Close your eyes and imagine the perfect camping trip.
What image comes to mind? It’s probably a tent tucked away in the privacy of your favorite camping spot surrounded by friends and family.
Like most people, I grew up tent camping. And as an adult, my tent remained one of my top camping essentials whether I’m car camping with my family or going on a solo backpacking trip.
Recently, however, I discovered an all new way to go camping: with a hammock.
Hammock camping has radically changed the way I spend time outdoors. Though I’ll still bring my tent on occasion, I now sleep in my hammock the vast majority of the time.
Sounds a little far out there, doesn’t it? You’re probably wondering how anyone can get a good night’s sleep in a hammock – let alone stay warm, dry, and bug-free. Well, I’m about to show you how to do just that below.
Our guide to hammock camping 101 just might convince you to ditch the tent and pack a hammock on your next overnight trip.
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- Benefits of Hammock Camping
- Why Go Hammock Camping
- Hammocks vs Tents
- How to Start Hammock Camping
- Camping Hammock Buyer’s Guide
- Best Hammocks for Camping
- Best Hammock Camping Accessories
Benefits of Hammock Camping
Hammocks are beneficial for camping because they’re:
- Small and lightweight.
- Easy to set up almost anywhere.
- Very comfortable.
- Quick to set up and take down.
- Affordable and long-lasting.
Out of all these, however, my favorite benefit is that hammock camping is so much fun.
You’re right out there in the open. No mesh or rain fly from a tent is blocking your view of the stars. The fresh air is right there and nature is so close you can almost touch it.
My main goal while camping is to get my fill of the great outdoors – hammock camping allows you to do just that.
Why Go Hammock Camping
The benefits of hammock camping are straightforward.
But I want to expand on each of them in more detail so you can see exactly why hammock camping is one of the best ways to camp.
After the fun of sleeping in a hammock, my top reason to go camping in a hammock is their versatility.
That’s a much smaller, more lightweight load than even the best backpacking tents. On trips where space and weight is at a premium, a camping hammock is the way to go.
Unlike a tent, you don’t need to find an area that’s level, flat, and out of reach of water. Set up your hammock anywhere there are two sturdy objects to keep it secure.
Speaking of setting up your hammock, the process takes minutes. You only need a handful of parts to securely set up your hammock.
Lay down in your hammock at night for one of best night’s sleep you’ve had in years.
Though they take a little getting used to at first, you’ll soon learn to love it. Hammock sleeping does away with the rocks, roots, and uneven ground you have to deal with in a tent.
Then there’s price. A quality hammock is much less than a tent of similar quality. And they’ll last just as long.
Invest in a quality camping hammock and it will serve you well for years, if not decades, to come. The best brands even offer lifetime warranties.
Hammocks vs Tents
It’s easiest to understand why so many people make the switch to hammock camping when you compare hammocks and tents head to head.
Let’s talk about tent camping first.
Tents are deeply rooted in camping tradition. Many people’s first overnight outdoor experience takes place in a tent. This tradition and nostalgia is hard to shake off.
People love tents because they feel secure. They’re like a cozy, miniature home. They offer protection from harsh weather as well as bugs and other animals.
Get this though – modern camping hammocks offer all of this and more.
Hammocks now have the same features as the best tents. You can find a rain fly, a mosquito net, and even a gear loft for your hammock.
But what about when you’re not sleeping? Tents are great because you can spend time together inside of them when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Unfortunately, this is where hammocks fall short. They offer a great spot to relax in nice weather. They can even double as a camping chair.
In bad weather, however, your hammock isn’t an ideal spot to hunker down, unless you’re sleeping.
They offer little room to do much other than sleep, read, or relax. Most camping hammocks are best suited for a single person. It’s not like you can play a game of cards in there.
The lack of space means there’s nowhere for your dog to go. As a big fan of camping with my dog, this is exactly why I don’t take my hammock with me when I know conditions will be poor.
Storing gear can also be a problem. The best hammocks do have a small area for gear storage, but, other than this, you must make sure your gear is under the rainfly to prevent it from getting wet.
Sure, hammock camping has a few negatives, but the positives vastly outweigh them the majority of the time.
And, if you’re car camping, why not pack both a hammock and a tent then use whichever one best suits you that night.
How to Start Hammock Camping
Camping in a hammock is a lot more enjoyable when you know how to do it correctly.
We’ll show you how to set up camp, get a flat lay, stay warm and dry, keep bugs away, and stay safe in your camping hammock.
But first – you need to know how to buy the right type of hammock.
Buy the Right Hammock
A camping hammock is far different from the type of hammock you often see on the beach or in backyards.
These hammocks are made from vastly different materials. Normal hammocks are traditionally made from rope while camping hammocks use extremely durable materials like woven nylon, aluminum carabiners, and polyfilament webbing straps.
The result is that camping hammocks are much smaller, weigh much less, and are far more durable.
