How To Camp In A Hammock
Hammock camping is a great way to travel light and go traditional, and if you can't go without your creature comforts than it may just be the camping trip for you.
Camping in a hammock is friendly on the environment, friendly on your wallet, friendly on your back from not sleeping on an uneven surface, friendly with those around you as there is less gear to clutter common areas, friendly with other people as any over-crowding issues are negated by straying far away from others. It's really difficult to actually think of anything that isn't friendly about hammock camping.
What exactly is Hammock Camping?
Hammock camping is the art of suspending a normal camping hammock from two anchor points, usually trees. When done correctly this is a comfortable way to sleep outside with nothing but the stars and the sound of nature for company.
Some of you out there may be thinking that hanging a single hammock between two trees sounds less than comfortable, and though it doesn't offer quite as much space it can definitely get crowded when you factor in all the spiders. This is where larger double-hammocks come into play; they allow one person to spread out their limbs without touching another person's limbs by accident or on purpose. Hammocking couples need not apply here, unless both agree they want to cuddle up together tightly during their night outdoors.
What Do You Need to Hammock Camp
You need certain different things in order to go hammock camping, especially if you plan on going over a weekend. First of all you need a hammock, which you likely already have, and a tarp or rain fly that's large enough to cover your entire setup. This way even if it rains during the night you'll stay dry as long as the tarp is still hanging above you.
You'll also want an under quilt to hang underneath your hammock so it keeps your backside warm and comfy. Then again, some people don't use under quilts because they can cause uncomfortable pressure points when sleeping near the edges of the hammock where there isn't any padding, but this will vary from person to person. Below is a full list of items you will need to camp comfortably.
- Rope or Straps
- Tarp to cover your hammock
- Trees to tie off to
- Under quilt to hang underneath you
- Insect Shield for better sleep
- Extra cord to hang up your tarp and under quilt (don't rely on the ropes that come with the hanging system)
- Sleeping pad
- Your Sleeping Bag or Blanket
- Structural Ridgeline
- Suspension Lines
- Bug Protection
You need to choose a hammock that best suits your needs. One that is comfortable to sleep in, weather resistant, and durable. You'll also want to make sure that it has the right number of attachment points at each end.
The best way to hang your hammock is by using two ropes (or straps) that are attached at either end via a simple loop knot. This allows you to adjust the height of each rope so your hammock conforms nicely to the shape of your body while you sleep. If you don't have any extra ropes lying around, most camping supply stores sell paracord for cheap which makes decent suspension lines.
A tarp is something every hammocker should carry with them because it gives added protection from rain, wind, snow, sun, and insects. You can string up your tarp with ropes or sticks alongside the trees that are holding your hammock, giving you a covered porch for changing clothes, storing gear, cooking, playing cards, or whatever.
Finding two trees of the right distance apart is essential if you want to have a comfortable night in your hammock. The wider apart the trees are, the more space you'll have to lay flat. If there is no perfect spot where you can stretch out completely, hanging close together will provide plenty of room for sleeping vertically side-by-side or back-to-stomach.
An under quilt is needed to trap the heat that your body gives off during a night's sleep, and keep you warm. It hugs the side of your hammock to ensure that no cold air seeps in from underneath.
It's nice to be able to see your surroundings while lying in a hammock - no need to tie up all those trees! You can set up a tarp or fly as a "porch" over the front of your hammock so you have something overhead to protect both yourself and your gear from rain and/or sun. The best part is that it’s easy enough to do on an overnight trip that you could even attach a tarp if there was inclement weather predicted during the day.
It's always best to have extra cordage with you to set up a tarp or attach your under quilt. You should already have the required ropes and carabiners provided by the hammock manufacturer as part of their system, but it's smart to pack an extra piece of cord (about 50 feet) if you think there’s a chance you will need to use that length during your trip.
A sleeping pad is necessary if you want a good night's sleep. There are a number of under quilts and top quilts that come with a built in mattress pad already attached, but these cannot be used if you're sleeping on the ground or want to stay extra warm. You'll also need your sleeping pad if you own a camping hammock with spreader bars.
