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The Ultimate Guide To Hammock Camping

Lately, I’ve been seeing a weirdly large amount of tents for sale at the local gear exchange. 

Has everybody given up camping?

Was there a universal upgrade that I didn’t hear about?

Apparently not. More and more people are learning about the magical world of comfort that is hammock camping.

But if you’ve been in a hammock before, you may be skeptical as to how enjoyable this activity really can be.

No more bulging rocks digging into your hip?

No more bent tent poles and rain puddles soaking your sleeping bag?

No more sloping hills that force all the blood to rush to your head during the night?

With the more you learn, the more fantastic the notion sounds. With the proper know-how, you’re in for the best sleep of your life. Keep reading to learn absolutely everything you need to know about hammock camping.

The History Of Hammock Camping: You Can Thank Stinging Ants For Hammock Camping

The traditional hammock originated in Central America, dating as far back as the Mayan civilization.

These early creators used the flexible bark of the Hamack tree to weave bed platforms, which they would lash to two trees.

But the Mayans weren’t just swinging from trees to fit in with that hipster crowd from college.

Hammocking provided ideal sleeping conditions in the jungle, keeping its users cool, dry and safe from jungle floor critters like snakes, poisonous frogs and stinging ants.

Because of its simple construction and effectiveness, the design quickly spread throughout the continents of South and Central America. But their popularity didn’t really take off until the 16th century.

If you believe that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, you could say he discovered hammocks too.

Diary entries from his overseas journey suggest that many Indians used to hammocks as bartering tools, and that more often than not, they were very well received.

Rise In Popularity: A Sailor’s Dream Come True

It wasn’t long until ocean voyagers around the world realized the incredible functionality of the hammock, as well.

On the high seas, a suspended hammock served as the perfect form of bedding for sailors. The hammock was easy to install and remove and a large number of them could be packed into a tight space.

It was much safer to sleep in than your typical bunk, cocooning its users and making it nearly impossible to fall onto the floor or roll onto the deck.

Because of the suspended design, the hammock reduced the risk of seasickness or injury, rocking rhythmically in even the most dangerous waters. Today, many sailors still opt for the hammock over traditional bunking.

Following the nautical boom in hammock beds, you could say things quieted down.

On the mainland, we use hammocks more for leisure than functionality.

​​​​While the original hammocks were intended for keeping cool and safe in the trees, now we’re trying to figure out the best way to stay warm in these nylon cocoons. And with all the possible accessories – quilts, sleeping bags, inflatable sleeping pads, tarps and bug nets – it’s arguably not as minimalist as it used to be.

Yet you should consider all these new accessories a good thing.

We live in a world where one can call themselves a Professional Hammocker. Once you’ve mastered the art of hammock camping, you’ll soon have the gear list down to a science.

Types Of Camping Hammocks

Like nearly every piece of gear you could possibly own, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices in hammocks.

I’m reminded of the shrimp monologue given by Bubba in the movie Forrest Gump. You’ve got “pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup….”

Just the same, you’ve got single-person hammocks, double-person hammocks, cotton hammocks, woven hammocks, bridge hammocks, asymmetrical hammocks, ultralight hammocks… Make. It. Stop.

But like all the different versions of a good shrimp recipe, each hammock has its benefits and drawbacks.

Here are the only types you actually need to be concerned with:

Parachute Hammocks

The most popular model of hammock that you will find on the market today is the Parachute.

It’s typically made out of a durable and slippery nylon fabric.

If you leave it hanging unattended in the wind, you’ll quickly learn how it got its name. The parachute typically comes in both single-person and double-person models, though depending on your needs and body shape, you may be surprised to learn which one will suit you best.

Between the ultralight and the expedition models, the parachute provides a happy middle ground in versatility, durability and weight.

​​​​​PROS

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    Easy to set up and take down
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    Versatile
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    Typically comes with easy-to-use integrated suspension system
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    Inexpensive

​​​​​​​CONS

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    Slippery fabric

Ultralight Hammocks

Ultralight hammocks are a great option for the frequent backpacker or adventure minimalist.

Like most parachute models, they are also made out of nylon.

