No matter what skill level you have when it comes to the outdoors, it is important to be open to new and exciting ways to get out into the great outdoors and experience all life has to offer. Hammock camping can offer a whole new world of outdoor experiences to those from all walks of life. If you thought that you needed a lot of equipment or knowledge to explore the world around you then think again.
Hammock camping is a low-cost way to get out and have some fun either by yourself or within a group. When you spend less money and time on trip prep then you have more time to take in the world around you and enjoy yourself.
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What Is Hammock Camping?
Hammock camping means using a portable hammock rather than a heavy and bulky tent. For those that want to get out in the great outdoors without the agony of a heavy pack, there is nothing like hammock camping for some memorable outdoor fun.
A hammock packs into a stuff sack that is no larger than a softball. A double hammock is not much larger and allows for two people to camp out almost anywhere.
Hammocks are very easy to set up and simple to use. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a hammock is just something to keep in a backyard or park.
Thousands of people are discovering the joy of connecting more with the natural world around them by sleeping under the stars in a state of the art hammock that offers excellent support.
Hammocks camping allows outdoor fans a chance to truly commune and experience nature. Even just a day trip on a great trail can be enhanced by taking along a hammock. If you have not experienced indulging in a good book while in the great outdoors, writing, or sketching, then you are missing out.
Eliminate Air Mattresses
Hammocks eliminate the need for an air or camping mattress as well. Since you are suspended above the ground, you won’t have the experience of there being too many rocks or debris to camp. Hammocks are the ultimate tool for low impact camping because you will not be disturbing the ground and area around you as much. It is also not crucial to find a level spot to get a comfortable night’s sleep since it is so easy to adjust your hammock suspension straps or system.
If you want to camp in a wet area, it can be a challenge to find a suitable site to pitch a tent. A hammock can actually help you stay more dry and comfortable if you have a few accessories. Plus, who doesn’t want more time to explore and relax? Instead of spending time finding a tent site and bypassing places that you want to spend the night but are low on tent sites, you can stay and experience the places you have the desire to stay at.
Is Hammock Camping Safe?
Like any outdoor activity, there are many factors at play when it comes to safety. Hammock camping is no more dangerous than any other type of camping. As with any outdoor activity it is best to research where you are going to camp so that you can be as prepared as possible.
Tents provide no more safety than a hammock does so there is no reason to be afraid to set out on the trail with your hammock.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to hammock camping safety is to make sure you have set up your hammock properly.
Secured straps with sufficient tension to provide support for you and/or your partner means you won’t experience the unpleasantness of being dropped out of the hammock.
Standard safety rules for any camping trip apply with hammock camping. Packing the essentials for a safe trip will mean that you can rest easy and concentrate on having a fantastic time exploring the world around you. In some ways hammock camping is actually lower impact because the weight of your pack can be significantly reduced since hammocks weigh so much less than a tent.
Hammock Camping Gear List
1. Water Filter and Bottle
Some water bottles may have filters already built in. Investing in a quality water filter is essential for any outdoor enthusiast. Purchasing the best quality, you can afford is not a choice that you will regret. Cheaper water filters take longer to pump enough water to drink and the filters may not be able to be replaced so you can be in a situation where you spend more over time than if you just bought a really good filter to begin with.
2. Layered Clothing Appropriate For The Season
Weather conditions can change rapidly when camping, especially in certain areas and seasons. Layers allow you to easily adjust what you are wearing so you can maintain a higher level of comfort. No matter what season it is, staying dry is one of the most important things to remember. Not only can being wet make you very uncomfortable, it can cause body temperature to drop lower than it should even if the outdoor temperature is not low at all.
3. High Energy Foods and Snacks
Those that are hammock camping often want to travel light. This means meals and snacks should be well thought out. Food weight often makes up a large part of the weight in one’s backpack. At the same time a hammock weighs far less than a tent and packs down to a size no larger than a grapefruit, so this gives the avid camper more room for food and snacks while maintaining a lightweight pack.
It is advisable to always pack a bit more food than you think you will need. Experienced campers often have found themselves in a situation where they are having too much fun and want to extend their trip. This also gives you some extra calories in case weather or other circumstances interfere with your timelier return.
