Drinking warm coffee from my titanium cup, I watched ghosts rise up off Beaver Lake. The morning was cold for the late spring, and I had spent a chilly night in a hammock not far from this lake. I fished this lake the night before and caught a nice bass. However, I had to rush to set up camp because of it.
Thankfully, I had a hammock, so my camp set-up was hassle-free and speedy. Even as the last light faded, I was tying off my tarp for the night. There are a lot of benefits to hammocking in the wild. It is one of my favorite ways to escape on a solo trip.
This is the complete guide to hammocking. We will discuss all the important details of hammock camping and even help you choose the right hammock for you.
Why Camp in a Hammock?
It is a golden age for tent camping. Well, for camping in general really. Tents are smaller, lighter, easier to set up, and less of a hassle than ever before. So why would a person even want to consider camping in a hammock?
I do think there is a type of person and a type of experience that hammocking is built for. I am going to ask you some questions about your camping experience to help you understand why someone would like to camp in a hammock:
- Do you want to be closer to nature when you rest and sleep?
- Do you like to hike farther with less to carry?
- Do you like the idea of camping in non-traditional areas?
- Do you struggle to find level camping spots?
- Is sleeping on the ground painful even with a sleeping mat?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should read further into the complete guide to hammocking. After reading this, you will be able to take the next steps toward hammock camping in your favorite wild places!
Essentials for Setting Up a Hammock
There are several important pieces of any hammocking setup. I would encourage you to keep this setup as minimal as possible so that you can take advantage of the freedom of hammock camping. By taking just what you need to sleep, your load will be considerably lighter than it normally is with a tent camping setup.
Of course, this is number one in the complete guide to hammocking. Hammocks are small and pack down into themselves. But you’ll need to consider your personal needs before choosing a hammock; for instance, I like hammocks that have a couple of features.
Personally, I like to have a pocket for my important small items, and I also want a hammock that has a bug net. I am a fisherman at heart, so I always camp near water. This means I have to prepare for mosquitoes, and you just sleep better when you are not getting bitten. You’ll want to keep these things in mind when you go to buy a hammock, especially if you’re looking to buy a hammock online; make sure you carefully read the item description to ensure you’re getting everything you need!
Reliable hammock straps should be strong and at least triple-stitched at the seams. Some hammocks can be bought with straps included. If not, be sure to buy them from a reputable brand and set the hammock up before you get out in the wild so you can see them in action.
Spend an afternoon reading in your hammock, and you will know how the straps are holding up.
Hooks or Carabiners
Your hammock is going to hook to the straps with hooks or carabiners. If your hammock does not already come with these, just make sure you buy the types of hooks and carabiners that are designed for heavy-duty work like climbing. Cheap carabiners that are not designed for climbing will bend and break under your weight.
Ridge Line Cordage
I always tie a ridgeline above my hammock when I am setting up. This allows me to hang important things from that line over my hammock and also throw a tarp up quickly should I need one. I consider a reliable tarp as a crucial part of my hammock setup, so the ridgeline is a must for me.
Many people set the hammock up and hop in with nothing covering them. That is always an option, too, but this makes for a much different experience than tent camping.
Without a tent, you have no privacy. You cannot get changed or even just have a moment of privacy with an open-top hammock. This is why I always keep a tarp close by.
I love the majesty of nature and I get out and see it often. However, after a morning of hiking, sometimes I just wanna get out of the sun and read in the serenity of what surrounds me with dealing with the sun beating down on me. The tarp over your hammock can provide you with just a little more coverage, and if you are used to tent camping, then you will appreciate this.
How to Choose the Right Hammock for You
There are a number of considerations when it comes to choosing the right hammock for you. In this complete guide to hammocking, we will discuss four main criteria for making this choice.
A major factor in any buying decision is always going to be the price. There are hammocks suitable for meeting any kind of budget. There are tents that cost $25 and hammocks that cost nearly $200. I have slept in many in the $20-$30 range and have never had complaints. However, there are lots of perks with more expensive models, and the biggest is durability over time.
What are you intending to do with this hammock? If you want to backpack or thru hike, then you want the lightest one you can buy to make sure it’s easily portable. If you are looking to car camp and relax, then you do not need to worry about weight as much and you might focus on durability.
How many people do you want climbing into this hammock? A two-person hammock will give you a double layer and more strength in your hammock. I always buy a two-person just in case.
