Hammock Camping 101: Your Ultimate How-To Guide

Hammock Camping: A man enjoying his camping experience in a hammock in the forest

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Hammock camping isn’t for everyone, but those who do it, really enjoy it. This might make you curious about what it’s like to sleep in a hammock instead of a traditional tent.

You’re in the right spot. In this post, we’ll go over all the essentials, discuss the advantages and disadvantages, look at the equipment you’ll require, and explain how to set one up.

Getting Started with Hammock Camping

So, you’re ready to dive into the exciting world of hammock camping? Great choice! Before we delve into the nitty-gritty details of hammock camping, let’s start with the basics to get you started on the right foot.

What is Hammock Camping?

Hammock camping involves using a hammock instead of a tent for outdoor camping. However, it’s not as simple as setting up a hammock and you’re finished.

Nowadays, hammocks offer much more. The preferred choice for backpackers is known as hammock tents, which come equipped with all the necessary features to keep you comfortable while keeping your backpack light.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes hammock camping awesome and what you might want to consider:

The Pros of Hammock Camping:

  1. Customizability and Modularity: One of the coolest things about hammock camping is that you can tailor your gear to fit your needs. No bug net required? Leave it behind. This modular approach allows you to pack lighter and smarter.
  2. Usable Space: When you set up a tarp above your hammock, it creates a little outdoor shelter. You’ve got space for cooking, sitting, and storing gear. It’s like having your mini-campsite in the trees.
  3. Versatile Camping Locations: Hammocks aren’t picky about where they hang. You can camp over rocky terrain, inclines, or even above the ground. No need to hunt for the perfect flat spot like you would with a tent.
  4. Enhanced Comfort and Sleep Quality: Sleeping diagonally in a hammock makes it cocoon around you, and it’s incredibly comfortable. Forget about uneven ground or rocks poking you in the back.
  5. Animal Protection: If you’re not a fan of critters, hammocks can offer some peace of mind. They’re harder for animals to access, which makes you feel safer.

The Cons of Hammock Camping:

  1. Tree Availability: To hang a hammock, you need suitable anchor points. In some environments, like the mountains, finding trees can be a challenge.
  2. Weight Considerations: Hammock camping can indeed be lighter than a traditional tent setup, but it’s not always the absolute lightest option. Depending on your gear choices, the weight savings might not be as significant as you might anticipate. Ultralight hammock tents often weigh about the same as an ultralight freestanding tent (around the 2-3 lbs mark).

Essential Hammock Camping Gear

Hammock Camping: A close-up of a packed hammock held by a hiker

Now that you know why hammock camping is awesome and what to expect, it’s time to talk about the gear you’ll need:

  1. Hammock: At the heart of your hammock camping gear is, of course, the hammock itself. When selecting a hammock, consider your size, weight, and how comfortable you want to be.
  2. Suspension System: To hang your hammock, you’ll need a reliable suspension system. This typically includes straps and carabiners.
  3. Insulation Options: Keeping warm while hammock camping is essential, especially in cooler weather. You have two main options:
    • Underquilt: This is an insulated layer that hangs beneath your hammock, providing warmth by trapping air. It’s the best choice for colder conditions.
    • Sleeping Pad: An alternative to the underquilt, a sleeping pad can be placed inside your hammock. While not as effective as an underquilt, it’s a more versatile option.
  4. Tarp: Don’t let rain or snow ruin your camping trip. A tarp is your hammock’s essential umbrella, keeping you dry in sudden downpours. Pick a tarp with ample coverage and secure attachment for a hassle-free experience.
  5. Bug Netting: Bug netting prevents unwanted visitors from joining you in your hammock. Many hammocks come with integrated bug netting, but you can also purchase standalone options.

The simplest approach is to choose a hammock tent, and depending on the model you select, it will typically have all the necessary features covered. If you’re interested, you can check out our TOP 5 guide for the lightest available hammock tents.

How to Set Up Your Hammock

Hammock Camping: A camper enjoying his hammock at a campsite, looking at a scenic gorge

With your hammock camping gear in hand, create a comfy treetop campsite using these steps for safety and comfort:

  1. Choose Your Camping Spot: First, find an ideal hammock spot. Confirm local regulations, adhere to Leave No Trace principles by staying 200 feet from water, and opt for established campsites when available. If you’re interested in learning more about selecting the ideal campsite, you can read our post here.
  2. Be a Good Tree Steward: Choose healthy, robust trees, ideally with a 6-inch (15 cm) diameter or more. Use straps at least 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) wide; wider (around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)) is preferable, and some parks may require 2-inch-wide (5 cm) straps. Check for nests or critters in the trees. If no trees are available, find other sturdy structures for hanging your hammock.
  3. Use Your Geometry Skills: To get the most comfortable setup, aim for a hammock angle of about 30 degrees toward the tree. This angle ensures a comfortable, flat position for sleeping. The lowest point of your hammock should be no more than 18 inches off the ground.

If you’re using a tarp, one significant advantage is that in adverse conditions such as rain, snow, or wind, you can set up the tarp first and keep your gear dry while you set up the hammock and sleep system.

No matter the style of tarp you use, it’s essential to ensure that the tarp extends between 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) beyond each end of your hammock.

Keep in mind that exposed parts of your tarp or hammock suspension can channel water during precipitation. Using a water break or drip line, like a simple string (even your shoelace), helps prevent water from reaching your hammock.


In this post, we’ve covered everything from the basics of hammock camping to the gear you’ll need of this unique outdoor experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer looking for a new way to camp or a beginner eager to explore the great outdoors, hammock camping offers an exciting and comfortable alternative.

So, take the plunge into the world of hammock camping and discover the joy of sleeping among the trees, where comfort meets adventure.

Interested in an ultralight hammock tent? Check out our TOP 5 guide for the lightest options available.


Can you go camping with just a hammock?

Certainly. Camping with just a hammock is indeed possible and becoming increasingly popular. Many outdoor enthusiasts prefer hammock camping for its simplicity and lightweight nature. All you need are two sturdy trees (or anchor points), a hammock, and some essential accessories like a rainfly and bug net for protection. It offers a unique way to connect with nature, providing comfort and versatility. So, if you’re looking for an exciting and minimalist camping experience, give hammock camping a try.

What is the best length for a hammock?

The ideal length for a hammock can vary depending on your height and personal preference. For example, individuals around 6 feet tall (approximately 183 cm), a hammock that measures 10.5 to 12 feet (about 320 to 366 cm) in length is often recommended. This length allows you to lie diagonally, creating a flatter and more comfortable sleeping position. However, it’s important to note that hammock preferences can differ, so experimenting with different lengths may help you find the perfect fit for your specific needs and comfort.

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