Camping in a Hammock 101: Everything You Need to Know
Looking for advice on how to camp in a hammock?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- The basics of hammock camping
- How to plan a hammocking adventure
- What gear you need to bring with you
- How to choose an appropriate campsite
Interested in going hammock camping but confused about how to get started? You’re not alone.
A hammock camping trip can be a fun and rewarding activity if you’re prepared. Having the correct gear and the right skill set to ensure that your hammocking adventure is safe and fun is essential.
We want you to enjoy yourself on your hammock trips, so we’ve put together this article to get you off on the right foot. Up next, we’ll walk you through everything you ought to know in this ultimate guide to hammock camping for beginners.
- Make sure you have a suitable camping hammock for your adventures
- Learn how to tie a number of different knots before heading outside
- Pick a hammocking campsite with plenty of sturdy trees
- Ensure that you have the right sleeping bag to stay warm in the cold
- Forget about the importance of LNT when hammock camping
- Underestimate the importance of practicing your hammock set-up before leaving home
- Leave your bug net or tarp at home when hammocking
Table of Contents
- Camping in a Hammock 101: Everything You Need to Know
- Camping in a Hammock: The Basics
- Planning a Hammocking Adventure
- Making the Most of Your Hammocking Trip
- Top Tips for Camping in a Hammock
- Make The Most Of Your Hammocking Adventures!
Camping in a Hammock: The Basics
Hammocking is an excellent way to get outside while keeping your pack weight to an absolute minimum. Like any style of camping, however, there are quite a few things you should know before you head out on your first hammocking expedition.
In this section, we’ll introduce you to the basics of camping in a hammock so you know what to expect before your first fantastic adventure.
What is Hammock Camping?
Essentially, hammock camping is any sort of outdoor trip where you spend the night in a hammock.
Of course, you’ll come across all sorts of hammock campers during your travels. While some prefer to take their hammocks into the mountains on a more remote trip, others would rather stick to the campground.
As a result, hammock camping is a wonderful option for outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels and abilities. At the end of the day, you don’t have to be a professional survivalist to sleep well and enjoy yourself while sleeping suspended in between two trees.
Key Considerations for Camping in a Hammock
In many ways, hammock camping is similar to camping in a tent. But, there are a few key considerations that you ought to keep in mind before you head outside:
- Comfort: As with all kinds of camping, comfort is key when hammocking. Even though most people will find that they can find a comfortable sleeping position while hammocking, you might not get it right the first time. As a result, we recommend that you try out a number of sleeping positions until you find the one that’s right for you.
- Leave No Trace: We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the article, but Leave No Trace (LNT) should be at the forefront of your hammocking decision making. This often means opting for a different campsite because you’re too close to water or using special straps that are designed to protect trees from damage.
- Safety: Camping hammocks are designed to suspend you between two trees, which is risky stuff. Therefore, safety should be a top concern throughout your hammocking experience. Always use purpose-built hammocking carabiners and straps to limit your likelihood of injury. Furthermore, hang your sleeping area relatively close to the ground (around 18 to 20” is ideal) to prevent injury if you fall out at night.
Planning a Hammocking Adventure
If you’re planning your first-ever hammock camping trip, you probably have quite a few questions. Up next, we’ll discuss some of the most essential aspects of planning a hammocking expedition to help you feel confident before you head outside.
Essential Hammocking Gear
As with any camping trip, hammocking is a gear-intensive pursuit. So, these are some of the most important pieces of equipment that you ought to bring on your next outing:
- Hammock: A quality camping hammock should be light enough to put in your pack, but durable enough to support your weight—take care to check the user weight capacity when buying. You can also find double camping hammocks that are comfortable enough to accommodate two people at a time.
- Tree Straps: Proper hammock setup requires a set of straps that will serve as attachment points between your hammock and two sturdy trees. Ideally, you’ll use straps that are designed specifically for hammocking as these reduce the likelihood of damaging trees in the process.
- Carabiners: You’ll need to pack 2 to 4 carabiners to connect your hammock to its straps to form a suspension system. Only aluminum and steel carabiners that are rated for climbing are appropriate for hammocking. When in doubt, call the carabiner manufacturer for specific advice.
