Bridge Hammock- What In tarnation is it?
A bridge hammock is described simplest as a floating cot. It is so named for the same basic principle used to build a suspension bridge. Peek at the Bear Mountain Bridge, on the Appalachian Trail in New York, as shown in the photo shown below.
Vertical towers support a cable running along each side, which in turn supports the deck (road surface) of the bridge. Converted to use in hammocks; the principal allows spreader bars to replace towers, webbing or cordage to replace cables… and finally fabric to replace decking to create a floating surface. It is this unique geometry and structure hidden within the design that leads folks to try a bridge hammock.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows; bridge hammocks do have some downsides. The spreader bars can present challenges for some, weight is often increased. The longer tree to tree distance and tarp sizes needed can be another tradeoff. And while the setup is simpler, the additional components and structure required increase the cost of the hammock itself. A bridge slips on the big three; Cost, Weight, and Pack Size in favor of Comfort.
The first commercial bridge hammock was released by Jacks ‘R’ Better, the Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock. Aptly named for the very bridge shown above! Further innovation took place at Hammock Forums as several folks there brought their own backgrounds and skills to bear as they exchanged ideas and innovations. While many contributed, for me it was two folks named David, better known as ‘WV’ and “Grizzly ‘Professor Hammock’ Adams”. It was Grizzly Adams innovative ‘Counting Grams Video‘ In which he introduced the lightest bridge hammock in the world.
Brandon at Warbonnet released his popular Ridgerunner. Dutch hiked the AT with a DIY bridge backpack combo and eventually released his ‘chameleon’ twist to market in the Banyon. Both of these hammocks and the Bear Mountain remain solid performers for many happy customers.
When I tried hammocks, I was not satisfied with what I found. As a person coming from a long background as a more traditional backpacker I did not so lightly look past the downsides and challenges of hammocks either. For many; hammocks are simply more comfortable. While I agree… backpacking is a game of harmony and balance. Weight, pack size, setup, and dozens of factors color our individual gear choices.
I was intrigued by this bridge idea though… I was used to making gear so rather than buy something I jumped in. Grizz’s video inspired me to push further, to build lighter, smoother, cleaner, simpler. This push led to the Micro Bridge; a bridge so light that it bested many gathered end designs. I had the floating bed I was looking for.
I had to learn quite a few tricks to build the original Micro… to adapt it to something speed hikers could use for record attempts. And further tricks to expand the usefulness to other campers. Fellow campers and early testers raised further issues and challenges to meet. The Happy Medium came along to introduce a less extreme option that lives up to its name. I have designed and built well over 100 unique bridge prototypes now, learning a trick each time.
Could I build a bridge that allowed you to sleep on your belly? Yes.
Could I help with back pain, injuries, damage from work in the trades? Yes.
Could I build a little wider and reduce shoulder squeeze? Yes.
Could I design something that allowed you to easily change positions often? Yes
Could I put it all together AND break the 250-pound weight limit other bridges have? Yes.
The Jacks went first. Brandon builds a fine bridge. VW, Grizz, Bic, Dutch and many others all have unique contributions.
I am proud to say; Town’s End has a few too.
The lightest. The only commercial bridge rated to 350+ pounds. The unique geometry, structure, and design that gives that signature ‘pop’ in the center. There are other solutions out there, but if for some reason that gear is not for you… maybe time to see if yer ol’ pal Bill has a bridge that’ll do the job.
A few notables of the many innovations developed during the good ol days:
Professor Hammock– Grizz and his complete collection of videos.
The Grizz Bridge Ariel The culmination of dozens of bridge designs by the great Professor Hammock
The Bic / Hiker Dad DIY Bridge (Kits available from RBTR AND Dutch)
The Peoples Bridge Hammock– VW at hammock forums- with link to original post.
Competition: Yar there are those overseas making copies, and new folks with new ideas but these are the vendors I am happy to point you towards if what they offer fits yer needs better than I can.
End Bar Backpacking Bridges for those under 250lbs.
Jacks R Better- Bridge Hammock – Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock – Jacks R Better
Warbonnet Outdoors- Ridgerunner Flat, Ultralight Bridge Hammock | Ridgerunner | Warbonnet Outdoors
Dutchware Gear- Banyon Banyan Bridge – Bridge Style Camping Hammocks | Dutchware (dutchwaregear.com)
Bridgelike Hammocks or car camping models you might hear of-
My Friend and yours. Grizz