Hammock camping is a seriously lightweight, surprisingly comfortable, and extremely fun alternative to tent camping.
But it can be intimidating at first. If you’re new to hammock camping, the idea of sleeping suspended between two trees might seem a little farfetched.
For starters, what kind of equipment do you even need? Camping with a hammock requires a whole different gear list than tent camping. And then there’s actually setting all of that gear up. You don’t want to find yourself stumbling through setting your hammock up in the middle of the wilderness.
That’s why Beyond the Tent is here to help. Our detailed guide shows you how to select the right hammock camping gear and accessories as well as how to properly set everything up.
And don’t forget to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Hammock Camping.
Necessary Hammock Camping Gear
You don’t want to head out on a camping trip only to realize that you left essential equipment at home.
I’ve heard about people forgetting their hammock suspension systems at home, forcing them to spend a cold, miserable night on the ground.
I’ve heard about others that were unaware there is actually a wide range of hammock camping accessories such as rain flies, underquilts, and storage pockets that make the experience that much more enjoyable.
That’s why I’m going to start this guide by breaking down the most important hammock camping gear that you need for your trip.
The single most important piece of hammock camping gear is, of course, the hammock itself.
You need a hammock that is lightweight, durable, and comfortable. Look for a model that is specifically designed for camping or backpacking.
Camping and backpacking hammocks are much more portable than the bulky, oversized hammocks commonly found in backyards, by swimming pools, and on the beach.
Camping models, like the ENO SingleNest Hammock, pack down to smaller than the size of a softball. This makes them insanely versatile.
Not only are these hammocks great for camping, but they’re also perfect for hiking, boating, backpacking (both the wilderness and traveling abroad versions), and so much more.
Though there are dozens of models available, here’s what we believe you need to look for in the best camping hammock:
- Lightweight (packs down small)
- Durable materials
- High weight capacity
- Versatile anchor points
- Compatible with most accessories
The above-mentioned ENO SingleNest Hammock (as well as its two-person counterpart, the ENO DoubleNest Hammock) meets these qualifications perfectly.
Both hammocks are not only specifically designed for camping and backpacking, but they’re also lightweight (1lb and 1lb 3oz, respectively), constructed from high-strength 70-denier nylon taffeta, and hold up to 400 pounds.
The SingleNest and DoubleNest come with high-strength aluminum wire carabiners so you can attach the hammock to a wide variety of solid anchor points.
Finally, these two camping hammocks are compatible with all ENO hammock camping gear (including the Atlas Hammock Suspension System, DryFly Rain Tarp, and SoloPod Hammock Stand) as well as many accessories from other brands.
Our Camping Hammock Buyer’s Guide has more recommendations and additional information.
Support Straps or Suspension System
The second most important piece of hammock camping gear are the support straps or suspension system.
This is the equipment used to support the hammock between two anchor points (usually two trees while camping or backpacking).
Some hammocks come with a built-in suspension system. Others come with a suspension system that must be attached and reattached with each use.
Still, other camping hammocks don’t come with a suspension system included. ENO Hammocks are notable for not coming with straps.
What I’m saying is that you need to check that your hammock comes with support straps. If it doesn’t, make sure to buy them separately.
Hammock Camping Accessories
Though none of these are technically required for hammock camping, there’s no denying that they can make or break your enjoyment of the experience.
A rainfly is perhaps the number one hammock camping accessory you need. It will keep you warm and dry all night long no matter the weather. The best models also have a gear storage compartment to safely stash your gear during big storms.
Another piece of hammock camping gear that I always like to pack is a bug net. Designed to keep mosquitos and other annoying critters at bay, the best models deliver 360-degree protection by covering your entire hammock.
Another option is to use a mosquito head net instead (and keep the rest of your body safely inside your sleeping bag).
Specially designed to fit comfortably inside a camping hammock, an underquilt adds a whole lot of insulation, allowing you to stay warm at night. This accessory truly makes cold weather hammock camping in the winter possible.
A sleeping bag is the traditional sleep setup for most campers. Yet even slim-profile mummy bags can be uncomfortable in a hammock.
A top quilt is a good alternative. Lightweight and extremely portable, these warm quilts can be used alone or alongside a sleeping bag for additional warmth.
Car campers and others unconcerned about lots of additional weight might be interested in adding a sleeping pad to their hammock camping gear list.
