Gathered End VS Bridge Camping Hammock, Which One to Choose?

gathered end vs bridge hammock

Camping hammock or backpacking hammock is one of the most welcomed outdoor resting and sleeping gears, compared with backyard recreational hammock, it has a relatively flatter surface, not too much saggy; lightweight; and is often featured with a built-in or detachable no-see-um bugnet.

There are many companies manufacturing this outdoor sleeping essential in different appearances, functions, and styles. For all of these camping hammocks on the market, the most common two designs are gathered end and bridge.

In the rest of the article, I’ll give you a thorough comparison between these two designs and talk about some other special designs.

What is a gathered end hammock?

Gathered end camping hammock
Gathered end camping hammock

The gathered end (aka collected-end) hammock is a piece of rectangular fabric bunched up at head and foot ends to form a curved shape. The fabric is often made of synthetic nylon, which is lightweight and durable, ideal for complicated outdoor weather conditions. This is the simplest and most prevalent design of all styles of camping hammocks.

When you see a gathered end hammocks advertisement, you may often see “Asymmetrical/Symmetrical” or “Single/Double” words in its description, so what are they referring to?

Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical hammocks:

To be specific, when the manufacture says “asym” or “sym”, it doesn’t mean the hammock is cut asymmetrically or symmetrically, it only refers to mosquito bugnet is asymmetrical or symmetrical in a parallelogram or rectangular shape.

They differentiate in sleeping experience, when you lie diagonally in the symmetrical hammock, the “ridge” in the center line of the hammock might bump up to put pressure against your calf, creating pain called ridge calf. But in an asymmetrical hammock, the ridge line is parallel with your diagonal position, the ridge calf will be relieved. So the asymmetrical design is more comfortable.

But asymmetrical hammocks do have some downsides, occupants are limited to lay in one position, not like tossing and turning in symmetrical one. Besides, asymmetrical design hammock is often more expensive and usually offered by some vendor manufacturers, such as Warbonnet and Hennessy.

Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical hammocks
Left: Warbonnet Blackbird XLC Asymmetrical Hammock; Right: ENO DoubleNest Symmetrical Hammock

Single vs Double hammocks:

A single or double hammock doesn’t mean for occupancy but the hammock’s width. A single hammock often has a width in 4-5 feet range, 250 lbs weight limit. A double hammock often has a width in 5-6 feet range, 500 lbs weight limit.

They are both designed for one user to use, although the double hammock is theoretically spacious enough for two person lying in, but it is definitely not comfortable to sleep together overnight. For recommendation, a guy taller than 6′ should choose a double hammock for more room to relax and chill.

Pros of gathered end hammocks:

1. Simple, lightweight and only take a little space in your backpack, easy to go.

2. Fairely inexpensive and user-friendly compared with bridge hammocks.

3. Easy to set up, preferred for unknown terrain and trees distance distribution conditions, more versatile to any kinds of related accessories.

4. Have more room for user tossing and turning, more “room to roam” and is better for someone who sleeps a lot in the fetal position.

Cons of gathered end hammocks:

1. Not comfortable for side sleepers, only for back sleepers.

2. Possible to cause calf ridge and heel pressure pain for the user.

What is a bridge hammock?

Bridge camping hammock
Bridge camping hammock

Bridge hammock is designed like a hanging bridge, using two aluminum spreader bars at each end to make the body open, shaped like a half-barrel. The surface is relatively flattered which allows the occupant to have a true head-to-foot flat lay in multiple sleeping positions. This design is a more modern entrant into the hammock family, and will offer a totally different experience from gathered end design.

Bridge vs Spreader Bar hammocks:

bridge vs spreader bar hammock
Left: Bridge hammock, Right: Spreader bar lounging hammock

Someone might confuse with bridge and spreader bar hammocks, although both have two spreader bars, but the bridge hammock is completely different from spreader bar hammocks.

A spreader bar hammock is referred to the traditional hammock, featured with wooden bars at both ends to flatten the fabric tight and open, it has a high center of gravity and is prone to flip. As a recreational hammock, it is often seen at tropical beaches, exotic hotels, and swimming pools. The typical types are rope hammock, Nicaragua hammock, quilted hammock, and poolside hammock.

A bridge hammock is specifically referred to bridge design camping hammock, different from lounging hammock’s design.

Pros of bridge hammocks:

1. Flat surface for side sleepers and back sleepers, not limited to one position as in gathered end hammock.

2. No calf ridge and heel pressure, friendly for first-time hammocker to get comfortable.

3. Enable to have a better surrounding view when lay in it.

Cons of bridge hammocks:

1. Heavier and take more space in the pack due to spreader bars (Using trekking poles as a replacement can eliminate this con).

2. More steps and time to set it up, require a longer distance between trees.

3. Tubular shaper offers a narrower sleeping area, may cause shoulder squeeze for a big guy.

4. A little more expensive and hard to cover with a trap due to its longer length.

Which design should you choose?

Well, from the above detailed explanation, you should have a clear knowing of these two designs. For a decision of which design to choose, in conclusion:

If you really like a flat lay or side sleep only, not mind a bit more weight in your pack, know the situation about your destination terrain and trees, choose a bridge hammock.

If you can sleep on your back overnight, pursue an ultra-lightweight camping journey, or go to an unknown place for hammocking, choose a gathered end hammock.

Still can’t make a decision? Go to your local store have a try of both designs; or purchase both two designs online, keep the both, or re-sell the one you dislike to others.

Other designs of camping hammocks:

1. Tree tent camping hammock

This is a more novelty design for camping hammock, if you need a big hammock for family camping or a fixed spot for long-time outside habitating, the tree tent is absolutely phenomenal.

Tree tent hammock uses multi-point anchoring system to create a flat fabric base for 2-3 or even more people sleeping comfortably together. It seems to be the heaviest, the most complicated and durable hammock, although much more expensive than other designs, but it’s really worth the investment for families and small groups having a unique and memorable camping experience. A brand like Tentsile is famous for this design.

Tensile Tree Hammock
Tensile Tree Hammock

2. Flat surface “spread bar” camping hammock

Do not confuse with the words “spreader bar” here, it forms a normally flat surface, not like bridge hammock’s half-barrel shape. The most famous brand is Lawson Blue Ridge.

Lawson Blue Ridge Spreader Bar Hammock
Lawson Blue Ridge Spreader Bar Hammock

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