These models can pack down incredibly small, in some cases, fitting in just the palm of your hand. However, the extra lightweight strap, which utilizes the Whoopie suspension system, is less user-friendly for the novice hammocker.

​​​​​PROS

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    Extremely lightweight
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    Easy pack-ability and storage

​​​​​​​CONS

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    Less user-friendly than other models
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    Less comfortable
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    Can be expensive

Expedition Hammocks

Expedition hammocks are the monster models.

These things are typically indestructible and can function for camping in all four seasons with the proper accessories.

Expedition hammocks are easy to adapt and often come with their own series of equipment, such as tent flies, bug nets, underquilt and overquilts. All of which, we will get to a little later.

​​​​​PROS

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    Extremely durable
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    Easy to accessorize with other gear
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    Comfortable

​​​​​​​CONS

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    Heavier than other models
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    Expensive

Rope/Braided Hammocks

As seen on your ‘99 spring break vacation to Cancun, this woven hammock is one of the most quintessentially North American models.

Of course, it’s not really viable as a camping model hammock but it’s worth mentioning since it’s what you first pictured when the original prospect of hammock camping popped up.

If you’ve actually tried to sit in this thing, you may equate the memory to your own personal hell, or emergency room visit.

Most rope hammocks are great at bucking their users rather than creating a nice, cozy cocoon. This is thanks to the spreader bar found at both ends of hammock.

Stop daydreaming about this thing. It will only cause you pain and rope tattoos.

​​​​​PROS

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    It's pretty to look at

​​​​​​​CONS

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    Not suitable for camping
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    Stretchy
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    Rickety
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    Uncomfortable
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    Heavy
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    Dangerous

Hammock vs. Tent

What are the benefits of sleeping in a hammock versus a tent?

I have some really exciting news for you regarding hammock camping.

Unless you’ve chosen a death trap model such as the rope hammock, it is actually physically healthier for you to sleep in a hammock than on the ground or even your Tempur-pedic bed.

Starting with the basics, many users naturally fall asleep naturally faster in a hammock than they do in their bed at home.

Hammocking even cured this dude’s insomnia. You fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply than you would in an ordinary bed.

That’s because a hammock actually props up your body at the perfect points. According to neck and head surgeon Dr. Steven Park, the perfect sleeping position is “lying on one’s back, with the head slightly elevated, about 10-30 degrees.”

That perfectly describes the hammock sleeping position.

If you’re still not convinced, please take a moment to recall how much gear you lug with you to go tent camping.

Unless you have an ultralight, backpacking model tent, it can be heavy, bulky and difficult to assemble. Just so that 8” invisible rock can dig into your hip and spine all night? I don’t think so.

A single hammock and sleeping bag combination is often lighter than your tent alone.

Are there any disadvantages?

With all these benefits, hammock camping may sound too good to be true.

Don’t sell your tent just yet.

Not everywhere you camp is going to have ideal hammocking conditions.

While the set-up process is typically faster than your normal tent, you may spend extra time scouting the area for just the right trees to use (the recommended trees are 8” in diameter at the least and 13-17 feet apart).

If you’re camping in the desert, for example, setting up a hammock probably is not going to be viable.

Likewise, as the temperature gets cooler, more and more equipment can get involved.

The air circulation beneath your hammock can be great for temperature regulation in warm weather. But as soon as that temperature drops even to 65 degrees, you may wake up shivering.

There are plenty of ways to overspend on hammock gear and we are very excited to get into them all!

Your Hammock Camping Gear List 

What season is it? What is the climate like? What is the weather going to look like?

Depending on all of these conditions, your packing list for hammock camping may change.

The first few trips, it’s best to bring more than you actually need.

Once you get your perfect hammocking experience dialed in, you’ll becoming better at learning what you want versus what you actually need or don’t even use at all.

No matter where you’re camping, you will definitely need:

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    Hammock (Yeah, you laugh...but I've actually forgotten this one before)
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    Straps
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    Carabiners

Depending on the weather and climate:

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    Rain tarp
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    Bug net​​​​
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    Top quilt
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    Under quilt
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    Sleeping bag
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    Sleeping pad

How To Choose The Perfect Hammock For You

There is a perfect hammock out there for everybody, no matter what your needs are.