- Sleeping Bag: Just like if you were tent camping, you’ll want a sleeping bag to help you stay warm at night. Thankfully, you can use your regular sleeping bag or quilt while hammocking. Alternatively, you can get a lightweight, hammocking-specific model.
- Sleeping Pad: If you tend to get cold at night, you may want to consider a sleeping pad for your adventures. Hammocking sleeping pads help insulate you from the cold air below you at night.
- Underquilt: Just like a hammocking sleeping pad, underquilts insulate you from your surroundings. However, many people prefer to use a hammock underquilt in very cold conditions because they have a better warmth-to-weight ratio.
- Bug Net: A must for any summertime adventure, a bug net is essential if you want to get some itch-free sleep at night. You can hang your bug net from your ridgeline for a quick and simple bug-free setup, or you can buy a hammock with a built-in mosquito net.
- Tarp: Another must-have for hammocking, a tarp is critical for keeping you dry in the rain. You can hang a compact tarp from your ridgeline for the perfect waterproof sleeping system.
- Spare Guyline: You can never go wrong with having too much guyline while hammocking. Spare line and rope are always useful for fine-tuning your suspension system or pitching your tarp. And you can always use your spare line to set up a gear storage system or a clothesline while in camp.
Choosing the Right Hammocking Campsite
Choosing a campsite while tent camping is fairly straightforward; you want a relatively flat spot that’s far enough from water and trails to comply with Leave No Trace and local regulations.
While hammock camping, however, finding your ideal campsite is a bit more complicated. Keep the following practical and safety-based considerations in mind when selecting your sleeping area for the night:
- An Anchoring System Is A Must: Hammocks, of course, require something to hang from or they just don’t work. So you’ll need to make sure you have some sort of anchoring option at your campsite. This will most likely be a set of two trees, but you could use boulders in a pinch.
Unfortunately, this means that backpacking expeditions to the high alpine, where there are no trees, aren’t hammocking-friendly.
- Check Local Regulations: Unfortunately, hammocks aren’t welcome at all campgrounds, especially those in popular national parks, like Joshua Tree. As a result, you’ll need to check in on local regulations before you book a place to stay to ensure that you’re good to go on your adventure.
We recommend calling your local ranger to clarify any rules or expectations before making plans.
Making the Most of Your Hammocking Trip
Once you’re out in the mountains, you’ll need to ensure that your adventure goes off without a hitch. Although many tent camping skills are relevant to any outdoor pursuit, here are some hammocking-specific tips to get you started.
How to Hang Your Hammock
No hammock-camping outing is complete without a well-hung hammock. The good news is that most hammocks are relatively easy to set up. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:
- Locate two strong, live trees that can support your weight while you sleep.
- Follow the directions on your tree straps to attach them to 2 trees spaced about 10 to 15’ apart.
- Connect both sides of your hammock to this webbing so that it hangs about 18 to 20” above the ground. Make adjustments until you find the best suspension system solution at your campsite.
- Pitch your bug net and then your tarp using a ridgeline for suspension. Ideally, both your tarp and mosquito net will fully cover you as you sleep to protect you from the elements and biters.
- Sit back, relax, and lay down for the evening to enjoy a superb night’s sleep in the great outdoors.
Essential Hammocking Safety Tips
Since hammock camping involves being suspended above the ground, going hammocking is an inherently risky business. Regardless of your propensity for heights, keep the following safety tips in mind while out and about:
- Stay Low to the Ground: Hammocks shouldn’t be pitched more than around 18 to 20” above the ground to prevent injury if your system falls.
- Select Reliable Anchors: You should only pitch hammocks on live, healthy, and strong trees.
- Choose Your Terrain Wisely: Avoid pitching hammocks above sloping or rocky ground, which can hurt you if you roll out in your sleep. Flat ground that’s mostly covered with dirt, leaves, or pine needles is ideal.
- Follow Directions: Always follow your hammock’s stated maximum weight capacity. If you’re adventuring with a partner, opt for a model that’s strong enough to accommodate two people.
