In this post, we look at hammock camping for first-timers and what equipment you will need as well as what will help keep you warm and dry while on your camp.
Have you ever wanted to try hammock camping but unsure of what all you would need?
But recently I’ve decided to look into and learn about this style of camping in more depth as after a recent purchase of a hammock for the garden I’m even more keen to try hammock camping out.
I find lying in my hammock in the back garden super relaxing and super comfortable. I like using it to unwind, read, listen to music or even take a nap. For me, hanging is now my favourite way to unwind and if I could pair it with getting away and spending time in the great outdoors I think, it would make for best downtime possible.
For me, hammock camping could mean an even quicker getaway on a weekend and the ability to explore other areas. As you only need 2 suitable hanging spots to set up camp and don’t need to spend time looking for flat, clear areas to pitch a tent. It is even possible to hang on a sloped area as long as you get your hang angle correct.
With many campsites now offering an area for hammock camping, you can try it out while still having some home comforts nearby and hopefully get some advice from others while trying it out. This site has a good list of places from you to choose from – http://hammockcamping.uk/hammock-friendly-camp-sites
Another great site we discovered the other year was Ballock O’Dee in Dumfries, they have an area to allow you to hammock camp in their main camping field. This consists of a poled circular area with a fire pit in the centre. Great for group or family hammock camping with good facilities on-site and a great campers kitchen if you need to get out the rain and have a meal. Check them out at http://www.ballochodee.com/
Often hammock camping means lighter and less bulky kit to carry which means you can travel longer on foot to find your perfect hang spot.
There are any different hammocks out there to choose from and a few cool UK based makers and suppliers of camping hammock equipment.
Single or double layer hammock?
This was the first 2 types I came across, the one I have for the garden is a single layer and to save would be the one I would use to first try out this style of camping.
Single-layer hammocks consist of just that, a single fabric layer that you will lie on. However, you also get double layer hammocks where the hammock has 2 layers of material. These hammocks with 2 layers as used for when you want to add a layer such as a roll mat or inflatable mat between the fabrics for extra comfort and/or insulation.
This one with zipping could be used either way as you could place a sleeping mat inside.
Width and Length
Width and length are also important as it has to be long enough to accommodate the length of your body with some room to spare for gather at each end and wide enough to give you room to lie at a diagonal. Being able to lie diagonally across your hammock means that your hammock will flatten out and allow you to sleep on your side if this is your natural sleeping position.
With the length and width is what weight it will hold as this is another variant. Don’t worry about this too much as there are hammocks out there to meet almost everyone. Some that will accommodate people as tall as 7 foot and up to 20 stone in weight and others who will support even heavier weights. You can even buy a 2 person hammock if you are looking to have plenty of room to lie diagonally.
With or without an integrated bug net?
Another thing you will have to think about is whether you would like an integrated bug net on your hammock or whether you will buy a separate bug net to use when needed. This again will come down to personal choice and maybe even some features. Some integrated bug nets come with added features such as lantern or light hanging points, storage pockets or drink holders. Some you are able to simply turn your hammock over and have the bug net underneath when not it’s not being used. As you yourself start looking into hammock camping or equipment you can suss out what you will need and what suits you.
Hanging Your Hammock
Well, I thought you just hung your hammock between 2 points and that was you done.
How wrong was I! it seems it can be a little more technical than that.
Now there are a few knots that are handy to learn before going hanging your hammock but don’t worry they are not that difficult. The good thing about learning these knots is that you know you will be hanging safely and that they will be quick releasing when it comes to packing up. There will be no need to stand for ages trying to unpick knots and this means a quick pack up if it is raining.
There are some knots explained for this in the video below.
You also need to get your hang points and angles right. This comes down to knowing the length of your hammock and best heights to hang your hammock from. Of course, you can do this with trial and error too, but a little knowledge helps rule out too many mistakes in your first few outings.
Deciding what you will hang your hammock with. Most hammocks you buy will come with hanging straps and some are better than others so this would not be something you would worry about so much in the beginning but if you get into hammock camping you may want to invest in a strapping system that will make set up quicker, easier and cause less damage to your hang points.
It is worth noting that if you are using that likes of paracord to hang with it can dig into and damage trees. The hammock strapping made from strong durable webbed material is thick and flatter so causes less damage. I think this is what I will be looking at using in the future.
Now that we have spoken about types of hammocks and hanging, we need to think about what kind of tarp we are going to use to keep dry.
You can, of course, start off with a just a cheap tarp from the local store but ideally, you are going to want something that packs down light and is suited for hammock camping.
A lightweight poly tarp with reinforced, sewn-in anchor points is ideal for hammock camping and this may be something you already have if you already tent camp.
This is going to be suspended above your hammock and guyed out to give you shelter from rain and moisture and keep you and your stuff dry. Now, these can be hung at varying heights above your hammock mostly dependant on weather and what room you will need to move about around your appointed hammock camping spot. These come in many shapes and sizes but I have chosen a 3x3m one as I know I will use this for regular camping and sun shade canopy on days out when I pair it with a few king poles.
Again, the choice is yours when it comes to choosing a tarp. Think about the cover you are going to require and how you would like to set yours up. You may even want to invest in a bigger tarp if there is going to be a group of you going away together.
A small tarp for under your hammock may also be a good suggestion for laying your kit on and for using when getting in and out the hammock. somewhere dry to take off and put on shoes without getting things sticking to your socks then brought into your sleeping area. This only needs to be maybe a small 1x1m tarp.
When we think about going any kind of camping one of the first few things, we think about is keeping warm at night. So yes, I did think about what sleeping bag I would use in the hammock but not really how I was going to insulate myself from underneath.
Earlier I explained that you can place a mat inside a double layer hammock and that will give you some insulation, but my worry is will it move about and how much insulation will I lose if this happens.
Researching this is when I discovered under quilts. These are hung below your hammock to trap air and provide with that added insulation that you need to keep snug during the night. For people who hammock camp all year round, even in the snow this is the insulation of choice.
As it hangs under the hammock and you will not be lying directly on top of it so the insulation stays consistent throughout the night and there should be no cold spots.
These are relatively inexpensive to buy, and I would suggest investing in one if you are going to take up hammock camping. If like me, you are unsure you could always make one. There are many videos on YouTube with instructions on how to do this and what to use. I am going to try and make myself one using an old 2 season sleeping and some spare paracord I have lying around.
Maybe you would like to try and make your own too.
Here’s a video that will cover some of the above from a reliable UK hammock retailer, watch and see what you think.
Sleeping Bags or Quilts
Now at first, I do intend to use one of my sleeping bags but even I thought of this could get tricky getting in and out of the hammock, the fact it is not a flat surface and how much a sleeping bag may move about while trying to get in and zipped up for the night.
What seems to be a popular choice amongst those who do hammock camp is over quilts. These are, as suggested quilts to go over you, covering you while you sleep and they are sewn to have a boxed area at the feet. so you simply get in your hammock, tuck your feet into the bottom of the over quilt and cover yourself up.
For those who hate the restricted feeling of sleeping bags, I think this is a great option. It also allows you to keep your sleeping area dry and free from dirt and also lets you control, somewhat, the temperature while sleeping. Being able to pull it tightly around you when cold and have it loosely lie over you if you want it a little cooler.
So if this post has inspired you to think about trying hammock camping for the first time or if you have already tried it or do it on a regular basis please let us know. Leave a comment or share your experience with others in the comments below.
I’ll be sure to write another post once I have had my first hammock camping trip and let you all know I got on.
That way we can all learn how to have the best hanging experience and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time.