You won’t want your car’s window shade in the winter. So, if it’s reflective (like an emergency blanket), throw that in your hammock for insulation. Though the constant crinkle noise may keep you up, the extra layer between your sleeping bag and the hammock will work wonders. Also, any closed-cell foam pad will work as a thin barrier to the elements. Consider criss-crossing the shades or pads underneath your shoulders to increase the width in the vital areas.
There are different options for bug nets when hammocking. Nets designed for hammocks are set up by stringing the hammock through the two open ends. The open ends are tightened once the hammock is inside. The net is then attached to a ridgeline with loops located at the top of the net. These mosquito nets have a zipper or velcro opening to allow you to get in and out. You can also use an all purpose mosquito net and drape it over a ridgeline above your hammock. Then just let the sides fall to the ground or tie them together once you’re in your hammock.
From the moment you step past the threshold, you are done for. Perfectly framed photography of incredible places and seemingly superhuman people dot the brick walls. The music, the gear, the decorations, and the store design create a hypnotizing ambiance. It's like you just wandered into your own area’s version of Everest Base Camp, plus a rock wall and coffee shop. People are talking about the thru-hikes they are planning, some guy is debating over which item to take ice climbing, a group is headed to an avalanche safety course, and then some perfectly rugged sales associate approaches to say, “Can I help you find something?”
But even if you can sleep on your side, after a while you may decide not to. After a few days on the trail in a hammock, that natural slight curve becomes your friend. The tired knotted back muscles relax extremely well sleeping in that curve, and after getting used to it, you will prefer it. Often I find he transition into the hammock after a long break from the field is fairly easy, but getting used to a flat bed after a few weeks in a hammock is actually harder. Another point about sleeping like this. When you can elevate your feet above your body, it helps to reduce the swelling that sometimes happens overnight after a good hard day of hiking.
Sleeping is also very comfortable, but in a fairly narrow temperature range between 50 and 75 degrees. Below that you need to bring along more under-insulation like a Jacks R Better down under-quilt or foam padding. Extending the use of your hammock in colder temperatures takes a lot of practice and experimentation, so be prepared for a few cold nights if you try to push the envelope.
Brandon at Warbonnet makes some nice underquilts that will work well with your BB. I prefer the Yeti http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/yeti-underquilts/ 3/4 underquilt. I just jam a small piece of foam like a sitpad into the footbox of my top quilt to provide insulation under my feet and calves. Hammock Gear also makes some nice underquilts http://www.hammockgear.com/under-quilts/. Hope this helps. Warm hanging, -alan

