Swing to the right, swing to the left, swing to the right, and swing to the left. The stars look quite spectacular tonight. Each one glitters and sparkles despite the dark sky. If you see yourself in that position and you want some tips and advice, then this beginner hammock camping 101 guide will be sure to help you rest easy under the stars.
5 Reasons to Go Hammock Camping
Hammock camping is definitely not the norm. Most people just grab a tent and sleeping bag; then quickly head off to the nearest camp site. If you do that, then it is fine, but hammock camping is a unique experience unto itself. So why even camp this way in the first place?
- The ground is unforgiving. Float instead. If you have ever slept on the ground, then you know how rough it can be. When you only have a sleeping bag, you are bound to wake up holding your back. Hammock camping, though, removes that burden. There could be snow, rocks, roots, and stumps on the ground, but you wouldn’t care because you are above that.
- Rest easier and sleep soundly. During most camping trips, a lot of people cannot wait to sleep in their own bed when they get home. With hammock camping though, your mattress is the air. Compared to the ground below, you are going to have a much softer experience. You are going to look forward to sleeping in your hammock.
- Take in the fresh air. As opposed to tent camping, hammock camping is more open than tent camping. You swing in the air as you like and can feel a relaxing breeze every now and again. You get increased air flow and are no longer cramped. The whole sky extends up above your head.
- Hammocks are just like tents. Your favorite tent probably has compartments, liners, accessories, mosquito nets, and a rain fly. The good news is that all hammocks offer all those features now. You can have all the benefits of tent camping without all the downsides.
- Follow leave no trace principals much more easily. In a previous article, I wrote about environmental stewardship. It will be sure to help if you like camping and want to do it in the future. Because you care about the environment, you want to have the least amount of impact on it. With a hammock in hand, you will not be crushing the vegetation unlike a tent.
The Top 5 Tips
If there were 5 pieces of advice to consider before going hammock camping, then these are it. You can rest easy knowing that these are the 5 essentials to have a swinging time.
- Make sure your hammock is level. While it may seem cool to angle your hammock at 60° (I have done it too), you sleep most comfortably when you are level. You sleep in a horizontal position at home, so it is no different when you are out in the wild. Improper sleep can lead to back pain and drowsiness during the day, so stay level.
- Get tree saver straps and be environmentally friendly. Most people just grab some rope and hang their hammock from the nearest tree. While you can do that, you are going to harm the tree. If you care about the environment and plan to do this in the future, then you should use tree saver straps.
- A clothesline is not just for drying clothes. Since you are going to be hanging in your hammock, you might as well make everything else hang. When you hammock, you are saying, “I am above the ground,” so you should do the same for all your gear.
- Hang your hammock at least 18 inches (45 cm) above the ground. This is the magic number for avoiding accidents. You are going to want to use the thickest part of the tree to ensure maximum safety. Avoid trees that bend or are found in wet areas. Otherwise, the trees may cave in on you while you are sleeping.
- Don’t hang your hammock from dead trees. While that dead spruce may seem like a good tree, it really is not. If it falls or breaks because of your weight, then it could not only damage the landscape, but also hurt you. Play it safe and watch out for dead branches and trees, so you do not end up in the hospital.
Your Hammock and Support Straps, the Essentials
A proper hammock is the key to a good time. When you have the right one, you will rest more easily at night and have an easier time setting it up, so let us consider a few important aspects before making a purchase.
- Portability, firstly, your hammock needs to be able to pack down to the size of a tennis ball for easy mobility. Unlike many found in backyards and on beaches, a camping hammock will be rolled up in no time flat. If you want to go backpacking in the future with it, then good portability is a must.
- Durable materials, when I go camping, I like durable materials. If you like to get down, dirty, and a little dangerous when you camp, you will want your gear to handle the adventure you are going on. It is essential.
- High weight capacity, while you probably do not weigh 500 lbs (226 kg), you may want to share your hammock with someone you care about, whether that be children, a significant other, or some heavy blankets. In case someone surprises you on the hammock, you at least know it will be able to handle the extra weight.
- Compatible with most accessories, if you are planning to making hammock camping your go to option when outdoors, then you will want compatibility. When you consider this factor, you are opening up new opportunities to enjoy yourself even more in the future.