- Tie Your Knots Properly: The old “if you don’t know a knot, tie a lot” saying doesn’t really apply with hammocks. In a load-bearing situation like you get with hammocks, an improperly tied knot can lead to serious injury should it fail.
If anything, it’s better to master one or two knots than to make mistakes because you’re getting a little fancy with your knotwork.
Top Tips for Camping in a Hammock
Going hammocking for the first time can seem like a daunting task. So, we’ve compiled a list of our 5 top tips to help you make the most out of your journey:
1. Start Small
The idea of taking your hammock on a remote backpacking adventure might sound spectacular. However, we’d recommend starting with something a little smaller. That’s because many people go through a bit of a break-in period as they search for a comfortable way to sleep in their hammock.
For example, we’d recommend setting up your hammock in your backyard first, just to test out the system. Then, you could spend the night in your backyard as you figure out the ideal way to lay in a hammock. Doing so is important if you’d like to avoid back discomfort or a poor night’s sleep while in the woods.
When you feel ready, you might consider making your first adventure a campground-based outing. You may also choose to bring a tent on your first overnight, just in case you struggle to catch some Zzzs at night.
2. Make Sure You Know Your Hammock Knots
Let’s face it: Even the simplest hammocking suspension system requires knowing quite a few knots. So, you’ll want to be a knot-tying guru before your first backpacking excursion.
Although you certainly don’t need to learn every knot under the sun (we’d be impressed if you did), there are a few that every hammocker should know for setup purposes. In particular, we recommend learning at least one or two of the following:
- Figure 8 on a bight
- Overhand on a bight
- Clove hitch
- Girth hitch
- Taut line hitch
- Double fisherman’s knot
- Water knot
- Square knot
Now, that may seem like a whole lot of knots to learn. But, it’s good to have a host of different knots in your repertoire to choose from as you set up camp for the night. That way, you can be sure that you have the skills you need to go hammocking in any environment.
3. Always Bring a Bug Net
If you’re going hammock camping in the summer, a bug net is absolutely essential. The bugs may not seem bad while you’re hanging around camp in the late afternoon, but by early evening, they’ll be out in full force.
When this happens, you’ll want to hang a bug net above your sleeping area using your ridgeline. Doing so will help ensure that you’re not kept up until the wee hours of the morning by incessant buzzing (and biting) insects.
Just make sure that your bug net extends all the way to the ground or you’ll potentially be exposed to mosquitoes and midgies as you sleep.
4. Come Prepared With a Sleeping Pad & Underquilt for Winter
While hammock camping is a popular summertime activity, there’s nothing stopping you from hammocking in the winter.
However, if you want to sleep comfortably while suspended between two trees in the winter, you’ll need the right gear. In addition to a four-season sleeping bag, we highly recommend packing an underquilt and a sleeping pad if you want to keep warm during the colder months of the year.
Of course, these pieces of gear will add weight to your pack, but they’re well worth it for the extra warmth. That’s because cold air circulation under you while hammocking can easily give you a chill. So, it’s best to come prepared with the right equipment to help you stay warm, regardless of what the conditions bring.
5. Practice Leave No Trace
As we’ve mentioned, hammocking requires following Leave No Trace guidelines, just like you would on a tent-based expedition.
As with any outdoor getaway, it’s best to place your camp area at least 200 feet from water and trails. Doing so helps limit your impact on the environment and other campers.
Furthermore, hammocking puts a lot of pressure on trees, which can inadvertently lead to tree damage and death. The best way to mitigate this problem is to use tree-saver straps while hammocking.
Even if it seems a bit over the top, using special straps or padding under your straps can prevent a tree from getting damaged. In many popular destinations, like national parks, you may even be required to use these special straps to protect fragile ecosystems.
Further reading: If you fancy bringing along your best-four-legged-friend, then check out our guide to hammock camping with dogs.
Make The Most Of Your Hammocking Adventures!
Whether you’re a first-time hammocker or a seasoned vet, hammock camping is an exceptional experience. We hope that our article helped you become more confident in your abilities before your first outing.
If you found that this guide helped you master the basics of hammocking, let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to share this with your friends so you can all make the most of your future adventures.