Ditch the ground and get elevated — hammocks aren’t just for lazing out at camp — they’re a great option for a lightweight and obscenely comfy night’s sleep. Here’s Jeremy’s tips on how to camp in a hammock.
After spending most of last summer snoozing in my campervan I developed an itch for something different; to expand my sleeping options on my adventures. I began my research and came to a crossroads — hammock or tent?
Well I can’t fault tents; they’re a quintessential piece of camping gear, but after a few Google searches I found myself deep within communities of avid hammock campers — we’re talking way beyond the postcard-perfect net hammock slung in front of a beach in Hawaii. I liked how this was something different — slightly out of the norm but still a tried and tested solution (if set up correctly).
But before we get to setting up, here are the benefits I found:
3 Reasons Why You Should Camp In A Hammock
You’ll Have A Better Sleep
Aside from its application for camping, in general, some studies have shown that sleeping in a hammock is just better for you. In a hammock you’ll sleep in what Dr Steven Park from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine calls the ‘healthiest sleeping position’.
On a Huffington Post blog post he says that this position is ‘lying on one’s back, with the head slightly elevated, about 10-30 percent’.
To add to this, know how rocking seems to put babies to sleep? A study published by Current Biology concluded that rocking ‘accelerated sleep onset’ and ‘also affected deeper sleep stages by increasing the duration’. Pair these benefits with zero pressure points and you’ll find yourself potentially having the sleep of your life!
Save Space & Time
It’s simple. Hammocks take up little space and are lightning fast to set up. When looking for a space to set up camp, all you really need is a line between two sturdy trees — no need for a level clearing! A simple strap and hammock setup can literally take a minute. Sling up two straps and hook in your hammock and you’re ready to sleep. Adding a mosquito net and rain tarp doesn’t take much longer either.
Connect With Nature
Most of us go camping to escape the city — to connect with nature and experience the outdoors. In a tent you’re enclosed (which has its own benefits) but if you’re looking to become more immersed in your surroundings; to drift off to sleep while looking up at the stars or to wake up and feel the warmth of the morning sun against your face, then a hammock is the go.
What You Need To Camp In A Hammock
Ok! So I’ve convinced you to give this a go. What do you need? Luckily for me, Climbing Anchors and We Are Explorers teamed up to deck me out with the latest from Ticket to the Moon’s hammock range to give you a demo.
Here’s the gear list:
From there, all I needed to bring to the table was my pillow, trusty sleeping bag and some form of insulation — which can be in the form of a camping mat or an under quilt. Unless you’re sleeping in temperatures above ~21℃, I’d definitely recommend insulation, as heat is lost incredibly easily when the wind hits the bottom of the breathable hammock material. The crushed and squashed down on the underside of your sleeping bag won’t be enough.
I highly recommend the mosquito net and rain tarp. The bare minimum will get you to sleep but the net and tarp will ensure comfort and protection when nature doesn’t go your way (it often doesn’t). As soon as winter ends and the humidity increases, the flies and mosquitoes come out, making the net a necessity. With any rain forecast for the night or any looming clouds about, I’d definitely take out the rain tarp — waking up at 3.00am with yourself and your gear drenched isn’t ideal.
How To Sleep In A Hammock
I’m a big believer in experience and adventure, so instead of just telling you guys how to set up and sleep in a hammock, you’re coming on a cheeky adventure with me to the Blue Mountains with my friend Rachael, a virgin hammock camper and visitor to Sydney!
I decided to show Rachael some quick and easy gems of the Blue Mountains and first took her to Lincoln Rock to soak in the meandering valleys of the mountains. Pro-tip, duck left of the main viewing rock and hook around a few metres to find the hidden cave. This would usually be my go-to sunset spot, but setting up the hammocks before dark was on the cards.
Next up was Minne Ha Ha Falls. Just a 20 minute drive away and an easy 20 minute approach, this cute two tiered waterfall sports a gorgeous swimming hole and the perfect set of trees to sling up a hammock and kick back. We had more plans for another waterfall walk, but relaxing here and swimming felt like a much better option.
With sunset approaching, we peeled ourselves out of the hammock and made our way to our campsite. Along the way, we hit a quick pit stop by the Hydro Majestic Pavillion to check out the insane clouds and sun rays peeking through into the valley. Finally at the campsite, it was time to set up the Ticket to the Moon hammocks and teach Rachael all the quick tips.
Quick ‘n’ Dirty Tips For A Good Night’s Sleep
- You want a gap of 4-6 paces between the 2 trees
- Wrap the straps about 180cm high from the ground
- Ensure the hammock is centered between the two trees
- You want the foot end slightly higher than the head end
- The Curve — Hang the hammock so the straps are at a 30 degree angle to the ground under tension.
- The Angle — Lay diagonally along the centre of the hammock
Don’t worry, I’ve explained ‘The Angle’ and ‘The Curve’ more below.
I understand, it’s your first instinct to set up your hammock as tight as possible, so it’ll be as flat as possible for your back, neck, and legs… right? Well hammocks just don’t work like that. Too tight and you’ll weaken the fabric, sleep uncomfortably, and have a hard time getting in and bouncing out! Too loose, and your body will curve too much, causing some back and joint discomfort.
A correctly hung hammock will have a natural curve — aim to have the straps hang at 30 degrees from a horizontal level line once loaded with weight. A curve in the sweet spot paired with a good sleeping angle will result in a comfortable and sound sleep for the night.
Don’t just plop yourself in your hammock, there’s a science to this (not really but just don’t screw it up). If you start to feel uncomfortable lying straight in your hammock, you’re not alone. Reposition your body diagonally a 30 degree angle to the centre line of the hammock. With your head and feet resting on opposite sides of the hammock, your body will work with the hanging tension and naturally level out.
The Morning After
As the sun rose on that crisp Sunday morning I awoke slowly and naturally to the breeze gently rocking me and birds chirping a few metres away. It was the best sleep I’d had in months, even better than in my own bed at home. Especially in these summer months, I urge you all to give hammock camping a go. You’ll wake refreshed and wishing you’d tried it earlier!
It’s important to remember to be responsible and sustainable with our actions. To hammock camp ethically please remember to:
- Check if hanging hammocks from trees is restricted where you’re planning to camp
- Check tree size, strength, and bark quality to avoid damage
- Use straps made of webbing and/or use tree protection (rope will damage trees)
- Take your hammock down when not in use and leave no trace