Maybe you’re tired of lugging around a bulky tent while you camp; maybe you’ve had one too many bad experiences with bugs while roughing it on the ground. Camping with a hammock solves both of those problems!
The trouble is that the setup and use of one can seem intimidating if you have never done it before. Here, you will learn which hammock is right for you, how to set one up, and how to make the most of your camping trip with it!
Be sure to check out all 6 steps so that you can be prepared for a relaxing trip and ensure some great sleep while on your camping trip.
Consider the pros and cons
There are several great things about hammock camping, but there are a few downsides to consider as well before carefully picking one out. It all comes down to your body’s limits and what you want out of your experience.
- Hammock camping is, of course, off the ground. Pitching a tent would be challenging with muddy or rocky terrain, and bugs would have a much easier time crawling on you while you sleep. Camping this way casts off all those concerns!
- They are easier to set up. There are about 5 steps to set up a hammock at most. Pitching a tent requires assembling poles and threading them through the tent walls, then pounding posts into the ground to keep it all steady. Taking a tent down requires a trowel to remove the supports, too. It can be tedious, sweaty work.
- Hammocks take up less room. Even with all supplies added, hammocks don’t tend to take up as much packing space as tent equipment. You’ll have room to pack more snacks and that extra pair of hiking boots!
- They’re lighter. Losing the weight of metal posts and poles makes it easier for you to carry everything around while camping. This is good news for adventurers backpacking their way around the world.
- You don’t have to rely on an established campsite. Tents could be far more difficult to set up in a spot away from it all. There may not be enough room, or the ground could be less comfortable to sleep on. You can string up a hammock just about anywhere! All you need is two posts and some courage. The best part is that setting up in a spot unowned by others is free.
- Hammocks offer less protection. In a heavy duty tent, you have the advantage of taking shelter within four walls, and being on the ground inside leaves you invisible to predatory animals that are small enough to crawl underneath a hammock and attack.
- They are harder to get in and out of. Entering and exiting a tent is as easy as pulling on a zipper. Hammocks require a bit of legwork and balance.
- They can be less comfortable to sleep in. Stretching out on the ground requires no particular position; you would sleep similar to how you would in your own bed. Lying down straight is uncomfortable in a hammock.
- You run the risk of falling. While dangling from trees, your ropes could snap, and your cozy bed could flip over if you aren’t careful enough. If you fall, you could get injured.
- Some hammocks will not last as long as tents. The walls of a tent aren’t strained like hammocks are by the constant weight of your body. It is likely that it will rip or wear before a tent does.
Hammock camping can be a lot of fun, but if you aren’t agile or need some gear that will last forever, you may want to go over your other options. If you’re looking to pack light and stay bug-free, though, this is almost certainly the right pick for you!
Choose the right hammock for the trip
Not all hammocks are created equal. There are several different types to choose from, each one depending on where you plan to go, its primary use, and which best fits your body type. Buying the right one is crucial to ensure that you are comfortable, safe, and happy wherever you roam.
Body type needs
Just like bed comforters, one size does not fit all. Consider your height and weight. Wider hammocks are the best option for a broad, heavy, or tall person; you are more likely to spill out onto the ground if you choose a lightweight or narrow model. As for smaller people, a wide hammock may close you in and feel suffocating because it is made of more material. Heavy-set people should check weight limits provided for each hammock. If the material gives out or the cords snap, you could get seriously hurt. The same advice goes for anyone planning on sharing a hammock with someone else.
Choosing by destination
Depending on where you go, you may face many environmental challenges such as the climate, bug population, and general weather patterns. You would not want to find yourself in an open hammock in the middle of mosquito season, after all. You should also consider whether you are planning to travel light or going all out. That is why there are a plethora of different models to accommodate your needs!
These hammocks are ideal for backpackers who need something that won’t add bulk and leave less room for necessities. While they are great for a basics-only trip, these models are also less durable than others and often have a lower weight limit.
