The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Hammock Camping

Hammocking Moraine Lake

Hammock camping has exploded in popularity as of late.

If you’re looking to switch things up on your new camping trip, then why not ditch your tent and go camping in a hammock instead?

Not only is hammock camping super fun for campers of all ages, but sleeping in a hammock is actually extremely comfortable if you know what you’re doing. And, with the right hammock accessories, you’ll stay just as warm, dry, and cozy as you do in your tent.

But overnight hammocking can be a little intimidating as a beginner. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate beginner’s guide on hammock camping 101.

Here’s everything you need to know before camping in a hammock for the first time.


Why Go Hammock Camping?

Hammock Camping While Bicycle Camping

The benefits of hammock camping are numerous – and might even make you want to ditch your tent altogether!

First and foremost, camping in a hammock is fun. It’s a special feeling to swing above the ground suspended between two trees as the stars come out overhead at night. Campers of all ages, including kids, love hammock camping.

Hammocks are also quick and easy to set up just about anywhere there are two trees. Even without trees, you can hang a hammock on a hammock stand. The Mock ONE, one of our favorite portable hammocks, even comes with a built-stand!

Another benefit of hammock camping is comfort. With the right hammock and the correct hammock hang angle, sleeping in a hammock is downright comfortable. You might even find it more comfortable than sleeping in your tent!

Finally, hammock camping is an ideal option for backpacking. The best hammocks are extremely lightweight and pack down very small. For solo backpacking, a backpacking hammock is often lighter than the best one-person backpacking tents.


Hammocks vs Tents for Camping

Hammock and Tent Camping

Both hammock camping and tent camping have their own benefits.

Tents, of course, are the more traditional option. They are deeply rooted in nostalgia for many campers. A tent can feel more secure than a hammock since it’s rooted securely to the ground. Chances are you have a tent of your own at home.

Hammocks, on the other hand, are just as lightweight and portable as tents, if not more so. They are just as quick and easy to set up and take down. With the right accessories, such as a bug net and rainfly, a hammock offers just as much protection from the elements as a tent.

The only real downside is that hammocks are much less spacious than tents. They really only serve one purpose: as a place to sleep at night. They aren’t an ideal place to hunker down in bad weather during the daytime because of their small size.

On top of that, a hammock is best for one user only. Although two-person hammocks are available, sleeping two people for a full night of sleep isn’t very comfortable. The same goes for camping with dogs. A small dog might be able to sleep comfortably in your hammock with you, but a tent is a much better option for large dogs.

Although hammock camping does have a few negatives compared to tent camping, it’s still a very comfortable option, especially when camping during the summer months.


How to Start Hammock Camping

Hammock in the woods

Hammock camping can feel overwhelming as a beginner. To really enjoy the experience, it’s important that you bring the right hammock, set it up correctly, and create a comfortable camp. Here are the top beginner hammock camping tips to keep in mind:

Buy the Right Hammock

Although some backyard hammocks are quite versatile, it’s important to buy a camping or backpacking hammock if you plan to sleep in it overnight. These hammocks are specially designed for sleeping and often boast asymmetrical designs for a flatter sleeping position. They are also made from the highest quality materials for the utmost in durability as well as to reduce overall weight.

Our guide to the best camping hammocks for 2020 breaks down our favorite picks for a variety of different styles of camping.

Hang Your Hammock

The easiest way to hang a hammock is between two trees. Start by selecting two sturdy trees about 10 feet apart. Make sure there are no loose or dead branches overhead which can be very dangerous. Attach your hammock straps to each tree about head high and adjust so the hammock sits at about waist height. It should sag down to about 18 inches off the ground when your bodyweight is added. The ideal hammock hang angle is around 30° which creates a flat (rather than banana-shaped) lay position.

For more info on how to hang a hammock the right way, check out our hammock gear setup and checklist for step-by-step directions.

Bring the Right Accessories

Never go hammock camping without a bug net and rainfly. These two essential hammock accessories keep bugs away and keep you dry if it rains. For hammock camping in winter, you might want to add in an underquilt for extra insulation in addition to your winter sleeping bag. I also like to use a sleeping pad in my hammock for even more comfort and a little boost of insulation.