When choosing your first hammock, consider what you will most often be using the hammock for.

If it’s camping, great! You’re in the right place.

Other uses include backpacking, recreational lounging, and acrobatics. Once you know your hammock plan, consider the specs that will best improve your experience.

If you plan to backpack long distances with your hammock, consider an ultralight model and learn about the curious set-up that is the Whoopie System.

If you plan to convert your hammock into a four-season sleeping arrangement, an expedition model could serve you well.

If you’re extra tall, broad-shouldered or heavy set, you may only be comfortable sleeping in a double-person hammock, even if you fit snugly in a single.

If you know that more often than not, you share your hammock with others, go big or go home with a multi-person model.

If you have no idea what you intend to do with your hammock just yet and this is overwhelming, you won’t regret a parachute model. Find a hammock that is fairly lightweight with a simple integrated suspension system. You’ll appreciate the versatility.

How To Choose The Right Accessories 

Let’s talk suspension systems

This is the second most important purchase you will make.

The three essential types of suspension system are the whoopie, webbing straps or rope system.

To save you a lot of time, know that we recommend the webbing straps.

But we will get into the benefits and disadvantages of all systems.

Webbing Straps

Webbing straps are versatile and by far the user-friendliest of all systems.

It’s even possible that you set your entire hammock up in less than thirty seconds.

The straps are typically 1-2” in width, long, flat and designed like a daisy chain. Because of this, you can adjust the height of your hammock at any time with a simple click.

The extra width of the straps is a huge benefit, because it means that the straps can be attached directly to the tree. You will not be required to purchase an extra tree saver to go along with your system.

That can’t be said for the other systems.

To set up a webbing system, the only extra thing you will need is a carabiner rated to at least 1000 lbs.

Typically, webbing straps come with their own set of carabiners, making them even easier to use. Simply wrap your webbing strap around the tree and thread the loops through each other and secure. It’s that easy.

Whoopie Suspension System

If you’ve heard of the whoopie system before, you may know that its greatest benefits are its lightweight design and easy adjustability.

But you also may be wondering, what the hell are all these words?

It’s true that the whoopie system has it’s own set of vocabulary words, and decoding instruction manuals may be the hardest step to getting your hammock set up.

Simply put, the whoopie system is made up of a whoopie sling and a bunch of other things.

A whoopie sling is a simple line with a small fixed loop on one end and a large adjustable loop on the other. The middle part of the line stretches and gives this system it’s excellent adjustability.

If you’re not confused yet, the whoopie sling may be for you!

The line is incredible thin and lightweight, since its made out of 7’64” amsteel. However, while that means the system will definitely support you, you will need to purchase a tree saving strap to go along with the system.

Rope

Back in the old days, all you needed was a good rope and knot-tying skills.

However, ropes can be stretchy and knots can be frustrating.

We get it.

If you choose to use a rope, you must purchase tree saving straps as well, as a rope can really cause damage to the bark of a tree.

The disadvantages of using a rope outweigh the advantages.

Rope can stink if it gets wet, become extra stretchy and very heavy. Depending on what knot you use, it can be difficult to adjust the height of your hammock post-set-up.

While you will receive plenty of varying opinions on what the best knot to tie is, we really only recommend one.

By tying butterfly knots down the length of your hammock, you can create for yourself a makeshift-webbing strap. The benefit of this is that the knot is very easy to undo, but can also be reused indefinitely.

Remember, you should only consider using a rope for suspension if you hate trees.

Knots vs. Hardware

Depending on which system you choose, you may adopt a certain preference over hardware and knots.

On one hand, knots are an extremely lightweight and versatile option. When you rely on knots, you can tie whatever you see fit. But every time you choose to install hardware over knots, you add a bit more weight to your pack.

This may be fine, unless you’re backpacking.

What is the best hardware to use?

Many people, including myself, prefer carabiners.

They are lightweight, strong and often time, a pair may come with your hammock set.

