Hammock Camping 101

There are lots of people who view camping in hammocks as a passing trend or as an odd place to sleep when outdoors. While that may be partially true, correlation does not always mean causation. In truth, hammocks have a long history of being used for camping that dates back to early Native Americans. The first record of the word hammock being used in western speech dates back to a diary entry by none other than Christopher Columbus. The word is thought to be derived from the Native American word “hamaca”, meaning fishing net. It’s further suspected that the word was originally adapted from the word “ hamak”, which is the name of the tree that was used to make the fiber used in fishing nets.)

The Mayans used these fishing nets as a multipurpose tool for both sleeping and catching fish. Covering two of the most important basic human needs, with nothing but a bit of tree fiber, isn’t bad. As was often the case with native technology, the subtlety was completely lost on Spanish invaders who originally mocked the set-up as primitive. However, one adventurous Spanish sailor must have eventually tried it because the practice was eventually adopted, wholeheartedly. The Spaniards then proceeded to put hammocks to use on practically every floating bit of wood the Spanish crown owned. Since then, the hammock has taken on a variety of roles. Most recently, hammocks are being used by long-distance trail hikers.

What’s different when camping in a hammock?

There is a tendency to treat sleeping in a hammock as if it were its own branch of camping. In reality, it isn’t as much of a change in camping style as it is a change in sleeping gear. In fact, tarp camping enthusiasts who are intrigued by the idea of hammocks are in luck. The only significant change is to go from sleeping on the ground to being suspended from a tree. Most of the same gear is used (tarps, mosquito netting, sleeping bag) but now you are gently cradled to sleep in the breeze.

What are the benefits?

So if the gear is mostly the same, why bother switching? Well, because you don’t have to sleep on the ground! Compared to tent camping, hammock camping is lighter and more compact.

Not only is sleeping above the fray significantly more comfortable, it might even be better for you. Once they adjust to the change, most people assume an “orthopedically correct” posture when sleeping in a hammock. Aside from being naturally relaxing, sleeping in this position has also been shown to be beneficial for people with joint, bone, and spinal problems.

Of course, trees are a hammock user’s best friend, but why limit yourself? As a prospective hammock buyer, the options seem limitless. It seems that anyone I talk to about making the switch to hammocks makes a mental checklist of the assorted vertical objects you will be able to use as sleeping aids. However adventurous and creative you are, it is safe to say that hammocking will provide you with a greater diversity of camping locations. Even if there are no trees to from which to suspend your hammock, you can use your trekking poles and two stabilizing lines per pole to suspend the hammock in between.

Editiors Note: Trekking poles generally are not strong enough to hold the weight of a person nor tall enough to suspend a hammock off the ground. However, trekking poles are perfect when you need to use your hammock on the ground. The poles work to suspend a tarp, and the hammock can clip up to provide a bivy like shelter.

Are there any cons to hammock camping?

Of course there are pros and cons, as one would expect. For starters, adherents to the “lightweight or bust” philosophy of backpacking will already be pointing out how we haven’t mentioned weight. While they vary substantially, hammocks range on average from a few ounces to a few pounds heavier than your standard ground tarp. Cold from underneath the hammock is an issue in colder months, requiring the use of either an underquilt or a high R-value sleeping pad.

Couples also may not be keen on the idea of hammock camping. Sharing a hammock with another person is not the same as sharing a normal, spacious bed. Practically sleeping on top of each other, suspended 3 feet above the ground, is out of the question for many couples.

There is also the problem of trees. You may find hammock camping difficult in the arctic, in the Sahara, or anywhere above the tree line. Even the most creative will have a hard time setting up a hammock if there is absolutely nothing to tie it to. However, if you find yourself in such a situation, many models of hammocks allow you to skip the hanging bit and revert to lowly ground dwelling, using your bed swing as a ground tarp.

So the next time you are looking to change up your hiking routine, consider the comfort, flexibility, and serenity of a camping hammock.

Share your hammock camping stories

Have you tried hammock camping or do you on a regular basis? Any tips you can share with a first timer?

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  • Adam

    “Even if there are no trees to from which to suspend your hammock, you can use your trekking poles and two stabilizing lines per pole to suspend the hammock in between.”
    Pure manure

    • Thanks for your comment. Of course, we know using trekking poles isn’t the optimal set-up for hammock camping, but in a pinch, it can be accomplished (see attached video link). Happy camping! http://youtu.be/jLBFmtJkbMA

      • I watched the video…that is called sleeping on the ground, in a hammock.

