Camping with a hammock and tarp has lots of advantages to sleeping in a tent. Hammocks are ultra-light, easy to set up, and gently rock you to sleep. If you want to make your sleeping in a hammock even more comfortable, read our blog to find out if you should use a pad when hammock camping.
Because of their weight and usefulness, hammocks are the shelter of choice for many hikers, bikers, and camping enthusiasts. They are so convenient that people are wondering if they could camp with them everywhere. While there are many places where you can camp with a hammock, some places forbid it.
Read on to learn about hammock camping and places that don’t allow it.
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What You Need for Hammock Camping
Since none of us like to lug around a heavy backpack when hiking, hammocks are a perfect way to get some luxury when sleeping and carry lighter equipment.
This is what you’ll need for basic hammock camping. Depending on the manufacturer and your gear preferences, all of the following should weigh less than a one-man tent.
- A hammock
- Some type of suspension system (with tree-friendly straps)
- A rain tarp
- Some form of insulation (an Underquilt or a sleeping pad would do)
- Some bug netting
Depending on where you’re planning to hammock camp, you might not even need the last two items on the list.
If the nights will be clear and warm, like when camping in high humidity, you probably won’t need any additional insulation apart from your clothes.
Also, if you’re planning a trip somewhere there aren’t a lot of bugs, you won’t be needing a bug net. However, a word to the wise: a bug net for your hammock is something you should always have if you want to avoid potentially waking up next to some creepy crawlies. Until it happened to me I also thought there was no need to always have a bug net, and now I never go camping without it.
Why Do People Choose Hammocks Over Tents
Apart from the improved portability and smaller weight, hammocks have other advantages over tents.
- Easier to set up – no poles – not fuss. You can set up a hammock with only two tree hugger straps and two carabiners.
- More fun – for most people it’s quite soothing to be gently swayed to sleep by the hammock.
- Generally more comfortable – sleeping in the air is more comfortable than sleeping on the ground – no matter how comfortable your inflatable mattress is.
- Less contact with the cold ground – raising yourself away from the ground will do wonders for the insulation. It’s generally warmer to sleep in a hammock.
- It’s good for you – according to some research, it’s healthier for your bones and muscles when you sleep in a hammock. More and more people have been installing hammocks in their bedrooms.
In addition to all this, lying in a hammock with your legs raised does wonders for your feet after a long hike. This alone can help you mentally prepare for another long day of hiking.
Places Where You Can’t Hammock Camp
While hammocks are an amazing sleeping solution and an ultralight shelter item, they aren’t perfect for every situation. Here are some situations where it would be better to know how to make a shelter just from your tarp or bring a silnylon tent.
You Can’t Hammock Camp in High Wind Speeds
Forests with few trees and sweeping winds are not ideal for hammock camping. Even with a tarp to cover you from most of the wind, some of it will still manage to get through and to you.
Not to mention that setting up a tarp in strong winds is extremely difficult – you might even lose the tarp.
If you know you’ll be heading into a windy territory, make sure you prepare shelter other than the hammock.
If you’ve already set up your hammock and you see the winds are picking up you should adapt your shelter. Take off your hammock and set up your tarp shelter closer to the ground and away from the wind, and prepare to sleep inside it.
Extremely Cold Places
Hammocks are not the perfect sleeping solution in places where it gets too cold. Even with the underquilt and a space blanket lining, the bottom side of the hammock is still a bit too exposed.
Additionally, when camping in extremely cold areas, you’ll want some type of fire under your tarp or in front of your shelter. Keeping a fire going while you’re in a hammock is very dangerous. You could fall into the fire when getting out of the hammock or fall asleep and leave an unattended fire burning.
In these situations, it is much safer to make a shelter from your tarp and light a fire under your tarp or in front of it.
Parks That Prohibit Hammocks
Finally, there are some places where you would be able to hammock camp if it were allowed.
It is not uncommon for parks to prohibit attaching anything to trees, in an attempt to stop people from damaging them. This has the unfortunate consequence of putting an end to hammock camping.
Since you cannot attach the suspension system to the trees, you cannot set up your hammock. You wouldn’t be allowed to set up a hammock even if you have tree-friendly cordage.
Most camps provide areas where you can stretch your hammock between man-made structures to compensate for not allowing their guests to do so on the trees.
While this is something at least, it kind of defeats the beauty of setting up your hammock away from everything and enjoying the forest.
What About the Places With No Trees?
Although most people think that hammocks can be used if there are no trees in the area, that is not the case. You can set up a hammock even if there are no trees in your surroundings.
Ways to set up your hammock without trees:
- Posts or poles – most parks will provide you an area where you can set up a hammock on concrete posts or metal poles.
- Stands for hammocks – there aren’t many collapsible stands for hammocks; if you’re bent on sleeping in a hammock, you’ll need to go camping in a car and assemble the stand once you get there.
- Your vehicle – if there’s only one tree, you can use your car to tie off the other end of the hammock. This works better with taller cars and it will never be an ideal solution because the car’s tie-off point is usually much lower.
- Any structure – provided you have load-bearing hooks and the equipment to install them, you can hammock camp anywhere where you can find two walls to drill the hooks in.
Are DIY Hammock Stands a Good Idea?
Making your own hammock stand in the wild can be dangerous. In most cases, it won’t even be worth the time it would take to set it up, and you should just sleep in your emergency bivvy if it’s raining. Not to mention that it’s dangerous and can lead to injury, which is something no one wants when in the wild.
Places Where You Can Set up a Hammock
Luckily, there are many places where you can set up your hammock and spend the night gently swaying yourself to sleep unless you like to stop your hammock from swinging as soon as they get in.
Most organized campsites allow hammock camping. You won’t have a problem as long as you can find two trees. Also, most festivals allow you to hammock camp there.
Additionally, I know for a fact that you can hammock camp on the Appalachian trail, as well as many other trails in the US across the globe.
Wild Hammock Camping
If you are wild camping on unknown territory, you should set up your hammock at your own discretion. You can set it up anywhere unless it’s specifically forbidden.
That being said, most people like to keep a low profile when wild camping and hammocks can really stick out.
When I wild camp with my hammock, I put it up if I want to relax or get off the floor for a few hours. But, I always pack it up for the night and sleep in my low-profile tarp shelter.
Private Area Hammock Camping
If you know who owns the territory you’re planning to camp on, you should always confirm with the landowner or land manager whether hammock camping is allowed on the land.
Remember to check that when you’re asking permission to camp on their land.
How to Pick the Right Spot for a Hammock
Hammock camping is more than just finding two trees and enjoying the swinging. If you want to get the most out of your hammock experience, you’ll need to know how to pick the right spot for your sleeping arrangement.
- Strong trees – the trees need to be strong though to withstand your weight without bending.
- Not too wide – if the tee is too wide you won’t be able to surround it with your treehugger strap.
- Clear of dead branches – look out for dead branches looming above, looking like they could fall off the tree. Jovially called widowmakers, these falling branches can seriously injure and even kill whoever they fall on. You don’t want to stretch your hammock under those
- Clear the area underneath – while it almost never happens (and it has never happened to me) your hammock can snap or you can fall out of it. That’s why you’ll want to clear the area under your hammock of any debris that could potentially hurt you if you landed on it (stones, branches, etc.)