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Hammock camping has become increasingly popular in recent years but, when you switch from normal tent camping to hammocking, there is a slight learning curve. As a hiker or camper, you want to prepare your gear and yourself as well as possible. That’s why it’s important to brush up on a few hammock camping tips before you embark on your first trip.
1. Invest in Quality Materials
When you’re out in the wilderness, facing potential dangers at every turn, you want gear you can rely on. In a survival situation, it’s got your back — literally. That’s why investing in quality materials is one of the most important hammock camping tips of all.
Choose a hammock that’ll keep you safe and high above everything from rocky peaks to rising floodwaters. Look for ones made with ripstop fabric. This material is abrasion and tear-resistant, which means your keys, jewelry and zippers are unlikely to damage it. Some models even come with bug screens, a feature that’s incredibly helpful if you’re camping during the summer or in an especially buggy environment.
2. Check for Hazards
Once you’ve picked a camping spot, the next step is to find two trees that are the right distance apart. As you eyeball the surrounding vegetation, look for potential hazards, too. Stand between the two trees and look up. Are there any loose tree limbs above you? Maybe there’s a wasp nest close by or ants have infested one of the trees.
You don’t want unwanted guests crawling into your hammock at night, so choose carefully. Remember, you can always test out one spot and move later if problems arise. However, it’s better to avoid the hassle altogether if you can.
3. Make It Saggy
Sleeping in a hammock can provide deeper, more restful sleep, especially when the alternative is sleeping on the cold, hard ground. Trade the sleeping bag and tent for a cozy cocoon suspended above the earth and wake up feeling energetic and ready to seize the day.
Just make sure your setup is conducive to this glorious shuteye by hanging your hammock with a little sag. Pro hammock campers often recommend you string it up at a 30-degree angle from the horizon so you can lie down comfortably inside. If you hang it too taught, it’ll roll you up like green bean when you get in.
4. Use a Tarp and Drip Line
One of the biggest downsides to camping in a hammock is that you often lack protection overhead. If it rains, snows, hails or branches fall from above, you’re completely exposed. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in a rainfly or tarp to cover your hammock, especially when you’re inside sleeping.
A drip line may also come in handy in wet conditions. You don’t even have to buy extra gear for this one. Simply use the leftover rope to tie a knot in the middle of the hammock straps between the fabric and the tree. Let the leftover material hang free. This way, if it rains, the water will drip down the line instead of your backside.
5. Insulate Your Back
Hammocks are made of a parachute-like material that’s strong yet thin. On hot summer days, this breathable fabric is a huge advantage because it allows the breeze to circulate and keep you cool. However, if you’re hammocking in cold weather or during shoulder seasons, you might want something to keep you warm.
Line your hammock with a thick blanket or comforter to keep the cold from seeping in. You can also find specially-made insulators that double as cushy back support. The right option for you is the one that’ll keep you warm and comfortable wherever you plan to camp.
6. Sleep On a Diagonal
Most people assume that sleeping in a hammock involves pointing your toes towards one tree and your head towards the other. However, in order to sleep comfortably as possible, you must lie on a slight diagonal so that your back is flat.
Inevitably, this position will create a ridge behind the knees that some might find uncomfortable. In this case, you can place a lumbar pillow behind your knees to support the joint and prevent hyperextension. No one wants to get injured while camping, so pack the extra pillow.
Camping With a Backup Plan
Hammock camping takes some getting used to. After all, most people are used to sleeping on a flat, stable surface connected to the ground. Hammocking turns all that on its head by adding some sway and suspending you at least a few feet in the air. The experience is different, to say the least, so it’s wise to pack a backup plan the first few times.
Once you get to your campsite, you can set up your tent and your hammock. Then, if the breezy cradle gets a bit uncomfortable, you can always switch to sleeping in your tent.
Can be hard to get used to the first few times so bring a tent and blow-up mattress along too until you’re confident enough to go hammock only.