      • Mr Brown

        Do you, by chance, sell trekking poles?

    • Oceanslayer

      Trekking poles? Really? Sounds like you need to read another issue of backpacker

  • Martucky Mike

    Mosquitoes are also an issue but if the weather is warm nothing beats the hammock for a restful night at Scout camp.

    • Chuck

      The Clark Tropical is bug proof including Mosquitoes. I know this since I have camped in the bugs at the Everglades and other parts of Florida where the mosquitoes were really thick. Not a single one bite me threw the material they use to make the Tropical Hammock.

      • Watergirl

        Did it keep out the tiny no-see’ums as well?

        • Chuck.

          It keep out all of the bugs as long as it was zipped up. The trick is to get in or out in a hurry.
          On one moonlight night I woke up because a Raccoon was looking the camp over. As I lay in the hammock watching him he walked under me and out into the woods , he never gave me as much as a glance.

  • rngn

    If your back hurts when you sleep on the ground,You will probaly love a hammock, But there is a learning curve goto hammock forums to learn

  • Chris

    I spent 3 weeks in jungles of Peru sleeping in a hammock. Once you get used to the correct position it’s very comfortable. I used a hammock with the netting built in and was very surprised at how strong it was and the netting helped with the feeling of falling out as well as mosquitos. Of course if your in a place with major mosquitos take care to use a pad or blanket under you because they can bite you through the nylon or net. I used a branch at either end to spread the hammock 3′ wide it helped keep the netting off my body perfectly.

  • JoeTChicopee

    Sleeping in a hammock does take some getting used to. They are very comfortable and it is likely that just laying in one will relax you to the point that you will want to take a nap. But sleeping in one all night requires getting into the proper position. Most people want to lay in the hammock, banana style, with feet tilted upward and back tilted upward. This almost guarantees a stiff neck. The proper way is extended diagonally across the hammock which allows the body to be more prone and puts less pressure on the neck. Check out various related forums or YouTube to see what that position looks like.

    • Watergirl

      Thank you!!! Lying diagonally is the “correct” position for both comfort, ergonomics, balance and safety! Unfortunately, photos in adverts, etc., continue to mislead the public, often resulting in injuries to the neck, spine, hips, shoulders from improper body alignment and resulting falls…

  • Jeffrey

    I just finished a six week bikeabout in northern Europe. I brought along both a tent and a Byers jungle hammock, and ended up mailing the former to my scheduled final destination ’cause I wasn’t using it. I found a hammock to be vastly superior to a tent. It’s far more comfortable; far quicker to to set up and break down; and doesn’t require that one locate a statisfactory patch of level ground. One must carry a light tarp for a rain cover (use shock cords to rig it) and a light air mattress (a Thermarest worked fine) to insulate one’s underside.

    • David Baltz


      • Paul

        Why are you YELLING?!

        • Dave

          Not everyone is aware that all Caps is yelling, give them a break already.

        • DebbieG

          Funny !

  • Scoutmaster

    Speaking of scout camps, it isn’t the most ideal place to change clothing in but I love mine even in winter. Setup and take down is faster leaving more room for other tent spots.

  • Skipper

    Camping this past weekend with our Scouts. 1st night in a tent after being a hammock camper for 1.5 years now. Everything was sore the next AM. I found the right trees and set up the hammack for night 2. Felt wonderful that next AM, No aching joints etc.

  • Commited chair

    I have had one for about 2 years now, not the answer to everything, but I prefer it when possible. I’m not the smallest bear in the forest and not the youngest. Back isnt in the best of shape. Best thing is you are not on the ground.
    Did a 4 night 60 mile canoe trip with the scouts this spring and I rolled out and paddled with “Da Utes” in pretty good form every morning. I have packed it in and used it in rain and good weather.
    I have the 400lb Grand Truck and a bug net. I bring a rain fly from a large cheap tent (lots of bungees and tie outs) in case it rains. Once you have slept in one correctly, it is lights out pretty quick.
    There is a learning curve and you have to get inventive sometimes. Weight wise, carrying a bug net, tarp, and needed straps, doesnt save vs a light tent. I havent found a good way to keep a pad under me so it is a decent weather only thing. You need trees, relativly close trees. Carry a cam buckle strap or use a taut line hitch for a little extra lenght. You need to carry a garbage bag or something to land on in the AM to avoid muddy socks. There is no privacy to get dressed, so get up early or hang it on the edge of the campsite if you are in a group.