Stay Safe

Hammocks can, by their very nature, be dangerous. Because they’re suspended off the ground, there’s always some risk of a falling accident. Make sure to inspect your hammock and hammock straps before every trip. Never attempt to sleep inside of a damaged hammock. Make sure your hammock is strongly secured to two sturdy trees before use. Always test the hammock before placing your full body weight inside.

Wilderness Ethics

Always follow wilderness ethics whenever you’re hiking, camping, backpacking, or hammocking. When it comes to hammock camping in specific, you can lower your impact with the following tips:

  • 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.

It’s always important to follow all of the leave no trace principles whenever you’re hammock camping in the wilderness.


Camping Hammock Buyer’s Guide

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Hammock Camping 1

Take care to buy a hammock specifically designed for camping or backpacking. Not only are these among the most comfortable to sleep in, but they’re also the lightest, most portable, and most durable. Keep the following factors in mind to select the best hammock for camping:

  • Dimensions – Select a hammock that’s large enough to comfortably fit you. Although most are roughly the same size (about 4 feet by 8 feet), extra-long hammocks and double hammocks are available.
  • Weight – Most camping hammocks weigh somewhere between 1 and 5 pounds. Ultralight hammocks, made specifically for backpacking, sometimes weight less than 1 pound total.
  • Capacity – Look for a hammock that holds well over your total body weight. Most hammocks hold between 300 and 400 pounds with some two-person hammocks capable of safely holding a maximum capacity of 500 pounds or more.
  • Suspension System – For camping, hammock tree straps are generally the best suspension system. However, you might also consider a hammock stand or a simple rope system for suspending your hammock while camping.
  • Insulation – Heavy-duty winter hammocks are available that come with slightly more insulation than normal models. However, I personally prefer to use a normal camping model for the increased breathability in the summer. For cold weather hammock camping, I simply bring my own insulation in the form of an underquilt, sleeping pad, and winter sleeping bag instead.

Keep these basic camping hammock features in mind while you search for the best hammock for your needs and preferences.


Best Camping Hammocks for 2020

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Hammock Camping 2

For more help on selecting the best camping hammock for you, our ultimate guide to the best camping hammocks for 2020 breaks down our top 10 favorite hammocks as well as our top-rated hammock accessories. For now, here’s a brief overview of my three favorite hammocks for camping:

  • ENO SingleNest Hammock – The ENO SingleNest is an affordable camping hammock that packs down small and only weighs 1 pound total (not including straps). It’s made from 70-denier nylon taffeta for the utmost in durability. It’s compatible with a wide range of ENO hammock accessories.
  • Hennessy Explorer Deluxe Asym Zip – Although Hennessy Hammock offers a wide range of top-notch camping hammocks, the Hennessy Explorer Deluxe is one of the absolute best. It boasts a built-in bug net and comes with a rainfly. Straps are also included. Most notable is the asymmetric design which enables a flatter lay for a more comfortable night of sleep.
  • REI Co-Op Quarter Dome – The REI Quarter Dome is a lightweight camping hammock from REI. The all-in-one package comes with a suspension system, built-in bug net, and included rainfly for use in all conditions. The hammock is a little heavier than others but is one of the most comfortable models I’ve ever used.

Once again, our guide to the best camping hammocks discusses down these three best hammocks and seven other great options in more detail.


Hammock Camping Accessories You Need

Hammock Shelter

Don’t go hammock camping without a few basic accessories. The most important hammock accessories for a successful trip include:

  • Hammock Straps – Many hammocks come with straps although you sometimes need to buy them separately. For hammock camping, look for a suspension system that is environmentally-friendly and compatible with your specific hammock model.
  • Hammock Bug Net – A bug net covers your entire hammock to keep mosquitos and other creepy-crawlies at bay.
  • Hammock Rain Fly – A rainfly or hammock tarp provides coverage from the sun and the rain. Select a model that provides ample coverage over your hammock.
  • Hammock Underquilt – An underquilt is a must for winter hammock camping when you require additional insulation underneath your hammock to stay warm during the night.
  • Hammock Sleeping Pad – Although not strictly essential, a sleeping pad can provide additional comfort and insulation to your hammock camping setup.

