I switched from tent camping to hammocking seven years ago, and I don’t regret it. When conditions allow, I always choose a hammock over a tent.
I can’t say the same for other campers.
See, hammocking is tricky, especially if you don’t know the basics of it. Even with the perfect hang, I can tell you some nights are better than others in a hammock.
But that shouldn’t take away your need to try a hammock on your next hammock camping trip.
You simply need to dial in the essentials of hammock camping.
And it’s where I come in.
In the comprehensive guide below, I’ll share some basics you shouldn’t miss on your next hammocking trip.
A hammock is an essential that will make or break your camping experience.
For your first hammock, I suggest you invest in a high-quality option specifically designed for camping.
Many wannabe campers make the huge mistake of thinking their backyard hammock will suffice in the wilderness.
Far from it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking your casual hammock will perform comfortably or safely on the trail.
Instead, I’d suggest you pick a hammock built for camping.
Usually, these camping hammocks are durable, heavy-duty, and can withstand the roughing of camping.
It’s also advisable that you don’t stretch your budget too much when selecting your first hammock for camping.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should skimp and choose a cheap option. Good luck using that.
Another hammock detail not to leave out is the length. Ideally, an 11’ hammock would be a great starting point, especially if you’re a tall and big guy.
It keeps you comfortable and provides enough space for you to lay on.
You could also consider a personalized hammock if you’ve the budget.
While the custom camping hammocks are a bit expensive, they allow you to choose the length, thread, material, colors, and more.
Generally, most hammock camping happens during summer or warm-weather trips.
And with warm weather, expect a bane of other outdoor enthusiasts, including insects and bugs.
These pesky intruders are annoying and can leave painful bites. Some will even transfer deadly diseases and some infections.
Now, unlike tents that often come with some form of bug-proof net, hammocks usually leave you exposed.
Therefore, bug nets are an absolute must, especially if you camp in a region with plenty of insects.
I usually camp in northern Minnesota and swear by the bug netting.
However, I sometimes wing it without a bug net, depending on the season. The bug nets aren’t necessary everywhere or for every season.
But I don’t mind the extra weight when the bug season sets in. It comes in handy during bug hour.
Another useful hammock essential you should never skimp about is the suspension system.
You might have a dream hammock and everything, but if you lack a suspension, you’ll have a hard time adjusting your hammock.
Usually, a hammock suspension provides a system that dictates how you attach your hammock between two trees.
But understand a complete hammock system is more than just a rope. It also includes tree strappers, hooks, and clips.
While most hammocks usually come with stock hammocks, making adjustments on these is usually a challenge, even when doing the half hitches.
A decent suspension should have lightweight material that doesn’t stretch.
Some of the popular suspension setups include:
It’s quick and easy to adjust, especially with carabiners on the ends of the tree straps.
However, you must ensure the buckle is straight on the strap. Otherwise, you risk falling.
They also provide a fast setup but can be fiddly to adjust.
Plus, the strap will likely get nasty marks after several uses.
The whoopie sling is fiddly to loosen, especially after a night’s sleep.
Daisy chains and carabiners
These are the easiest to set up. They’re perfect for beginners, and I’ve them for kid’s hammocks, so they set up by themselves.
A structural ridgeline is a pretty big deal, and I feel it’s an under-rated hammock essential.
It has been a game changer for me because it allows me to get in a comfortable sleeping position. Right now, I don’t have to worry about finding two trees or even fiddle with hang angle.
Before then, I had to fiddle for more than half an hour to dial in my setup, and even then, I’d still end up with a restless night.
But a ridgeline comes in handy regarding comfort and allows me to play with the geometry of my hang.
In fact, the success of having a comfortable lay and a nice dangle will depend on the ridgeline.
You’ll love your night’s restfulness when you get your hammock in the right range and find your position.
Another thing with a ridgeline is that it not only helps you with a correct angle of hang but also lets you use the wrong angle of hang on your suspension while maintaining the proper hammock angle.
The adjustment might be a bit fiddly, but getting it all dialed in makes your hang comfier.
Plus, it’s a set and forgets.
I’m no arborist, but I understand hammocking can harm trees if you’re not careful.
The ropes and suspension systems will scratch the tree bark, especially if you exert too much pressure on them.
Enter hammock webbing.
Webbings are simply straps that attach to the tree. They let you connect and adjust the suspension without harming the tree.