  • Schosh

    Back in the early 60’s my scout troop used hammocks as our primary shelters. There was a large supply of military surplus “jungle hammocks” available after WW2. Hammocks were used extensively in the Pacific theater because of the jungle nature of most islands (snakes ,skeeters and no soil to speak of. At 62 I still prefer a hammock when backpacking.

    • hatfez

      I also was a Scout in the early ’60’s and I’m sure we could exchange funny many stories! The leaders were vets of the war and an interesting bunch, to say the least!

  • Forget the under-quilt or pad to insulate your back when hammock camping. I simply hang an all-weather sportsman’s blanket (Item # 81284) under the hammock with some elastic cord through the corners for added warmth on cool nights. If it’s really cold I run the cord through the center grommet to let a triangle of fabric fold up on one side or the other to “seal” the ends more . . . otherwise I just let it drape. I’ve slept quite comfortably down to 30 and got through a night down to 20 wearing a layer of fleece inside my sleeping bag. The blanket has so many other uses . . . I always use mine folded in quarter or half when I am cooking for a place to prep things and keep them off the ground (obviously not running my stove on the blanket!). When I am using freeze dried food that you just add water to I put the bag between the layers of the blanket and it “cooks” quicker, especially in cool weather. In my pack I put my wrap my water bladder in the blanket to keep it cool and put it in the top of the pack. Then when I am setting up camp it is the first thing out and gives me a ground cloth to set my equipment on as I set up, change clothes, etc. After years of use the blanket has worn a few small holes in it, but for my purposes it’s still doing the job. One note on the elastic cord . . . tie a loop in one end and put a nylon quick clip on the other and you just need one cord per end . . . run it through the corners of your tarp and the biner or end loop of your hammock and you are good to go You can save a few ounces by using an emergency blanket, but the sportsman’s blanket will last a lot longer.

    • swifty

      Using a Big Agnes w/ pad sleeve in my hammock, but am going to give this emergency blanket a try. looks like it’s got many uses. I’m thinking simply taking a few clothes pins and clipping it to the sides of my hammock in a few places. I have them along anyway for clipping wet socks, etc. to the back of my pack so they dry while hiking. Great ideas

    • Watergirl

      Great tips for multi-functionality!

  • kristine

    I’m a scoutmaster and 80% of my boys and I do hammock camping. I haven’t slept in a tent in the past 3 years and we camp almost every month. The easiest is putting up the hammock. Themost time consuming is getting the tarp over your hammock to be weather tight for rain and wind. I hate waking up to a flapping tarp in the middle of the night. As a woman, I also have to be sensitive to less privacy for changing and such. Finally, A HUGE tip was cutting a plastic circle to put on each end of my hammock strings so when it rains and the rain follows the rope, the circle stops the water from going down the lines and into my dry hammock and tent. I also second the importance of a WARM pad under you to stop the cold….very important.

    • hatfez

      “There’s no place for Women in Scouting…”
      We used to tease our female Scoutmaster all the time. She had a rough time just getting to that position and she was the best Scoutmaster we ever had. The boys loved her, listened to every word she said, often in her low, soft voice and loved to camp. Good luck and thanks for all you do for Scouting!

  • Woodenarrows

    I’ve been trying to work up a hammock system this
    summer. While I like the idea of being off the ground and enjoying the
    views under the tarp, the biggest problem I’ve encountered is trying to get
    into and adjust my sleeping bag for coverage on cool nights while trying to
    fight gravity with no place to get off the sleeping bag!

    • When you’re ready to spend the $$ invest in a top quilt and underquilt. Until then, with a small ground tarp below the hammock, step into your sleeping bag, pull it up to your arm pits, sit in the hammock and spin your legs in. I agree, once in the hammock, making adjustments is difficult which is why the quilts work better.
      hammock forums . net

  • cinnamonboy

    Very useful article, and GREAT comments from everyone at the end. Also a Scout leader, I camp all the time, year-round(in Maine), and have slept in everything from Adirondacks to rolled up in a tarp on the ground. I tend to get claustophobi csleeping in a hammock, but having just read the proper way to lay in one, I’m going to try again at my next campout.
    I’m printing this one out to give to my Scouts.

