Hammock camping is a booming trend for adventure lovers and serial relaxers alike. The comfort, ease of use and portability makes a hammock superior to a traditional ground shelters in many situations. If you’re new to the world of hammock camping, here are a few hammock camping essentials to get you started. Even if you’re a hammock aficionado, these hammock camping tips will teach you something new.
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:
Several of the expedition models had a bit of a learning curve to their set up to be able to get comfortable. The Warbonnet Blackbird and Ridgerunner fell into this category, but after practice, we were able to set them up with relative ease and confidence. Additionally, some slings don't come with all the components you need to set them up — beyond just a lack of suspension system. Both the Warbonnet Blackbird and both Hennessey models lack the stakes necessary for a complete set-up.
I spent two seasons hiking and backpacking in Glacier and was able to hammock in some sites. But there were other times when there just were not suitable trees at the sites, even if there were some in the area. it’s not like in dispersed camping where you can just keep hiking or set up anywhere you want. Many other sites (especially subalpine) in Glacier are very exposed. Wind and sideblown rain are a hammock’s #1 enemy. If you can’t choose your site, then you can’t find a sheltered spot. Unfortunately, these designated sites are made with tents in mind. I know some people don’t want to follow the rules, but for special places like Glacier, there are good reasons for them.
I’m really glad that this blog chose to present this series. Hammocks are strong in their own niche, but I think they’re summarily dismissed by the California-heavy population of ULers. To be fair, if you plan to spend much time above treeline, a hammock is a limitation. But having grown up in Appalachia, the advantages of a hammock were immediately apparent to me.
Alex, I highly recommend using an underquilt. It is warmer* and more comfortable. I am a side-sleeper and am just fine in a normal width 10.5 to 11′ hammock with no tricks or special modifications. If $ is an issue, I would suggest one of the lower cost underquilts like the The $99 Hammock Gear Econ. * On the east coast in the summer when the nighttime temps don’t drop below 70 F you can skip the UQ or pad as you won’t need the insulation under you.
The best kind are styles that are designed to fit inside the sleeping bag such as the Kylmit Inertia X Frame. One of the biggest annoyances when trying to use a sleeping pad with a hammock is staying on top of the pad. It’s easy to shift your weight and move the sleeping pad from out underneath you. Some hammocks feature two layers to hold sleeping pads in place. Other hammockers like to stuff their pad inside their sleeping bag as long as it fits.
Stay warm. Sleeping pads help, but they tend to slip around—or out of the hammock—during the night. They can also compromise comfort by preventing your hammock from hugging your body like it’s meant to. If you expect temps below 40F, invest in an underquilt ($100 to $250, depending on the temperature rating), which hangs beneath you and provides a pocket of insulated air to keep you warm.
In fact, the only thing it didn't have that we wished it did was a set of trunk straps instead of harmful rope slings. But fear not, you can order your Bear Butt with trunk straps too! They do cost more though. While other inexpensive models like the Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter may leave you disappointed with their size or durability, the Bear Butt Double is an excellent all-around tree sling that won't empty your pocketbook.
When you’ve got a hammock with you, you’ve also got a comfortable camp chair with you at all times, a place to sit and cook your food if necessary, hang out and tell jokes around the campfire, or just to relax and read a book while the day floats by. Not only that, it’s a hammock/chair you can take with you on your day hikes and set up next to that waterfall or after you’ve exhausted yourself on a climb.