Usually, the hammock webbings are made out of low-flex materials such as Kevlar and polyester.
The right webbing size will depend on the size of the tree. But I prefer those in the range of 11′ to 16′.
I’m a big fan of the 16′ webbing as they’re big enough to hang between trees up to 35′ apart.
The 11′ straps are a bit on the lower side, at least for me, as I usually find it unable to wrap around trees with them.
Understand the 16’ straps are a bit heavy, but l don’t mind the little extra weight, considering the versatility I get. They may not be weight-efficient but are time-efficient.
Even then, you can still use the simple tree straps with a single attach point at each end.
Using them, however, is a hit or miss. They sometimes wrap around perfectly, and other times, not so much.
Before I got the 16′ option, I would end up carrying multiple sets of straps of different lengths to ensure I had something that would work regardless of the tree size I came across.
The usage of a stuff sack is pretty self-explanatory.
They’re used to store your hammocking essentials such as wallets, knives, sunscreen, and other supplies.
I use my stuff sack to protect the small hammock camping accessories when hanging at night.
A huge problem with hammock camping is heat loss. Even in the hot summer, temperatures can dip considerably at night.
Usually, the two main ways our bodies lose heat in summer are convection and radiation.
We shall look at convection.
When hammock camping, our bodies hang off the ground in the air. Therefore, even the slightest air breeze blowing across you will likely suck your body heat out.
Fortunately, you can counteract the convection effect using a tarp.
A tart breaks the wind and stops it from getting close to you.
I’ve a Tundra winter tarp, which I like setting it up in an A-frame design. The A-frame provides better rain protection and a 360-degree shield against the wind and rain.
Now, depending on how raised your hammock is, a key thing to keep in mind is that your hammock should never hang on the lower bottom of the tarp.
Your hammock should be higher than the lowest section of the tarp.
The other way that our bodies lose heat is through radiation.
Regardless of where you camp, our bodies naturally radiate heat. You’ll lose heat even when you’re tent camping or RV camping.
Layering, however, helps you beat heat loss through radiation.
Extra clothes aren’t essential for hammocking, but it’s technically one, especially if you’re camping in cold weather.
Layers are usually my first line of defense when camping. I break my layers into light, medium, and heavy layers and an outer shell.
The perfect layer should allow you to add or remove one layer without affecting the other.
Of course, the thickness of the material for each layer will also depend on the existing climatic conditions.
Here’s a brief of my typical layering system:
It’s the base and innermost layer. I wear long underwear and a liner sock.
No cotton material to avoid soaking sweat.
It’s the second layer, and I like wearing thinner fleece shirts and synthetic pants. A beanie and a thin pair of gloves are also perfect for this layer.
The heavy layer is thicker. The down jackets, puffy jackets, and pants are more insulated, and the wool socks are thicker.
The shell is handy when there’s wind and rain. A rain jacket or rain pants (rain gear) are perfect for these conditions.
The role of a structural ridge line is to prevent the hammock ends from getting far apart.
It fixes the length of your hammock for an optimal sag, providing a consistent hammock shape, regardless of where you hang it.
So, regardless of the tightness of your tree hammock straps, your hammock remains in a position for optimal comfort.
Of course, the “sweet spot” differs for everyone, but the good thing is that it allows you to play with the different lengths for a comfortable curve.
Now, without a ridgeline, your hammock lays flat instead of a U position. It means you’re more likely to flip over.
I wasn’t sure about it, but once I tried the hammock ridgeline, it changed my perspective to comfort in hammock camping.
My hammock now always hangs the same way, regardless of other variables.
Typical hammock ridgelines are made out of Lash-It.
Also, understand that a ridgeline can hold a bug net, but a rain fly cannot.
A rain fly has a separate suspension system that may run from one tree to the next, where a tart rests upon it.
When hanging a tarp between trees, understand that trees will sway in the wind and will likely overstretch the tarp.
In addition, the elevated height and an extended ridge length mean the hammock tarps are likely to experience more stress.
Therefore, it’s necessary to have ground tieouts that maintain tension ad flexibility for tarp positioning.
The tieouts protect your tarps from the elements and ensure they’re sturdy and secure.
Other handy items to secure your tarps and hammocks include:
Stakes are usually made out of sturdy and weather-resistant metals. When used along with the ground tieouts, they help to secure your tarp.
Tarp sleeves are handy during transportation.