  • What a great way to camp while backpacking and bike packing with my 2 12 yearl old boys. I use a down sleeping bag with a small foam, reflective, folding thermarest pad and sleep toasty down to 30 degrees. Sometimes i stack the hammocks on the same tree and have even put them side by side when a we had a shortage of trees. Been using them for about 5 years. I once forgot my pad in cool weather and laid pine bows in the bottom of the hammock and slept toasty although I wouldn’t recommend it as it could damage your silk. the boys take them on scout camp outs and have the other scouts jealous of having such a cool sleeping arrangement. I am in the rocky mountains so we experience varying weather. i have used them successfully in Moab as well. We take a tarp in case of a heavy downpour but use the shelter of the trees for light precipitation. I recommend everyone try it once. It is comfortable and keeps you off the ground. They pack small which makes them great for backpacking.
    Happy trails people.

  • Woodenarrows

    I’ve been trying to work up a hammock system this
    summer. While I like the idea of being off the ground and enjoying the
    views under the tarp, the biggest problem I’ve encountered is trying to get
    into and adjust my sleeping bag for coverage on cool nights while trying to fight
    gravity with no place to get off the sleeping bag!

    • Derek Hansen

      Wiggling into a sleeping bag inside a hammock is TOUGH, no doubts there. There are a few tricks: 1) get into your sleeping bag _before_ you get in the hammock. Zip yourself up and then sit down in the hammock. 2) Open the sleeping bag completely, except for the foot end (about 1-2 feet). Sit into the sleeping bag, swing your legs in, and then zip in. 3) Use your sleeping bag as a quilt. Unzip it as in tip #2 and just drape the sleeping bag around and tuck it around you like a blanket. Use a pad (or pads, depending on how cold it gets) under you. Just like on the ground, you compress the insulation beneath you, so it really doesn’t do you much good. A pad is essential to eliminate “Cold Butt Syndrome.”

      • Woodenarrows

        Thanks for the advice. I haven’t given up on the
        hammock yet. On my last outing, just last week, I used your described
        method #3, going for the quilt method.
        Problem was I didn’t have any padding under me, just the single layer of
        the hammock. I thought it would be fine since it has been pretty warm. About 3 am, with rain coming down, I was starting
        to get pretty cool so there I was scrambling to get my underside covered, in
        the dark, while trying not to fall out of the hammock in the rain 🙂 It
        must have been a real hoot since I made enough of a ruckus to scare a raccoon
        off to the nearby woods. I’m wondering
        now if I need a double layer hammock so I’ll have someplace secure to put a pad or
        other insulating material where I won’t have it in the way.

        • hammockforums dot net has all the information you need covering the different styles of hammocks and insulation. Friendly bunch of people at the forum happy to help those getting started. Also search youtube for ‘shug’ for some entertaining/educational hammock videos.

      • Avid Camper

        I have used your example #2 very successfully. Open it, lay it inside the hammock and kind of roll away the zipper ends so you can sit inside of it, then just pull the ends over your body and zip up. Another benefit of having your zipper on top rather than on the side is it is also easier to get OUT of this way as well, you can half vent easier too if you get too warm.

  • Hammocks are great, I have found them great in hot or really warm weather like Flordia and Texas.
    Although, I have spent the coldest night in my life in a hammock on the shores of “Snowbank lake” in the BWCA in the middle of June. The campsite was a dump, lots of roots and rocks so I thought the hammock with my newly purchased netting would be a great choice…after getting up several times in the night and putting on everything I brought…I still froze parts of my annatomy off.
    Hammocks are so small and light, I have a hard time not taking one with me camping, and have converted most all of my friends to the hammock lifestyle… at least for naps arround camp.
    One drawback though…I am fairly conservative politicaly, but I find myself wearing tydie and humming Greatful Dead tunes when I get in a hammock. Just a warning to any considering the cross over.

  • Hmmm what if a couple of bears show up and start sniffing the hammock your zipped up in ?

    • Same thing you would do if you were in a tent that you would also be zipped up inside. Your Tarp offers same “protection” a tent offers where bears are concerned.

    • That’s why we call ’em bear burritos. 🙂 Tent walls aren’t very bearproof either. Hammocks or tents you need to take all the precautions of not attracting bears to you campsite.

    • likes to hike

      what if they show up when you are in your tent? is it any different? a tent provides no more protection. If a bear shows up while you are sleeping and wants to attack, then that is that. You are in the wild, accept it!

  • Camping in the swamps of southern Louisiana, we deal with bugs, snakes and rain. A hammock is the answer to all three. I like to string a tarp between trees to use as a rain fly to sit around and cook under. When it’s time to hit the sack, you just string the hammock, with mosquito net, under the tarp.
    I like a sleeping pad with it because it makes it easier to roll over, and also it shields you from the mosquitoes that will gather on the bottom of the hammock like a bunch of grapes if your body comes in direct contact with it.

