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Sleep in the Trees: A Guide to Hammock Camping

A young woman hammock camping

Have you ever spent a night in your tent tossing and turning on the hard ground beneath you?

Even with a sleeping pad, sometimes it seems like you just can’t get comfortable or alleviate pain on your pressure points. Imagine waking up renewed and refreshed after a great nights sleep while camping… hammock camping can provide that!

Hammock camping is a fun and easy way of camping that will ensure you get a comfortable, great night of sleep every time!

With the right accessories, hammocks can protect you from the elements just as much as a tent, and they last just as long.

Hammocks are much easier to set up and take down than a tent and they are compact and lightweight. This makes hammocks ideal for backpacking and hiking.

Hammocks aren’t just great for camping – they’re also great for lounging and hanging out with friends. In fact, some hammocks are made to hold more than 1 person making it the perfect place to hang out!

Hammocks provide a better and more comfortable nights sleep, are easier to set up and take down, and are generally just fun to hang out in!

This guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started with hammock camping.

Selecting a Hammock

When selecting a hammock for camping, the key factor in making your decision will ultimately come down to what you are going to use it for most.

For backpacking and hiking, the weight of your hammock set-up will matter the most. For camping, festivals and hanging out with friends, you’ll want to look for size and durability.

There are many different types of hammocks on the market today in many different sizes and all kinds of accessories!

Hammocks usually come in 2 main sizes: single hammocks and double hammocks.

Single hammocks are generally between 4 and 5 feet wide and can handle weights up to 350-400 pounds.

Double hammocks have a width of around 5-6 feet and can hold up to 500 pounds, depending on the model. Double hammocks provide more sleeping space and the ability to share your hammock with another person.

Suspension Straps: Straps to hang your hammock are almost always sold separately. Most brands of hammock straps can be used on all hammocks, but be sure to double check. There are many different lengths of straps available, and each set has different adjustment points. A great choice of hammock straps are the Atlas Straps by Eno, which feature 30 adjustment points per strap.

Where to Hang Your Hammock

The most important part of hammock camping is making sure you’re hanging safely. Look for live, mature trees at least 12 inches in diameter that are spaced between 15 and 18 feet apart. Be sure to avoid trees that show signs of disease or rot.

Hang your hammock in an area with flat ground beneath it, stay clear of underbrush or large rocks and logs.

Do not hang your hammock in a place where it will straddle a path or trail – you don’t want to get in the way of any humans or animals that frequent these trails.

For safety reasons, do not hang your hammock over streams or chasms and stay away from cliff edges. To prevent dangerous falls, ensure that your hammock is no more than 3 feet off the ground once you are in it.

How to Hang Your Hammock

 

A mistake many people make when hanging their hammock is stringing it up as tight as can be, straight across.

If you hang a hammock too tight, it will be harder to get into. Also, a tightly strung hammock isn’t as comfortable to sit or lay in, and it’s easier to fall out of!

When hanging your hammock on your straps, let it sag a bit. The amount of sag your hammock has can depend on your personal preference, but a hammock that hangs like a smile is ideal.

A hammock with a good bit of sag will be more comfortable and stable.

How to Lay in Your Hammock

Camping hammocks are designed to lay in diagonally for the best nights sleep.

This will undoubtedly come down to your personal preference and how you feel most comfortable, but be sure to give the diagonal sleeping position a try!

When you lay diagonally in your hammock it becomes a flatter sleeping surface, which is much better for your back than sleeping in a curved hammock. You’ll also notice that the hammock doesn’t cocoon on you as much when you lay in the diagonal position.

You may prefer a pillow, or you may not. Bring one with you on your first hammock camping trip just in case!

For cooler nights sleeping in your hammock, you may want to bring along an underquilt or a sleeping pad.

When you’re sleeping in a hammock, you are exposed to the air on all sides and most hammocks are made from a very breathable material. A sleeping bag will not be enough to keep you warm in your hammock on cold nights!

An underquilt or sleeping pad lining your hammock will provide extra insulation against the cold air.

Stay Warm and Dry

With the right equipment and accessories, hammock camping can keep you just as protected from the elements as a tent.

Bug Net: A bug net will keep out all the creepy crawlies so you can rest peacefully. A hammock bug net is hung on the trees and surrounds all sides of your hammock with an ultra-fine mesh to keep out even the smallest of bugs.

Rain Tarp: A rain tarp hangs on a line above your hammock and is staked into the ground similar to a tent, providing protection from rain and small twigs. You can purchase a rain fly made for hammocks, or fashion your own with a tarp and cord.

Underquilt: An underquilt is used with your hammock for protection from cold weather.

Sleeping Pad: A cheap sleeping pad can be used in place as an underquilt to keep you warm and toasty as the cool breezes of the night begin to blow.

Drip Lines: You can purchase drip lines or fashion some yourself from cord. Drip lines should be tied on your hammock straps before your hammock, to allow rain water dripping down from trees to be diverted before it gets to your hammock. Drip lines should be around 6 inches or longer.

Other accessories include hammock stands for tree-less hanging, decorative lighting, gear lofts to store your stuff, and overquilts.

Protect the Environment

In many instances, hammock camping is more ecologically friendly than tent camping.

Less clearing of the ground is needed to hang a hammock and you won’t be compressing sensitive plant life with the weight of a tent.

Using tree-safe straps to hang your hammock instead of cords ensures that you aren’t damaging the bark of the tree.

Hanging only from mature, healthy and live trees will not only make sure you are safe but will also do less damage to the tree. Younger trees have softer wood and a smaller root-system, make sure you avoid younger trees.

Make sure it’s allowed! Some campgrounds and protected areas will ask that you do not hang anything from their vegetation, it is important that you comply with their rules.

Hammock Safety Tips

As with all outdoor activity, safety should be top of mind when hammock camping.

Never hang your hammock close to a cliff edge, over water, or stack hammocks in a “bunk bed” like fashion.

Never hang hammocks from young, small, dead or diseased trees.

Do not keep food in your hammock – this will attract wildlife!

Do not exceed hammock weight limit, and do not try to use hammocks for anything other than their intended use.

Hang out, have fun, and be safe!


Have you tried camping in a hammock? Let us know if you have any questions!

A guide to hammock camping

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