If you don't have a proper under quilt yet, consider purchasing one before winter hits. If not, make sure you have enough layers to keep yourself warm during the chilly months ahead. A thick wool or down-filled jacket can help fend off frostbite when temps drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 C) at night.
Blankets provide you with a warmer option, but you can't move around as much. Sleeping bags give you a little more freedom of movement, but they're limited in their ability to keep your extremities warm.
Structural ridgelines are perfect for hanging a bug net, lantern, and other accessories. They add some extra strength to your suspension lines and minimize sag when you're not sleeping in them.
These come standard on most hammocks and they give you the ability to customize where you hang your hammock. Let's say you don't like sleeping with it touching the ground (which means all the cold air is going to settle under your butt while you sleep). You can set up "high" or "low," depending on what feels more comfortable. These also help keep tension off of the tree bark while minimizing stretch and damage to tree trunks.
We need webbing to wrap around the tree and hammock on each end. The weight of a person hanging in a hammock can cause a lot of pressure on those trees so we use strong webbing to ease the strain from their trunks, as well as prevent any slippage or movement while sleeping. Since our suspension lines attach to the webbing, you need good-quality straps that are durable, reliable and won't snap or give way when it's time to go to bed.
Bug protection helps keep those pesky insects from crawling on you while you sleep. This can be in the form of bug repellant or bug nets.
How to Set Up Your Hammock For Camping
Knowing how to set up your hammock the right way to avoid danger is important. While it may seem difficult, you just need to know what you're doing and practice your skills before camping in a hammock for the first time. Here is a step by step guide of how to set up your hammock.
- The first thing to do is ensure that you have a nice place to hang up your hammock. This doesn't mean stringing a rope between two trees and hanging your hammock there, as that is dangerous. What you should do instead is to stretch out your tarp across the area where you plan on setting up your hammock for camping.
- Be sure to only choose trees that are at least 6 inches wide and look sturdy enough to support your weight over a long period of time.
- If you're using two separate sleeping bags or an under quilt, this would be a good time to clip them both together so they stay nice and snug while you sleep. If not, leave them unclipped so you can get in and out of your hammock with ease later on.
- Next, set up any air mattresses/pads/cots that you will be using if they haven't already been laid down.
- Your hammock should be about 18 inches off the ground. You do not want to be too high up because it can be difficult to get in and out of your hammock without assistance from the ground, nor do you want to be too low so that when you lie down you have a hard time getting comfortable.
- Tie off both ends of your hammock to the trees you chose earlier. Make sure you do this tightly so your hammock does not sag too much at either end. You do want a little sag, just not too much.
- If the trees you choose are far apart, consider using a couple of suspension straps or a single longer strap. The closer the trees, the shorter and more numerous your suspension ropes/straps will need to be.
- This is also a good time to lay down anything else like pillows or other bedding so that you can sleep comfortably throughout the night.
- Now that your hammock is set up, take some time to enjoy it! Lay back and relax for a bit before going on to other camping tasks such as setting up camp or cooking dinner.
Tips for Sleeping in a Hammock Comfortably
There are many things you can do to make sleeping in a hammock more comfortable. Below is a list of things you can do on your next camping trip.
- Choose the right angle - Your hammock will be more comfortable if the angle is set to match your body shape. If it is too flat, you will feel as if you are sleeping on a board and no part of your body will be touching the fabric. Too steep a angle and you may feel as if you are sliding out of the bottom.
- Pack Lightly for an Easy Setup - The lighter your load, the easier it will be to set up the hammock. Heavy items like camp stoves, tarps, cooking equipment, etc., can all take up valuable space in your pack. Decide what clothing layers and other comfort items you need most and consider leaving them at home or reducing their number before heading out for your trip.