  • phoenix

    I hiked over 500 miles on the AT with a hammock. i was able to camp anywhere at night, on slopes, over boulders, above bushes and brambles, etc. it was just dynamite. plus the hammock acted as a day lounger/seat in the mornings and at night when i wanted to sit and eat meals. i could, and did, stealth camp, and never once lost a nights sleep because i was in a hammock. i don’t camp with a tent anymore. You’d have to pay me to do so. hammocks: best things ever invented.

  • phoenix

    BTW, one night there was a huge drop in temperature during an october night and i didn’t have any added insulation to my hammock. i was able to hand rake piles of dry leaves and pine needles under my hammock and i lowered the height of the hammock to hang just above the ground and nestled in. it was warm and soft and offered great insulation. i warmed up nicely and fell right to sleep.

  • Wish “swinging” was more practical for a twosome.

    • cole

      Clark’s two person tent.

  • Brady

    Works great. Paddled across the Missouri river (340 miles) my best sleeping was when I used my hammock. Very versatile with mosquito net. Was so tired one night that I simply laid it out on a sandbar, zipped up the net and went to sleep. Not very difficult to find a place to hang.
    Keep a 45 handy for the bears and bandits 🙂

  • canoejim

    I have used a hammock here in Fl for many years. I worked in Miami and did most of my hiking in the Big Cypress. Since that area at time is very wet the hammock was the way to go. The US Army during WWII had a nice hammock (all tho some didn’t think so) These were hard to fine. So my wife made me one that was just as good.Used it for man years until age caught up with me. Tried to use it out west but it not do well in cold weather even with a pad. Now a days you can purchase excellent hammocks. Jim

  • Tony Padegimas

    A couple of things I’ve learned from hammock camping:
    Unless you are a gymnast, you cannot change clothes in the thing with any reasonable amount of modesty. Also, set up the hammock and then start drinking. Never the other way around.

    • Smokey

      Drinking and camping–regardless of tent or hammock–always set up camp and do anything that requires thought before drinking. As for modesty, I have a large tarp with lots of coverage anchored in an A formation. If you pull up stakes on both sides but leave the ties on, it drops to the ground like a screen or a blind and you change your clothes behind that before taking it the rest of the way down. Just don’t let anyone sneak up behind you.

  • likes to hike

    I work on a fire crew in Idaho, and weight of gear is not an issue, we have heavy packs and a lot of gear. It is easy for me to bring my personal pack hammock that weighs less than a pound, and takes up as much room as a pair of socks in my line gear. I use it almost all season, and everyone on my crew is jealous when they see me set up my camp site in seconds. Everyone wants to take a turn rocking in it. Really it is such an easy alternative, and if the conditions are not right for it, I simply use the tent I always have on me. Could not be happier with it!!! I have the exact hammock pictured above (Grand Trunk Ultralight backpacker- purchased on campmor, for $15), really it is a no brainer.

  • rambling man

    Be very cautious in bad weather. About six years ago a sea kayaker was killed in NJ when his tree was hit by lightning. Some speculate the strike was partly attributable to having some cooking gear (pots/pans) also at base of tree. Regardless, a very sad and tragic event. Often campers look for a strong tree with a big trunk, which can also mean a tall tree.

  • swifty

    I too had the problem of insulated pad continually slipping out from underneath me. Problem solved when I got my new bag, a Big Agnes, where the pad slips into a sleeve on the back of the bag. In warmer weather I just unzip the bag a good ways and flip the top off to the side, and then back over me again as the night chills come 3 a.m.

  • yellow50

    Another benefit of hammock camping after a long day backpacking is I can elevate my feet by just sliding down slightly toward one end.

  • camper chris

    Hammock Camping And Backpacking Is Far Superior To Using A Tent. I Have Several Different Hammock Systems As Well As Tent And My Hennessy Hammock Surpasses Anything I Have Used Before. Even WhenThere Are No Trees To Hang From All You Need Is A Pair Of Hiking Poles Or A Couple Of Sticks To Turn It Into A Ground Tent. I swear by My Hennessy Hammock And Would Never Camp Without It. It Is Strong, Durable, And Above All Else Super Comfy, By Far The Best Backpacking Shelter On The Market For 3 Season Camping.