- Versatile anchor points, in most forests and places to hang a hammock between two things, you are not going to find the perfect distance between both objects. Consequently, it is important that you have plenty of flexibility.
Proper Hammock Set Up, the Difference Between Sleeping Well and Not at All
Now that you have selected the perfect hammock, it is time to consider set up. You are going to want a flat lay.
There are few mistakes people often make when setting up their hammock. Firstly, they might make it too tight. In other words, they elongate it. The material will end up wrapping around you and making sleep uncomfortable. Secondly, they make it too close, creating a banana shape and causing back pain.You want the middle ground between both.
Another aspect to consider is angling. In general, you are going to want to sleep level. Personally, I like about a 10° angle with my head higher than my feet, but that is my own preference for sleeping. Most people will want to be level though. If you like a slight angle, then go for it. It is your hammock, so set it up based on your needs.
Suspending Your Hammock with a Proper Support System
Aside from the hammock, this is the second most important piece gear you will need to ensure you have a good experience. This hangs between two anchor points (usually two trees). Most hammocks you see at the store will come with their own support system already. If not, then you will need to buy them separately.
The best support system out there is going to be the ENO Atlas Hammock Support System. If you like to dog pile into a hammock, you can rest easy knowing it supports 400lbs. Are your trees far apart? Both straps are 9 ft (2.7 m) long. It is a versatile strapping system.
Accessories to Complete the Experience
While a hammock and suspension system is all you really need to go hammock camping, there are plenty of accessories to complete the experience.
If I had to recommend one accessory you had to get, it would be a rain fly. No matter what you think will happen, rain is always a possibility. With one of these above your head, you will be sure to stay dry all night long. The best ones usually have storage compartments for gear as needed. You never know what the weather will be until it happens.
When you are camping, there will undoubtedly be bugs where you go. If you want some shield between you and them in your hammock as in a tent, then a bug net will do the trick. If you want to rough it, then going without a bug net is perfectly fine. The best models will give you 360 degree coverage.
An underquilt is designed to fit inside a hammock. If you are camping in a particularly cold climate, then you are going to want one of these. When it is chilly outside, an underquilt adds an extra layer of insulation to keep you warm. It makes winter hammock camping possible.
A sleeping bag is the go to option for campers everywhere, but it is not the best for hammock camping. With your standard sleeping bag, it will probably be too wide to fit in your typical hammock. Consequently, a quilt (or blanket from home) will be your best bet.
Yes, you can get a sleeping pad for your hammock to make life in the air a bit more comfortable. If you are unconcerned about weight, then this is an option worth consideration. They are designed to fit snugly into a hammock, so you do not have to worry about it slipping off you. With one of these, you can be warmer and cozier.
They are also quite reasonably priced.
Extra Gear You Will Want to Consider
While you will probably already have plenty of carabiners to hang your hammock, this is hanging experience, so you should be doing the same for the rest of your gear. It will be quite nice to hang your backpack and more to a tree.
Rope is always a welcome friend. When in doubt, some solid paracord will be able to assist you. If you need something tied, paracord will help you. If you need something hung from a tree, paracord will take care of that. Beyond what was just mentioned, there is so much more you can do with it.
Guylines are critical for hanging tarps, bug nets, and other shelters. You cannot properly hang your gear from paracord without them. Even though they are often forgotten as item to get, you are going to need them.
Whether you are hammock camping or just plain old camping, a tarp will be of great benefit to you. You can lay it on the ground as cover or put it up in the sky above your hammock as a rain fly. Because it is waterproof and multi use, a tarp is a wonderful, versatile tool to bring along with you.
When there is a lot of wind outside, you are going to want some stakes. They will keep everything grounded when the wind picks up. You are definitely going to want these. When the wind blows away your expensive tarp, you are not going to want to chase it down. Keep a hold on everything with some good stakes.
You should be fully convinced and ready to go hammock camping. Once you commit yourself to it, you will be enjoying yourself under tantalizing stars and resting easy above the hard ground. Lay back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the experience. Swing lightly or wing fast, a hammock is your little known best friend.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!