- Pack Warmth into Your Sleeping Bag - If it's cold outside, then you need to consider how you will keep warm. Bring warm clothing layers like sweatpants, t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, socks and an insulating outer layer like a puffy jacket. Keep your head covered by wearing a warm hat or scarf at night.
- Pack Your Camping Gear for Easy Access - Even though camping hammocks are known for being very comfortable, many people still bring along tents just in case they might want to use them as emergency shelters if the weather takes a turn for the worse. To ensure that you have easy access to these items during the night, pack them on top of the lighting gear so there is no need to roll around inside your shelter all night looking for them.
- Use a bug net - Pesky insect can ruin any type of recreational activity. Hikers often wear long pants, closed shoes and light-colored clothes in order to avoid unwanted bites. The same rules apply when using hammocks. Bring a net to help keep insects away from your body. Additionally, keep a pocketknife with you in your supply bag so it's easily accessible if you need to cut the netting open in an emergency.
- Keep Warm with Camping Hammock Accessories - Although these shelters are great at keeping out cool breezes and windy conditions, they will not protect against cold weather like a tent might. If it is going to be chilly at night or if there is chance of rain and snow during the night it is best to bring some extra equipment to keep you warm. This can be anything from a light blanket, thin foam pad of any number of camping accessories designed for this purpose.
- Be Prepared - A hammock-camping experience might require more attention to safety than traditional tent camping. First, check the weather report before leaving home and plan accordingly. Even if you do not expect rain or snow, it is possible that weather conditions will change during the course of your trip and what seemed like an uneventful forecast could become dangerous in a matter of hours. So make sure you pack extra clothing and equipment just in case.
- Use a under quilt - An under quilt will provide you with an insulation barrier between the cool air outside and your body inside of your hammock. It is recommended that you have at least 12 inches of insulation under you, with more being preferable.
- Choose the right hammock - There are several different types of hammocks available for purchase today. You can choose one or multiple depending on what you need them for. Just make sure to buy high-quality ones which will hold up over time and in any weather condition you might face during your trip.
- Take Your Time - Although setting up a hammock takes less time than erecting a tent, there are some preparations that must be made before even attempting to set it up. First, if possible, find two trees which are roughly fifteen feet apart from each, then choose a path that will be the quickest and most comfortable from there to your car. Also, make sure when you're hanging it that it isn't too close to anything which might damage it or put stress on the ropes, at least a foot away from branches and rocks is good.
HAMMOCK SAFETY TIPS
Safety should be taken into account when dealing with any type of outdoor activity. This is especially true when dealing with high heights and ropes. Along with this, one should ALWAYS maintain three points of contact when on the ground. This means that you should always have at least two feet, one hand, or one foot and one hand on the ground while not in the hammock. Below is a list of some safety tips you should follow when using hammocks.
- Keep all sharp objects away from your ropes. This includes pets that might not always understand that they should not chew on them.
- Ensure that there are no branches around you once you lay out your hammock because contact with any of them can damage your rope and possibly cause injury to yourself too.
- Always keep calm when inside of your hammock, even if it is swinging quite a bit, which does happen sometimes depending on what type of hammock it is and how old it is. A calm approach will ensure less swinging and less possible damage to the hammock or injuries to yourself.
- Inspect your ropes before each use by looking for any fraying, cuts, loose threads, tears, etc. If you notice any of these things contact your local Scout Shop immediately so you can get a replacement rope if needed before using it again.
- Finally follow all instructions given in the included manual with your hammock purchase and read any other information provided by the manufacturer or retailer that sold you the hammock too.
You just learned how to camp in a hammock. Hammocks are safe when used correctly but they should not be treated like a piece of fabric and thrown onto a tree branch without proper knowledge of how to properly set them up. Now pick out a calm area where there is nothing around you and lay down in the hammock to test it out. Make sure you feel like the width and length of your hammock is good for you and that there will be no hazards nearby such as rocks, roots, or other hidden objects under the soil. Try laying down in different positions until you find one that is most comfortable for your body type and sleep style since everyone has a different way to go about doing things like this.