Other hardware devices include dutchbiners, dutchclips and marlinspikes. Essentially, these are devices that were designed to accommodate the whoopie system, but you can use them just about anywhere.

Never use any permanent hardware when suspending your hammock to a tree. These include screws, nails or bolts.

These can harm the tree and will definitely ruin the experience for the next guy.

Choosing The Right Insulation

The hammock was originally designed because of its excellent ability to regulate temperature.

Thanks to the air circulation underneath, users could stay cool and dry in even the most humid climates.

That’s great when you’re camping in the jungle, but as soon as the temperature drops below 70 degrees, the experience of hammock camping can immediately become miserable. Nobody wants a frozen bum, so choosing the right insulation is important.

Your obvious option is to use a sleeping bag and pad.

You probably already have those two things in your gear closet. In moderate weather, this can be fine. However, if you’ve ever tried throwing your sleeping bag in a hammock, you may have noticed a few things:

  • Your weight is unevenly distributed in a hammock, which causes that insulation to flatten and become ineffective. Sure, some body parts stay nice and cozy, but all you can really think about is how your bum and feet are developing icicles.
  • Being inside a cocoon inside another cocoon may make you hyperventilate.
  • Sleeping bags slip and slide on the nylon fabric and it can become near impossible to get that perfect angle.

Adding a sleeping pad can help in temperatures ranging from 60F and up, but you may experience the same discomfort.

Whether your sleeping pad is air-filled or accordion shaped, they slide around, fold improperly and ultimately were not designed with hammock camping in mind.

If you’re really frustrated by hammock camping with this gear, the solution is to purchase a top quilt and/or over quilt.

Essentially, these are quilts designed to secure over the top and bottom of your hammock. The benefit is much more effective heat distribution and insulation.

Like your sleeping bags, these quilts come in either synthetic or down material. Whatever you prefer to fill your sleeping bag, you probably will prefer here. It’s fair to have preferences, especially since there isn’t really a wrong answer.

Down material packs down extremely small. However, if you are camping in a warm or humid climate, a more quick-drying material like down is probably best.

If you’re worrying about the extra weight and gear, don’t.

These quilts can come in any size, ranging from full to quarter-length. There are plenty of options to choose from.

Likewise, it’s not a sleeping pad & bag versus quilt competition. The more you hammock camp, the more that you will adapt your own unique camping style.

Depending on the temperature, you may prefer a sleeping bag and underquilt or a sleeping pad and overquilt. 

Get creative and get comfy.

Choosing The Right Bug Net 

A bug net may seem like an easy purchase, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices and brands.

Some hammocks, known as jungle hammocks, come with an attached mosquito net.

Some nets just drape over the top of the hammock. Some encase the entire structure. Each has its own benefits.

A hammock with a built-in hammock or zipper design to accommodate a hammock is an excellent choice because of its user-friendliness.

However, these often only cover the top of the hammock.

The problem here is that really nasty bugs have been known to bite through the nylon underneath. If you plan to camp in an exceptionally buggy area, consider coating your hammock with citronella or permethrin.

Purchasing a separate bug net gives you more control over the experience.

Getting something that encases the entire hammock is usually the best idea. When choosing a net, it’s easy to be charmed by the lightweight options.

However, the more important spec to focus on is durability.

No matter how lightweight a net is, it’s not going to do you any good after the first tear. Really thin and soft mesh nets are a no-go. Look for something in the mid-weight range so you don’t have to keep running to the sewing machine.

Choosing The Right Rain Tarp 

Like any accessory, there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right tarp.

Tarps come in all different shapes and sizes, with varying durability.

Focus on those three factors when looking for your perfect tarp.

Asymmetrical and Diamond Shaped Tarps

These tarps are typically designed with hammock camping in mind, but not for cold weather.

This is definitely the most minimalist of options, and provides only the bare minimum of coverage in case of rain or inclement weather.

Purchase an asymmetrical or diamond shaped tarp for its quick and efficient set-up, minimalist needs and lightweight package.

Hexagon Shaped Tarps

The next step up from the asymmetrical hammock design is the hexagon.

