Intro to Hammock Camping

First thing, I’ll give a little personal history in our dive into hammock camping.  2-3 years ago I borrowed a Hennessy Hammock from a friend to try out in our back yard.  It was a relatively sleepless night as being one who has spent their whole life sleeping in a tent on the {shudder} ground, I kept thinking I was going to wake up to a deer, moose, or bear staring at me through my bug net!  Obviously that never happened.  I figured I would get used to that aspect and noted how amazing being off the ground was.  Fast forward to the next summer and I borrowed that same hammock and went up a local mountain for a little solo overnight.  I slept way better that time and knew that we needed to get hammocks!

I have back issues so getting up off the ground is no fun in the morning.  With a camping hammock, you hang it so you sit in it like a chair or couch and slide in gently.  When you awaken, you just unzip your bug net and swing your legs out and stand up!  Beautiful!!  Most hammocks will unzip so you can tie back or remove the bug net so you can lounge as well.  The key to hammocks is this: LAY DIAGONAL!!!!  You do NOT lay end to end like so many pictures show.  Take any rope, cotton, or nylon hammock and lay diagonal and it will be like the skies opening and Jesus giving you a big pat on the head for finally figuring it out.  I am convinced that everyone in heaven sleeps in hammocks.  Probably no bug nets needed, but a tarp over it because sleeping in a hammock with the pitter patter of rain is just well, heavenly.

So then we come with the next part about hammocks.  Unless you live in FL or South America in a jungle, you need insulation.  You WILL get chilled during the night even in the summer as your body heat will get wicked away from underneath you.  There are various types of insulation for hammocks but the key here is that however you do it, you can NOT compress the insulation.  So if you think you can wiggle into a sleeping bag and then slide into your hammock and expect to be toasty warm at 40F because you have a 30F sleeping bag, you will fail.  Most likely.  Insulation works because it has air space.  When you lay on your sleeping bag, you compress the insulation and it is worthless for the most part.  The common thing many do to start is use a sleeping pad in your hammock.  This works somewhat ok but tends to slide around and right out from under you during the night.  You can get double layer hammocks where you slide the pad in between the layers and this works slightly better (we tried it) but still can shift and be annoying.

Intro to Hammock Camping

Enter, the under quilt.  This is either a synthetic or down quilt which is suspended under the hammock and adjusted so there are no gaps and it is not compressed at all.  You can get different lengths and widths of UQ’s which cover more or less of your body.  Synthetic are more bulky than down so not as great for serious lightweight backpacking but synthetic deals with moisture better so you may decide synthetic is better in your area or where you might camp.  Down is WAY more expensive than synthetic.  In my opinion though, the down is worth it so long as dampness isn’t too big of a concern.  All the Warbonnet Wooki UQ’s use Active Dry Down which resists moisture buildup so that’s a good thing.

So now that we have a primer in hammocks and UQ’s, we go to what’s on top of you.  This would be called a Top Quilt obviously.  I converted my old too narrow down 40F bag from EMS into a TQ simply by cutting the zipper off and bar tacking 12″ up from the foot end to retain the “foot box”.  I also have a Loco Libre Ghost Pepper 0F TQ LocoLibreSite with a snap footbox for colder weather.  It is much easier to cobble something together for a TQ than an UQ for sure.  There are many TQ makers out there or just grab an old sleeping bag.  Be careful there are no sharp zipper edges though.  If there are, cover with duct tape so you don’t rip your hammock!

The last two items are tarps and suspension.  Basically, you want at LEAST 1″ tree straps to hang your hammock from.  Do NOT use ANY form of rope to hang your hammock directly to the trees as it can damage them!  Seriously.  Don’t bother arguing about this, just get 1″+ straps and be done with it.  Also, if hanging in state parks and the like, often they have specific regulations concerning straps or “huggers”.  Some require 2″ or padding under 1″.  So just check before you go.  Tarps offer weather protection and a slight sense of security too I have found.  I have however had at least one skunk walk right under my hammock when hanging out back.  It is best to be silent and go back to sleep if you peek out your bug net and see a skunk.  They don’t smell normally and there is no reason to frighten them and MAKE them smell!  Just go back to sleep.  So the current tarps out there are Sylnylon, SylPoly, and cuben fiber and range in length to accommodate various hammocks and to make various shelters as needed.  The first two run about $100 depending where you go. Cuben fiber is essentially super strong dyneema fibers and is super light, kind of noisy, very waterproof, but costs about three times what the others do! Ours were all made by Colorado Outdoor Gear Supply COGS and we love them!  They work fabulous and we have never gotten wet.  Chad seam seals all his tarps, whereas other companies it is an option.  Not sure why as you NEED it to be seam sealed!  But he does it, so order away.

That is a quick treatise on hammock camping for you all.  There are a TON of options and cottage vendors out there.  Best place for further info is HammockForums  , Shug Emery’s YouTube videos LINK , or Derek Hansen’s book The Ultimate Hang 2

Oh, I got a little off track there.  We ended up purchasing Warbonnet BlackBird hammocks and their Wooki under quilts.  I upgraded to their XLC hammock which is a foot longer than the standard BlackBird hammock as I am close to 6′ tall.  It was SO worth it!  We have a lot of money invested in our gear, but we wanted to do it right the first time.  We right out of the gate slept wonderful and were protected from the elements.  There are certainly other great cottage vendors though such as Dutch Wear Gear and Dream Hammock among others who make amazing high end gear.  Also, check out Walhalla Hammocks and Gear on FaceBook.  They made our “guest Hammock” and it is beautiful and should allow us to have friends over to try this whole hammock thing out!

I forgot, you know the best thing about hammocks? You can sleep where you NEVER could set up a tent!  As long as you have trees about 15′ apart, you can hang!  Doesn’t matter what’s under you.  Like this beautiful spot I had a few weekends ago next to stream and in a bunch of boulders:

Intro to Hammock Camping