Recreational hammocks are fast becoming “must-haves” for Scouting campouts, and many are small and light enough that folks bring them on day hikes, as well. Some of the primary reasons people like hammocks are because they are fun, comfortable to lounge in and pretty quick to set up. Whether you’re a veteran “hanger” or just starting out, here are eight tips to make the most of your hammock.
Hi Derek – I really appreciate you putting out all this info about camping hammocks. I have not camped much before for all the reasons you point out about the problems of sleeping on the ground. I just this Spring learned that camping hammocks exist. I am already a hammocks enthusiast since I make them for a living where I live at Twin Oaks Community (though they are back yard hamx, not good for camping), and so I am enthused to buy a camping hammock and bug net and tarp and try it. I bought your Ultimate Hang book and read it, and have thought about what you wrote about deciding about what I need and want. That gave me some qualifications, but I am still bewildered at all the variety of options and quality available. So I seek more specific advise based on my needs/wants and budget. If you are willing to offer that, would I ask that here on line, or to you directly off line? (Also, I do not know what I should put for the website line below since I do not have a personal website, so I left it blank)
Educate yourself on the local area you plan to be camping in before you head out. If there are protected species of trees, refrain from using those as anchors. For example, Joshua Tree National Park is dotted with thousands upon thousands of Joshua Trees. However, Joshua Trees are not actually trees and are protected with their population numbers are decreasing from climate change. They have shallow root systems that cannot easily support the horizontal force exerted by a hammock in addition to a trunk that isn’t as solid as a true tree. Due to their hollow structure and the dry ecosystems they live in, they are also brittle and can break off from the strain.
Expedition models need to offer a good night's sleep for many nights in a row, regardless of the weather or terrain. All of the Hennessy and Warbonnet models tested as well as the REI Flash Air do this well. Conversely, some of the smaller, lightweight models, like the Grand Trunk Nano 7 or Ultralight Starter or the ENO Sub7, may not be the most preferable to camp in for more than a night or two. However, if you're taking on an adventure where weight matters, like thru-hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail, this might be a worthwhile tradeoff.
With greater campsite availability, I can get away from habituated camping areas to find peace and quiet, and a better night of rest. Hammocks are a blessing to those that do not desire the crowded social scene at most Appalachian Trail (AT) shelters and other popular camping areas. And when better campsites exist — more aesthetic, more protected, less buggy, etc. — I can utilize them.
Comparing the weight of a hammock system against a ground system is difficult and complex. Both systems have several popular designs and configurations — Which systems should be compared? And how could we ensure that the systems being compared offer a comparable user experience, in terms of camp comfort, sleep quality, and environmental protections?
Now, sleeping in a hammock is completely different from sleeping on a surface and takes some getting used to. There’s no one way to get comfy, and just like in the yard, it’s going to take some time to find the best fit. So, try out a few different ways to see what feels comfortable. Shift your bag up or down, and change the tension on the straps—do what feels good, and don’t be afraid to adjust! Hopefully, by the time you’ve tucked yourself in, you’ve also gotten your miles in and crushed a couple of mountains. If you’ve done it well, they’ve crushed you back, and you’re just about ready to sleep the sleep of the dead, anyway.
A hanger has a few options available in order to stay warm. There is no right way or wrong way. It's all a matter of personal preference. Some people like underquilts, others like self-inflating pads or down-filled inflatable mats, closed-cell foam (CCF) pads, or even sleeping bags. (While sleeping bags alone aren't the best option, it's a cheap option nonetheless...and I'll explain later why it's probably not the best choice.) There are a wide variety of styles, colors, and options available to hangers by small, cottage-industry hammock business owners who go out of their way to keep up with the latest trends. I'm certainly no expert in this field and have learned a great deal of things from my friends at HammockForums.net, but I have personal experience with each of the options listed...so let's take a quick look at each one.
I have 2 sleeping bag systems. They aren't for the faint-of-heart, though! They are heavy. I have a military modular system and an army surplus bag. The modular system consists of a lightly insulated bag inside an intermediate insulated bag inside a heavy insulated bag inside a waterproof bivy shell. Whew! Talk about warm! I nearly sweat to death using this system. The beauty is that I can use all the bags, some of the bags, just the waterproof/windproof bivy shell, or any combination while in my hammock.

This past year I used such opportunities — specifically my intro-level 3-day/2-night guided trips — to finally experiment with hammock systems, which had piqued my curiosity while writing The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide because I knew little about them despite their fanatical cult following. When my colleague Alan Dixon first saw my hammock in North Carolina, he immediately saw its potential and committed himself to this experiment, too. Based on his new first-hand experience, he has submitted a three-part series on hammocks:


With the huge increase in suitable campsites, a hammock system gives a hiking-inspired backpacker the option to hike dawn-to-dusk (or some variation thereof) without the risk of getting caught in a stretch of un-camp-able terrain. In turn, this flexibility equates to a great number of hike-able time, which ultimately equates to hiking longer distances. I believe this increase in hike-able time will typically outweigh the slight weight increase of a hammock system versus a ground system, if there even is one.

Think of tarps like accessories: mix and match to your liking. The main consideration is ridge line length, to ensure the hammock is covered end to end. I often use a poncho tarp from GoLite, pitched on the diagonal. After the ridge line length is covered, anywhere from a few inches or a foot in either side (depending in your preference) the next consideration is side coverage. There is a lot of variety there.