The other main difference between the two is how you set them up. Traditional hammocks almost always come with a frame or stand that provides support.
Camping hammocks don’t come with such a stand. You attach the straps to support objects, like trees, rocks, or posts, you find out in nature.
Finally, hammocks that are designed for camping are made specifically for sleeping. The goal is to provide a refreshing night of sleep while most traditional hammocks are created for relaxing in during the day.
Set Up Your Hammock
Attaching a hammock between two trees is easy.
Doing it right, on the other hand, is where it gets more difficult.
The goal of setting up your hammock is to achieve a flat lay. This means that you should be able to lay in the hammock in a roughly flat position.
Hanging your hammock too loose creates a banana shape and leads to back pain. Hanging too tight makes the material cocoon up around you and makes sleeping uncomfortable.
Set up the hammock so it’s loose enough not to cocoon. Try adjusting your body by laying at a diagonal angle if it sags too much.
There’s no harm in readjusting your hammock to achieve a flat lay at first. You’ll quickly learn the right tension to use for future camping trips.
Stay Warm and Dry
There’s no denying that hammock camping is much more enjoyable during nice weather.
That said, it’s definitely still possible, and downright comfortable, in cold, wet, and even snowy weather conditions.
Most options just cover the area over your hammock. However, options are available that also cover the sides. This type of rain fly is almost like a tent you place your hammock inside.
Stay warm by upgrading your hammock’s insulation. When a sleeping bag isn’t enough, try placing a quilt under your sleeping bag. You can also try placing a sleeping pad between your sleeping bag and the hammock.
My favorite insulation option is closed cell foam. I cut this to fit the shape of the hammock and my body. It’s much more comfortable than using a normal camping sleeping pad. Plus, it’s extremely warm.
Keep Bugs Away
Mosquitos can be a real nuisance while camping during the warm summer months.
A hammock, by itself, doesn’t offer protection from these critters. That’s why I pack a mosquito net when I’m camping in mosquito territory.
You can either buy an all-purpose mosquito net to drape over your hammock or buy a specially designed mosquito net for hammocks.
I prefer the second option. A special hammock mosquito net is suspended above the ridgeline of the hammock to keep it off your body while you sleep.
Hammocks can, by their very nature, be dangerous. They’re suspended off the ground, increasing the risk of a falling accident.
Make sure to inspect your hammock and straps/cords before every trip. Never attempt to sleep inside of a damaged hammock.
You must also make sure your hammock is strongly secured before use. This means that both the straps are tight. It also means that whatever you attach it to is strong enough to hold your weight throughout the night.
Please always follow the basic wilderness ethics whenever you’re hiking, camping, backpacking, or otherwise in the woods.
Additional ways to lower your impact on nature when hammock camping include:
- Tree-Saver Straps – Always use straps that are tree-friendly (nylon/polyester webbing) and don’t damage trees.
- Established Campsites – Set your hammock up in established campsites whenever possible.
- Hammocks Allowed – Check with the local ranger to make sure hammocks are allowed before your camping trip.
- No Dead Trees – Never set your hammock up on a dead tree. Not only does this ruin the decaying tree, but it can also cause serious injury to you.
- Sensitive Plant Life – Make sure the tree you’re using for your hammock is free of sensitive plant life, especially when camping at high elevations.
Camping Hammock Buyer’s Guide
As mentioned above, the right hammock will make or break your hammock camping experience.
You must select a hammock that’s not only comfortable to sleep in, but that’s also lightweight, portable, and durable.
Keep the following factors in mind to ensure you buy the best camping hammock for you.
Most hammocks are somewhere in the range of 4 feet and 8 feet in width by about 8 feet in length.
The right dimensions for you depend on your needs and personal preferences. Opt for a longer hammock if you’re taller. Opt for a wider hammock if you want it to accommodate more than one person.
The lightest hammock setups I’ve seen weigh less than 8 ounces. However, most are between 1 to 5 pounds.
Lightweight hammocks are great for backpacking, but they’re less versatile. The extra weight savings are taken from the reduced dimensions of the hammock.
Most hammocks comfortably hold up a maximum weight of between 150 and 500 pounds.
Buy a hammock with a higher maximum weight capacity if you expect to share yours with a partner (or a four-legged friend) on a regular basis.
Some brands offer models designed to accommodate two users at once.
Remember to buy a suspension system along with the hammock itself. Most of the time, it’s included, but not always.
Your main suspension options are webbing straps, tree slings, or nylon ropes. A hammock with multiple attachment points allows for more versatile suspension options.
I’ve found that I prefer a lightweight, breathable hammock.
Such a model keeps me cool during the warm summer months (when I camp most often). For insulation in the winter, I add an extra quilt or a sleeping pad.
However, certain models of hammocks do come with more insulation. These are made of cotton instead of nylon.