This is a classic middle-ground design that we recommend. It is a little heavier, with only a small amount of extra time required to pitch. The hexagon shape is generally more secure than the diamond or symmetrical.

This is because the hexagon allows for four points of contact on the ground (the asymmetrical and diamond shape only allow for two). The easiest way to secure these tents is with stakes on either side of the hammock.

Rectangular Tarps

There is an old tarp rolled up in your garage.

You know the one - It’s crinkly, heavy, old and bright blue.

But despite its age, that thing is still in great shape. Practically speaking, you could use it (after you dust the cobwebs off of it).

What are the downfalls?

Consider that it probably wasn’t designed with hammock camping in mind.

It’s versatile and can be used for a number of things when not a hammock tarp, but it’s heavy, bulky and makes a lot of noise.

What are the benefits?

It probably still has eyelets sewn into each corner, which means you could easily stake it down with tent stakes.

Tent Tarps/ 4-Season Upgrade

If you are really ready to take your hammock camping experience to the next level (and cold season), there are “tarps” that essential convert your hammock into it’s own tent.

For these models, there are typically doors/zippers on one or both sides of hammock.

It creates an enclosure that is definitely durability, warm and secure.

However, the set-up is drastically more time consuming than the asymmetrical or diamond models.

This option only makes sense if you know for certain that you will be facing freezing temperatures and inclement weather.

Making The Best Use Out Of your Hammock System

The prospect of hammock camping has started sounding pretty cool, right?

It involves much less maintenance than your average tent and a hammock can still be outfitted for pretty much any climate.

Even still, you might be worried about that dreaded u-shape slump.

I’ve seen it too many times.

An eager hammock camper, quick to set up their new bed platform, maybe chose trees too close together. That was fine at first until things started stretching and shifting. The trees creaked and even the tarp above began to sloop down.

The result was something sad and deflated looking.

A u-shaped hammock with a saggy tarp overhead will never look appealing or feel appealing once you settle in. And the first time your tailbone slams onto the ground, you might even give up hammocking all together.

We don’t want you to do that so follow these quick and easy tips for hammock set-up to ensure a cozy, comfy camping experience.

How To Hang Your Hammock

When choosing trees to hang your hammock from, look for two solid trunks somewhere between 13-17’ apart.

Something shorter than that and you’re going to sleep in a nice, ocean of nylon. Anything further than that and your hammock will be stretched stiff like a board, giving you absolutely no maneuverability once encased.

According to the experts, the recommended hang angle for a hammock is around 25-30 degrees.

This refers to the angle that your suspension line makes with the ground. Consider the end of your hammock the vertex. If you didn’t bring your protractor or loathe the prospect of any sort of geometry practice in the backcountry (I’m out here to escape all that nonsense), just aim to create a nice shallow bowl shape with your hammock.

If you have webbing straps, it can be easy to adjust your hammock even after set-up.

Pro tip: If you need a ladder or have to climb to hang your hammock, you’re going to have a bad time. If you’re throwing your webbing strap up into the sky and hoping for it to snag a branch, you’re really going to have a bad time. The recommended height from ground to hammock base is only 6”-12”. You should be able to sit into your hammock like a chair. Nobody wants to rescue you from your nylon tree house every time you need to climb down.

To set-up, wrap your webbing strap around the tree and thread the loops through each other. Pull to tighten and secure. Clip your carabiner onto both the end of your hammock and a loop in the chain.

The first few times, step back from the hammock and inspect your hang angle and the shape of your hammock. Make adjustments as you see fit and don’t get frustrated.

The more times you do this, the easier it becomes.

To take down your hammock, simply follow the steps backwards. It’s always a good idea to inspect your gear for any imperfections and shake out your hammock to avoid bringing home unwanted visitors.

How To Properly Set Up Your Tarp

After your hammock and suspension system, the third most important piece of equipment is the tarp.

The tarp preserves heat, protects you from the elements and transforms your hammock experience into a cozy camping experience.

First things first, you will need to set up your tarp ridgeline.

Tie your rideline at the same two points on the trees where you secured your hammock straps. Know that the hammock will sink down once you lay in it but the tarp will stay securely in place.

