When you think about preparing for your time in the great outdoors, you need to prepare for all types of weather. After all, the sky will be your roof!
Hammock camping has become increasingly popular and in response, manufacturers have responded with accessories that make the experience even more satisfying.
Adding a rain fly to your arsenal will give you protection from rain, sun, and wind.
Depending on your needs, there are different types of rain flys to choose from.
Traditional vs Specialized
Specialized rain flies are made from a material called silnylon or polyurethane. It is treated nylon which is lightweight and waterproof.
Rain flies come in different shapes that would suit different camping situations.
Some situations may require full coverage while others, less. Versatility, height, weight, etc. must be factored into your decision.
Some people prefer “winter” tarps; these tarps are perfect for all-season camping and come with added doors or flaps.
They provide full coverage and protect you from all sorts of weather. These are usually hexagonal shaped with added flaps or doors.
Some people prefer full coverage while others prefer less. There is no right answer since it is a matter of opinion, however, versatility, height, weight, etc. should be taken into consideration.
Most people prefer the “winter” tarps. These tarps are perfect for all-season camping and come with added doors or flaps.
These are usually just hexagonal tarps. They provide full coverage and protect you from any sort of weather.
Some prefer larger tarps since they afford you more privacy and add protection against the elements.
However, larger tarps are heavier and require more hardware such as stakes, guy lines, etc.
Square and rectangular shaped tarps with tie lines allow for better pitching options than the larger tarps.
Whichever tarp you choose, the rule of thumb is that the tarp should extend 6-12 inches beyond each end of your hammock.
An 8 X 10-foot tarp turned at about a 39 degrees angle provides a ridgeline of about 13 feet. This is ample space for most hammocks.
Common Hammock Tarps
Asymmetric tarps will require you to sleep in the same line as the tarp to receive maximum coverage.
This is formed using a square tarp turned at an angle. Quick to pitch and super light, these tarps are great to carry around but provide the least amount of coverage.
Catenary-cut edges keep the edges taut. These types of tarps usually have better ventilation but are generally the more expensive type of tarp. They are also very lightweight since they require less material to construct.
This tarp provides a large amount of coverage but no protection at the end. They are set up parallel to your hammock and use four anchor points.
The tarp is draped lengthwise and the anchor points will be staked down to provide maximum coverage, however, ventilation will be limited.
Has flaps or doors and provides the most coverage
Knowing the type of conditions that you’re heading into will also help you make the decision of what type of tarp to buy.
Factors to consider are what the season is, weather conditions and how quickly you might need to set up your hammock.
When hammock camping you will need to set the tarp up as soon as your hammock has been hung. Bad weather can catch you anytime and when you’re prepared, your gear and sleeping place will be bone dry when you’re ready to turn in.
The most important part of setting up a tarp is knowing ridgelines. They mostly fall under two different categories: full length or end-only.
End-only lines can reduce the weight of the tarp due to the elimination of rope between tarp tie-outs.
Full-length ridge-lines can be tied under or over the tarp since they run the entire length of the hammock.
It is easier to center a tarp with a full-length ridge line since you can set the line and then adjust the tarp accordingly.
Now that the ridge has been set, you can now set the guy lines. Some tarps only have two anchor points and are easy to set up, others have a few more and will take longer.
Guy lines of about 6 feet are the ideal length and will be the most versatile and user-friendly length.
Hang the tarp low during bad weather conditions to provide the best protection. Pull the tarp wide open using sticks or trekking poles to open for ventilation or to enjoy the view.
You could also guy down one side if you know in which direction the wind or rain is coming from for full protection or to turn it into porch mode.
Remember to also tie a drip line, water drips down from the lowest point. If you do not set up a drip line, then chances are good that you will wake up soaking wet.
Setup can be a little difficult. Remember your stakes or trekking poles and always ensure that you have enough gear to set up your tarp.
Different types of tarps come with different ways to set it up. There will always be anchor points and using a little logic will help.
Remember, always, to set up the drip line. Water will follow the lowest point and you don’t want it to be the inside of your hammock.
Tents are out and all the cool kids know that hammocks are in. There is an astounding amount of advantages to camping in a hammock that will leave you wondering how you ever survived in a tent in the first place. Don’t let the weather hinder you, get out your hammock, and get into the great outdoors!
Illustrations by Derek Hansen