Hammock camping is one of the best alternatives to tent camping.
Not only is it fun to sleep suspended above the ground between two trees, but it’s also surprisingly comfortable. The gear is very lightweight, making a hammock an excellent choice for weight-conscious backpackers. Hammock camping (with a rainfly) is also beneficial for camping in the rain since it keeps you up off the muddy ground.
If you’re new to hammock camping, then you’re in the right place. Today, I’m going to break down exactly what gear you need to hammock camp comfortably. I also discuss how to set up your gear, including your hammock, rainfly, and bug net.
Here is my time-tested hammock camping checklist.
Quick Hammock Camping Checklist
Before we break down the nitty-gritty of each piece of gear, here’s a quick list of the hammock camping equipment you need:
Don’t ever go hammock camping without these two things:
- Camping Hammock
- Hammock Straps (or Rope or Suspension System)
Additional Suggested Gear
- Rainfly (or Tarp)
- Bug or Mosquito Net
- Guylines & Stakes
- Top Quilt
- Sleeping Pad
Gear You Need for Hammock Camping
While a hammock (and a hanging method) is the only piece of gear you really need for hammock camping, investing in a few important accessories helps guarantee a much more enjoyable trip.
Here’s how to select the best camping hammock and accessories:
The most important piece of hammock camping gear is, of course, the hammock itself.
Your hammock must be lightweight, durable, and comfortable. Focus on models specifically made for camping and/or backpacking as they are typically much lighter and more durable than most backyard hammocks and other home hammocks.
Camping hammocks are great not only for camping and backpacking, but also for bicycle touring, kayaking and canoeing, snowshoeing, and so much more.
Check out our guide to the best camping hammocks in 2020 for more information.
Although there are a lot of great options, two of my favorite camping hammocks are the ENO SingleNest (or ENO DoubleNest for two users) and the Hennessy Explorer Deluxe Asym Zip. Or, if you prefer an all-in-one hammock with a built-in folding stand, the Mock ONE is hard to beat.
You can’t hang a hammock without the proper hammock straps!
Although some camping hammocks come with straps, you’re sometimes required to buy them separately.
Hammock tree straps are the most effective hammock hang method. Not only are they easy to use, but they protect the trees from damage as well.
Don’t have hammock straps? You can also hang a hammock with rope. Yet another option is to bring your own hammock stand to the campsite so you don’t have to rely on hanging between trees.
Make sure you select hammock straps that are compatible with your hammock model.
Hammock Camping Accessories
These hammock accessories all make hammock camping much more enjoyable, especially if there’s a chance of wind, rain, snow, cold, or even lots of sun.
My number one hammock camping accessory. It keeps you warm and dry in rain and provides shade from the hot sun in warm weather. Look for a hammock rainfly that’s large enough to cover your entire hammock.
Hammock Bug Net
Mosquitos are the scourge of campers almost everywhere. Although some camping hammocks have built-in bug nets, it’s essential to bring your own if yours does not. A bug net helps keep mosquitos and other creepy crawlers at bay. The best models offer 360-degree protection.
Specifically designed to fit comfortably inside a camping hammock, an underquilt adds a whole lot of insulation to your setup, allowing you to stay even warmer at night. An underquilt is essential for cold weather, especially for hammock camping in winter.
Hammock Top Quilt
A top quilt adds yet another layer of warmth to your hammock sleeping setup. Pair with an underquilt and a winter sleeping bag for a one-two punch of warmth.
Hammock Sleeping Pad
Although it’s possible to use your normal camping sleeping pad in your hammock, a special hammock sleeping pad is an even more effective bet. Designed to fit into the narrow confines of your hammock, these sleeping pads not only help increase nighttime comfort, but boost insulation and warmth as well.
Other Useful Items
A few additional items I like to bring on hammock camping trips include:
- Carabiners – A few extra carabiners help you suspend a hammock, attach gear to your hammock, attach gear to your backpack, and so much more.
- Paracord – There are a million uses of paracord for camping. For hammock camping, a length of paracord can safely suspend your hammock or rainfly in a pinch.
- Stakes – Hammock or tent stakes make it easier to set up a tarp, rainfly, or another shelter that uses guylines, especially when hammocking in the wind.
How to Set Up Your Camping Hammock
Hanging a hammock really isn’t all that difficult. Although it’s important to follow all manufacturer-specific directions, you can set up most camping hammocks and accessories in much the same way.
Here’s how to set up your hammock and camping accessories:
How to Hang a Hammock
Hang your hammock correctly by following these basic rules (but, remember, that every hammock model is slightly different):
Find Anchor Points
Start by selecting two solid anchor points.
For camping and backpacking, your hammock anchor points are almost always two trees. These trees must be sturdy enough to support your full weight suspended in your hammock. Make sure there are no dangerous branches (window makers) hanging precariously overhead.
The two trees (or other anchor points) should be about 10 to 15 feet apart. This will help you achieve the most comfortable hammock hang angle possible.