Since this style of hammock is made of less material and is, therefore, thinner than any regular model, it is not recommended for those who will be staying in colder climates.
Open model hammocks are ideal for those who want to lounge around with friends or sleep with more space. They are shaped like a canoe, long and wide. They’re perfect for two people to chill in, but not great for campers who need extra features like bug nets or rain protection.
For that, you will need to buy a ridgeline and string it up as well. These are an excellent choice for staying at established campsites or being outdoors in mild, dry conditions.
If you do find yourself in a more humid and rainy environment or a cold region you need insulation from, then you may need a heavy duty hammock with tons of features meant for protection. They usually come equipped with bug nets and/or rain flies. An expedition model would be perfect for a rainforest adventure, for instance.
This one comes with a rain fly, suspension cords, and a bug net! You should definately check it out on Amazon. Click here
Pick the right hammock accessories
Choosing a hammock is just the beginning. You also need accessories and gear to make sure it holds in place and functions the way you want it to! Let’s go through a few things you may need to carry to make your experience a good one:
- Straps: Hammock straps are essential for added safety and environmental consciousness. Directly tying a suspension cord or rope around the trees you have chosen bites into the wood and hurts them. The bark also wears down your rope and makes your hammock unsafe. Straps provide a safe and eco-friendly alternative.
- Carabiners: Carabiners are metal loops with spring-loaded gates used to connect one component of a hammock to another. They are typically used to connect the straps to the suspension cords or rope.
- Rain fly: Rain flies are shelters made of tarp that can be hung over the hammock in a tent formation.
- Bug net: Hammock bug nets are covers made of mesh to keep out certain winged critters like mosquitoes and flies.
- Ridgeline: A hammock’s ridgeline is a straight cord suspended right over your head as a resting place for your rain fly or bug net to drape over. Make sure not to place it too high; what good are your safety measures if they still leave you exposed to the elements? Setting up your ridgeline right underneath the suspension ropes should do the trick.
Once you gather all of these accessories, you’re guaranteed to have a dry, insect-free space to take shelter in.
Set up your hammock
You’ve chosen the best model for the job and bought all of the extra equipment — now what?
First, you need to check your gear for damage. Make sure that both the hammock itself and the cords/straps aren’t torn, warped, or worn. Open and close your carabiners a few times to check for security. Next, you should try and find a place to hang it up. Here are some tips for finding the perfect spot:
- Pick sturdy trees. If the trees are saplings, they may not bear your weight. If they look sick or dead, they could snap and hurt you. Look carefully for branches that may seem precarious overhead. These are called “widowmakers” because, at any time, they can fall on top of you and crush you.
- Don’t set your hammock up too high. You may have seen those cool images of campers hanging out in hammocks over cliffs or sleeping suspended from steep mountains. While those photos are good for going viral on the Internet and inspiring adrenaline junkies everywhere to follow suit, they are dangerous and encourage the use of unsafe practices. Never set up at hazardous heights; you could be seriously injured or even killed.
- Take note of your surroundings. Even if you’re stringing up your hammock at a reasonable height, you could still land on rocks or pinecones if you fall. That could mean a trip to the emergency room, thus ruining your adventure. Make sure the ground is relatively clear of all sharp objects.
Now that you have decided on a safe and practical place to stay, you need to get to work on actually putting your hammock somewhere. For the perfect hang, consider these factors:
- What is the distance between the two objects you are hanging it from?
If said objects are fairly far apart, consider the angle you may be stringing the hammock from. The bottom can become uncomfortable or hard if pulled too tight. The tighter the ropes are, the less balanced the hammock will be. Tightropes decrease the amount of weight that can be applied as well because the cords are at an increased risk of snapping. A 30-degree angle is generally considered best for both comfort and balance. If your bases are trees, they should be at most 12 to 15 feet apart. If they aren’t trees, make sure you have enough grip to keep your straps from slipping.