The downside to cotton hammocks are numerous. They’re heavier, take longer to dry when wet, and are less durable.
I recommend finding your own additional insulation instead of buying a cotton hammock.
Best Hammocks for Camping
Not all camping hammocks are created equal. Some models are far more comfortable, durable, and versatile than others.
I’ve done the legwork for you by testing over a dozen models of hammocks. The three reviewed below are the best of the best.
Here are my recommendations for the three best hammocks for camping.
ENO SingleNest Hammock
The ENO SingleNest Hammock is my choice for the best hammock for backpacking.
The single-person hammock weighs one pound and packs down to the size of a softball. Yet the 70-denier nylon taffeta construction enables it to hold up to 400 pounds.
The fabric is extremely breathable so you never overheat on hot days. Add an extra layer for increased insulation on cold days.
Use the hammock alongside the top-rated ENO Atlas Hammock Suspension System. The 9-foot long straps weigh just 11 ounces and work seamlessly with the hammock’s aluminum wiregate carabiners.
The hammock is available in a variety of attractive colors. A two-person model, the ENO DoubleNest Hammock, is also available.
Buy the ENO SingleNest Hammock now.
Kammok Roo Hammock
Few camping hammocks rival the level of comfort offered by the Kammok Roo Hammock.
The two-person hammock is made from 70-denier diamond ripstop fabric to resist tears and abrasion. The material also dries quickly and is extremely breathable.
The hammock weighs in at just 1 pound 8 ounces. It holds up to 500 pounds. Triple-stitched seams add even more in the way of durability.
Use the hammock with the Kammok Python Hammock Suspension System. These hook through the two climbing-rated carabiners.
A series of gear loops give you places to stash your gear along the hammock. Kammok provides a lifetime warranty with this product.
Buy the Kammok Roo Hammock now.
Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker Hammock
Your lightweight choices for the best hammocks for camping don’t get much better than the Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker Hammock.
As the name implies, this single-person hammock is perfect for backpacking. It weighs in at just 1 pound 15 ounces. It’s designed to hold anyone up to 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.
The hammock is notable for its all-in-one design. It’s a three-season hammock that includes a built-in rainfly. The asymmetric design not only improves comfort, but it also ensures that rain runs off far away from the hammock itself.
A mesh bug canopy keeps pesky mosquitos at bay. It fits perfectly between the hammock and the rainfly, giving you plenty of room to do your own thing underneath. A suspended gear pocket holds small personal items you don’t want to lose.
The hammock is waterproof and extremely durable as well. Use it as a camping chair for lounging around camp. Or combine with hiking poles to create a makeshift tent.
Unlike the other hammocks on this list, this model comes with a suspension system (you don’t have to buy it separately). These straps can hold up to 1,200 pounds.
Buy the Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker Hammock now.
Best Hammock Camping Accessories
A variety of accessories are available to make hammock camping an even more enjoyable experience.
Depending on the model of hammock you buy, some of these, namely a hammock suspension system, are required. Others, like an underquilt, are simply a matter of personal preference.
Here are my favorite accessories for camping in a hammock.
ENO Atlas Hammock Suspension System
These two durable straps are each 9 feet long. Together, they’re capable of supporting up to 400 pounds. Though they’re designed for ENO hammocks, they’re compatible with most hammocks on the market.
Buy the ENO Atlas Hammock Suspension System now.
ENO ProFly Hammock Rain Tarp
This lightweight, polyurethane-treated rain tarp has six attachment points to cover your entire hammock as well as your other gear. Though it’s designed for ENO hammocks, it’s compatible with most hammocks on the market.
Buy the ENO ProFly Hammock Rain Tarp now.
ENO Guardian Bug Tent
This spacious mosquito net not only covers the top portion of your hammock, but it extends underneath you as well. It’s much like a mesh tent that fits over and around your hammock to provide 360-degree protection.
Buy the ENO Guardian Bug Net now.
Avoid chilly nights in your hammock with this 750-fill-power duck down insulation underquilt. It’s created specifically with the shape of a hammock in mind for the utmost in comfort. It’s rated to keep you warm in temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Buy the ENO Blaze Hammock Underquilt now.
ENO HotSpot Hammock Sleeping Pad Wings
Using a sleeping pad in a hammock is a hassle. Sleeping pad wings are the answer. They provide two wings of 6mm-thick closed-cell foam on each side. The wings increase comfort and also add insulation on chilly nights.
Buy the ENO HotSpot Hammock Sleeping Pad Wings now.
Hammock camping is undoubtedly one of my favorite ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
I love the openness and freedom a hammock provides. It feels like you’re right in the middle of nature
What about you? What are your thoughts and experiences on hammock camping? What’s your choice for the best camping hammock? Any tips I forgot to mention here?
And please don’t be afraid to ask me for any additional information/opinions on the best hammocks and accessories I listed above!