4. A Pack Designed For Your Body Type
Not all packs are created the same way. Using the wrong type of pack during outdoor activities can result in back pain and strain. A properly fitted pack offers good support and is the right size for the person carrying it. Any outdoor supplier can help you find a pack that is right for you.
5. Medical Kit
There are a lot of different types of medical kits out there. If you are just going for a simple overnight trip and want to pack light than get a kit that just has the bare basics. More extended trips require a more extensive kit. If you are camping with a friend, then you can get by with only one medical kit although many people choose to carry at least a small one themselves in case they become separated from their camping partner or group.
If you take prescription medications, it is best to pack a few more does than you think you need just in case you are delayed in returning.
There is little doubt that you will want to capture some awesome memories during your excursions. Of course you don’t want to damage an expensive camera either. If like to take pictures on the trail, then invest in a waterproof carry case with sufficient padding to protect against drops and bumps. Extra batteries for longer trips are also good to have on hand.
7. Inflatable Pillow
Some people might be fine with using extra clothing or similar for a pillow. A good night of sleep is important on any hiking or camping excursion. An inflatable or lightweight pillow may be just the thing you need if you think you can’t do without a pillow.
8. Straps and Carabiners
Hammocks need something to hang by. Heavy duty straps and carabiners are required for hanging a hammock between trees. If you are camping where trees are scarce you will want to be sure to pack a suspension system that has its own poles.
9. Sunglasses and Sunscreen
Proper eye and skin protection is needed no matter what season it is when you go camping. Make sure to apply sunscreen regularly, especially if you sweat a lot on strenuous hikes. Sunglasses are not only helpful on the trail but also for when you are lounging and catching some rays in your hammock.
10. Tarp and Other Coverings
There are many different coverings available for hammock camping. While a cheap blue tarp from the local hardware store can be okay in a pinch or for a quick trip, if you do much hammock camping you will want to upgrade what you are using to something that is longer lasting, easier to pack, and lighter weight. Regular tarps are pretty hard to get packed down to a reasonable size when you are trying to get out with a smaller pack.
Hammock Camping In Winter
In addition to your hammock, you will want to have a lightweight but very warm sleeping bag. Some campers also pack lightweight emergency mylar blankets for added warmth on truly cold nights.
Another option is to make sure to have enough cold weather clothing to keep you warm. The combination that is right for you depends on how cold it gets where you are going. Never underestimate how cold it can get during a winter camping trip. The key to a comfortable trip is to make sure that you invest in lightweight yet warm layers made of synthetic materials. Cotton does not dry out if it gets wet. Any experienced camper will tell you that cotton can increase your odds of hypothermia exponentially.
Packing an “underquilt” or small camping pad for lining your hammock will prevent your bottom section from getting too cold during fall and winter camping excursions. The level of warmth you need largely depends on exactly what conditions you might expect.
High Elevation Hammock Camping
Many people forget that the higher your elevation the lower the temperature no matter what time of year it is. Just because that first night of camping is great with a lightweight underquilt or sleeping bag doesn’t mean you can rely on being comfortable the next night when you are camping at 3,000 feet on the side of a mountain.
The difference in temperature between sea level and 3,000 feet can be 10 degrees Fahrenheit or more depending on the geology and aspect of the mountain. If you are on the North side of the mountain for example you may feel and experience lower temperatures than if you are on a South facing slope.
Hammock Camping In The Rain
Staying dry is essential for a comfortable trip. In some areas it may be hard to find a time to camp that there is not a chance of rain. On extended trips the likelihood that you will not experience any precipitation, decreases with each day of your trip.
Some campers pack lightweight tarps to stretch over hammocks during extended periods of rain. Packing high quality raingear is very important to your level of comfort.
Hammock Camping Setup
Hanging straps are adjustable so you can pick out two trees or even rocks if you can get the straps secured to them.
Make sure that your hammock isn’t hanging too closely above anything sharp or prickly.
While hammock fabric is tough, it can be damaged by objects that are too sharp or abrasive. Also if you are a beginning hammock user then you don’t want to fall out onto anything painful. If weather might become foul during the night, then you might want to go ahead and strap a tarp above you to deflect precipitation and provide a wind break.
Adjustable straps on a tarp make it easier to make minor adjustments. Don’t fall into the trap of buying rope that you have to tie and untie a lot. Strapping is usually stronger than rope and you will never find yourself having to cut it because you can’t get a knot loose.