Tie your ridgeline with a clove hitch. First make a loop around the tree. The rope should look like an X, with one end pointed towards the center of the hammock and one loose end on the other side. Take the loose and wrap it around the tree once more, underneath the X. Feed this cord through the eye of the second loop and pull to tighten. Repeat on the other side.

Once your line is in place, gently place the tarp over your ridgeline. To secure your tarp (and avoid claustrophobia), secure the corner ends of your tarp to the ground with tent stakes.

How To Properly Lay In Your Hammock

Now that you have a happy bowl shaped set-up and have gotten your Instagram photos out of the way, it’s time to mount the beast.

Please no diving or cannon-balling into this section of the forest.

Gently sit your butt into the hammock, swing your legs around and nestle in. Yup, just right in the middle there. Those walls of nylon on both sides are completely normal. Claustrophobic? Totally normal. Isn’t this nice? Bowl shaped sleeping. Mmmmmm.

Okay, I’m just kidding.

The path of least resistance may encourage you to lay length-wise, parallel with the hammock, but that is actually very far from the most comfortable position.

There is a secret trick to lying/sleeping/sitting in a hammock that not enough people know about.

Scoot yourself just a few degrees in any direction and point yourself diagonally.

You’ll find that, in this position, there is now so much room for activities.

When you lie diagonally, all that extra nylon that made a wall before is put to good use and you can actually lie relatively flat in this position. There is no sliding or slipping or pulling to make sure your gear stays in place.

Trust the bowl-shape. It will bring you much happiness and many hours of sleep.

Tips For Camping In Every Season

The longer you hammock camp, the larger your arsenal of gear will become.

You’ll find that with the right gear and equipment, you can comfortably hammock camp in pretty much any season.

Let’s chat seasons, in order from easiest to most difficult conditions to handle.

Summer: 

It was probably summertime when you first fell in love with hammock camping.

The cool breeze on your backside and the gentle rocking took you back to those worriless childhood memories.

With summer low temperatures sometimes ranging in the 80’s, it’s possible that the only gear you had was a hammock. This minimalism coupled by the best sleep of your life made you think, yes – I could do this forever.

But even in the summer, you should expect the unexpected.

At the very least, pack a tarp just in case of rain showers.

Potential gear list:

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    Hammock
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    Suspension system
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    Blanket
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    Tarp

Fall:

The temperature has suddenly dropped and all the leaves are falling – I completely forgot how cold fall season can be. Oh my gosh, why is my butt so cold?

I find that fall season always sneaks up on me.

For that reason, I try to avoid dragging out the fall/winter gear for as long as possible. But nothing will snap you out of summertime bliss faster than a cold bum in a frozen hammock.

Pack all the extra things that you may be unsure if you actually need, like an underquilt, tarp an extra blanket.

Potential gear list:

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    Hammock
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    Suspension system
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    Sleeping bag
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    Tarp
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    Under quilt

Spring:

Springtime hammock camping can be as good as summertime, but after the first thaw of winter, you may still be experiencing the chill.

In some regions, it’s possible to still get snow into late spring.

For that reason, it’s best to pack a few extra items.

To combat the chill, you’ll definitely want a sleeping bag or quilt to preserve heat. You may be able to get away with not bringing an underquilt, especially if you have a sleeping pad to replace it with. A tarp will help preserve heat and protect from those spring showers.

Since spring thaw can bring two miserable things: 1) allergies and 2) mosquitoes, stay prepared by bringing a bug/mosquito net as well.

Potential gear list:

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    Hammock
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    Suspension system
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    Sleeping bag
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    Tarp
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    Sleeping pad
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    Bug net

Winter:

Since the original hammocks were designed to combat hot and humid temperatures in the jungle, you’ll need to do some outfitting to get a comfortable and warm night’s rest in the winter.

You probably will want an underquilt and overquilt to go along with your sleeping bag and tarp.

It may seem excessive now, but when temperatures get into the 20-30’s and your tarp starts to get weighed down with new snowfall, nothing will seem like enough to keep warm.

Besides the gear list, there are a few other tricks to ensure your body stays warm throughout the night.

