Pelican Flyer • December 15, 2020
Lightweight and hassle-free, hammock camping has become a popular way to replace tents in the great outdoors. Luckily, with durable hammock brands and ingenious features for sleeping and staying dry, it’s become easier than ever to enjoy sleeping off the ground and swaying under leafy canopies.
However, even if you’re an experienced camper, there are still a few tricks that newbie hammock campers need to learn to ensure their safety and have a good night’s sleep.
Make your experience a pleasant one with these nine need-to-know hammock camping tips.
Hammock camping does not mean the cord-woven variety you might see swinging on porches. Hammock camping requires something a bit more durable and lasting, capable of withstanding the elements and more. However, even if you visit a recreational retailer and peruse their hammocks, it can be overwhelming. Here are some styles and features to consider for a decent outdoor hammock:
Material – Seek out lightweight nylon style hammocks that slip into a compression bag. Not just any nylon will do, though. Look for a 70D ripstop nylon that can withstand abrasive objects and hold your entire body weight.
Straps – Plain old rope just won’t do. Instead, high-quality webbing straps offer extra strength and slip prevention while protecting the tree’s bark. Ensure you use strong carabiners to clip to your hammock as well.
One- vs.Two-Person Size – Two-person hammocks don’t just mean two people. They also offer more room for sleeping. However, a one-person size can save weight in your pack when backcountry camping.
Add-on Features – Hammock camping is much more comfortable with some add-on features, such as a rainfly for rain and wind protection and a mesh lining to keep bugs out.
Hammocks are great for backcountry camping, but not necessarily winter camping. Instead of feeling like a plastic-wrapped frozen hot dog, aim to camp in more agreeable temperatures. Summer is an excellent time for hammock camping with the nylon material allowing breathability instead.
That being said, you can still find ways to experience hammock camping in the winter. Investing in an underquilt can protect you from windchill and temps dropping into the 30s and 40s. An underquilt can also keep you warm when the temps drop during spring nights. The only downside is that they are bulky, which might be a nuisance when backcountry camping.
For the best support, pick a broad, healthy tree. Use momentum to get the straps anchored around the trunk, hugging it if you must. Another consideration is to make sure the trees you pick are relatively healthy, free of broken or brittle branches and other precarious dangers like hornets’ nests and beehives. Also, check the ground for things like ants as well. Bonus points if you find a healthy tree with good shade.
It’s also important to choose well-spaced trees. As a general rule, the tighter the hammock, the firmer the “mattress.” So take time to get the spacing right, adjusting the sag with daisy chains along the straps for relaxation or sleeping. Bump down the carabiner for a looser hammock and up for tighter.
The best, most comfortable sleeping position for hammocks is on your back or sides. Stomach sleepers may struggle to get accustomed to these positions, but you’ll sleep well knowing you won’t wake up with a backache.
While hammocks are great for solo camping, chances are you plan to camp with others. And when hanging hammocks, you need to find strong trees, which might leave you limited in choices. For situations like these, hang one end of multiple hammocks from the most robust tree, stacking the anchor straps along the trunk.
Should you only have two good trees, you’ll also need to leave ample room between each hammock so they don’t sag on top of the camper below. Alternatively, you can also use ENO’s Fuse Tandem Hammock System, which offers an anchor point that allows you to use two hammocks side by side.
While hard coolers are excellent at keeping ice cold and food chilled, you’ll need a guyline to secure foods that can attract critters – bears, especially! A guyline can also help you hang dry clothes and your backpack, too. Car camping makes it easy to store food and a hard cooler, but guylines are imperative when backcountry camping. Taking a nylon rope, create loops to attach carabiners to hang bags easily. If you are backcountry camping, a general rule is to hang a bear bag at least 200 feet away from your general site.
Hammock camping without the indoor space of a tent requires a bit more ingenuity. Adding solar-powered lanterns or stringing up ENO twilights LED camp lights over your hammock can help you see at night and add some ambiance. However, a headlamp works just as nicely, too! You can even find attachable pouches and portable stands to keep your water bottle and backpack off the ground and close at hand.
A hammock left unattended can invite curious creatures, not to mention attract dirt and insects. Always make sure to take down the hammock if you plan to be gone for a few hours. For convenience, you can leave the straps attached and remove the nylon hammock only.
After your hammock camping trip, clean your hammock and straps. From sap to dirt and more, your straps and hammock can accumulate more than you think. And it’s best to keep them in good shape so they don’t harm your gear. Most hammocks can be tossed in a front-loading washer on a delicate setting with a gentle, mild detergent. Always remember to remove the carabiners and line dry it!
Since straps hug sap-filled trees, this is often the most annoying part to clean. For both the nylon and straps, get off any sticky residue with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Test a small section of the nylon first, just in case! Next, apply generously and work it onto the areas and straps until it releases.
Ready to try hammock camping? Whether backpacking the wilderness or car camping, capture the moment with some travel photography and bring along a travel case for camera protection, too.
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