  • Vigilant

    My first experience with a hammock was as a kid and purchase of an Army surplus jungle hammock in the mid-50s. It had a built-in mosquito net that zipped closed and a rain roof. I could be set up either in the trees or on the ground. What a great night’s sleep! Aside from the excessive weight, the concept was entirely sound. Fast forward a decade, and I slept in a hammock on patrol in Vietnam for a year, and for the most part it beat sharing the ground with all those night critters. This one was very basic; just a nylon rectangle with suspension lines, that rolled up into fist size.
    Will look into this generation of hammocks with interest.

  • Nick Brummett

    Therma rest z lite grand trunk hammock and Kelly tarp, I can sleep in the air or on the ground, my big Agnes’s system works even better in a hammock cas the pad does run away in the night

  • James R. Roberts

    Good article, I am a BSA Scout leader and our whole troop uses hammocks, year round. It’s a real joy to see the youth grab their packs head into the woods and set up their own dwelling for the weekend. I even have 2 screw hooks in my spare bedroom and often sleep in my hammock in the house! Thanks ENO!

  • Smokey

    I hike in PA and New York. There are always two trees that will work in these woods. What I like is being ready for bed while watching the tent guys clearing the ground, trying to avoid sleeping on roots or trying to find a level spot. I clear nothing, avoid all ground contact and am level between two trees. If I hike in other states, I’d like to find a convertable–hammock to tent. My tarp is always with me.

    • Mr Brown

      A little less sanctimony please Smokey.
      It doesn’t reflect well on you, the forum or the outdoors community.

  • Robert

    I spent the summer as an Interpreter for the Scouts in Boundary Waters Canoe Area in a military Jungle Hammock with netting(I replaced their tiny tarp). I agree with putting a foam pad under your sleeping bag for insulation. I also found it uncomfortably pushing my shoulder blades together, so I put two notches in my paddle and used it to spread out the top so my shoulders lay flat. You can use a good stick to accomplish the same thing. When I attach it to the trees, I pull it tight to try an minimize sag. It was a good way to learn balance and patience – don’t rush or you will get thrown on the ground. Ha

  • Chuck

    I have been camping in hammocks since I was 12 years old and right now I am 70.
    Plus I own 5 different hammocks right now , Clark Tropical , ENO single nest , Hennessy expedition , G.I.Army hammock and a Lawson hammock.

  • Fred

    I’m 66, and that’s just too old to be crawling in and out of a tent. I’m a hammock convert.

    Rock climbers sleep on hammocks slung against walls, and you can do the same with any boulder or wall when there are no trees around. I’ve seen people sleeping in hammocks slung between the barge mooring rings set into the walls along the Seine in Paris, where they were much more comfortable than people sleeping on the ground.

    • Mr Brown

      I’ve seen people sleeping in shop doorways and park benches – it proves nothing.
      Your post is almost meaningless Fred.
      I apologise for pointing this out, but really the apology should be all yours.

      • Darth Vader

        Mr. Brown. I believe you must have slept on a rock last night. Chill.

  • Mr Brown

    Hammock camping is a banal novelty punted about by camping shops who have already sold you everything else.

    Keep your hand in your pocket, it’s yet more tutt to clutter your storage.


    • Ron

      or make your own! plenty of directions online – then you don’t have to spend more money at outdoors stores.

      I don’t have a hammock, and don’t want to buy one, but the idea of making one intrigues me. Maybe I’ll make one in the next 10 years! 🙂

      • notchent

        No need to wait 10 years – you can tie one up from a piece of rip stop nylon in about 2 minutes. Oh, and BTW, I think Mr Brown may never have slept in a hammock 😉

  • John

    I’ve used a hammock the last three trips into the BWCA. I use to sleep on the ground with the creepy crawlers and skittering things. The hammock is a much better choice. This past trip the weather was wet, windy and cold (mid 30’s at night). I was able to stay dry under the tarp setup but the wind changed directions and I found myself in a wind tunnel. That night I lost heat from underneath. My feet got really cold. The next night was fix’en to be colder. I rolled out my sleeping pad in the hammock to try to get a little more protection from the cold and wind. Worked great. Little awkward the square pad in the less than square contours of the hammock but my feet stayed warm along with the rest of me. I’m going to try a few of the tips I’ve read here on future trips. Thanks all.

  • Moondoggy

    Do lots of research and try out lots of options before you purchase your gear ! Videos and gear reviews and forums will help you weed through the cheap uncomfortable gear and help you get the right gear on your first purchase ! Go to group hangs and check out different setups !
    Have fun !

  • Michael Curran

    What about protection from the elements, like rain? What alternatives are there?

