best hammock for your camping trips

Camping Hammocks: How to Choose One and Not Regret It

Weekend warriors and serious campers alike go camping for their love of nature, and what better way to savor the beauty of the great outdoors than sleeping in a camping hammock, with nothing but the sky over your head.

Now, there’s an important distinction to be made here – that between chilling hammocks and camping hammocks. While the names are pretty self-explanatory, we should still mention that the first type features a spread bar (a length of wood, more often than not), that, well… spreads the fabric, and makes the hammock unstable.

Hammocks are not supposed to be unstable! You’ll see them in thousands of backyards across the States, and they’re OK for a spat of lounging around, but anyone bringing that thing to the woods is just asking for it.

A real camping hammock, on the other hand, will have a single gather point at each end, and you’d be hard pressed to find a way of falling out of one of these.

Why Choose a Camping Hammock Over a Tent?

There are two ways to go about camping – with a hammock or with a tent. Just so we’re clear, both have its advantages and disadvantages, the tent’s major selling point being the full enclosure. However, here are a few reasons why you should go for a hammock instead (not to mention the coolness factor).

One, it takes much less time to set up and take down. All you have to do is find two appropriate trees, tie a few simple knots, and you’re good to go (or stay, rather).

Secondly, you will fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. A hammock has no pressure points, so it should be more forgiving on your anatomy, letting you relax in ways a bed could never do.

Moreover, not being in contact with the ground means less heat loss (through conduction). This means you’ll need less insulation in cold climates.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, choosing a hammock means less weight to lug around, which is always a pro if you have a lot of distance to cover.

Camping hammock-relaxing on a hammock

How to Choose the Best Camping Hammock

Here are a few tips and tricks on how to choose and (ab)use your hammock.

Dimensions

Most hammocks start at 4 feet in terms of width but can go as wide as 8–8.5 feet. Anything over 6 feet is great for couples, but we wouldn’t put it past singles to use them. Still, hammocks between 4 and 6 feet are decidedly meant for single users. As far as length goes, the majority of them fall into the 9–11 feet range. The rule of thumb says that if you’re 6 feet and upwards, you need a 10-foot hammock or longer, and if you’re shorter, the other way round. Whatever you do, make sure you try how it feels before buying.

The weight can go as low as 7 ounces, but more luxurious hammocks will reach a couple of pounds. Still, together with the suspension system, most hammocks shouldn’t be more than 10 to 15 ounces, which is more than bearable (no pun intended).

Suspension

As far as suspending a camping hammock goes, even a simple knot around the tree could do, but you should find something… more secure (not judging your knotting skills, just being precautionary). Most of the time, the suspension system comes with the hammock, and it’ll be calculated into the price, but sometimes it’s sold separately. When it does come with, the usual stock system is webbing.

Painting with a broad brush, we can divide camping hammock suspension systems like so:

  • Webbing suspension system: You need to make sure the webbing straps are wider than 0.75 inches so that they don’t damage the tree). To set the thing up, tie a water knot to loop the webbing around the tree, and then a clove hitch to clip the hammock onto the metal ring (check out YouTube for instruction videos). Alternatively, you can use a strap with sewn-in loops to save time, but these will be only as reliable as the stitching
  • The whoopie suspension system: This system requires no knots, though there’s a slight learning curve. You’ll need a pair of aluminum or soft shackle carabiners, a set of whoopie slings and a pair of tree huggers. Also, you’ll need to dissect your hammock, remove the stock webbing and re-thread the slings through the channel, but it’s a lot easier than it sounds.
  • Hammock ring system: This version, like the previous two, is highly customizable, and you can tweak it whichever way you find suitable. The basic things you’ll need are two pairs of hammock rings, a pair of carabiners and tree huggers each, plus any stock webbing you can find.

Load

Static weight, go between 150 and 500 lbs, keep in mind that the numbers on weight limits are rather conservative, so you can probably get away with 50ish pounds over the ceiling. Still, check the fabric regularly for signs of wear

Insulation/Material

Most camping hammocks are made from lightweight and breathable nylon to keep cool in summer. There are also cotton hammocks, though these are designed for at-home use and will usually have a spreader bar.

As far as insulation goes, you can add a sleeping pad or any blanket you have lying around. You can also buy an underquilt (attach it to the outside of the hammock to use its insulation qualities to the fullest) or topquilt (sort of like a pad), or even use your sleeping bag for extra insulation if you feel the need.

Extra Features & Accessories

Camping hammocks will usually come without any accessories, but sometimes, manufacturers might throw in tarps for proofing against inclement weather and/or protection screens, meshes, permethrin-treated bug-proof fabric, add-on bug nets, the whole shebang.

Tips & Tricks on How to Set Up Your Hammock

When choosing a spot for your hammock, you should look for a couple of trees at least 6 inches in diameter and spaced about 3 to 5 yards apart. Attach the suspension system at head height and install the hammock making sure the bottom of it is at a chair height. Watch out for loose branches, and always have extra length of webbing (6 to 8 feet), just in case you can’t find any trees slim enough,

How to Lie Into Your Hammock

Many folks would hate to admit, but the main reason they don’t use camping hammocks is that they don’t trust them. Here are a few pointers on how to lie into a hammock without any risks.

    • Check the knots to see if they’re secure
    • Spread the hammock with both hands
    • Sit back into it like you would a chair
    • Lift legs and swivel
    • ???
    • Profit!

Did you like reading my article? I do hope so! Do you want to share more from my list? I’m sure you will find more compelling ways to choose a budget-friendly campsite. Don’t hesitate to share your ideas with me in the comments section below. If you enjoyed reading my article, please share it with your friends who have plans of camping in the future.

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