  • Create a makeshift heating pad: Boil water on the camp stove and fill your canteen. Pack the canteen inside your sleeping bag for instant warmth.
  • Make sure to eat a calorically dense and hearty dinner: Eating a high calorie meal ensures that your body works all night, which will keep you warm.
  • Wear multiple layers and cover your heat points: Heat escapes your body most easily through your head and feet. Wear socks and a warm wool beanie.
  • Fluff up your insulation: If your gear was packed into compression sacks prior to the trip, it’s likely that the insulation flattened. Shake out your quilts and sleeping bags, pulling at the inside stuffing inside the fluff it back up. You’ll be surprised how big of a difference this makes.
  • Heat your body with physical activity: If you are already cold before getting into your hammock, chances are small that you will actually warm up. Do some jumping jacks or burpees to warm your core. Don’t work so hard that you begin to sweat, as that can be counterproductive.

If you are a really active winter camper, it may be of value to consider a mummypod.

A mummypod is essentially a sleeping bag that wraps around the outside of your hammock.

Think about how warm and cozy you could be inside a mummypod, inside a hammock, inside a sleeping bag. Oh, somebody bring me some hot cocoa.

Potential gear list: Hammock, suspension system, sleeping bag, underquilt, overquilt, tarp, mummypod

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    Hammock
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    Suspension system
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    Sleeping bag
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    Tarp
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    Under quilt
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    Over quilt
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    Mummypod

Tips For Hammock Camping In Any Environment

No matter where you are in the world, hammock camping may pose different or unique set of challenges.

Consider your environment when you get ready to hammock camp and adjust your gear list and intentions accordingly.

Mountains: 

The weather in the mountains can often fall into freezing temperatures, even late into the summer. If you plan to consistently hammock camp in this region, consider outfitting your hammock for 4-seasons. 

This includes an underquilt, overquilt, tarp and cold weather-rated sleeping bag. Remember, you can’t camp in the trees when you’re above the tree-line.

​​​​By any bodies of water: 

Camping by the water is epic and really convenient for camping. However, unless you’re camping in a high-wind area, the possibility of bugs and mosquitoes coming out to play are high. 

Stagnant water is where they happily live and spawn, so if you tend to frequent these areas, consider purchasing a jungle hammock or bug net.

A jungle hammock is a model of hammock that has a built-in bug net.

Remember to always camp at least 200 feet away from a body of water to prevent water pollution and to avoid disturbing the wildlife.

In the jungle: 

The jungle is where the hammock originated, so you bet this is an ideal environment to get set up. Hammocking provides ideal temperature regulation in these warm climates and protects from the dangerous or poisonous critters below. 

Here is where bug-proofing gets really important. If you think that you can get away with hammocking in the jungle without a bug net, you’re in for a miserable time.

Besides purchasing a net, there are other ways to bug-proof your hammock.

One great way is to treat the outside of your hammock with citronella or permethrin.

If you’re into reading bottle label ingredients, you may know that permethrin is one of the active ingredients found in most bug sprays. Spray a thin layer of permethrin on your gear and let it dry before setting out.

On an island: 

The best tip that I can give you for hammock camping on an island is to not climb into one of those braided rope people-flipping devices. 

On an island, there are plenty of sturdy coconut trees to choose from. And out here, where you can get a nice sea breeze during the day and land breeze during the night, you may not even need to worry about bugs (but it’s always good to be over-prepared).

Like in the jungle, hammocking on an island is great for temperature regulation. It’s good practice to carry a tarp with you too, just in case of sudden rain showers.

In the desert: 

Deserts don’t often have reliable trees to hang from. 

Ever try to hang a hammock from a saguaro cactus?

Please, don’t do that.

Unless you know of an epic oasis with strong trees, you may need to reconsider hammock camping in the desert.

While tying your hammock to rocks may seem like a good option, there are few ways to safely determine that a rock formation can hold your weight throughout the night.

When It’s Time To Give Your Hammock a Bath…

You’ll be excited to learn that these nylon cocoons are much less maintenance than the braided rope system from hell.

In most cases, you can throw these bad boys straight into the washing machine.