Hammock Camping Tips
- Camp with a friend and always let others know where you will be. This protects you if something happens such as an injury or if the weather turns foul.
- Check out the weather forecast and get a weather radio. If you are going to be out of cell phone range, then a weather radio can help you know if it is best to head back home or stay out and enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
- Go over your supplies. It is very easy to forget items when packing for any trip. When you are going on a more extended trip, this can significantly impact the type of experience you have. Small items can make all the difference on a trip.
- Always use a bear hang to secure food and other smelly items that can attract wildlife. Bears, raccoons, opossums, and more can wander by at any time but will pass you by if there is not a lot of tempting treats in reach of them.
- Be careful when first getting used to a hammock. Getting in and out of a hammock is not hard but it is different! Set up your hammock at home or a public green space before going out on a camping trip. Hammocks are very easy to use but getting a feel for your hammock before a trip can be useful.
- Little River Co. hammocks are extremely tough but anything that is used often will show signs of wear and tear over the years. It is important to periodically inspect your hammock and straps for damage that could cause them to not perform well in the field. Minor fraying might not be a big deal but tears or cuts can decrease the strength of your hammock.
Spring And Summer Hammock Camping
One of the most phenomenal things about hammock camping is the superb airflow that can be achieved due the fact that you are suspended rather than being on the cold and damp ground. With a hammock there is no unpleasant experience because you are in a muggy and hot tent that does not allow you to sleep without damp discomfort!
Those that live in hot and humid climates will find that a hammock with netting can offer the best lightweight camping experience. If you want a real adventure, take off into the swamps and experience a unique ecosystem and abundant wildlife! The solo hammock is the ultimate camping tool for comfort and lightweight weekend getaways.
Hammock Camping Without Trees
Some places you go there may not be trees suitable for pitching a hammock. Desert locations and sites above the tree line of a mountain pose some challenges. In this case you will need a suspension system. While this does add weight to your pack, the whole set up can be designed to only add a few extra pounds to a pack, so you will still be camping lighter than if you packed a tent, especially if you are hiking with someone else and have a two-person hammock.
Placing poles into the ground can be challenging in some soils but not impossible. A rock or light hammer can be used in many cases.
Through Hiking Long Trails
Packing light is essential for anyone that is planning an extended trip. The Appalachian Trail for example can mean being on the trail for over 6 months, depending on how fast you are capable or want to travel. Hammock camping is increasing in popularity for this very reason.
Hitching up a hammock can be quicker and less cumbersome than dealing with tent set up every night.
Hammocks stay pretty stable during winds whereas tents might require even more tie downs or anchoring. Hammocks also work well in some camp shelters. This can save stretching a tarp over your hammock.
Those on the trail for many months will likely decide to change up their hammock set up as the seasons change. For example, you may want to send your heavyweight blanket home at that next stop on the Appalachian trail and trade it in for a lightweight fleece blanket or vice versa.
Lightweight tarps may be all that you need sometimes but if moving into a rainy season, the investment in a heavier duty tarp or hammock covering can be a valuable investment in your comfort and safety on the trail. Tarps that have adjustable straps are the best because you don’t have to deal with tying or untying a lot of knots every time an adjustment is needed or you set up somewhere different.
There are some places where no matter what type of sprays you have, the bugs and mosquitoes can make it very hard to get a comfortable and refreshing night of rest. Fortunately, mosquito netting is very lightweight and inexpensive even if you get one that is made especially for hammock camping.
Spraying the outside of the netting and your hammock with bug spray can be very effective in reducing bites and other bug related annoyances. This is a good option for those that do not like using bug sprays directly on their skin.
Hammocks don’t expose you or your gear to as much mud, debris, and other junk that leads to smelly and dirty camping. This is a real blessing on longer trips where you can’t really wash your stuff without a big hassle. Hammocks are also very easy to shake dust out of even if you find that some has accumulated.
With a hammock there is no more wasted time scraping debris off of tent bottoms or meticulously having to remove it from inside. Hammocks also stay drier so you don’t have to be in the position of packing up a wet or damp tent and walking with it all day only to open it up and realize that sleeping that night is going to be a musty and/or smelly experience.
