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A Beginner’s Guide to Hammock Camping

August 06, 2018

Person lies on their blue hammock in the woods with their hiking boots on and a roaring fire in the distance.

Elevate Your Outdoor Experience with the Best Camping Hammock

Nothing quite compares to gently falling asleep as you lie beneath a blanket of twinkling stars.

Except, that is, gently being rocked to sleep while you rest in a hammock under twinkling stars!

If you’re looking for ways to elevate your camping game, there’s literally no better way to do so than with a camping hammock!

For you outdoor enthusiasts camping in Ontario and Quebec looking to try something new, bringing a hammock on your next outing might be exactly the fun new experience you’re looking for.

Hammock camping is convenient, advantageous, and easy. You can pitch your hammock almost anywhere and set up or pack up in a flash. Say goodbye to sleeping on the ground, while you’re at it. Hammocks offer a fantastic night’s sleep. Chances are, once you try camping with a hammock, you won’t want to go back to tenting!

If you’re looking to switch things up and try something new, then ditch the tent and get a hammock! Whether you’re just getting started with hammock camping or are a seasoned pro, you’re sure to find something useful in our helpful guide.A camper with a full backpack stares out across a beautiful lake.

What to Bring

Since you’re not packing a tent, you’ll likely have a bit more room for a few key essentials—and then some.

There are some very useful accessories you’ll want to pack to help make your hammock camping experience as fun and enjoyable as possible.

  • You can never go wrong with packing a good length of rope. Rope packs small and is easy to carry but has countless uses at a campsite. 
  • Bring a good mosquito net. It will protect you from bugs and may also add an extra level of privacy. 
  • Pack a good pillow and blanket or sleeping bag to insulate yourself. Being off the ground means you may get colder than being inside a tent. If the temperature is colder, consider bringing a foam hammock pad or a hammock quilt for extra insulation. 
  • The ridgeline is a cord that runs between each end of the hammock. Sometimes your hammock will come with this pre-installed, and other hammocks will need one attached. You will need a ridgeline to hang a bug net or tarp.
  • Carabiners and suspension straps, also known as tree-hugger straps, are what you’ll use to hang your hammock on the trees. 
  • A rainfly will protect you from the rain. You can also use a hammock tarp for this. Hammock tarps come in various shapes and sizes. Some are good for fair weather, and others provide more protection from the elements in all four seasons. 
  • A torch lantern will help you see at night when you want to read, play cards, or need to take a stroll to the outhouse. 

Tips for Easy Setup

One of the biggest advantages to camping with a hammock is the quick and easy setup. But there are still some tips for picking the right spot and making sure your bed for the night is set up correctly.

Practice

You may want to try a practice run setting up your hammock at home before you’ve got to get it right while camping. Follow a hammock hanging guide, and consider watching step-by-step how-to videos online to learn how to hang a hammock.

Find a Good Location

When you get to your campsite, do a site check and investigate your area for where the trees are. You’re looking for a good location for your hammock, so watch for shade, sunlight, and clear ground beneath.

You need sturdy trees that will hold your weight. Don’t use saplings or dead trees; these will likely break under any sort of weight, no matter how light you might be.
The ideal tree is thick enough that you can’t completely wrap your hands around the trunk.

You should also take time to check for dead branches further up. If winds pick up, a strong gust could cause one to break off and drop down onto your cozy hammock.

A good setup will need between 10 and 16 feet between trees. Ideally, you want your hammock to hang a foot and a half above the ground. As a rule of thumb, don’t hang your hammock any higher than you’re willing to fall!

At the very most, your hammock can hang four feet above the ground, but that’s pushing it. Aim for somewhere between 18 and 36 inches and you’ll likely be comfortable.

Set Up Early

Make sure to set up before it gets dark! Trying to find all your equipment and tie your knots in the dark is no fun. It’s much more enjoyable to set up nice and early in the daylight so you can relax once you’re tired and the sun goes down.

Suspension

Tree straps for suspension are probably the easiest way to hang a hammock while camping. As a bonus, straps help protect tree bark from damage. When using tree straps, make sure they are at an even height on both trees.

You should also make sure your suspension has enough slack and is at a 30-degree angle from ground level to the anchor (tree strap). This will prevent too much tension that would otherwise make the hammock taught and easy to flip over. This angle will also avoid placing too much force on the suspension from your weight when you get in.

When suspended at a 30-degree angle, your hammock will have a deep sag and a lower center of gravity that will make it easy to get in and out of, and also more comfortable to sleep in.

There are many ways to hang your hammock though, whether with rope, straps, or hanging hardware, so choose the setup that’s right for you.

Tarp Setup

If there’s a chance of rain, you’ll want to set up a hammock tarp as well. Note that the tarp ridgeline should be below the hammock ridgeline suspension.

You don’t want to rest the tarp on your hammock suspension since it will move with the hammock when you move. Instead, this will keep you covered and protected from the rain when you get in and out of your hammock.

You can use a diamond tarp for minimal coverage, or a four-season tarp with door flaps to keep you extra protected from the elements.

A pair of feet in boots rest comfortably in a camping hammock, looking out on a beautiful winter landscape. A hat is hanging on the tree next to the hammock.

