Trekking through the backcountry is amazing. Simply being able to cut away from hustle and bustle of society for a few days does wonder for the soul.
Though, packing for your trek is not always the most pleasant of experiences. There are so many different variables to take into account when planning trips into the woods. One variable is the size/weight of your pack. There is nothing more annoying than being out on the trail and realizing that you over packed. Being under prepared is rather annoying as well, but that’s a different story.
One easy way to cut some weight is to ditch the tent and opt for a hammock.
But if it is your first-time hammock camping, there are many aspects to understand that can make a hammock a better choice than a tent.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get along.
1: Setting Up Your Hammock
The most important step is setting up your hammock. Finding the perfect location can be troublesome and time-consuming. When you finally tie the lines and relax, you’ll agree that the trouble was worth it.
Finding two sturdy trees about eight to ten feet apart should be the first task. When you find them, you can begin to tie your lines. Most hammocks come with tree straps or lines. Wrap the lines around each tree. I find shoulder height for me (around 5 ½ feet up) is a great spot to tie the lines.
Adjust the height of the lines depending on how far apart the trees are. The closer the trees the higher up you’ll want to tie the lines (vice versa). When the lines are secure around the trees, clip the ends of your hammock to each line. By this time you hammock should be in the air and taught. Adjust the line height if the hammock is too high to get into. Put a little weight on the hammock to stretch the lines before putting your whole weight on it.
Finally, boost yourself up and hop in! The hammock should stretch a little and sag into place. The ropes or straps may stretch and adjust on the trees as well.
NOTE: DOUBLE CHECK THAT YOUR HAMMOCK HAS TREE STRAPS AND CARABINERS OR CLIPS BEFORE HEADING OUT.
These days many hammocks come with a weather cover built in. These hammocks can be rather pricey if you’re going to by quality. For those living the dirtbag lifestyle and trying to save a few bucks, there are other options.
- Tarp (size depending on your size. 6’x8’ usually works well and can be easily packed)
- Rope (a stiff rope with little elasticity works the best)
Using a length of rope, tie a line above where the hammock straps meet the trees at each end of your hammock. Drape a tarp over the line and even it out. The middle of the tarp should run along the line and cover your entire hammock. Then, with a few more pieces of rope, tie a line from each of the four corners of the tarp. Run the new lines to nearby trees, roots, pegs or rocks that are heavy enough to act as an anchor. Tie those lines to the various anchors. These anchor lines will prevent the edges of your tarp from flying up in heavy winds.
When all is said and done you should have an A-Frame shaped cover over your entire hammock. Double check for any areas that may let is water or snow. Make adjustments to the placement of your tarp to cover those areas accordingly.
3: Sleep On An Angle
Sleeping is rather straight forward, right? Well, not necessarily. When sleeping in a hammock, many people make the mistake of laying dead center through the middle of the hammock and letting it curl around them.
Laying in the center of the hammock will make your body bend into a banana shape and may become uncomfortable during the night. Lying in the hammock at an angle of 45 degrees will eliminate the bend in your body will provide a straighter position to your back keeping you more comfortable.
Many hammocks are now designed to allow this sleeping position at a diagonal across the hammock, you can even get left and right handed hammocks.
Hammock camping can be a saving grace in the warmer months of the year. When it comes to camping in the winter, or during a season of colder and windier weather, hammock camping can be very unpleasant, but only IF YOU ARE UNPREPARED.
Hammocks create distance from the ground and a lack of insulation. This provides an under draft and keeps the camper cool during the hot summer nights. When it is cold, that under draft creates what many hammock campers call CBS – Cold Butt Syndrome. The easiest way to prevent CBS is to insulate yourself from the draft.
A warm sleeping bag may not always work because the insulation becomes compressed and ineffective. Doubling up sleeping bags can be effective. But then you have to worry about carrying two sleeping bags (per hammock). A camping pad, one used for comfort on the hard floor of a tent, or a thick foam pad is another good option, although they can move around a bit. Some hammocks have sleeves for pads which holds them in place.
Unpacking your bag of any clothes and lining them up in your hammock is smart too if you have no other options. Doing anything to provide insulation is a smart choice. Some people even pack their hammocks with leaves from the ground!
One of the best options is the insulating kit that many companies offer for their hammocks. They act as a thick insulating buffer between the cold air and your butt. They tend to be hung under the hammock, so they don’t compromise your space or comfort and the insulation can’t get compressed, so it’s always effective. The best part is that most insulating kits don’t weigh that much. What’s more is that they can provide more comfort to the already comfortable hammock.
5: Get Ready For Bed
Hammocks are easier to pack, easier to set up, and much more comfortable than a tent. With that said, getting ready for bed is a process that offers many opportunities for mistakes. And everyone makes those mistakes at least once. The best way to get ready for bed to actually get ready for bed and ask yourself these questions.
- Do I have to go the bathroom?
- Where is my water?
- Im hungry, where is my Food?
- Do I have a light?
- Do I have my gear packed away and secure?
- Is my tarp set up properly?
- Are my tree straps secured?
- Is my hammock in at a comfortable tension?
- Is it cold? Do I have enough insulation?
The list goes on and on. The most important thing to realize is once you are in your hammock for the night, try and stay in it for the night. Getting in and out in the darkness of the night and trying to find something to make your night easier is a pain and often times not worth it. Get prepared, get in, and get to sleep.
One luxury that I take with me is a little carpet sample, it’s about 17×9 inches, and it’s lovely when I step out of my hammock in bare feet, or I want somewhere to get dressed without worrying about what’s under my feet.
NOTE: Check with parks and recs or the National Park Service before wrapping straps around any trees. Some places have regulations on hammocks.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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