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Goodbye Tents, Hello Hammock Camping

Goodbye Tents, Hello Hammock Camping

By Teddy Dondanville, Contributing Blogger

Tent camping is one of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors. Whether we are car camping with friends or deep in the backcountry on a multi-day backpacking trip, the fact remains the same– we sleep great in tents.

However, lately, we’ve been intrigued by a new way of going camping– hammock camping. Hammocks offer a unique experience that is both practical and comfortable. 

So, if you are intrigued like we are– keep reading to learn about what makes hammock camping unique and for some tips to hammock camp like a pro. 

The Benefits of Hammock Camping

We wouldn’t recommend something if there weren’t some serious advantages to doing so. The same goes for hammock camping– compared to tent camping, some significant benefits make hammock camping a totally viable way to camp outside.

  • Hammocks have little to no effect on ground foliage.

  • Ultralight hammock sleep systems can be lighter and more portable than tents.

  • Hammocks function as sleeping areas and as camp chairs.
  • Hammocks do not require level ground, just a pair of alive and sturdy trees, which are generally plentiful.
  • Sleeping in a hammock offers better ventilation and temperature regulation than tents.   

The Drawbacks of Hammock Camping

But of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t include some drawbacks to consider.

  • Depending on the size, hammocks can be uncomfortable for two people and are not designed for three people, so they might not be a good option for families.

  • You can only hammock camp below the treeline or in regions with adequate trees, so places like the alpine and desert are out.
  • By themselves, hammocks can be colder and less weatherproof than tents; however, there are add-ons you can use to make your hammock system more robust (more on that later).

  • Hammocks offer no interior storage as a tent does; however, the entire underside of your hammock can be your storage vestibule instead. 

The Hammock Sleep System

Like tent camping, to be comfortable while hammock camping, you need to invest in some important equipment. 

Some hammock sleep systems are premade– all you have to do is purchase the complete system and pack a sleeping pad and bag. Or you can piece together a custom hammock system with your favorite products. 

Regardless of your approach, you should end up with a complete hammock sleep system consisting of– a hammock, suspension system, an underquilt, a rain tarp, and bug netting.    

The Hammock

Hammocks come as singles or doubles. Single-person hammocks are between four and five feet wide, while double-person hammocks are between five and six feet wide. 

Usually, hammock campers prefer a double hammock because they are roomier, even if they plan to sleep alone.

All hammocks are lightweight, but some are more so than others. A heavier-duty hammock is not a bad idea if you prefer car camping. However, if you want to hammock camp while backpacking, you’ll want to consider the lightest options. 

A Suspension System

Most hammocks are sold separately from the suspension system. Suspension systems are made from strong webbing material that you attach to a sturdy tree trunk or branch. Suspension systems come in different lengths, and all are adjustable.

A Sleeping Pad

Hammocks are comfy by themselves but can be comfier with a sleeping pad. If you use an inflatable pad, you can slightly deflate it to help it conform better to your hammock's shape. And if you use a foam pad dedicated to hammock camping, you can trim it to fit perfectly.

The Underquilt

Hammocks can be less insulating than tents. That is until you add an underquilt. Underquilts are supplemental insulation that wraps underneath your hammock to reflect your body heat and keep you warmer. 

A Rain Tarp

Sleeping in a hammock and looking at the stars is one of the best things ever. But if the forecast calls for rain, you’ll want to add a rain tarp to your hammock system. Purpose-built hammock rain tarps can be rigged above your hammock using an extra guyline. 

Bug Netting

If you want protection from insects, like mosquitos, hammock bug nets are the way to go. The best bug nets offer 360º coverage; however, other designs will only fit over the top.   

Tips for Setting Up Your Hammock

Improving your systems and getting “good” at hammock camping takes practice, just like when you learned to tent camp. So to avoid common pitfalls, here are some tips to help you start off on the right foot.

  1. Before going hammock camping, check local land regulations to ensure that hammocks are allowed. If the surrounding environment is sensitive, some areas prohibit hanging items in trees, like clotheslines and hammocks.

  2.  When you are not sleeping in your hammock, break it down to prevent accidental injury to local wildlife.
  3. When hanging your hammock, aim for a 30º strap angle. If you cannot achieve the perfect 30º, go slightly steeper rather than flatter. But ultimately, choose what feels most comfortable.

  4. Hang your hammock no more than 18” off the ground so entry and exit are easy.

  5. Hang your hammock over a durable surface, like gravel, dirt, or rock, so you don’t damage sensitive foliage getting in and out.
  6. Position your hammock on the strongest and thickest part of the tree trunk or branch. When possible, hang your straps over a branch (instead of under) for extra support.

  7. Always set up your hammock in established campsites. If you are in the backcountry without established sites, choose an area at least 200 feet away from trails, water, and other campers. 

Final Thoughts– Hammock Camping Can Be a Fun New Way Enjoy the Outdoors

If you have been looking for a fun new way to enjoy the outdoors, hammock camping may be the answer. Compared to tent camping, hammocks offer many unique benefits that may make your experience better and more comfortable.

And there’s only one way to find out– to try it for yourself! Have fun out there and be safe.