How To Choose the Right Hammock for Camping

Select the best hammock for you, whether it’s your mainstay outdoor sleep system or lightweight camp lounger.

Whether you’re napping, lounging, or sleeping under the stars, a hammock is the perfect companion for hanging outdoors. To find your ideal hammock setup, there’s more to consider than overall comfort and versatility. If you’re planning on using it as a camp mainstay or lightweight sleep system substitute, there’s also durability to factor, ease of set-up, weight and packability, not to mention potential overnight protection from the elements, between inclement weather and pesky bugs. 

Get Familiar: Hammock Parts

A hammock is a big swath of fabric hanging between two points. Materials are typically synthetic, lightweight, and durable (usually ripstop nylons); each end is gathered together and connected to a suspension system designed to affix the fabric to trees, posts, or rocks that anchor the hammock in place. Different methods of gathering the fabric will lend different shapes to the hammock while varying suspension systems will determine comfort and how easy it is to enter/exit.

In general, look for quality fabrics, webbing with reinforced bar tacking, and included connection hardware (many come with carabiners). Then consider what accoutrements you might need (bug net, rain fly, gear storage, underquilt, etc.), and if the hammock is duly compatible.

Style Priorities: Sleeping vs. Lounging

In a hammock, sleeping and lounging can look very different. Determining your needs will help narrow down your choices, whether it’s a quality night’s sleep in the backcountry (e.g., flat-laying comfort, light weight), or simply chilling at the crag or campsite (e.g., pockets, the ability to sit up). 


The best way for most people to comfortably sleep in a hammock is diagonally. Positioning yourself in this way spreads the fabric’s surface area out, distributes your weight, and creates a larger and flatter surface area to snooze on. The square footage of the fabric tells you the hammock cavity’s maximum size: too small and you won’t be able to sprawl diagonally to get comfortable; too big and you’ll trap yourself at the bottom without the tension needed to keep the fabric taught, and therefore flat. Look for a hammock at least 8.5 feet long and between 4 and 5 feet wide for a single, or greater than 6 feet wide for a double. Now, note the ends. Where and how the fabric connects to the webbing that secures to anchor points plays a large role in comfort, which greatly depends on your preferred sleeping position.

Back and sometimes side sleepers: Consider end-gathered hammocks. These have the fabric bunched at the ends—when hung, they resemble a banana.

    Pros: Easier to set up; lighter; packed size is smaller; more economical

    Cons: Not as ergonomic for some sleepers.

Back, side, and stomach sleepers: Check out bridge-style hammocks. These hammocks have bars at each end that spread the fabric out—when hung, they look like a levitating bed.

    Pros: Closer feel to a cot or ground-sleep system; easier to use with a sleeping pad.

    Cons: Harder to set up; typically heavier; packed size is larger; often more expensive.

Other sleep considerations: An asymmetrical design will give you more room to sleep diagonally. Also, a dedicated footbox will give your sleeping bag’s footbox more room to stay lofted, and thus can do a better job at keeping your feet warm. 


A hammock is an excellent portable seating system to bring to a crag, park, festival campsite, or to simply hang in your backyard. You’ll want to focus on end-gathered hammocks, as they’ll provide ways to sit up comfortably as well as lay down.

Lounge considerations: Bigger fabric footprints will allow more people to sit up in a hammock. (Double hammocks are best for multiple people lounging, as it provides more fabric and higher weight capacity.) To sit, use the hammock “sideways,” relative to how you’d sleep: Pick an edge of the fabric for your bottom, then pull the rest of the fabric up your back to lean against. Multiple people can sit this way, depending on weight capacity and space. 

Setup simplicity: The difficulty of the hammock’s set-up and break-down may impact your ability to relax in it. Avoid frustration with easy-to-use, adjustable buckles, straps, and/or whoopie slings. (A whoopie sling is a thin cord with an adjustable loop, originally invented by arborists to securely hang from trees.) 

Additional Features To Factor 

Weight capacity

How many pounds can you load up in the hammock? Think about lounging with multiple friends, calling your dog aboard, or possibly storing gear.


Is there a way to build your hammock system depending on the adventure ahead? Forgoing integrated bug nets or tarps means you can take the parts you need and leave the rest at home to lighten your load on a day-trip, but still allows you to add on for extended trips later. 


What’s included? Check to make sure you have, or can purchase, the components you need. Not all hammocks come with suspension straps, weather protection, or connection hardware.


Do you want pockets to stuff a headlamp or book inside, or loops to hang gear from? Check what storage systems are built into the hammock.  

Stuff sack

Not all hammocks will come with stuff sacks. Do you care about how small it packs down? If so, check for a compression or stuff sack.

Protection From the Elements 

When it’s cold, buggy, or extra sunny, add some accessories to your hammock system. 

Bug nets

Integrated screens and nets make all the difference in buggy places, but aren’t always necessary. A removable bug net maximizes your hammock’s use for varying purposes (e.g., backcountry overnights and park hangouts) in different locations.

Rain flies

These tarp-like aids will protect you from precipitation. Most hammocks don’t come with a rain fly, so you’ll likely have to purchase it separately. Ensure it’s compatible with your hammock and check the set-up process (you might need guy-lines or ways to connect the fly to the ground or trees).

Sleeping pad

If temperatures drop, consider using a sleeping pad to help insulate you from below. Hammock-shaped sleeping pads are available, but if you’re working with a traditional ground pad, try deflating it a bit to help it mold to the shape of your hammock. Compatible under-quilts are also an effective way to insulate and stay warm.

Tree huggers

Leaving no trace while using a hammock in the outdoors entails not stripping off bark or scarring tree trunks. Also, be forewarned that in many cities and towns, hanging items from public trees is prohibited completely, or only allowed if “tree huggers” are present—protective padding that wraps around a tree truck and protects it from wear or damage from hammock (or slackline) connector straps—so, be sure to check local ordinances before stringing up your hammock for a relaxing day at the park.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.