It can be difficult to start something new. There is usually a lot to learn, and that also applies to hammock camping for beginners.
It is believed that hammocks go way back, over 1000 years back, to the Maya who made hammocks out of plant fibers and tree bark. These beds were suspended over the dirty ground and provided protection from snakes and other crawling critters.
During the 16th century, English and Spanish navies were using hammocks as their primary on-deck sleeping accommodations.
In the early 1900’s, hammocks were essential in protecting construction workers on the Panama Canal. A hammock that was enclosed in mosquito netting kept mosquitos, and their transmission of yellow fever, at bay.
Today, hammocks are a favorite for both camping and lounging in the backyard. When camping, they have a big advantage over a traditional tent, as a hammock is lightweight and much more portable.
Make the Right Choices
The first thing you want to do is to purchase the right hammock. You are going to look for one that is high-strength and uses durable materials. Look for triple stitched 70-denier nylon taffeta. It is also a good idea to get one that is rated higher in weight than what you need.
Try It Out First
Here is the very best advice that can be given to anyone new to hammock camping: try it out before you camp. The best time to find out what the hammock can or cannot do, or what you do or do not need, is before you are in the great outdoors.
If you try the hammock out at home, you will already know how to set your hammock up, know how to make any adjustments, and know if you need anything additional.
If it is possible, try to sleep a night in your hammock, even if it is in your own backyard or nearby campground. This will give you additional information about the hammocks performance.
Know The Features
There are some hammocks that come with additional features. A helpful feature is a gear pocket. This is what your hammock balls down into for transporting. A gear pocket is a perfect place to stash your phone, wallet and keys while you are sleeping.
So before buying a hammock, look for any additional features that might come in handy for your needs.
Choose The Right, Space Pot
Next, you are on to the great outdoors. The step you take next is to choose the right spot to pitch your hammock. Taking time to choose the spot will make your sleep more comfortable and safer.
Hopefully, it goes without saying that the site you choose to pitch your hammock would be safe to pitch on. Avoid hanging it over rocks, or a river, or on a steep hillside. While the views may be lovely, resist the urge to hang your hammock too close to the edge of a cliff or ravine.
The trees (which is the usual tying off spot) that you attach the hammock to should be solid, not just where you are tying off, but they should be solid higher up too. The trees should be sturdy enough to support your weight when you are in the hammock.
Don’t camp underneath any trees that might have loose branches or branches that are likely to break if the wind picks up.
If there is a chance of a bit of weather, look for an area with good wind block. Higher ground, rather than low lying areas tend to be a bit warmer, as cold air pools in low lying areas.
Without a doubt, it is essential to pitch your hammock correctly. Hopefully you have taken your time, while still at home, to learn how to pitch in the right way. The first temptation is to tie the hammock tight, and in a straight line.
The correct way is to have slack in the line and to have the foot of the hammock a bit higher than the head. Using a 30-degree angle to the trees is the best starting point. Once you have that angle, you can adjust the hammock until you find the most comfortable position.
You’ll want to pitch the hammock at a height that makes it easy to get in and out of. Take this height into consideration when hanging.
Be An Angler
Now that you have pitched your hammock in a safe place, at the right height and with enough slack, you need to know how to lay in it. This seems like a no-brainer, but there is a key to it.
Just as important as pitching your hammock correctly is learning to lay in it correctly. The very best sleeping position for a hammock is to lay in it at an angle. Because you have hung the hammock with enough slack, this will be easy to do.
Adjust the angle of your body so that you are cutting across the curve of the hammock. When you do so, the hammock will flatten out and will relieve any pressure points that would be created from lying straight in the hammock.
Hammocks are made of a breathable fabric, and this is an essential feature. While you are sleeping, cold air will circulate underneath you as you hang above the ground. You can avoid this cold air seeping in by adding insulation to the bottom of the hammock.
You can accomplish this by adding a sleeping bag, a hammock underquilt or an air pad. There are those that find, if you use a sleeping bag, the underquilt or air pad are still an addition that will make you more warm and comfortable.
A sleeping bag that is favored by many a seasoned camper is a mummy bag. There are various brands, but all mummy bags are taped at the feet and tend to fit perfectly in a hammock.
You might head out in fantastic weather, and the weather man might say there is not a cloud in sight. Even so, it is smart to have a rainfly or a tarp for the unexpected rain shower.
When you hang it over your hammock, extend it well past each side by a least a foot. Don’t forget to hang the cover over the ends of the hammock, too.
No Room For Bugs
It is hard to sleep while being pestered by bugs and mosquitos. A good bug repellant is a must to carry along but a net for your hammock is essential while in the out of doors.
Mosquito nets are lightweight and easy to fold into the hammock for carrying purposes. Not having one when you need it can make for a miserable night.
Carabiners Are Awesome
Handy dandy carabiners are one of the most useful pieces of camping equipment. They can be used in dozens of ways. When hammock camping you can clip them to the straps and underside of your hammock.
You can hang gear, like your backpack, and keep it off the ground. You can air dry clothes, you can hook them to a tarp, hang from a tree and have instant shade. Rapel a bucket of water up and down from a creek. The only limit is your imagination. Take some extras along while camping.
Bring The Right Clothes
Anytime you are in the out of doors, make sure you are dressed for it. It can make for a miserable time if you are not prepared for whatever the weather decides to do. Layers are a great idea. Have a pair of thermal underwear, a fleece and a waterproof jacket and pants.
The idea of the layers are this: the inner layer will wick moisture away, the middle layer will keep you warm and the outer layer will keep you dry. You will want to remove the outer layer before settling down to sleep as the waterproof nature will trap moisture and sweat inside.
As a beginner, it is best to make your maiden voyage during good weather. It will be much easier learning the ropes and getting acclimated to the hammock camping experience.
Plan And Practice. Practice And Plan
The Boy Scouts have it right, “Be prepared”. It will mean the difference between success and failure, a good time and your worst nightmare. Make yourself a checklist and use it.
Talk to others who have some experience in hammock camping. They will have all kinds of tricks and tips to share. Practice setting up your hammock at home so that you can do it at your campsite with ease.
Know that all may not go according to your plan, but we all know that that is usually the case.
Lean into it, enjoy the experience,and learn as you go. Trying something new, that could turn into your favorite thing, is worth what it takes to get you there.