The Best Sleeping Position for Hammock Camping

A common mistake people make when setting up their hammock that can lead to an uncomfortable night’s sleep is hanging their hammock too tightly. The tighter your hammock is hung, the straighter and flatter your sleep will be.

Loosen Up

When you get into your hammock, your body weight will pull the hammock tighter and the sides will cocoon around you. A tight hammock will squeeze your shoulders and can even increase the chances of damage to your hammock and the trees it's tied onto.

So the biggest tip for a comfortable sleep in your hammock is to keep it loose! Give your hammock some slack.

Sleep Diagonally

You’re going to end up sleeping on a 30-degree diagonal, not exactly parallel to your hammock, and the extra slack will spread out as you lay down.

This diagonal angle is going to spread out your body weight, avoiding any pressure points. Your head and neck will remain slightly elevated. With the bulk of your weight in the centre of the hammock where the hammock is the tightest, you’ll feel proper support without any worry about tipping.

Once you’ve mastered this diagonal sleep position, you’ll be able to sleep on your back or side comfortably. You can even toss and turn as much as you like as camping hammocks are designed for stability and won’t flip over in the middle of the night.

Sleeping in a hammock provides maximum comfort for your body and back. You can have a better, deeper sleep without sleeping on the hard, rocky ground.

How to Hide Your Food

Remember that rope you packed? You can use it to hoist your food up in a bag in the trees. You want to make sure animals can’t access your food so you’ll want to hide it out of reach. Just make sure it's not hanging in any trees near you.

If you have a car parked nearby, consider storing your food in the car. This will give you added peace of mind knowing your food is well-hidden and secure.

You also have a responsibility to dispose of trash responsibly. Leftover food scraps and packaging can lure unwanted wild visitors to your campsite.

Benefits of Hammock Camping

Once you’ve wrapped your head around trying out hammock camping, you’ll begin to see the many advantages it brings to your outdoor experience.

Lightweight

One of the main advantages to camping with a hammock is that you’ll be able to pack much lighter, which is especially ideal if you’ll be hiking into your campsite or portaging a canoe.

Hammock camping is lighter because you don’t need to pack a tent or a bulky air mattress. All you’ll need are your hammock, bug net, rain fly, and suspension straps, which all pack up nice and small. Hammocks are also a lot cheaper compared to tents, and who doesn’t like saving money on gear!

Easy Setup

Setup and pack-up are a breeze with a hammock. No more tent poles and stakes in the ground, just wrapping tree straps and suspension on trees and hanging your hammock.

With a hammock, you’ll never have to worry again about finding the perfect, flat spot to put up your tent. You won’t need to worry about finding a clearing that’s also clear of bugs or about putting your tent away from potential rain runoff.

All you’ll need is a spot between two trees!

Low Environmental Footprint

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you likely enjoy nature and are mindful of your impact on the environment while you’re enjoying the outdoors.

Another upside to hammock camping is that you can have less of a footprint on the campsite because you will sleep suspended in your hammock, instead of compressing the terrain below you under a tent.

Better Sleep & Camping Experience

You’ll also have a better night’s sleep in a hammock. People tend to fall asleep faster in hammocks and have a deeper, more restful sleep. And sleeping in hammocks is ideal for those with sore joints and back pain since it alleviates pressure on your body.

So instead of waking up in a hot tent on a half-deflated air mattress, or on the hard ground, you can wake up feeling refreshed with a cool breeze and stunning view of nature.

This is probably the greatest advantage of all. You’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors and you won’t be confined to four walls of a tent while you’re sleeping.

You can stare up at the stars and wake up to the sunrise while still feeling safe and protected from the elements.

A hand pushes at mosquito netting at a campsite.

Considerations When Purchasing Your First Hammock

Since sleeping suspended in the air isn’t something everyone is accustomed to, you want to make sure your first hammock is comfortable and that you feel safe sleeping in it.

The ideal camping hammock is lightweight and made from a quick-drying material like nylon. It's strong enough to support your weight and it’s also large enough to cover you comfortably in a cocoon-like wrap when you’re sleeping.

Camping hammocks are also easy to pack and carry. They do not have spreader bars that would add weight and tend to be bulky, taking up too much space in your camping bag.

Spreader-bar hammocks are also not ideal for sleeping in because they tend to be taught and flip over easily. They will not wrap you in a comfortable cocoon and they will not relieve the pressure from your back like comfortable camping hammocks.

Choose a protective rain fly that is at least 8 by 10 feet so it will provide adequate coverage and protection from the elements.

For protection from mosquitoes and other bugs, you’ll want a mosquito net for hammocks. You can also choose an all-in-one mosquito net hammock that combines the comfortable hammock with a net. Hammock camping with mosquito nets is a must for the ultimate comfortable experience.

Finally, don’t forget suspension and tree-hugger straps. These will make hammock setup much easier and be gentler on the trees you’re hanging from. Many hammock kits include all of these parts, but if not, you can easily purchase these accessories from your trusted hammock store.

Whether you’re going camping in Ontario or camping in Quebec this summer, give hammock camping a try! You’ll get closer to nature and have a comfortable sleep under the stars.


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