This is the complete guide to hammocking, so I will tell you that there are benefits to buying a single-person hammock, too. If you are a smaller person or if the weight of your pack is a consideration, then you won’t want the larger hammocks.
Another consideration is whether you want a hammock that comes with straps, hooks, a portable stand, or anything else you need to set it up. If you already have those things, then you will just be after the hammock itself.
I could probably write the complete guide to hammocking accessories next!
Where to go Hammocking
You need anchors to hammock camp. These anchors are most commonly trees. So, you have to be in a forested area to enjoy hammock camping. You might get lucky and find a couple of sturdy anchors outside of a forested area but your best bet is to hammock camp in forests.
Beaches, meadows, and even some types of campgrounds can be completely void of trees and take the option of hammock camping away. (Though there are types of hammocks that are specifically great for beach hammocking!)
The best forests are old-growth forests because they have nice big trees in them. If a forest is full of saplings and young trees, it will be more of a struggle to find sturdy trees that can hold the weight of your hammock when you are sleeping in it.
This might sound like a lot to consider, but in most parts of the nation and most public lands available to camp in, there are plenty of stands of strong old trees that will work great as anchors for your hammock.
10 Tips From the Complete Guide to Hammocking
1. Try your hammock at home before you bring it out into the woods.
2. Look for two anchor trees that are between 10-15 feet apart for the best hanging results.
3. Hang your backpack and boots from one of your anchor trees to keep them off the ground.
4. A good hang point for your straps is about 70 inches, or right around 5 feet 10 inches.
5. When you are inside the hammock, your body should be about 18 inches off the ground.
6. A hanging lantern from a ridgeline can be a quick light in the night if needed.
7. Your straps should hang at about a 30-degree angle when you are in the hammock.
8. Lie in your hammock diagonally. Most new hammockers think they should lie straight down the middle, but lying off to the side a bit is actually much more comfortable.
9. Even on warm nights, a beanie on your head can make sleep much better. You can also improve your comfort level by using a hammock pillow.
10. Raise the foot end of your hammock just a little higher than the other side. Trust me on this one, it helps balance things out and you will be much more comfortable.
Hammocking VS Tent Camping
If we are writing the complete guide to hammocking, then we have to discuss how it stands up to tent camping. Let’s look at some pros and cons of both.
- Built-in Protection and Privacy
- Sleeps More People
- Protects Gear Better
- Need a Level Camping Spot
- Easy to Carry
- Very Comfortable
- Less Privacy
- Exposure to Bugs
- Colder Sleep Without Accessories
However, if you’re hoping to split the difference, you can always opt to purchase a hammock tent!
Hammock Camping Accessories
Hammock camping is a minimalist method of camping. That is much of the allure. However, there are some great accessories that can improve your trips. Here are the accessories that we cannot live without in the complete guide to hammocking.
Bugs can ruin any camping trip, but if you are left out in the open to fend for yourself, then you will really have to deal with the burden of things like mosquitoes. This can take a wonderful trip and turn it into a nightmare.
The bug net protects you during the day and at night when you are in the hammock.
Many people assume that hammock camping is for the fair-weather camper. If you have a hammock quilt, then you will be able to camp in much colder temperatures than you think. A hammock quilt and wool blanket add serious insulation.
The hammock quilt actually attaches to the underside of your hammock to trap your body heat from escaping through the hammock.
As I mentioned earlier, tying a ridgeline of paracord or bankline can make a world of difference when you are hammock camping. If you have one of these awesome ridgeline organizers then you will be able to keep all of your personal effects right above your head. These are well worth the money.
Perhaps the most important accessory on the list is the rainfly or tarp. You have to have to be able to protect yourself from rain and wind. The tarp also gives you the ability to create privacy should you be camping with others.
Buy a quality tarp with 9 tie-down points, at least!
Wrapping up The Complete Guide to Hammocking
I hope you enjoyed the complete guide to hammocking. Spending a night in a hammock is truly a game-changer. You realize just how much distance the tent puts between you and the experience of nature.
If you are looking for that lightweight sleep solution and the ability to set up an ultralight backpack camp almost anywhere, then hammocking is for you. There is a lot to try and a lot to learn, but the best way to do that is not in these words. It is out there in the woods.
Grab an affordable hammock, maybe some accessories, and go on an adventure!
Now that you’ve got this handy guide, all that’s left is to choose your destination! Take a look at our list of 21 Of The Best Hammocking Spots in the US to get started!