They’re a protective shield that keeps your hammock camping gear and supplies clean.
Pick a breathable option to prevent your gear from getting musty.
Next, consider the level of insulation.
Keeping warm can be challenging when swaying in a hammock and suspended in the air.
And since you’re on a “hang,” you lose the natural insulation of the solid ground beneath.
You might be interested in an underquilt.
I’m a big fan of underquilts because they keep me warm, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
They’re super warm and easier to set up than the traditional sleeping bag.
Plus, it’s much more insulated than a normal top quilt or sleeping pad and provides a buffer against cold temperatures underneath you.
Even then, it’s still nice to use a sleeping pad before deciding on the quilt to get. But understand they can be a pain when moving.
Consider a sleeping bag if you’re uncomfortable with an underquilt or the conditions are much warmer.
Bring one that is rated slightly lower temperatures than you expect in your camping location.
Be sure to understand the ratings of a sleeping bag, as some of them can be pretty misleading.
Luxury Hammock Items
In addition to the main camping essentials, there’re other luxury items that you may tag along with to make your life comfier.
Some of the luxuries I love to carry include:
· Gear sling:
I use it beneath my backpack to hold my backpack. It’s much better than using carabiners on the continuous loop.
I’ve a Sea Summit, rated 60 lbs, and it holds most of my gear.
· Ridgeline organizer
It offers a handy way to store your small stuff such as keys, phones, and joints.
Get a lamp. You’ll be surprised at how much light you need at night.
However, it shouldn’t be jarring.
· Hang time hook
It’s a handy phone mount for your ridgeline.
I’ve a little kidney-shaped pillow for resting my head.
· Pocket-size picnic blanket
A blanket is useful when standing in the dirt and getting in and out of my hammock.
Alternatively, use a Tyvek as a ground cloth. I got mine for free at a scrap construction site, and they’re great.
A fan works well for the hot summer nights and days.
Other luxuries include:
- Ear plugs for loud neighbors
- Eyeshade for inconsiderate lamp users and campfire
Tips and Tricks of Hammock Camping
With that out of the way, let’s look at some quick tips and tricks of hammock camping:
Always Perform a Test-run before hammock camping
Hammock camping is unlike any other camping.
You must do a low-stake test run before heading out. This is, in my opinion, the best way to find out what you want, need, or are missing.
I was lucky to have a large backyard with some trees, which I did my test runs.
You could also borrow a hammock setup from a friend to see whether you can sleep on one.
For example, my wife is a side sleeper, and as comfortable as I set her to hang, she just can’t get a good night’s sleep in them.
Choose the Right Spot
You must pick your spot wisely.
It should be near plenty of strong and well-spaced trees. Never attach a hammock to a flimsy structure that can hold your extra weight.
Also, pick a spot where you’re naturally sheltered from the elements. Don’t pitch in a hollow where water can gather below you.
Set up Camp First
When you find the right spot to pitch your hammock, it’s recommended that you do it right away.
Just like when you’ve a tent.
Always make the shelter a preference, even if your stomach is growling. It’s crucial, particularly for a new hammock camper.
Once your hammock is read, you can proceed to other camping activities.
Know your surroundings
You should start in a familiar campground. This goes to all hammock campers, starting from beginners to experienced campers and everything in between.
Familiarize yourself with the surrounding, local laws and regulations and the wildlife.
You don’t want to camp in a bear territory or get sued for trespassing private ground.
Quick Hammock Camping Checklist Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Where do you put your stuff when hammock camping?
A: You could start by laying it on the ground below you. But if the conditions don’t allow it, simply hang it by attaching it to the carabiner on your hammock ridgeline.
Q: Do you need a tarp for hammock camping?
A: Yes, you need a tarp for hammock camping. It provides a shield against the elements such as rain and wind.
Q: How do you stay warm while camping in a hammock?
A: Using a tarp will prevent body heat loss through convection. Layering is vital to hold your body heat and stop heat loss through radiation.
Q: Is hammock camping uncomfortable?
A: It all depends on the hang. Personally, I find it more comfortable than tent camping.
Now that’s everything you need to know about what to bring in your next hammock camping. Or at least, that’s what I usually carry when I go out for hammock camping.
Of course, that doesn’t limit you from adding a few extra you think might come in handy on your next camping trip. It all depends on the hammock camping setup and the exact conditions of your trip.
Feel free to list some of the essentials you usually carry when hammocking.