Our guide to the best camping hammocks and our hammock camping gear checklist both discuss camping hammock accessories in more detail and give in-depth recommendations on the best accessories to buy.


Final Thoughts

Girl in Hammock

Hammock camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

It makes you feel like you’re smack-dab right in the middle of nature. I love the feeling of openness it provides as you’re suspended in the air surrounded by trees.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on hammock camping versus tent camping? Do you have any hammock camping tips to add to our list?

And, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about hammocking or camping in general!

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13 thoughts on “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Hammock Camping”

  1. Hey Jake. Really nice write up. I’ve seen some of the ENO hammocks at REI and the pack up soooo small. I may have to grab one soon. My one reservation to going full hammock and ditching the tent is that I sleep on my stomach. I’m not sure a hammock is going to work for that.

    1. Thanks Kevin! Hammocks are great for back and side sleepers. I can sleep comfortably on my stomach for a little while, but don’t think I’d be comfortable all night long. Maybe try sleeping diagonally in a two-person hammock with a sleeping pad? Let me know if you find anything that works for a stomach sleeper!

  2. Yeah I wondered what would happen during bad weather when you’re used to spend the time inside a tent while waiting for the bad weather to pass. So sleeping could be an option. The only option when hammock camping, right?

    The other thing I liked about a hammock is that during wet weather you’re still away from the ground. Apart from the risk getting wet being smaller, shouldn’t it also be slightly warmer slightly further from the ground than in a traditional tent?

    Either way, thanks for the helpful insights.

    1. I stay much warmer in a hammock than a tent. Being off the ground sure helps. You need an underquilt for extra insulation though!

      A hammock tarp or rainfly helps in bad weather. In bad rain, the only thing to do is sleep, but a rainfly gives you enough room to at least read in your hammock or sit in it like a camping chair.

  3. I’ve got a couple of the Hennesy Hammocks and absolutely love them. I agree with Kevin though, stomach sleeping did not work at first. Actually, my first night in a hammock equaled about an hour or so of sleep, it was miserable. After night two though, I’ve been perfectly fine. Having a pad really helps me sleep better too.

    The rainfly on the Hennesy is also really nice. It’s big enough that I can easily store all my gear under it, cook under it and anything else. The rainfly is a big reason why I love the Hennesy.

    Now I just want to quit working and go camping…

  4. I am a traditional camper. Have always slept in a tent. I was intrigued by your take on hammock camping instead. I also liked your idea to bring both the tent and the hammock along on your trip and then use whichever worked out best for the existing conditions.
    Thank you also for the hammock etiquette tips.
    Also thank you for the helpful tips on suspension system. I would have thought that hammocks would have those included and probably would have gotten out in the wilderness and found that I needed to go back and purchase what I needed.

    1. Thanks! Glad we could help!

      Most hammocks have built in clips/carabiners, but if you want to set yours up between trees, you need something to clip these to – that’s where the straps/suspension system comes in!

  5. How do I hang my hammock on anything but a tree? I noticed you’d said a rock. I don’t get that. I also don’t know how to do it on anything but a tree with my happy tree straps.

  6. This is by far the most complete hammock camping guide I have come across. I’m 6ft and I prefer a 10 ft hammock. I’m going to make one myself. Do you have experience in making a hammock?

  7. Hello there! I’m not sure if this is still up and running, but I have a few questions. First of all, I’m not sure what kind of place to go to. I want to actually be in nature— not a campsite. Everything I have for camping fits easily in a backpack. I have a wood burning camp stove, but I don’t know where that is allowed or safe to use. Also, this is embarrassing, but I’m a little worried about bears. I am a 115 lb woman who would be camping alone, so any tips would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Check out our guides to dispersed camping and free camping for tips on how to camp outside of a campsite. Or let me know where you’re located and I might be able to give better recommendations. Proper food storage is a must when camping in bear country! Clean up all trash (especially food waste), store all scented items in a bearproof container or a hard-sided vehicle, and bring some bear spray just in case.

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