The nice thing about nylon, however, is that you will very rarely need to do that. Here are some quick ways to ensure a long and happy life for your hammock.

Always take extra care when setting up and taking down your hammock.

Likewise, if you’re ever camping in bear country, try not to eat or drink where you sleep. It will prevent spills and reduce the chance of unwelcome visitors.

When it’s time to wash the hammock, you’ll know. Or you’ll be so familiar with the smell and stank you produced that a close friend or bold stranger will certainly let you know.

Most can got straight in the wash, but double-check with the manufacturer instructions that came with your hammock beforehand just in case.

To wash, remove the carabiners and wash with cool water and gentle detergent. Wash it alone, or with friends…but just make sure there is nothing else in the washer with the hammock. Once the cycle is done, throw it on a clothesline or hang it from a tree where it can air dry.

Other considerations: 

If you’ve only got a few stains or mud splatters to deal with, consider hand washing. You can hand wash these spots with a sponge and mild detergent.

If you’ve ever hung your suspension system from a sap-bearing tree, you may have regrets.

In case you encounter globs of sap on your gear, use something gentle like rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover. Give it a warm 15-minute soak in dawn dish soap and water, and then get to scrubbing with the alcohol. It’s not the most fun cleaning activity but it will get the job done.

Safety Tips To Consider On Your Journey

After all this, you’re probably ready to hit the trail.

But since nobody really wants to experience death-by-hammock, read on for some final tips.

Whether you bought your hammock new or acquired it second-hand, it’s always best to check for any rips or tears.

Open the hammock wide and study the fabric for imperfections, snags or tears. Perform a similar test on your hammock strap system as well.

When setting up your hammock and accessories, first make certain that you’ve chosen a sturdy tree.

Trees should be 13-17’ apart and at least 8” in diameter. Never hang your hammock from a dead or dying tree. Take extra precaution if you plan to suspend your hammock from an outreaching limb. Because it is much more difficult to judge the strength of a limb versus a tree trunk, under very few circumstances is this recommended.

Like with any campsite, survey the surrounding area to make sure that it is safe.

Areas surrounded by lots of deadfall or rotting trees are dangerous and can put you at risk of getting squished in the night. Nobody wants to get squished in the night.

Once you know that both your equipment and the area are safe, you can now hang your hammock.

If you need to climb up the tree to suspend your hammock, it’s probably too high. You only really need 6-8” of space between the ground and the low point of your hammock. A good set of straps won’t stretch.

When climbing into your hammock, there’s no need for a cannonball.

Move slowly and test your weight first. Don’t trust that you did everything right the first time – I’ve learned that the hard way.

Remember, hospitals are few and far between when adventuring in the backcountry.

Always Follow The Principles Of Leave No Trace 

In order to ensure the continuation of this awesome activity, we first and foremost must consider the environment.

We’re here to celebrate nature after all, not destroy it.

Follow these simple guidelines and tips for every camping adventure:

  • Always use thick straps to wrap the trees. If you do intend to use a rope or system with a thin line, purchase a tree saving strap to go along with it. This ensures that pressure is evenly distributed around the trunk and will not cause damage to the bark.
  • Attach your straps at the thickest point in the tree. This not only ensures the health of the tree but also reduces the risk of harm to you, as the thickest point is likely the strongest as well

  • Never use any permanent hardware to suspend your hammock to a tree. This includes any nails, screws, bolts or similar devices that will harm the tree.

  • Like with any campsite, aim to set up your hammock at least 200 feet away from a body of water. We do this to prevent water pollution and avoid disturbing the wildlife.

  • Always take down your hammock if you are not using it. Wildlife may pass through the area and become tangled in it. If it’s a gusty day, your parachute hammock may hold to its name and take off like a kite. Nobody wants a ripped hammock, especially in the backcountry.

  • Take extra care when climbing in and out of your hammock, for your safety and the safety of the biotic world around you. Exposed roots are very easy to damage.

  • And of course, be considerate. Make certain that there are no land management rules that prevent you from hammocking in the area. If there are fellow campers nearby in the area, be respectful and keep the noise down. 

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