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Like others have mentioned, hammocks are at no greater risk of predator attacks than tents. The main thing that attracts animals like bears is smell. Be sure not to bring food into your shelter at night, keep clean, and set your camp 200 ft away from your kitchen area. These are some of the main ways to stay safe in bear country. Most of the time, the only kind of critter you’ll encounter are what I call “small bears”: squirrels, rodents, raccoons, etc. They are attracted to the same thing as bears, but most people don’t pay them enough attention when not in bear country and they find their bags chewed through.
I am a mid-50’s guy with hip and back issues. I swtched to a hammock system in 2011. I find that my back and hip have little to no pain each morning when I wake. This is in marked contrast to the hip pointer and back ache I used to get when tent camping. I know my experience is not shared by everyone, but many older guys like me have made similar reports. I agree that a hammock system is not necessarily lighter than a ground set up, but on average I think a hammock system is about the same weight as a tent system. If you use just a tarp, bag, and pad then you probably have a lighter system. My Warbonnet Blackbird, 40* UQ, 40* TQ and cuben tarp weigh just around 3.5 lbs. Not that bad considering the comfort I get from this set up.
Dispersed camping is permitted in other zones like the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, Adirondack High Peaks, and Aspen Four Pass Loop. But the number of promising ground sites is naturally limited — there is too much topographic relief and vegetation. In combination with the area’s popularity, the campsites become heavily impacted, and sleep quality is not as good as it could be.
WHOOPIE SLINGS - Whoopie slings are an adjustable, lightweight way to hang a hammock. Designs for whoopie slings have slight differences, but in general they use a simple loop and knot system that holds tension with weight, but can be easily adjusted when not under pressure. We like the products listed below, but there are a lot of options for lightweight whoopie slings.
Seek natural shelter As you set up your hammock, a main goal is to deal with potential wind. Rather than setting up your hammock in exposed areas, move farther into the forest to enjoy the natural sheltering effect of the surrounding trees. Also, seek out natural wind breakers like rock formations, and think about hanging a tarp between two trees as an extra layer of protection.
Again, with any system, there are pros and cons to using self-inflating pads or mats. I'm sure you can imagine how devastating it would be if an inflatable pad or mat was your only insulation system while out on a hiking trip and you discover while setting up your sleep system for the night that it has a hole in it. Bad news unless you also carry a repair kit!

Excellent article and replies. I have been using a hammock since I was in scouts back in the late ’80s. The old fishnet style hammocks. Now I own four ENO double nest hammocks and routinely take my son and his friends to teach them how to use a hammock instead of a tent. I even took my hammock on my deployments with the military. We called them our hanging hooches.
Big believer in hammocks too lately. One of the big benefits for me is a reduced footprint generally speaking for a campsite, and the speed at which I can put up and take down a hammock. The first trip I committed to using a hammock I pitched in a rain storm and was uneasy about how well it would handle. I pitched a flying ridgeline that I tied previously, Staked out the tarp, and then slung the hammock out of a bishop bag. Done in 5 minutes or less and my hammock stayed bone dry. It was great. Since then I’ve been in wind storms and a few other scenarios and it’s been a great system. I’d just say find a tarp that has tie outs along the middle of the tarp. I have a small-ish tarp that is closer to the old A-frame style and in strong wind it snaps. First time I slept through a wind gust I was waking up every 20 minutes thinking my tarp was ripping or getting ready to fly away. Adjusting the pitch helped a lot.
Blankets won’t cut it when the temps dip to 40º, so be sure to bring along a warm, mummy-style sleeping bag. Preferably the bag will be rated to 15º F or less, with a down or synthetic fill. Be sure to cinch the hood closed around your head to shield it from the elements. Bonus tip: keep clothes and boot liners in your sleeping bag to keep them warm and take up dead air space. You’ll be thankful in the morning, too, when you’re not putting on freezing cold, snow-laden clothes or liners.
I have used my Clark Jungle Hammock while exploring rivers in the Guyana jungle, suspended overnight above a half metre of swamp water in Borneo, and used it in West Africa too (where I suspect a leopard would view it as a large green hanging burrito), and it works great. Nice to be above the ants, centipedes, scorpions and snakes, easy to set up, and I make it a bit more comfortable by the addition of the short, wide version of the Neo Trekker mat inside, which lessens that “squeezed shoulder” effect. In BC Canada I prefer a tent. Using a hammock in colder weather isn’t something that I’ve tried, mainly because all the extra quilting required to block the cold and wind would seem to negate this hammock’s advantage – its compactness and simplicity. In the tent I’m typically a stomach sleeper, so was worried how I would adjust to hammock sleeping, but it’s actually quite comfy, and makes a great seat during the day too. In 2013 I’ll use the hammock in Belize, my WE Bug Dome tent (awesome ventilation) in the heat of northwest Australia, and possibly a slighly heavier grade tent along the BC coast later in the year. The Clark Jungle Hammock is the best expedition hammock made, and has looked after me well on many epic journeys.
Alan, the only thing I think is missing here is a short nod to taking a hammock to the ground. Those that dismiss hammocks because of lack of anchor points (e.g., “above the treeline”) may benefit from knowing that a hammock kit can be pitched on the ground similar to any tarp set-up. A lot of UL hikers use minimal tarp systems like the Gossamer Gear Twinn, using trekking poles or sticks to erect their shelter. A hammock with an integrated bug net easily doubles as a ground bivvy in such cases.

