In 3-season conditions and in locations where trees are readily available — which includes nearly all of the eastern United States plus a fair portion of the Mountain West — I have concluded that a hammock is the best overall sleep system. This is especially true for mileage-driven backpackers because they need not make two critical sacrifices often demanded by ground systems:
- Camp earlier than otherwise preferred due to limited campsite availability, and
- Carry heavy camp gear (e.g. plush air mattress) to improve camp comfort and sleep.
I make this claim as an experienced backpacker who has happily ground-slept for decades. My motivation for hammock camping was curiosity, not dissatisfaction with ground sleeping. The more experience I acquired, however, the more obvious it became that hammocks were a more practical and efficient system, especially in the eastern US.