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Hammock camping, my first impression (a candid look at my first hammock camping adventure)

Some context, I'm an older, larger, grump guy :).   I'm relatively new to backpacking and feel like my learning has been like drinking from a fire hose.  I just had my first hammock camping experience this weekend and thought I'd share, in case anyone else is doing the research that I was doing months ago and may benefit from my adventure.  I'm relatively familiar with tent camping but mostly car camping with a tent.  I've done a few backpacking trips now with a tent and feel pretty comfortable with the essentials (food, shelter, water, navigation, etc.) but this was my first time with a hammock.  This will be kindof a stream of thought post (so forgive me) and it can't be said enough that a) I'm new to this and b) don't trust anything that I say unless you've verified it for yourself.  Disclaimers out of the way, here we go.

About the trip.

My trip was to the Gahuti Trail in Fort Mountain, GA.  It's an 8+/- mile trail around the mountain that's got some good terrain and beautiful views and bears (I saw a sow with 3 cubs, VERY cool).  I decided to camp in back country site #2, about 3 miles in from the east side of the trail and then just continue through the following day.  Heavy rain was in the forecast, so I didn't want to be too far out in case I really screwed up going out with a tarp.

Key takeaways

  • Where the heck do I put my stuff?  So, this one was the first thing to really stand out.  When I got to the campsite, I hung my pack on a tree, strung up my food bag, set up my tarp, setup my hammock and then sat on my hammock to enjoy what would be my livingroom for the evening.  I then started to take out my sleeping bag and pillow (don't judge 🙂 ) so that I could get to my clothes bag to get out of my sweaty hiking clothes and into my comfy camp clothes as soon as I had gotten camp squared away (firewood).  I quickly realized that, unlike a tent, a hammock only has one place to put stuff and that's where my butt was sitting on it. 
  • Speaking of the bottom, cold butt syndrome is a thing.  I have a double hammock but I didn't get an underquilt.  Most of what I read said that, as long as you were in 70F ish weather, you should be good.  The weather was originally forecasting a low of 71 but it actually dropped to 64F.  Anything directly on the hammock got chilly.  Not cold, but definitely chilly enough to notice. 
  • How the heck do I get comfortable?  Everyone says that hammock camping is the way to go from a comfort perspective.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't *like* sleeping on the ground in my tent, even with my 4" thick Big Agnes sleeping pad, so most anything is a step up, but it the hammock wasn't immediately better than the ground.  I wiggled around a bit and finally found 'the spot', but I think that there must be an art to finding 'the spot'. 
  • So, camp is already setup, now what?  I didn't time it but, from the time I walked into the campground area until the time I was admiring my handiwork seemed *very* short, much shorter than with a tent.  I have nothing to base that on but it really seemed faster. 
  • So, camp is already taken down, that was fast.  Same with taking camp down.  I did miss having the bottom of my tent to use as leverage to cram everything back into my pack 'just so', but everything seemed to button up really quick. 
  • Rain is LOUD.  I love the sound of rain, especially heavy rain, on the rainfly of my tent.  Literally lulls me to sleep.  The rain on my tarp though (I have a 12' x 12' REI camping tarp) literally woke me up.  When it woke me up, I actually recorded the sound with my phone to replay for my wife and kids, knowing that they wouldn't believe (or appreciate) just how loud it was.  It was loud 🙂


All in all, I really enjoyed it.  I'm going to have to spring for an underquilt (my next trip is looking like a waterfall in the mountains in September, so likely colder than 64F that evening) and figure out how to find that comfy spot sooner but I'll definitely be taking the hammock. 

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


Thanks for the trip report! I imagine this will be super helpful to folks as they are thinking about making the transition to a hammock. I'm curious about a couple of things:

It sounds like you did not use a sleeping pad underneath you when you slept, is that correct?

Were you sleeping 'banana style'? That is, straight in the hammock with your head up, butt down, feet up?

What kind of hammock was it that you were using?

Did you have a sleeping bag or a quilt?

Sorry for all the questions, I appreciate you providing all this good info to us here!


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

@REI-JohnJNo problem at all on all of the questions, I'm happy to answer (especially now that they're fresh on my mind).  Ideally, someone will benefit from this dialog.

