7 Tips for Hammock Camping Beginners

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the popularity of hammock camping skyrocket, as backpackers have realized that hammock systems can be more comfortable and more lightweight that the traditional tent setup. Heck, scientists have even studied how a hammock can help a person sleep better. (Click here to read our story from November 2011.)

If you’re curious about hammock camping, or you’re ready to buy a hammock, check out these bits of advice from Ryan Cavender, an experienced hammock camper and chief training officer for the Mountain High Outfitters stores in Alabama.

1. Be aware of various hammock designs

Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock

There basically two types of camping hammocks: symmetrical and asymmetrical. In a symmetrical hammock, like the Eno Reactor pictured above, you lie with your back more curved. With an asymmetrical hammock, such as those from Warbonnet Outdoors, the fabric is more taught, and you lie in a diagonal direction, with less curvature in your spine. You’ll need to determine for yourself which design is more comfortable.

2. For cool or cold weather, bring a camping pad

Most people put a sleeping bag in a hammock during cool or cold weather, but you should also place a camping pad beneath the bag. Bag temperature ratings are based on the idea that you’re sleeping on a pad, so if you don’t use a pad, your bag won’t feel as warm as it should. Also, be aware that Eno’s new Reactor hammock has a sleeve to hold a camping pad, and a Double Nest will hold a pad more easily than a Single.

3. Use a mummy-shaped sleeping pad

A mummy shaped pad will nest inside a hammock better than a rectangular pad, because each end is narrow and rounded. If you use a rectangular pad, the wide, sharp corners at the ends can fold awkwardly and cause the pad to shift.

4. Bring a warmer sleeping bag than normal

Air passes over you and beneath you as you sleep in a hammock, so your sleeping bag will not keep you as warm as it would in a tent. Use a sleeping bag with a rating that’s 20 degrees to 30 degrees greater than you normally would for the outdoor temperatures you’ll encounter.

5. Bug nets are essential

You’re not going to sleep a wink if mosquitoes are feasting on your face. Some hammock systems, such as those from Hennessy Hammock, have mosquito netting attached, while Eno sells a separate Guardian Bug Nest.  If you’re not willing to invest in one of these, at least grab a Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net, since the rest of you will likely be covered with a sleeping bag.

Here’s a video with a good view of Hennessy’s integrated mosquito netting…

6. Some Eno Advice: Go with the Pro straps

The Pro straps are 3/4-inch webbing, while the standard Slap Straps are 1-inch webbing. As a result, the Pro Straps are two feet longer than the Slap Straps, but the same weight. And if you’re dealing with bigger trees, the two extra feet of webbing will come in handy.

7. Consider shopping a la carte

Some hammock manufacturers offer a complete system that integrates the hammock body, bug net and rainfly. But keep in mind that some companies also sell each of these pieces individually, which allows you to carry only what you need and reduce your weight. Note that Hennessy now allows you to mix and match pieces (for some additional cost), including longer straps and a bigger rainfly, to tailor your setup.

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Kelly April 18, 2012 Reply

Great tips. Love it! :)

Derek Hansen August 22, 2012 Reply

Great tips and list! Another great way to stay warm is by using under quilts, or sleeping bags that wrap around the hammock. There are lots of options to choose from. I have a complete list of hammock camping manufacturers on my website: http://theultimatehang.com/hammock-manufacturers/

Jason Andrews February 8, 2013 Reply

Marcus, nice article – very true that your back can get cold. Your readers may be interested to know that we (Handy Hammock) are developing a Camping Hammock that doesn’t even need trees…http://www.handyhammock.co.uk/page/product-range-extensions. Our hammock stand weighs less than 1.5Kg!

Hammock Swings July 19, 2013 Reply

Great advice.. This site also has an excellent camping hammocks… http://www.mosquitohammock.com/

Vacanstar August 20, 2013 Reply

Warbonnet Blackbird Hammock is pretty good in a camping. I saw one in a French camping, very apreciated.

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