units, on the other hand, are suspended from one point and have no spreader bars. This makes them more compact when stored away and easier to cover with a tarp. They also provide more support for stomach sleepers.
When should you use the bridge and when gathered-end hammock?
Gathered-end units are simple and lightweight, making them great for camping trips or backpacking. They have a relaxed, catenary curve that allows the occupant to flat lay across the fabric in a recumbent position for maximum comfort.
Bridge models, on the other hand, have spreader bars at the gathered ends which create a channel from one end to the other. This makes them slightly heavier than gathered end and other camping gear. But, they also provide more support and stability when sitting or lying down.
Bridge hammocks are better suited for backyard lounging or relaxing on your patio.
Pros & cons of bridge hammocks
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of the bridge hammock:
1. Suitable for the side sleeper and back sleeper
A bridge hammock is suitable for any sleeping position, whether you prefer to sleep on your back, side, or even stomach.
Unlike a gathered-end hammock that is designed primarily for back sleepers, a bridge hammock allows for maximum comfort for side sleepers, since it provides a flat surface similar to a bed.
2. Easer to get into and use
For individuals who are new to camping or used to sleeping on the ground, bridge designs may be a more familiar and comfortable option due to their bed-like layout.
However, it's important to note that this may not be the case for everyone and some people may prefer a gathered-end hammock.
Once you get used to a gathered-end hammock, it becomes easier to get in and out of without tipping over and can become second nature, making all the difference between the two different hammocks.
3. A better view of the surroundings
Thanks to its spreader bar, a suspension bridge hammock offers greater openness compared to a gathered-end hammock.
This feature provides an excellent view of the surroundings in the upright position, which is particularly beneficial when camping in a scenic location.
1. Bulkier and heavier to carry
The extra weight of a bridge hammock is typically more than that of an equivalent gathered-end hammock due to the addition of spreader bar units. These poles can be collapsed down like the tent poles, but it still adds to the overall bulkiness of the hammock.
However, if you make your hammock, you can avoid this problem by using trekking poles as spreader bar units. Nonetheless, this creates other challenges if you want to go on a short day hike without taking down your hammocks.
2. Harder to cover with a tarp
Because a bridge hammock is wider and has more openness than a gathered-end hammock, it can be challenging to achieve full coverage with a tarp, especially if you have a narrow tarp like most backpackers do.
When setting up the tarp, angling the sides as much as possible is crucial to prevent sideward rain and keep the wind at bay. This can be more difficult with a bridge hammock due to its design.
3. Tend to be more expensive
Since bridge hammocks are not as popular as gathered-end hammocks, fewer manufacturers are making them. As a result, those who produce spreader-bar hammocks can charge a premium for their products.
Expect to pay at least double the price for a quality bridge hammock compared to an equivalent gathered-end hammock.
Pros & cons of gathered-end hammocks
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of the gathered end hammock units:
1. Simpler & less expensive
Gathered-end hammock is straightforward in design, consisting of a single piece of material that is gathered at each end. This simplicity is advantageous for those who wish to create their hammocks.
Moreover, it is also beneficial for those looking to purchase a gathered-end hammock since they tend to be more widely available.
Additionally, there are many styles of cheaper hammocks in the gathered-end hammock market. For instance, you can find a Brazilian hammock for as little as $30, whereas a bridge hammock would cost no less than $60.
2. More compact and lightweight
Because a gathered-end hammock is made of simple materials, it is highly compressible when packed away.
Additionally, gathered-end hammocks are lighter, with the average weight penalty of a camping hammock being around one pound. In contrast, a bridge hammock can weigh up to three pounds when accounting for the spreader bars.
3. Easier to use with other hammock gear (an under quilt, sleeping bag, sleeping pad)
When camping outside, a hammock is just one component of the setup. You will also need an under quilt and a tarp for optimal camping conditions.
When using a gathered-end hammock, you can easily achieve good coverage with a tarp.
Since gathered-end hammocks have a smaller surface area compared to bridge hammocks, it is simpler to ensure that the tarp covers the hammock and provides ample space between the anchor points.
4. More versatile with a wider range to choose from
The term "gathered-end" refers to a variety of hammocks that serve different purposes. For instance, Brazilian hammocks, which are typically made of cotton, are ideal for lounging at home.