Starting my adventures in spring, I have a few months before actually having to invest in those quilts. I wanted to start with a second setup, for 3-season camping (>+10°C). Not exactly sure what to pack here yet. I was hoping a sleeping bag (or quilt) plus sleeping pad would be enough, but many of the not-exactly-cheap underquilts you tested were only just suited for exactly that kind of temperatures, so how could a sleeping pad suffice?


I have used my Clark Jungle Hammock while exploring rivers in the Guyana jungle, suspended overnight above a half metre of swamp water in Borneo, and used it in West Africa too (where I suspect a leopard would view it as a large green hanging burrito), and it works great. Nice to be above the ants, centipedes, scorpions and snakes, easy to set up, and I make it a bit more comfortable by the addition of the short, wide version of the Neo Trekker mat inside, which lessens that “squeezed shoulder” effect. In BC Canada I prefer a tent. Using a hammock in colder weather isn’t something that I’ve tried, mainly because all the extra quilting required to block the cold and wind would seem to negate this hammock’s advantage – its compactness and simplicity. In the tent I’m typically a stomach sleeper, so was worried how I would adjust to hammock sleeping, but it’s actually quite comfy, and makes a great seat during the day too. In 2013 I’ll use the hammock in Belize, my WE Bug Dome tent (awesome ventilation) in the heat of northwest Australia, and possibly a slighly heavier grade tent along the BC coast later in the year. The Clark Jungle Hammock is the best expedition hammock made, and has looked after me well on many epic journeys.
Hammock camping in cold weather can be warm and comfortable. But it requires a good under-quilt (usually down) that is well fitted (no gaps) to the hammock body. While not a difficult skill, beginner hammock campers should test out their winter system on low-risk, short-duration outings first in order to develop their skills and know-how. Note the full-length, under-quilt (green sleeping bag looking thing below the hammock). Photo by Jack Tier of Jacks ‘R’ Better.
Using a length of rope, tie a line above where the hammock straps meet the trees at each end of your hammock. Drape a tarp over the line and even it out. The middle of the tarp should run along the line and cover your entire hammock. Then, with a few more pieces of rope, tie a line from each of the four corners of the tarp. Run the new lines to nearby trees, roots, pegs or rocks that are heavy enough to act as an anchor. Tie those lines to the various anchors. These anchor lines will prevent the edges of your tarp from flying up in heavy winds.
A problem that may arise from using a sleeping pad in a hammock is that the pad may be too narrow for your shoulders. Depending on the slack of your setup, the sides of the hammock may give your shoulders a slight squeeze. Even if it’s slight, it can compress your sleeping bag in that area. This will reduce the amount of insulation around your shoulders. Luckily there are a couple easy solutions for this. You can stuff your extra clothes along your sides to give you some extra protection. You can also buy specially designed sleeping pads for hammocks that feature “wings” on both sides. The “wings’ add insulation for your shoulders and arms when in a hammock. You can also modify your foam pad to make your own “wings”. Just cut two pieces off a cheap foam pad and attach it to your main pad with some duct tape.
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