Attach Straps to Trees
Now, it’s time to attach your hammock straps to your anchor points.
Although all straps work differently, most use a looping system. Simply, loop one end of the strap around the tree and pass it through one of the loops on the strap.
Adjust your straps so your hammock hangs at about waist height. You want it to sit about 18 inches off the ground when your body weight is added.
Take your time while fixing the anchor points. There’s a good chance the ground is uneven where you’re camping, so you want to make sure that your hammock is hung evenly between the two trees at the same height.
Attach Hammock to Straps
Once both support straps are firmly attached to the two trees, attach your hammock to the straps.
Some models have the straps built into the hammock. Other models require you to attach them separately.
Attaching the straps to the hammock separately basically just consists of clipping one carabiner on the hammock itself to one strap and the other carabiner to the other strap.
Adjust Sleeping Position
It might take a little experimentation to find your preferred hammock camping sleeping position, especially on your first few outings.
One common beginner hammock mistake I see is people trying to make their hammock too flat. Since you’re used to sleeping in a flat position on your bed, it might make sense to try to do this with your hammock.
But hammocks are not designed to be used like this. A hammock has a natural curve. Use this natural curve to your advantage for the most comfortable sleeping position. Making your hammock too flat also makes the sides of the hammock too tight. It will squeeze you from the sides and feel constricting. I like my hammock at roughly a 30-degree angle to the trunks of the trees that I’m using as my anchor points.
Another tip: lay diagonally in your hammock to achieve a flatter lay without hanging your hammock too flat.
Setting Up Your Hammock Rainfly
Most hammock rainflies and tarps utilize a ridgeline running through the center that can be attached to the same trees you’re using as your anchor points.
Attach the ridgelines high enough to give yourself plenty of space to stay comfortable inside your hammock, but low enough that the edges of the rainfly offer you total protection from the elements.
Most hammock tarps and rainflies also have a number of guylines. Attach each of these to the ground with a camping stake. The guylines and stakes keep the tarp or rainfly pulled tight. This not only helps add protection, but it also prevents water from pooling up during the night. A tight rainfly is also less susceptible to buffeting in the wind.
There are three main ways to adjust your tarp or rainfly depending on weather conditions.
The first is the regular pitch. The rainfly should extend equally on both sides of the hammock. It doesn’t need to be held tight to the hammock.
The second is the storm pitch. The rainfly should extend well past the sides of the hammock. It should be held as tight as possible against the hammock by attaching the guylines at a steeper angle.
The final is the fair-weather pitch. This is used when you aren’t expecting rain and want a better view. The rainfly should extend past the side of the hammock on one side and be attached at a more horizontal angle on the other.
Setting Up Your Hammock Bug Net
The last piece of hammock camping gear we’ll talk about setting up is your hammock bug net.
There are two main ways to set up a hammock camping bug net, depending on the specific type that you have.
The first, and most popular, is setting up a separate bug net. These extend around the entire hammock to offer 360-degree protection. They generally attach to the trees you’re using as anchor points to allow the entire hammock to fit inside.
The other option is a bug net that’s built into your hammock. These bug nets are usually built in to the top of the hammock opening to provide coverage on top while the hammock provides coverage on the bottom. Most have a zipper opening to climb through.
Hammock camping is seriously fun – but you must bring the right gear!
In addition to a camping hammock, you’ll need suspension straps plus a rainfly and bug net. An underquilt, top quilt, and sleeping pad can provide extra warmth and comfort.
If you have any more questions on how to set up your hammock for camping, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!
Tuesday 15th of June 2021
No no no. This is bad advice!
Paracord is inferior because it stretches. Also, it can break because of the variability of strength. Us Amstel Steel or another non-stretching nylon cord.
A guyline is essential if you are planning to sleep.. Alway sleep at an angle, so your back is flat. This is great if you already have back problems and better than a tent.
Don't use cheap carbiners! Use the ones for climbing. They will bend otherwise.
You don't need to overspend on a hammock. I I highly recommend hammocks with built-in mosquito mesh.
You will need a tarp in case it rains. Chill Gorilla is great but there are other brands. Use Amstel Steel for the ridgeline as well.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
Just got my first hammock setup and cannot wait to use it this summer in the boundary waters. I am hoping to ditch the tent for good.
Monday 23rd of March 2020
That’s awesome. Can’t wait to hear how you like your hammock setup.
Thursday 15th of February 2018
Great post Jake,
I love hammocks because they don't weigh your backpack down and they're super comfortable!
Thursday 15th of February 2018
I agree - hammock camping is awesome!
Tuesday 13th of February 2018
I love the idea of a hammock to use when we go camping. I used to have one and then got sick of crarying it around. You've inspired me to get another one now.
Thursday 15th of February 2018
The newer models weigh less than one pound and pack down to the size of a softball - you won't even notice it's in your backpack while hiking and camping!