Protection From Some Wildlife
While not all bugs fly around, that doesn’t mean you want them crawling around or getting into your food and gear. Since a hammock is suspended, you are protected from such creatures as scorpions, snakes, and other creepy crawlies that can at best startle you out of a peaceful slumber and at worst cause nasty bites or allergic reactions.
Planning Out Some Epic Trips
Those that are new to hammock camping should opt for an initial excursion of only a night or two. This gives you a chance to get used to hammock camping without the stress of a long excursion.
You can learn a lot from a short trip, like what you didn’t really use and what you didn’t bring that would have been useful. Although there are general guidelines for packing discussed in this article, everyone is unique so some of what is in your pack is likely to reflect your individuality.
State Parks And National Forest
If you are lucky enough to be within a short distance of a state park or national forest, then you are probably close to some great trails that are better maintained than most. A well mapped out and clear trail can make it a lot easier for the beginning or experienced outdoor enthusiast.
Detailed maps of an area are very handy for those that want to plan out their trips well. Distance markers mean you can set goals for each day more easily and plan out stops for rest and water. Anyone that has experienced missing a water point can tell you that it can be a nerve wracking experience. There are many different brands of map that are inexpensive and offer a lot of detail.
Brush Up On First Aid For Extended Trips
Obviously many people enjoy thousands of miles of hikes with no serious incidence. At the same time the further away you plan to be from civilization and amenities, the more important it becomes that you are prepared both with supplies and knowledge. There are many organizations that offer first aid and CPR courses for little or no cost.
Just because you had a brief course in high school doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from a refresher before you hit the trail. If a course seems like too much, at least review basic first aid online. A little knowledge can go a long way when things happen quickly on the trail.
Sharing Experiences And Tips
Hammock camping has gained a lot of followers so there are many different forums and Facebook groups that you can join to learn more and share what has worked for you and those you camp with. Those on a budget will quickly realize that hammock camping is a great choice for them.
If you just want to get out on the weekend once in a while, there is few other choices that offer as much comfort and convenience without a huge cost or heavy pack.
If you find that you are doing a lot of hammock camping you might consider starting your own local group of hammock camping enthusiasts.
This can be really easy to do if you are a college student. Planning trips together can mean newfound friendships and experiences and encourage you to get outside more than you would if just camping alone.
Carrying a journal is advised for those that want to capture their experience and memories. Many hammock camping enthusiasts opt for waterproof paper and pencil so they can write whenever they want. You may find that these jottings result in blog posts that a lot of people want to read! There is nothing like being able to look back on your adventures.
Some people are afraid of hammock camping due to largely unfounded fears. Here are some of the most common hammock fears and the reality of the situation.
Fear #1 – I am going to fall out in the middle of the night.
While hammocks do sway when you move or if the wind is especially high, this doesn’t mean you will be pitched violently to the ground. A hammock cradles your body so that unless you pitch back and forth an extreme amount there is no reason to assume you will fall out. Hammocks are usually not pitched so high off the ground that a fall would cause more than a bit of surprise or light bruising. The reality is that very few people actually fall out of a hammock
Fear #2 – This is going to be really uncomfortable with no air mattress.
Hammock camping is actually very comfortable. Although it may take a few nights before you find out exactly the positions that leave you the most comfortable, many find that they would rather use a hammock than fool around with a tent and sleeping bag. The air flow of a hammock is a lot better than that of a tent so it is more comfortable to use in warm and humid climates.
Fear #3 – I won’t be able to get this set up right at the end of the day.
Hammocks are not hard to get set up. In fact, when you look at how many poles and tie downs that can a tent requires, it is easy to see why so many people are choosing hammocks for solo or camping with a partner. After a few set ups you will feel like an expert, especially if you buy high quality straps and suspension systems made for a hammock.
Hammock Benefits Off The Trail
One of the greatest things about a hammock is that they are more useful in daily life than a tent. A hammock can be pitched inside for added sleeping space when you have friends over. Since you can fit one in a purse or small bag, they are easy to take to a park or communal green space so you can relax and study at your leisure.
For those that move around a lot, a hammock can offer a lot of mobile versatility such as temporary sleeping space, makeshift couch, or even temporary hanging storage of small amounts of possessions!