January 5, 2017

How to Choose the Best Camping Hammock for a Beginner

best_camping_hammock

The words “camping” and “hammock” together may sound strange if you’re imagining the cargo net style of frequently seen in a beer commercial, or in your grandma’s backyard.

You likely know this type of hammock very well. In fact, you’ve probably lied in one before, and maybe even fallen off when it swung upside down after you got a little too daring -- or after your friend came and sat on the edge and toppled you both over.

Well, if you’re worried about camping with one of those hammocks, don’t be. That’s not a camping hammock, (and there are some who may argue that those aren’t even hammocks.)

A camping hammock is fashioned after the true cocoon-style hammocks that have been used for centuries, from the Amazon all the way to India. While these hammocks are often made woven from natural fabrics, a camping hammock is crafted from nylon and polyester, similar to a camping tent.

These hammocks allow you to freely float above the ground, fully wrapped in a parachute-style of fabric that safely holds you up.

Wondering how to choose the best camping hammock for a beginner? I’ve got you covered. But first, you likely want an explanation on why to use one in the first place.

So, Why Use a Camping Hammock?

If you’ve never used one of these before, you’re probably a little apprehensive about actually spending the night in one.

Believe me; I was too -- but now I can’t imagine camping without one.

After all, if you’re someone who is used to spending your nights in a tent when enjoying the outdoors, the thought of lying in a giant piece of nylon hung from a tree at night can seem a little too much.

Well, the truth is that camping hammocks can give you the best sleep you’ve ever had while camping. Better yet, they can save you space and weight if you’re using one on a backpacking trip. And if that’s not enough, they set up in a flash too.

There’s also much to be said for the experience and views a hammock provides. A tent obviously isn’t going to offer the same star-gazing experience as a hammock, or the ability to watch the sun rise from the comfort of your own (hanging) bed. You just can’t compete with open air.

I know I haven’t answered all the questions you may have. Not even close. But don’t worry, I’ll be touching on all the things you’re wondering about at this point as we continue, such as what to do if it rains, how to keep bugs out, how to stay warm, and a few others.

Let’s get to it.

What You’ll Need

Choosing a camping hammock doesn’t require any special skills or knowledge; just some resources and an idea of what exactly you’ll be doing with it.

That being said, here’s what you’ll need going into it:

  • A budget
  • An idea of how many plan on using it
  • An idea of where and when you are using it
  • Hammock gear

Step 1: Decide on Your Budget

counting-money-in-hands

(Photo: Quizzle.com)

Yeah, this may seem a little obvious, but it’s worth mentioning for a few reasons.

Setting your budget beforehand allows you to shop easier. It helps you avoid wasting your time looking at products you aren’t going to be buying in the first place. You’d be surprised how many camping hammocks there are for sale out there.

Another reason a budget is important here is the fact that you’ll be needing a few things to use with the hammock to get a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Whatever your budget is, add about $75-100 on top of that, so you have money set aside to spend on these things. Consider them an extension of the actual hammock if you want.

Step 2: Know What You’re Looking For

camping-hammock

(Photo: BoysLife.org)

This is where it’s helpful to know what kind of hammock you need in the first place. With that said, here’s an overview of the most important characteristics and factors.

Occupancy

Camping hammocks have an occupancy limit, just like a tent does. Most backpackers and serious campers tend to go with a single occupancy hammock, but if you are expecting to lounge around with your friends or significant other, a double occupancy gives you the room you’ll need.

That’s not to say that a double occupancy hammock is too big for one person to sleep in. In fact, it can be a little more comfortable for one person.

Type

Where do you plan on using this hammock? Do you want one to use around a casual campsite, or are you planning on bringing it with you on a backpacking trip? This matters quite a bit.

Hammocks for normal camping situations tend to be a little thicker, and will likely weigh more as well. Imagine an issue since you are unloading it from your car and right to your campsite.

Backpacking hammocks are going to be lighter and usually thinner, as saving even a pound or two in your backpack can be a big help.

If you do plan on using your hammock during a colder time of the year, or in colder areas, you’ll want to get a thicker hammock that can trap in heat, and possibly include an extra layer to fold over.

If you are planning on it being warm, go for a lighter, more breathable hammock. This will keep you cooler, and also allow your body to breathe.

Essential Hammock Gear

Climbing Carabiners-and-Quickdraws

(Photo: CPSC.gov)

Although camping hammocks are simple items, there are some extra gear choices that you’ll be needing in order to use them properly.

Tree Straps

Unless you’re incredibly resourceful, camping hammocks need trees to be properly hung 99% of the time. You need to purchase some if your hammock doesn’t include them. These straps attach to your hammock straps on each end, which you then strap around a tree.

Carabiners

These are useful for tons of things, especially climbing. It’s because of this fact that carabiners can be trusted to connect your hammock ends to straps or ropes. Look for carabiners that have a weight rating over 250 lbs.

Hammock Stand

A backpacking hammock stand provides you with the ability to pitch a hammock almost anywhere you’d like, without having to depend on trees. These stands are usually collapsible and don’t weigh all that much.

If you are going to be camping above tree lines, in national parks that forbade using trees for hammocks, or an area with little vegetation, a hammock stand is probably a good idea.

Camping Tarp

A tarp can impact your camping hammock experience. First off, you should probably own a tarp if you’re going camping period, hammock or not. These tarps have a million different uses, and can easily be fashioned into everything from a wind blocker to a cover for your gear.

If you are going to be camping in a location that might be seeing some rain or high winds, a tarp can be pitched over your hammock to shield you from the elements.

Simply run a rope above your hammock, and tether the ends of the tarp to the ground to form an A-frame shelter. This also gives you some privacy if you’re into that.

Even if conditions look clear, you should always bring a tarp. You just never know.

Mosquito Net

Some hammocks come with these already installed, giving you a way to rest in comfort without dealing with bugs swarming around you all night. If not, you can easily purchase one and set it up with your hammock.

Sleeping Pad

Not really a make-or-break gear item for a hammock, but you’ll definitely be more comfortable with a little extra padding under you.

Step 3: Practice

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(Wikipedia.org)

You don’t have to wait to visit the campgrounds to try out setting your hammock up. Do it in your backyard if you can, or perhaps a friend’s home. If you’re struggling, there are plenty of videos on sites such as YouTube that will guide you along the way.

If you can set a hammock up in your yard, try sleeping in it one night to see how things go. This will acclimate you more to the hammock, ensuring some better sleep during future use.

Conclusion

Well then. Do you feel more confident in choosing a hammock as a first-timer? You should. Camping hammocks can seem a bit intimidating at first, and perhaps even a little off-kilter if you aren’t familiar with them.

However, once you are familiar, you can enjoy some incredible sleep and even more, incredible views from your hammock as you take in a true outdoors experience.

Did you enjoy this guide? Ready to try something new at your next camp-out? Have any hammock advice or stories of your own? Let us know in the comments below.

Alison Lawrence

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