Do you love the outdoors and love camping, waking up with the sun, the sound of birds in the morning and crickets and frogs at night? Do you find the fresh air invigorating and cold (properly filtered) mountain stream water refreshing? Did you grow up camping with your family and maybe even with a scout troop? Did you vow to teach your children the joys of camping? Did you reach a certain age, and after a night spent in a sleeping bag on top of a pad, get up to find you could barely walk from the stiffness and back pain? That could ruin anyone's motivation to continue venturing into the great outdoors.
Some of you never have and never will be phased by hard, uneven, rocky ground. My hat is off to you, though tinged with a bit of jealousy. It didn't take my back long to revolt. I don't think my back waited until I hit thirty to firmly insist I never ever try to trick it into thinking a half inch foam pad is the same as a plush memory foam or pillow top mattress. My back drove it's point home very effectively with knots and pain only a sadistic massage therapist would relish kneading out.
Just as with all problems in life, there are many solutions. For many, the back revolt coincides with a time when you are finally secure in a good job and the income is generous and steady. You are a grown-up now and worked hard to get through school and suffer through multiple job interviews. You have a mortgage, two cars, and 2.5 kids. It only make sense that you drive your new pickup truck or SUV down to the RV lot and take out essentially a second mortgage on a fifth wheel, trailer, motor home, or camper that you will use at least twice a year. Hopefully you could see the sarcasm dripping from the last few sentences, because that is just crazy. What is the point of buying a house on wheels? If you don't want to leave your house, then just stay home.
You are not the type to blow your investments and savings on a trailer, so you decide the way to continue camping and still be comfortable is to buy cots and air mattresses. They are a bit pricey, but don't require a loan officer. Of course you also need a tent large enough to accommodate the new camp furniture. These are not bad options for car camping. They take up a lot of room in your garage or storage shed, but the mattress is well worth the struggle of packing and blowing up when it's time to settle down. Hopefully you like campsites with neighbors and close quarters, because there is no way you are hiking all of that gear in. If you aren't like me, you won't end up with the loud drunk party in the site to your left and the very vocal middle of the night amorous couple in the site to your right.
You want to backpack in to your camp site while still saving your back from the horribly uncomfortable rocky ground. Therefore, you decide to look at hammocks. Your friend tells you they are a bad idea because you'll end up sleeping in a “U” shape. Your friend, of course, has never actually slept in a backpacking hammock. I vow to you here and now, if you buy a good quality backpacking hammock, it will change your life forever. You will sleep like a baby and look forward to camping to catch up on sleep.
I use a Hennessy Hammock and wouldn't trade it for the world. It is designed so you sleep at a diagonal. If you do, you can lay completely flat. You can even sleep on your side very comfortably. The HH I have uses a bottom entry Velcro system and includes mosquito netting and a rain fly. It is essentially a hanging tent. It has minimal impact on the environment because it is off the ground and the straps are safe for trees. You can buy different size straps to match the most common tree trunk sizes in your area or do as I do and use ENO slap straps which are adjustable to different size trunks. Sleeping in the HH is extremely comfortable and the nature of the material and design provides give to parts of your body that need it and support to others. It packs up nice and small and is great for backpacking. I've used mine in heat, cold, rain, and snow and have been perfectly comfortable. HH has under pads and insulation for cold weather, but I have found that using a reflective bubble type windshield screen and a small fleece blanket work really well to protect you from cold air flowing underneath the hammock.
It is also possible to make your own hammock out of parachute nylon and 550 or parachute cord. Homemade hammocks tend to use the cocoon type design to protect you from the elements. This is great, but I can't give up the built in bug and rain protection in my Hennessy Hammock.
Don't let old age and stiff muscles stop you from adventure. Try out a Heneessy Hammock and change your life. Check out their website for great information and informative videos. When you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below or feel free to ask any questions.