Conversely, camping hammocks, which are constructed from synthetic material, are highly durable and easy to carry and hang on the two trees during backpacking or hiking trips.
5. Suitable for lounging
An advantage of using a gathered-end hammock is that it can be used for sitting during the day as well. When positioned across the width, the hammock can provide support for your back and allow you to sit upright.
Additionally, depending on the weight limit of the hammock, more than one person can sit in it, making it an excellent choice for lounging around a campsite, garden, or wherever you hang it. This is not possible with a bridge hammock.
1. Obstructing your view of surroundings
Due to the design of a gathered-end hammock, it tends to wrap around the sides of your body, which can limit your view compared to a bridge hammock that is flatter and more open.
This wrapping feature may be problematic for some individuals who feel claustrophobic when enclosed, particularly if using a double-layer hammock alone.
2. Not suitable for side sleepers
The gathered end hammocks are made specifically for back sleeping, to reduce pressure points on the body by clinging to you.
Although it is feasible to sleep on your side in a gathered-end hammock, this position is not as comfortable and may result in the loss of the hammock's comfort.
Bridge or gathered-end hammock: A full comparison
Here is the complete comparison list of all crucial factors to consider when choosing the best hammock for a few nights of your camping trip:
1. Safety & protection
Bridge models are designed with a spreader bar at each end that keeps the fabric taut. This makes them easier to enter and exit than gathered-end models, as well as provides more room for sleeping or lounging. The spreader bars also help keep the fabric off your skin, which can be beneficial in hot weather.
On the other hand, bridge models don't provide as much protection from wind and rain as other units do. Gathered-end types have no spreader bars. Instead, they use rope or webbing to gather the fabric at each end. This creates a cocoon-like shape that offers more protection from wind and rain than bridges do.
2. Installation & ease of use
When it comes to installing and using a hammock, bridge, and gathered-end types offer two different experiences. Bridges are designed to be hung between two trees or other supports, while the competitors are designed to be hung from a single point.
- Installation: Bridge models require more setup than gathered-end. They need two points of attachment, trekking poles, which can be difficult to find in some areas. Gathered-ending only requires one point of attachment, making them much easier to install.
- Ease of use: Bridges provide a flat sleeping surface that is comfortable for many people. However, they can be difficult to get into and out of due to the lack of flexibility in the fabric. The gathered ending is much easier to get into and out of due to its flexible fabric design.
- Winner: When it comes to installation and ease of use, the gathered ending comes out on top. They are much easier to install than bridge models and provide an easy way for users to get in and out of the hammock without any difficulty.
Bridges are made with spreader bar units at each end, which helps keep the fabric taut and evenly distributed. This makes them more resistant to wear and tear than gathered-end models, which don't have spreader bars and can become saggy over time. These hammocks also tend to be of higher weight limit than gathered-end, making them more durable in windy conditions.
Gathered-end units, on the other hand, are lightweight and compact when not in use, making them easier to transport and store. They also come in a variety of styles, so you can find one that suits your needs perfectly. The downside is that they don't have spreader bars to keep the fabric taut, so they may not last as long as bridge models in high winds or other harsh conditions.
When it comes to durability, bridge units come out ahead due to their heavy construction and spreader bars that help keep the fabric taut. Gathered ends are still a great option if you're looking for something lightweight and easy to transport or store.
So, gathered end vs. bridge hammock: Final verdict
After comparing all aspects of both hammocks, it's time to determine which is better: a gathered end or a bridge hammock.
In most situations, a gathered-end hammock is the better choice due to the advantages outweighing the disadvantages.
They are simple, with a single-point attachment, compact, and ideal for lounging around during the day without fully lying in it. Although there is a learning curve to finding the right position and getting in and out properly, this becomes natural after a few uses.
However, a bridge hammock can be suitable if you prefer sleeping on your side or want to see more of your surroundings when lying down. It's best to try both types yourself by visiting a local outdoor store and seeing if they will let you try them.
Hi there, I am Orson Brown, a passionate explorer and the one behind Stop, Reset! Do you like hiking, climbing or camping, but don’t know how to get started? Follow our journey to prepare your trip best!