Tips for Hammock Camping
Camping is an awesome way to enjoy some time away from the everyday grind. You, family, and friends get to go fishing, swimming, boating, hiking in nature, you get to see wildlife, roast marshmallows, and tell scary stories around the campfire. It sure is a hoot, especially when you’re out there with your friends and get to enjoy some cold ones too!
After a long day of drinking beer and telling scary stories, it’s time to get a good night’s sleep, but nobody wanted to set up a tent. It’s too hard, so the hammock seemed like a reasonable choice.
Camping hammocks can be great additions to your outdoor adventuring. They tend to be quite versatile and can be set up virtually anywhere as long as there are trees. They are usually quite affordable, and pretty comfortable too. However, get the wrong hammock and/or set it up the wrong way, and you are going to have some problems.
It’s why we are here today, to provide you with some essential hammock camping tips, so you can be comfortable, get a good night’s sleep, and be ready for another day of hardcore adventuring. Check out these awesome options in hammocks for camping.
Get a Good Rainfly
Perhaps one of the most important tips that we can give you when it comes to camping with your hammock, is that you should always pay attention to the weather. It’s hard to say, but we have gone camping more than once and have gotten absolutely obliterated by some rain during the middle of the night. No, it’s not fun at all when you’re enjoying dreams of fish to be caught in the morning, only to be jolted out of it by a downpour.
Hammocks can be quite comfortable to sleep in, and they tend to be quite easy to set up as well, but one thing which a basic hammock does not excel at is keeping you dry.
Many hammocks don’t come with any kind of rain protection, often known as a rainfly, and some come with mediocre rain protection options. What we mean to say here is that you need to purchase a hammock that has a top-quality rainfly, or you need to buy a good one on the side. Otherwise, endure a soggy experience camping in the rain.
A good rainfly should be made out of some kind of totally waterproof material. Something like parachute nylon or rubberized plastic works well, just as long as it is 100% waterproof. It should be spanned up above the hammock, just around a foot above your head, enough to give you some breathing and moving room, but not so far up that rain can get you from the sides.
Any way you put it, when you’re sleeping in a hammock, you do not want to get rained on, so a well-placed and high-quality rainfly is the key to your comfort.
Bug Netting Is Key
If you have ever gone camping in the woods, especially in the deep woods or near water, you probably know that mosquitos rule these areas. Between the mosquitos, black flies, horse flies, and other critters like ticks, camping out in the woods exposes you to all of those bloodsuckers. Camping stops being fun when instead of sleeping, you are spending your time fighting an army of blood-sucking insects that want nothing more than to feast on you. It hurts, it’s super itchy, and it leaves you getting up in the morning without any sleep at all.
This is usually not a big problem when it comes to tents, because tents have doors and screening specially designed to keep insects out. However, many hammocks are open at the top, and if you are going camping in the woods, you do not want to purchase a hammock that doesn’t have bug netting. It’s the last camping mistake you’ll make and it might just drive you to call it quits a few days early.
Bug netting on your hammock doesn’t have to be anything super special, just good enough to keep all varieties of insects at bay, and tough enough so you can touch it and move around on the hammock without having the netting rip or come apart on you. The best hammocks will come with this bug netting, and you should be able to remove or attach it at will, which, by the way, should also be true for the rainfly.
Both the rainfly and bug netting should be removable, and you should be able to put them on at the same time too, in case it rains and you are being bombarded by an army of mosquitos.
Hammock Material – Breathability and Stickiness
Yet another tip when it comes to choosing the best hammock for camping has to do with the material which the hammock is made of. This can be a bit difficult to decide because different materials have different features. One go-to option is parachute nylon. The reason for this is because it tends to be the toughest and most durable material that can hold up a lot of weight and is nearly impossible to rip, at least not with normal use.
Parachute nylon is fine in this sense, but what you need to know about it is that it’s not all that breathable, which means that you are going to be a bit hot, and then you get sweaty. Seeing as the nylon is usually also waterproof, when you get sweaty, the hammock is going to get damp and sticky, and that moisture will have nowhere to go, especially with a rainfly on top. However, this material tends to be pretty soft and supportive, which is a bonus.
On the other hand, some hammocks’ bases are made out of some kind of mesh, usually a thicker rope mesh. The benefit which this kind of material has is that it is much more breathable and allows air to flow freely, so you won’t get as hot and sweaty on those humid summer nights, and if you are sweaty, at least that moisture has somewhere to go. The bad part about this material is that it just is not very comfortable or supportive, because you’re lying on a net, more or less.
There are some options that meet somewhere in the middle of mesh and nylon, but quite honestly they usually aren’t great. Which option you go with, a solid and supportive nylon hammock material that is not very breathable and can get sticky, or a mesh-like hammock that is breathable, but not very supportive or super comfortable, is all up to you, and no, it’s not a great choice to have to make.
Single-Person Hammocks Take The Day
Ok, so you and your partner, or you and the kids want to go camping, and you figure, hey, now is a good time to test out that hammock. “We can sleep in the hammock,” or so you think. Sure, two-person hammocks are advertised as being a great fit for couples or for several kids to sleep in, and it sounds all fun and cozy … that is until you try it out.