  • Did I use a sleeping pad underneath?  I have a Thermarest Z-Lite sleeping pad that I took with me but I couldn't keep it under me, so I just ditched it and slept directly on the hammock.
  • I was in just about every position that I could think of in the hammock.  I did, quickly, learn that banana style wasn't going to work.  Ultimately, I found some sort of diagonal lay across the hammock that was pretty comfortable and fell asleep.
    • A side note here, I believe that there's a relationship between the distance between the trees and the height of the tree straps.  My trees were wide enough for my 12'x12' tarp to go diamond between them with some room on either side.  I ended up hanging the tree straps really high (about 8') and got what looked like close to the right 'sag'.  The more the 'sag', the easier it was to get diagonal in the hammock.
  • It's an Outdoor Vitals double hammock.  I believe that the dimensions are 11' x 6'.
  • I have a 50F sleeping bag that I unzip and use like a blanket.  
Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Hey @nathanu ! Glad to hear that you survived your hammock trip and the encounter with the bears. 😀

I'm curious about your actual sleeping position/configuration.  I tend to be a side sleeper, and stomach sleeper, and I tend to move around a fair amount while sleeping.  I love relaxing in a hammock, even taking a nap, but I don't think I'd be comfortable sleeping through the night.

Can you elaborate on that aspect?

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

I am usually a side sleeper and, ultimately, was kindof a modified and de sleeper in the hammock.  When I finally got diagonal (I had some trouble fining where to put my head and legs to "get diagonal", if that makes sense), I seemed to naturally can't toward the side of the hammock that my head was on.  I also tend to wiggle around a good bit though and kept losing my sweet spot.  It wasn't as comfortable asy bed at home, but I think it was more comfortable than the ground usually is. 

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


I can "side sleep" in my hammock, and it's a 'gathered-end' hammock! (no "diagonal" nonsense!), but there's a slight catch...

First, I tend to hang a little high (about chest height, so I have to hop up and roll into my hammock. The height leaves plenty of room for my pack. But I also string my hammock somewhat close to the ridgeline. The advantage is I can side-sleep with ease, but I can ALSO stomach sleep if I want to!!

The [slight] trade-off is the closer you string to your ridgeline, the more unstable the hammock is... IF... you're sitting up. Otherwise, it's awesome!

Sorry, can't help with the "wiggling".


Hi, overall, sounds like a good outing. Firstly, check my prior post "HAMMOCK CAMPING, ALL YOU REALLY NEED!":

Secondly, 35+/- years experience here, about 10 years hammock camping. 

My set up includes a Big Agnes 15-degree hybrid sleeping bag/quilt, a Thermarest Pro-Lite sleeping pad, and a 3-in-1 hammock/tarp/poncho. 

My D.I.Y. "mod's" include four side pockets added to the hammock (above and below my elbows) and one above my head (more like a kind of 'shelf' for my sleeping bag until I go to sleep), a removable "pad pocket" (to keep the pad in place), a length of ultralight nylon rip-stop for a tarp (never needs to be 'staked down') and a clear plastic sheet for a rain tarp (this I can stake down OR pull over me like an awning!).  

And THAT'S IT! No fancy-shmancy "over-quilt, under-quilt, suspension straps, central heating, air conditioning, or car port". What I have is ALL you (or anyone else) actually needs!!! Of course, you can buy what ever you want, I'm sure there are plenty of sales people here who can help you with gear. But gear is not all there is to dialing-in your hammock setup...  

Sure, you can hang your pack on a tree (commonly where you hitched your hammock), but a better option is to hang your pack right UNDER your hammock! This way, you can isolate your pack, your hammock AND you from tree climbing ants, but your gear will be within reach AND protected from the elements.  

Your boots? I put a small carabiner on one boot, when I go to sleep, I hang my boots on the ridgeline with that carabiner, then slide my boots towards the bottom of my hammock (where the space would otherwise be unused).   For an added touch, I hang my smartphone on the ridgeline so I can plan the next leg of my hike, read, write, or even watch a movie (I know, I have no shame). I also hang a few other items on the ridgeline above my head like my headlight, my video cam', etc.  

You should also be able to get into AND out of your bag WHILE in your hammock, put your boots on and off, and even change your clothes, if you have to! (in case it rains or you need some privacy)  

There are a lot more pro tips, but that should keep you busy for a while. *;) 

@nathanu Well this was awesomely amusing!  Great trip report.  I am not a hammock camper and have resisted all pressure to become one, but I still read posts like this to see what I might be missing.  Also, I work with campers all the time who have either made the switch or are part-hammock-timers, and it helps to know the challenges (rewards?) they face in doing so.  Thanks so much!

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

Not sure why anyone would judge you for having a pillow.  If a pillow is necessary for you get sleep then it is necessary equipment.  If someone else is lucky enough not to need one then they are just lucky.  Besides decent inflatable pillows only weigh 2-3oz.  Personally I have taken two Trekology inflatable and a Thermarest compressible...slightly annoying to manage them but it did help.  I tried just the inflatable last trip but it is not thick enough so I'm still looking for something.  What pillow do you use?