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First hammock camping trip coming up this weekend (advice welcome)

So, I'm considering no longer being a ground dweller and have dipped my toes into the hammock camping world.  I've got an overnight trip planned this weekend and will only be taking a hammock, tarp and a ground cloth (an old piece of Tyvek) for my living quarters.  I don't have an underquilt, but the temp isn't supposed to get below 70F while I'm out.  I am bringing my sleeping pad (Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core SLX Sleeping Pad) and a closed cell foam pad just in case, but plan to just sleep in the  hammock (I'm a very hot sleeper).  My plan is to just try it out and see if it's even something that I'm interested in.  Anyone else doing or recently done anything similar?  Thoughts, suggestions, etc. on what I can / should do?  It should be a pretty easy hike (about 4 miles in with 1200' or so of elevation) but they're forecasting rain most of the day.  The idea of being able to string up a tarp and then get the rest of camp setup in the dry is kindof exciting.  Additionally, the idea of breaking down camp in the dry, regardless of what the weather is doing, is also kindof exciting.   I'll just take the tarp down last and shove it in the outside pocket of my pack.

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6 Replies

I've been a hammock camper for about 10 years now (35 years experience), and although it can be challenging to find a good hang (even if the trees are a little farther apart than I'd like, once in a while), I much prefer a hammock to a tent!  First, you don't need an under quilt, over quilt, or most of the other JUNK they like to talk about (or sell you!)  For my sleep system, I have a Thermarest pro-lite (full length), and a  BA 15-degree RoxyAnn. In colder weather, I modified two down jackets and I modified a pair of knee-high wool socks, etc. (easily adding another 10-degree R-value).  For my shelter system, I use a hammock (convertible hammock, tarp, poncho), a SINGLE line (no "strap system"), a simple sheet of rip-stop nylon (for a tarp), NO hammock "tarp", I don't even steak it down! In the rainy season, I do steak a plastic tarp (a painter's drop cloth). And that's ALL you REALLY need! The way I string it up, I can sleep on my side if I like. And the whole thing packs into the sleeping bag compartment of my pack!! The rest of that... stuff... just lines someone's wallet. On the other hand, if you just can't hold on to your money, go ahead and spend (or mail your money to me, it'll be just as effective). 

I've had my system in 50mph gust windstorms, 20-degree temperatures, torrential rain storms and hot summer days. NEVER a bad night's sleep (kinda fun in high winds, actually). One winter morning, a hiker asked if it was cold the night before, after a moment I said, "I don't know, my system is pretty 'bombproof'", and I get compliments and even a few questions.  My point is, less is more. THINK about what you REALLY need, keep it down to the essentials, improvise other gear to make it multi-use for your sleep/shelter system, and adapt other gear in innovative ways.

For your first hammock camp, just see if you might like it. You'll know by morning, believe me! If you don't need it yet, don't buy it yet!! Again, THINK whether you REALLY need your next purchase!! Or, can you improvise or improve something to address the issue your next purchase was supposed to address.


Hey @nathanu! Super excited for your first hammock adventure!

I have loved every minute of my hammocking years, and although I do still take a tent out with me for some of my group excursions, there is nothing I love more than moving fast and light with my hammock and essentials. The one exception might be getting a comfortably cool night's sleep (fellow hot sleeper here, yay for us!)

I hope you've had a chance to work through your set-up process before heading out. Just like with a tent, the more familiar you are with the dimensions and limitations of your hammock system, the faster you can get set up once you are out there. Be sure to get a good pitch to the tarp to avoid rain pooling above you. You might also want to test out which pad, if either, is most effective to sleep on within the hammock, as the temperature you are expecting probably won't require both. 

Not to wax too poetic here, but my last tip for your first hammock trip: take your time picking the spot. One of the elements of hammocking that I love is being able to set up for my morning/evening view and the elements around me. First time out, I found strong trees at the base of a waterfall that hung just over the water. That first morning waking up was what hooked me on hammock camping for life.