    • Moondoggy

      A good 14oz Silnylon 10×10 tarp is what I use ! Just set it up like an a frame tent with some climbing string (ridge line ) over your hammock ! The reason I use 10×10 is so I can close the ends in like doors if the weather gets foul or use my hiking pole to put one side up ( porch mode ) when it’s nice out and you have a good view ! Look up Etowah Ultralight Outfitters for a great price on a nice piece of cottage made gear !

  • Mr P.

    My concern is changing clothes. I use a larger fly / tarp for privacy. When I use the ENO bug screen it provides a place for my shoes underneath and keeps the bugs out of my shoes.

  • ptoddf

    Make some wire nooses to hang from rocks on one end of hammock or both. I made up stainless steel 1/8″ aircraft cables with compression crimped loops on the ends. Works great when needed, which is rarely, but above tree line in Sierra may be more needed. Tying directly to sharp rocks is a bad idea, gentle rocking can saw through suspension cord in minutes. Use tree straps to protect tree bark, too.

  • Brian K.

    I too am a hammock convert — wouldn’t want to go back to tents unless certain demands couldn’t be met (i.e., wife is along!) One thing that neither the author nor anyone else in the comments has pointed out is the absolute need to bring your extra clothes/stuff sacks in with you as support for under your knees. Otherwise your legs feel hyperextended and you can’t get comfortable for very long. I also use a small fleece covered pillow for my neck support. I do often curl up on my side in the hammock as well — love it. I use the double-bottomed Hennessy winter solution all year long, and adjust my sleeping bag and clothes for heat or cold. One more thing — I think my bladder is compressed more in a hammock than in a tent, because it seems like every two hours I need to exit and relieve myself or I won’t be able to get back to sleep. I tried a ‘pee bottle’ once with mixed results. Still, I get a great night’s sleep regardless, as long as I have the soft stuff piled up under my knees.

  • Binford

    I’ve been an Assistant Scoutmaster with my son’s troop for 4 years now and have been hammock camping the whole time. In the Pacific Northwest, you may have heard it rains on occasion. Well, while everyone else is setting up their tent in the rain on the wet ground, then finally getting their rain flies on at the end, the first thing out of my pack is my rain tarp. It goes on the tree and I stake out the corners. Now I have a dry, sheltered area to work under, setting up my hammock and unloading my gear.

    Mosquito net is an accessory I usually bring along. I run a simple Spectra line over my hammock and drape a mozzie net over it, bunching the ends up at head and foot. I’ve sewn 4 little pockets on the bottom edges into which I stick small rocks to hold it down. It holds tight against the sides of my hammock and I’ve never had a bug bite.

    My entire kit (silnylon tarp, stakes, hammock, tree saver straps, carabiners, and mosquito net) weighs in at a tad over 3-1/2 lbs. Each component is stored in an individual pocket which altogether are about the size of a small one-man tent. I bring a sleeping pad, which is not part of the 3-1/2 lbs, that I place inside the hammock as your back will get chilled even on a warm night since your sleeping bag is compressed and thus offers no insulation. If I need to go to the ground, the hammock becomes my bivvy to protect my sleeping bag and the pad becomes a sleeping pad. Trek poles suspend the tarp over me.

    And yes, a place to change clothes is probably the biggest problem. My tarp can be unstaked and hangs low enough that I can change privately though. Not ideal, but well worth the hassle for the comfortable nights sleep I get!

    It’s not for everyone, but if you give it an honest try, I think you’ll find it hard to go back to the ground again!

    I’ll be in mine all week next week at the Scout’s Resident Camp!

  • steven cobra

    Snakes and trolls

    • camp know it all

      steven, it’s people like you, who you can tell have never camped outside of your living room that make this blog dangerous.
      camping in hammocks is a good way to get bit by a snake.
      try again, obama

  • steven cobra

    Wind is tough and peeing into the wind. Bears love hammocks.

    • camp know it all

      i agree with this one

  • camp know it all

    where can i buy a bear?

  • Avid Camper

    Sleeping in a hammock will also help people suffering from Acid Reflux… While camping we ALWAYS have a hammock but usually just for daytime relaxing. I suffer from Acid Reflux greatly, and one night while camping I just knew there was no point in attempting to lie down on my thermarest mat… meanwhile my hammock was calling to me “come… give me a try” and so I picked up my theramarest and sleeping bag and made myself a nice little cocoon in the hammock with my head elevated slightly above the rest of my body and I smiled at myself because I was SO COMFY and warm and yes I did gently rock a little bit and I could see the stars and they were beautiful… and BANG!! I fell asleep and didn’t wake up once (and I’m usually a VERY light sleeper) and it was one of the very best nights of sleep I’ve EVER had. So much so that I’m thinking it might be nice to just install a sleeping hammock in my house even.

