Camping with a hammock has a cozy and comfortable upside once you get the, er, hang of it. Though it might seem at first glance like the realm of the obsessed ultralight backpacker, there are often good reasons to leave your trusty tent at home and head for the trees. One of the biggest benefits: A hammock sleep system is light and packable. It also gets you off the ground in wet weather or soggy environments. And if you frequent steep terrain, or anywhere else a patch of flat ground is hard to come by, your campsite options expand dramatically.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Where to hang your hammock
- How to rig a hammock sleeping system
- How to stay warm, dry, and free from biting bugs
A good night’s sleep starts with scouting out the ideal campsite. Before you leave home, check local regulations to make sure hammock camping is allowed in the area. In the field, Leave No Trace guidelines still apply, such as camping at least 200 feet from water sources.
Next, find your trees. You want a pair of sturdy, mature trunks spaced to fit your hammock’s suspension system (typically, 10 to 20 feet apart). Steer clear of trees with large dead or broken branches that might fall on you (aka widowmakers) or that have signs wildlife is living in them. Ideally, you’ll be somewhat sheltered from the wind as well.
String it Up
Time to hang your hammock. Make sure you’re using thick straps, never rope, to protect the trees’ bark. Straps should be 1.5 to 2 inches wide. Secure the straps so that they come off the trees at about a 30-degree angle, and the lowest point of the hammock is at least 18 inches off the ground. (This might take a little practice and adjustment to get right.) And don’t hang it taut: You want a little sag in the empty hammock for the most comfortable experience.
TIP: Hammocks don’t have vestibules to protect your gear. Cover your pack with a waterproof cover or garbage bag before you hit the hay.