Take it from people who have experienced this firsthand, having two people in the same hammock just doesn’t go well. It’s fine for a few minutes, maybe even an hour or two, and sure, it can feel romantic, but things start to go downhill pretty quickly from there.
If you have ever slept in a hammock, you know that the bottom is soft, which means that the center of gravity is wherever the biggest backside is laying, which is fine for a one-person hammock, because you just kind of sink into the middle; however, things change when there are two people in a hammock, especially two people of significantly different weights and sizes.
What ends up happening is that the heaviest person causes the hammock to sag where they are laying, and the lighter person then ends up rolling downward in that direction. It can get pretty uncomfortable.
There are camping hammocks that have solid bases, kind of like a suspension bridge bed, which does alleviate this problem to a certain extent. However, what ends up happening with these is that the whole hammock then ends up leaning in the direction of the heavier person, and it’s not enjoyable for the lighter person. So, although two-person hammocks seem romantic, the usual result is two super-grumpy people who haven’t gotten any sleep and don’t want to look at each other come morning.
Set Up Upwind From Your Camp Fire
The last time we went camping, we thought it would be super nice to set the hammock up right beside the campfire, or well, a few feet away from it, but close enough to feel the heat, especially when the wind blew in our direction. Yeah, this was an absolutely massive mistake, one that ended up with us getting no sleep, smelling like smoke, not being able to breathe right half the time, and relocating the hammock come morning.
Simply put, if you can, check the weather to see what the wind strength and direction is. If all else fails, use some common sense to see where the wind is blowing. You don’t want to be close to the fire and downwind from it, or else you’ll end up getting smoke in your face all night long, and sleeping like that is nearly impossible.
That being said, if you are close to a body of water, there is going to be a fair amount of wind either way, especially during the night. Water retains heat faster than solid land, so during the night, the warmer water causes air to rise from the water’s surface, which then means that colder air from the land blows outwards toward the water to replace the rising air, thus creating wind.
So, if possible, have the fire between you and the water when you are hammock camping near water, as generally speaking the wind will blow towards the water. However, this is not always the case, but whatever the case is, don’t be downwind from the fire when you set up your hammock.
Always Heed The Maximum Weight Limit
So, let’s tell a little story here. It’s short. We got a really nice looking hammock, one which said that the weight limit was 150 pounds. Let’s say I am a little heavier than 150 pounds, closer to 200. Yeah, it didn’t go so well. About 10 minutes after I get on the darn thing, sure enough, my oversized backside went crashing down to the ground.
The moral of the story is that if the hammock says 200 pounds, it means 200 pounds, not more, and generally speaking, even a bit less. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, look for a hammock that can hold up 300 at the least. Your movement, especially fast movements put a lot of pressure and strain on these things.
It’s better to get a hammock with a weight limit that greatly exceeds your own body weight, so you can be safe and secure, rather than ripping through the material and crashing to the ground. It hurts, and if at all possible, should probably be avoided.
Proper Hammock Support Lines and Setup
One very important hammock camping tip to keep in mind is that without the right support lines and camping hammock setup, no matter what you do, you’ll end up with your backside on the ground. Now, there are 3 options you can go with — hammock hanging hardware, hammock straps, or rope, so let’s quickly take a look at each option.
Using nothing more than rope to secure a hammock in between trees is certainly a cost-effective way to go. Rope is inexpensive and you probably already have some laying around.
Next, using rope is in theory quite easy, because you just have to tie the hammock loops to the rope, then the other end of the rope to the trees on each side of the hammock. That said, getting the right knot going, the right amount of tension, and the right security when using a rope for this is not easy. It takes some knowledge, skill, and know-how.
The next way to secure a hammock in between trees is by using straps. Generally speaking, these straps usually come with the hammock you buy, and they usually have some kind of ratcheting system to tighten the straps for easy tension adjustment.
These straps are usually not very cheap, especially if you buy high-quality ones, but they are much easier to work with. Tightening them, adjusting tension, and getting them to be secure is all easily done, but they do have length restrictions and can be pricey.
By far the most secure way to hang your hammock between trees is by using mounting hardware, which means screw-in J hooks, chains, and S hooks. This setup requires a bit more time to execute, as you do have to screw the J hooks into your trees, securely and in the right position.
However, because you are actually screwing right into the trees, it’s also by far the most secure, and you won’t come crashing down. On the other hand, by doing this, you are damaging the trees, plus if you mess up the positioning, repositioning it will take some time.
What you also need to think about is that your hammock should be set up between 18 and 24 inches off the ground, but no higher and no lower. Moreover, the support lines, whatever you have chosen to use, should be at a 30-degree angle from the trees down to the hammock, and tension is important too; you want to create enough tension to keep you upright, but not so much that the hammock is stiff. We also have a more in-depth guide for hanging a hammock.
Hammock Camping Tips: Final Thoughts
So, a good portion of our hammock camping tips pertain to choosing the right hammock and hammock accessories. We really cannot stress just how important this is. A good rainfly, some bug netting, a comfortable base, and if possible, no more than 1 person per hammock, are all tips that will help when sleeping in a hammock.
Try not to set up downwind from the campfire, use solid trees, and don’t rush securing the hammock to trees either. The bottom line is that it can be comfortable and fun to sleep in a hammock under the stars, but it needs to be done right and be well-planned.