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-DannyB, thank you for the response!!  I've got a tent that I've used in the past and am excited about the prospect of sleeping in a hammock.  The spot that I'm camping *should* give me a pretty good easterly view, so I'm hoping for a hot cup of coffee lounging in the hammock watching the sunrise.  Rain's in the forecast, so I may just be watching rain, but I'm still excited about doing it from the hammock.

As far as testing the gear before I get it on trail, that's a lesson that I've learned (more times than I'm willing to admit).  I've actually got 2 hammocks and 2 tarps that I've been playing with....  umm, testing and getting familiar with in the back yard.  I only have 2 trees that I can setup between, so not a lot of variety, but I've been experimenting with different tarp setups, hammock heights, etc.  One thing that I'm still toying with is where to store my pack, and I'm hoping to experiment with keeping it at the foot side of my hammock this evening (the hammock is 11' long, I'm 6'2" long, so I'm hoping we can coexist in the hammock).  I've got some Prusic knots along the ridgline of my tarp and am going to hang my shoes and a light from one of those.  Definitely looking forward to it.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.


As to "storing" your pack (presumably, while you're in you're sleeping in your hammock), I often hang my pack right under my hammock. I hang my boots on the ridgeline then slide them down toward my feet (told ya I've been doing this a while!)


Enjoy your first hammocking trip!  A few hints (from my ~half-dozen overnights):

  1. Sometimes it's easier to get into your sleeping bag before getting in the hammock.  Lay out your groundsheet on the ground next to the lowest point in your hammock.  Step into your sleeping bag's footbox, zip it up, and then sit down in the hammock and swing your legs in.  Zipping up while in the hammock is really difficult.
  2. It's easy to fall off the closed-cell pad.  I've begun experimenting with putting the pad inside my sleeping bag so that I don't slide off it.  Cold Butt Syndrome is definitely a thing.
  3. If it's that rainy, make sure you've got drip lines on your tarp and hammock suspension lines so that they don't funnel water into your shelter.
  4. In case you weren't already, make sure you've got 1"+ tree straps to avoid damaging your trees.
  5. I've hung my backpack by its carry loop from the hammock suspension line where it meets the hammock.  It slightly unbalances the hammock (tips it toward the head or foot - where-ever you hung the pack), but it keeps the pack off the ground and away from your sleeping bag.
  6. Enjoy!

@nathanu @HikingAmbitions 

No, you should be able to get into AND out of your bag WHILE you're in your hammock! (I can get into my hammock, THEN unpack my bag from its stuff sack and get into it. In the morning, I can get out of my bag, AND restuff my bag into its sack, THEN get out of my hammock). You should learn how to do the same.

My Big Agnes 15-degree RoxyAnn is a "hybrid" bag/quilt, it has no down where your back would be, but it zips-up like a regular bag. It ALSO has a pocket for your sleeping pad! HOWEVER, while this may be good for a tent, I prefer to have my pad stationary so I can turn onto my side or move around freely. SO, I created a separate pad pocket that I secure at either end. It has the added advantage of protecting both my pad and hammock, but I can hop in or out at any time without a problem.

Meh... drip lines are not as good as just making sure your rain tarp covers your line, where it meets your hammock, well. But, it couldn't hurt.

Meh... tree straps are nice, but not necessarily "necessary". If the tree is hard as rock, you won't even leave a mark!! Slightly softer bark, if you're just gonna be there overnight, a regular line is fine! If rain softens the bark, you may leave indentations, but the bark WILL bounce back after a few days! The only times I would advise straps, is when you'll be there for almost a full week (or more), if you keep returning to the same hang, but especially if you don't know how to string your hammock up without pulling and tugging your lines (to get tight lines, having a "sawing" effect, this is usually because people don't know how to tie a good knot).

When I look at a possible hang, I already know if the trees are too close or too far. I can also tell where the [approximate] middle is, then I loosely tie it up (to be sure it's centered OR adjust it left or right if I want). Then, I pull once and tie both sides. Done!

Hanging your pack under your hammock (kinda looks like a baby hammock) does NOT "unbalance" your hammock!!! (How would that even happen??) IF you do it right you won't even know your pack is right under you! This also has the added advantage of putting your pack (and most of the contents) within reach. Handy if you want something).