Camping with a Hammock: Pros, Cons, and How to Get Started

Camping with a Hammock: Pros, Cons, and How to Get Started

The Allure of Hammock Camping

Ah, the humble hammock – a simple, yet ingenious contraption that has captivated the hearts and imaginations of outdoor enthusiasts far and wide. As someone who has long been enamored with the great outdoors, I can attest to the irresistible allure of swinging gently in a hammock, suspended above the forest floor, gazing up at the stars through a canopy of trees. It’s a scene that evokes a sense of peace, tranquility, and pure unadulterated bliss.

But what is it about hammock camping that has sparked such a fervent following? Is it the promise of a more comfortable night’s sleep compared to the hard, unforgiving ground? The ability to set up camp virtually anywhere there are suitable trees? Or perhaps it’s the sheer joy of rocking oneself to sleep, lulled by the gentle sway of the hammock. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that hammock camping has carved out a unique niche in the world of outdoor adventure.

As one Redditor eloquently put it, “The comfort and flexibility provided by the hammock while in the backcountry is enough to keep me off the ground.” And after spending countless nights suspended above the earth, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, I can’t help but wholeheartedly agree.

The Pros of Hammock Camping

One of the primary advantages of hammock camping is the sheer versatility it offers when it comes to finding a suitable campsite. Unlike traditional ground-based tents, which require relatively flat, obstacle-free surfaces, hammocks can be set up virtually anywhere there are two sturdy trees (or other suitable anchor points) spaced 12-18 feet apart. This means you’re no longer beholden to the whims of Mother Nature, forced to scour the forest floor for that elusive patch of level ground.

As the folks at Garage Grown Gear point out, “In Shenandoah National Park, for example, most of the terrain is rocky and steeply sloping; the number areas suitable for ground camping (i.e. flat; and free of rocks, roots, and vegetation) is very limited. Moreover, many of these areas have developed into crowded, heavily impacted campsites. Shenandoah’s unsuitable terrain — and its overused campsites — is made completely irrelevant by a hammock.”

And it’s not just the increased campsite options that make hammocks so appealing. Many seasoned hammock enthusiasts also swear by the superior comfort and sleep quality they experience compared to ground-based sleeping systems. As the team at KOA notes, “Many people find sleeping in a hammock more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, or at least as good. A better night of rest allows me to recover better and hike more the next day.”

And let’s not forget the added benefit of having a built-in camp chair right at your fingertips. Simply fold the front end of the hammock over itself, and voila – an instant relaxation station, perfect for whiling away the afternoon with a good book or simply observing the natural world around you.

The Cons of Hammock Camping

Of course, no outdoor sleeping system is without its drawbacks, and hammock camping is no exception. One of the most frequently cited cons is the fact that hammocks are inherently designed for solo use, making them less than ideal for group camping trips. As the Garage Grown Gear team explains, “Hammocks are not the best with two different people sleeping in the same hammock. You end up all over each other and it just is not comfortable for sleeping, unless you are extremely close.”

Another potential downside is the fact that, in certain environments, finding suitable trees to hang your hammock from may prove challenging. As the KOA team points out, “If you are in the mountains, there might not be trees for you to hang from. Both of these create challenges to hammock camping.”

And while hammocks may offer superior comfort and sleep quality for many campers, the same cannot be said for those who toss and turn throughout the night. As the Garage Grown Gear article notes, “If you toss and turn a lot in your sleep or tend to switch positions throughout the night, hammock camping might feel too restrictive and uncomfortable.”

Finally, there’s the issue of weight. While hammocks are generally lighter than traditional tents, the addition of necessary accessories like bug nets, tarps, and insulation can quickly add up, potentially negating any weight savings. As Andrew Skurka explains, “Generally speaking, hammock systems are slightly heavier than ground systems, especially those capable of colder conditions.”

Getting Started with Hammock Camping

So, you’ve been captivated by the allure of hammock camping and are ready to take the plunge. Where do you even begin? Well, the first and most crucial step is to invest in a high-quality hammock and associated gear. While it may be tempting to opt for the cheapest option, skimping on quality can quickly lead to a less-than-stellar camping experience.

When shopping for a hammock, the team at KOA recommends looking for one made of durable, high-quality materials like nylon, and with a weight rating that exceeds your own. You’ll also want to consider the length and width of the hammock, ensuring it’s large enough to accommodate your height and sleeping preferences.

In addition to the hammock itself, you’ll need a few other essential items to complete your setup, including:

  • Suspension straps: These wide, webbing straps help protect the trees and provide multiple attachment points for adjusting the height and tension of your hammock.
  • Bug net (optional, but highly recommended): A 360-degree bug net will keep those pesky insects at bay and ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.
  • Tarp or rain fly (optional, but highly recommended): A well-pitched tarp or rain fly will shield you from the elements, keeping you dry and comfortable, even in inclement weather.
  • Underquilt or insulation (optional, but highly recommended): Depending on the climate, you may need additional insulation beneath your hammock to prevent heat loss and keep you warm through the night.

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary gear, it’s time to head out and put your hammock camping skills to the test. Start by practicing setting up your system in your backyard or a local park, ensuring you’re comfortable with the process before venturing into the great unknown. And remember, don’t be afraid to experiment and find the configuration that works best for you – that’s half the fun of hammock camping!


As I sit here, gently swaying in my hammock, gazing up at the stars peeking through the branches above, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude for the wonders of the great outdoors. And while traditional ground-based camping certainly has its place, there’s something truly magical about suspending yourself above the forest floor, cocooned in the embrace of a simple yet ingenious contraption.

So, if you’re ready to take your camping experience to new heights, why not give hammock camping a try? Who knows, you just might join the ranks of the “fanatical cult” that the Redditors speak of – a group of like-minded adventurers who have discovered the unparalleled joy of swinging gently through the night, surrounded by the beauty of nature. And if you happen to be planning a trip to the Scottish Highlands in the near future, be sure to check out Loch Ness Shores – a campsite that I’m sure would be more than happy to welcome you and your trusty hammock.

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