Being in the wilderness, nature all around you, that’s what hammock camping is all about.
One minor issue?
Bugs are part of nature.
If you don’t want to get up close and personal with all the flying, stinging, buzzing insects while you sleep, a bug net is going to be essential.
In this article we’ll tell you:
Your hammock is perfectly hung.
Your belly is full from a meal cooked over a campfire you built yourself.
Your body feels tired from a good day’s hike.
You’re ready to bed down for the night, listening to the sounds of the forest as the wind gently rocks your hammock as you doze.
But then a buzz...
An insistent whine in your ear.
A tiny thing flying just above your eye.
Soon you are swarmed. Bitten. Irritated. Itchy.
By morning the calm and serenity you’d hoped for on your camping trip is gone. Now all there is to do is groggily pack up and go home to pass out in your bug-free bed.
You can see where we’re going with this.
Imagine that whole set-up:
The expertly hung hammock. The meal by the fire. Dozing off while the forest murmurs and whispers.
But this time, the bugs are on the outside of a gauzy but impenetrable force field all around you. You sleep well and undisturbed.
In the morning, you wonder why you don’t do this every weekend.
While there are no doubt places you can camp where bugs won’t bother you much — the arctic tundra is one that comes to mind, Death Valley is another (though do keep an eye out for scorpions) — chances are when you camp there are going to be a few pests.
Bug spray and fly swatters will only get you so far.
For real, 360º, all night protection, a bug net is essential.
At its most basic, a bug net is a large amount of fine-mesh netting that either completely envelops your hammock or is attached to the top of it.
Bugs are kept out, but you can still see, hear and feel the freshness of nature.
Fixed bug nets come permanently attached to your hammock.
They are sewn or otherwise attached to the top of the hammock. So if you buy a hammock with a fixed bug net, you’re set.
Fixed nets usually have a zippered entry along the bottom, at one end or on the side. Sometimes these bug nets are suspended above you by hanging on the ridgeline.
A ridgeline is a strap or cord running from one end of your hammock to the other.
To visualize a ridgeline, think of the letter U.
Now draw a line straight across the top of the U. That straight line is your ridgeline. The U is your hammock.
Check out our post on hammock suspension to learn more about ridgelines.
Other fixed bug nets are held up by lightweight poles, kind of like a pop tent. Some fixed bug nets might also have additional strapping to connect the net fly to the ground.
Despite everything, you may very well run into a night when the bugs just aren’t out in force.
Camping on the beach, perhaps? Some fixed bug nets can be tucked away easily, some can’t.
For hammocks that don’t have a fixed bug net, you’ll need a modular net.
This is a separate piece you put in place when setting up your hammock.
If you don’t need it, you can slide it to one side of your hammock (where it will hang out on the suspension line) or just don’t install it in the first place.
Modular bug nets are basically a long tube of netting. The ends are sewn up almost to the top, leaving small openings to allow you to slip your hammock into the net. The openings fasten shut with either hook and loop closure or cinch ties.
These nets rest on the ridgeline to stay off your face, and usually have a zippered or cinch cord entry at the bottom, underneath your hammock or along the side, running vertically.
Bug netting is made with 2 basic threads, polyester or nylon.
What’s the difference?
Weight and durability.
Polyester is heavy but it’s more durable. Nylon is nice and light but not as tough. It’s often also less expensive.
You may find cotton netting out there and think you may want to try it. Generally it’s for indoor mosquito nets only.
The weave is usually too large to keep out small gnats and no-see-ums. It’s not durable enough to use outside and isn’t weatherproof.
Of all the ins and outs of hammock set up, the mosquito net might be the easiest part.
Here we just have to say: read the instructions that came with your hammock.
There are so many different types of hammock out there, each one just a little different from the next.
To learn more about hammock types, read our post on How to Choose the Best Hammock.
First you need a ridgeline.
Specifically, you need an end-to-end ridgeline, which runs from one end of your hammock to the other.
Some hammocks come with an integrated ridgeline. This serves 2 purposes:
You want your hammock to have slack in it.
This gives it that nice banana curve. But you want your ridgeline to be straight as an arrow, parallel to the ground.
If your hammock doesn't have an integrated ridgeline you can tie one on yourself. You can do this before or after you hang your hammock.
Then, follow the steps below for attaching your bug net.
For detailed instructions on hanging a hammock see our Complete Guide to Hammock Suspension.
[At this point, if you didn't attach your ridgeline before you hung your hammock, attach your ridgeline now. With the netting bunched up to one side, follow the steps above to attach your ridgeline. Then follow the steps below.]
To get in your hammock, find either the zippered opening or the cinch opening on your hammock.
Open it and duck into the netting.
Stand next to your hammock and get in.
After you’re in, reach down and re-zip or cinch the netting closed again.
The nice thing about bug nets made specifically for hammocks is:
They are made specifically for hammocks.
They fit nicely, don't tend to be very expensive and are pretty easy to find.
But if you really like to do things yourself, here's a quick idea of how to make your own bug net.
You can find bug netting at fabric stores.
You might also find sheer polyester curtains at a home supply store.
They will work in a pinch, just make sure the weave is tight enough that smaller bugs can’t get through.
To keep the smallest gnats out you want a weave that is no larger than 1 mm or .04 inches across (get out your magnifying glass and calipers!)
Using a sewing machine and polyester thread, sew the fabric into a tube long enough to enclose your hammock from end to end.
Leave an opening along the bottom of the tube large enough to fit through easily, this will allow you to enter your hammock.
Sew up the two shorter ends. Leave the top 6 inches open on either end for the hammock to slip through.
Attach hook and loop strips to the inside of the slip holes. You can also make a hem and slide cinch cord through, using a cinch lock to hold the cord in place.
Sew a length of zipper onto the opening you left in the first step.
You now have your own homemade bug net. Here’s a helpful video that walks you through the steps.
Anything else about but nets you’d like to add?
Anything we’ve missed?
Let us know. We love hearing from hammock campers.
After spending 5 years testing gear, meeting people and exploring his home state of Colorado with his wife, Andrej realized something about the outdoor industry. Mostly, that it was complicated. Andrej set out to create no-nonsense gear that was just as easy to use as it was reliable. He recruited a team of wilderness professionals and educators and hit the drawing board. The result was simple gear that you could trust, with specs you understood. Now he’s inspiring others to get out there and explore, by giving them the confidence to trust both themselves and the gear they use.