Models designed specifically for hammock camping not only provide an additional level of comfort but they also greatly increase insulation. Hammock sleeping pads are created to securely fit into a hammock without slipping or sliding around.
Other Useful Items
There is a whole slew of additional items that, while not designed for hammock camping in specific, aren’t a bad idea to bring along on a camping trip.
Many hammock suspension systems come with carabiners, but I always like to have a few extra. They can be used to suspend a hammock, attach gear to your hammock, attach gear to your backpack, and so much more.
Paracord has a million uses. I always bring a role while camping (hammock or tent). With hammock camping, I’ve used a length of paracord to safely suspend my hammock in a pinch.
I like Paracord Planet Mil-Spec Commercial Grade 550lb Paracord for hammock camping.
Guylines are often treated as an afterthought when it comes to hammock camping (and, well, camping in general). Yet they are key for properly setting up tarps and other shelters that don’t come with guylines included.
My favorite guylines for hammock camping are the Tent Tools Guyline Tensioner Kit.
A quality set of camping stakes can help you set up a tarp, rainfly, or other shelters (when used with guylines). When the weather calls for a lot of wind, I sometimes even use them to help keep my hammock from swaying too much.
I like Kungix Tent Stakes for hammock camping.
When it boils down to it, there’s little reason not to invest in an actual hammock camping rainfly, except for, perhaps, cost. Those that prefer a more versatile rainfly that works on its own just as much as with a hammock should invest in a tarp.
How to Set Up Your Camping Hammock
Our post Everything You Need to Know Before You Try Hammock Camping outlines the basics on setting up your hammock camping gear.
But we want to delve into the proper hammock camping setup in more detail. We’re going to show you exactly how to set up your hammock and accessories.
Hanging Your Hammock
Your hammock camping setup starts with hanging your hammock correctly.
Though every model is set up slightly differently, you can hang most camping hammocks by following the same basic rules.
Find Anchor Points
First, and most importantly, is finding two solid anchor points. These are usually trees when you’re out in the wilderness.
Remember that the trees must be sturdy. They should be thick and healthy enough to support your full weight in your hammock.
The trees (or other anchor points) you select should be about 10 to 15 feet apart. This gives the hammock enough space to fit and sag at a comfortable angle.
Fix Anchor Points
The next step to your hammock camping setup is fixing these anchor points. This is where your suspension system or support straps come into play.
Attach each strap around the trunk of the tree at about eye level. This will allow the hammock to hang down to about waist height.
I like my hammock to hang at waist height for three reasons. 1) This makes it easy to get in and out. 2) I can comfortably sit in my hammock like a chair. 3) It doesn’t hurt so much if I fall out!
Take your time while fixing the anchor points. Chances are the ground is uneven if you’re camping, so you want to make sure that the hammock is hung 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. Others like ENO Hammocks 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 will take some experimentation to find your preferred hammock camping sleeping position.
One common mistake I see very often is trying to make the hammock flat. Since you’re used to sleeping in a flat position, it might make sense to try to do this with your hammock.
But they’re not designed to be used like this. A hammock has a natural curve. Use this natural curve to your advantage for the most comfortable night of sleep.
Making your hammock too flat also makes the sides of the hammock too tight. It will squeeze you from the sides and feel very constricting.
I like my hammock at about a 30-degree angle to the trunks of the trees that I’m using as my anchor points.
If you’re using a two-person camping hammock alone, you can even set the hammock up with enough slack to enable you to sleep sideways at a diagonal angle.
Setting Up Your Rainfly
The rest of your hammock camping gear is relatively easy to figure out how to set up.
Most hammock rainflies and tarps, for instance, 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 enough 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 Bug Net
The last piece of hammock camping gear we’ll talk about setting up is your 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. Or, at least, one that’s made specifically for that hammock.
These bug nets are attached over the top of the hammock opening. The net provides coverage on top while the hammock provides coverage on the bottom.
Hammock Camping Checklist
Make sure you pack everything you need with our handy hammock camping gear list.
- Camping Hammock
- Support Straps or Suspension System
- Rainfly or Tarp
- Bug Net
- Top Quilt
- Sleeping Pad
- Spare Carabiners
Of course, your hammock camping checklist isn’t complete without the rest of your camping or backpacking gear and supplies.
Use our simple camping checklist to make sure you have everything you need on your next hammock camping trip.
The key to a fun hammock camping experience is buying the right gear and making sure to remember all of it on your trip.
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding buying hammock camping gear or setting it up.