2.) How high must the suspension points be placed?
The height the suspension points and cords are hung from determines how high the hammock will be off of the ground. Too high, and you may not be able to climb in. Too low, and you run the risk of dragging the ground. Keep the bottom at about chair height or a foot from the ground.
Luckily, there exists a unique website with a diagram and a calculator to determine how, exactly, your model should be placed based on measurements. Find it here.
Remember that the right angle is crucial to get the curve inside the hammock to support and swaddle you.
If your hammock did not come with a built-in rain fly or bug net, then you can make and set up your own fairly easily. Just follow the instructions that come with the tutorials or per the manufacturer!
Creating a bug net
Creating your own net is relatively cheap and simple! Check out this site for DIY projects that will save you time and money. Most do require sewing machines, though. If you do not have access to one, buy a pre-made bug net here.
Creating a rain fly
Creating a rain fly is also fairly simple. Use this site for DIY projects, or just string a tarp over your hammock!
Instructions for setting up
Finally, you are ready to actually hang your hammock, but how? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you out:
- Attach your straps to the trees you picked to set up camp in. They should be placed about 6 feet high off the ground.
- Hook the ends of the straps to the carabiners. (Note that other pieces besides a carabiner like toggles can be used to attach the straps to your rope. Carabiners are just common and easy pieces of equipment to set up with.)
- Hook the other ends of the carabiners to your rope. Suspend the rope at a 30-degree angle from the tree to the hammock line.
- Try and make sure that the bottom of the hammock rises approximately 12-18 inches from the ground.
- String up your ridgeline from one end to the other, underneath the suspension straps.
- Cast your rain fly and bug net over the ridgeline.
Just like that, you’re done in the blink of an eye! The last two steps can be skipped if a ridgeline or built-in bug net/rain fly comes with your hammock. A diagram to help you visualize the process is available here.
Insulate your hammock
Unless you’re staying somewhere in which the temperatures run high during the night, you might need an extra bit of padding to keep you warm and toasty. When temps reach 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) or below, you could get a bit chilly because there is nothing but air underneath your body. Hammocks are thin and don’t hold body heat quite as well as beds do. There are a few ways to stay warm and special materials you can buy to use as insulation:
- Line your hammock with blankets. This is the simplest option when it comes to materials, but carrying a bunch of blankets around will add weight and bulk to your pack.
- Bring a sleeping bag. This is the best way to hold in your body heat. However, a sleeping bag may not provide quite as much cushion underneath.
- Get an underquilt. Underquilts are meant as an alternative to lining a hammock with pads or blankets. They are made out of the same material as a sleeping bag!
Learn to sleep comfortably
Sleeping on a hammock is just like resting in bed, right? Wrong. Lying in a straight position on your back can quickly become uncomfortable, hurting your knees because you have been lying with your legs stiffly outward all night and making your back tense from the odd angle. The most highly recommended sleeping position for comfort and body health is to lie at a diagonal. This keeps your feet slightly higher than your head, but it creates more flexibility in your legs and a less rigid angle for the back. Some people also enjoy sleeping on their sides for comfort.
Let’s look at a few related questions.
Can you use a hammock without trees?
Yes, there are hammock stands on the market that do not require trees and some even have carrying bags. If you are camping out of your car, some people even use hammock straps between the door and a cargo rack.
Do you need a sleeping bag with a hammock?
No, if it is cold outside, you can use a hammock quilt designed to be used for this purpose. Also, you can simply line the hammock with a thick blanket. If it’s warm outside, you may not need anything more than a light blanket.
Can you sleep comfortably in a hammock?
For most people the answer is yes however, if you have a bad back, or neck, this sleeping in a hammock may not be great for those areas.
Now you’re all set for a getaway under the stars. Remember to choose a hammock that is right for you, use safety precautions, and have fun! We hope you’ve come away from this tutorial undanted and ready for an “elevated” experience.