  • T. Smith

    My experience with hammock camping goes back to my days as a young Boy Scout. A friend loaned me his “jungle hammock” that he had bought at an Army Surplus Store. It had an awning top that could be extended by attaching a couple of sticks, the sides were mosquito netting and you zipped yourself inside. Getting ready to sleep in one required that you get into the hammock with limited clothing, once inside you could put your clothes, shoes, etc in pouches that were one each side of the hammock. If the rain or cold air was too much, you could reacfh out thru arm holes and release the sticks holding up the awning which then dropped down and you were fully protected. Best nights sleep you can get when it is pouring rain. (Alabama Scouter, Cheaha District, GAC)

  • onebigred51

    I have a Hennessey Hammock. I recently tried a house wrap to insulate from the bum cold. A house wrap is a fabric that is wrapped on the outside of a house before the siding is installed. I used the Menards brand and found in very effective to insulating the cold air from my backside. I have been hammock backpacking for many years. And one of the major downside is the cold backside. The house wrap did insulate very well down in the low 50’s. I slept without a sleeping bag. I thought because it was made of some type of plastic material that it would be noisy. It was not. I was very satisfied with this wrap.

  • kenzo

    I have a lightweight hammock with attached bug net. If there are no trees, I keep 12 aluminum stakes with me. By removing the endlines of the hammock and staking it at the corners, it becomes a rectangle with a nice overhead bug net. Treking poles support the bug net and a lightweight tarp if needed. It all makes a cozy tent if needed,

  • hatfez

    My hammock is the last item packed, the first unpacked. It is a great place to lay out all your “stuff” as you set up camp, then, exhausted from your task, take the ipod and your beats and mellow out!

  • Hammock bob

    I first slept in a hammock at a cottage on Lake Michigan, about 8 years ago. Then bought my with a net to keep bugs out, improving even more with a rain fly. Haven’t used my tent in 7 years. Became known as “hammock bob” and have turned several friends unto it. It is great for kayak camping. First thing people say is, “That looks like fun, but I’m afraid my back wouldn’t take it.” I can’t say the same for anyone else, but I am 66 years old have a bad back and find it therapeutic. Last year I had to carry a lot of gear as we had to empty our kayaks before they would load them on a ferry. My back was killing me- one night in my hammock and I woke up without pain. I’ve had that happen time after time. I’m tempted to remove my bed and screw some eye-bolts into the walls of my bedroom. Of course you have to sleep in a hammock correctly which means at a diagonal rather than end to end which removes some of the banana effect. Another MUST is a ground pad underneath you it is cool even on warm nights when the air passes beneath you.

  • Hammock bob

    I first slept in a hammock at a cottage on Lake Michigan, about 8 years ago. Then bought my own with a net to keep bugs out, improving even more with a rain fly. Haven’t used my tent in 7 years. Became known as “hammock bob” and have turned several friends unto it. It is great for kayak camping. First thing people say is, “That looks like fun, but I’m afraid my back wouldn’t take it.” I can’t say the same for anyone else, but I am 66 years old have a bad back and find it therapeutic. Last year I had to carry a lot of gear as we had to empty our kayaks before they would load them on a ferry. My back was killing me- one night in my hammock and I woke up without pain. I’ve had that happen time after time. I’m tempted to remove my bed and screw some eye-bolts into the walls of my bedroom. Of course you have to sleep in a hammock correctly which means at a diagonal rather than end to end which removes some of the banana effect. Another MUST is a ground pad underneath you it is cool even on warm nights when the air passes beneath you.

  • Darth Vader

    I’m new to hammock camping (2 years). 75 years old. Love it. Been camping for about 70 of those years. The hammock is good for my back and I sleep great. For under sleeping bag insulator, I use 1 or 2 very cheap and flexible car windshield sun shades. The ones that have a reflective coating. Think 99 cent stores. Weigh couple ounces each, and take up very little space. Used into high 40s w/o problem. Also good cold insulator for ‘ground sleeping’ – but you’ll need a regular pad on top of them. For a tarp I use either a Kelty 10×12 or a regular 10×10 depending on weather forecast. Use tree savers of course. Sierra’s and local mtns.

  • David

    I have a 45 degree under blanket, and an insulating air mattress. Would a combination of these two things work for weather colder than 40 degrees?