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Everything You Have Ever Wanted To Know About Hammocks

Everything You Have Ever Wanted To Know About Hammocks

posted Fun Gear Guides Hammocks

Hammocks are an often overlooked or even unused part of a hiking or camping experience.  Most people tend to focus on sleeping bags, cots, pads, and other places to sleep while they are enjoying the great outdoors.

But a hammock is a great tool and arguably an essential when it comes time to hit the trails.  It can provide comfort, safety, and an amazing sleeping experience while you are braving the elements.

That’s why we want you to know everything you can about hammocks.  Hammock knowledge goes beyond your dad’s backyard napping spot.  There are different types of hammocks like tree, jungle, and parachute hammocks.  There are tons of different kinds of hammock gear from underquilts to straps.  Plus, there are some amazing benefits from sleeping in a hammock, whether you do it just on camping trips or regularly.

Whatever it is you need to know about hammoc, you can find it right here.  It’s time to become a hammock pro and see what you’ve been missing on your next trip to the great outdoors.

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Types Of Hammocks

This is the most obvious place to start when learning about hammocks.  You want to make sure that you choose the right one because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to hammocks.  Depending on the weather, the activities you’ll be doing, and the location of your trip, you might need a few different hammocks over your lifetime.  Here is an in-depth look at some of the hammocks you can purchase for your use.

Rope Hammock

Look in just about any backyard in North America and you will probably find a rope hammock.  This is one of the most popular forms of the hammock that you can find today.

Materials and Features

The main component of a rope hammock is obviously the rope, which is usually made from two different types of material.  You can find cotton ropes which tend to be a little more flexible, but they do succumb to mold and mildew pretty quickly, especially in wet or humid climates.  Polyester is very strong and won’t mold or mildew.

Another feature of the rope hammock is the spreader bar that is located at each end of the hammock.  Spreaders are usually made of wood, but you can find them in plastic or nylon.  The rope of the hammock will start and end in these spreaders which help to keep the hammock relatively flat.  It will also stay pretty taut when you’re laying on top, which creates a nice sturdy surface.

Rope Hammock Setup

You can set up a rope hammock in a few different ways.  The first is to string it between two trees, but you have to make sure that they are fairly close together because most rope hammocks are no longer than thirteen feet.  If you don’t have any trees where you are going to put your hammock, there is always the option of a hammock stand.

A hammock stand looks like the bottom of a boat, with a deep curve.  You can hang the hammock between the two ends of the curve and you’re ready to go.  This gives you the ability to set up the hammock anywhere you would like.

Another tree-less option is to use two posts to hang your hammock.  You can use metal rods, wooden posts, or any other sturdy material.  When you set these up you have to make sure you have a tall enough post that it can go deep enough into the ground to give a stable base as well as having enough room to hang the hammock without it touching the ground.

Rope hammocks are good for warm climates because they will let airflow through the hammock while it’s in use.  That way you don’t end up sweaty after a quick nap or sleeping through a hot evening.  They are fairly durable and will stand up to a good amount of wear and tear.  Rope hammocks generally can hold up to 450 pounds, but that will vary slightly depending on how you choose to set up the hammock.

Tree Hammock

There isn’t necessarily one type of hammock that can be classified as a tree hammock, it is more a way of setting up the hammock.  You can buy varieties of hammocks that are meant to be strung between two trees, but they come in different styles and types. You can alsopurchase tree straps that will allow you to turn a hammock into a tree hammock and let you securely hang your hammock between two trees.

Setting up a hammock between two trees has its advantages and disadvantages.  It is really convenient if you are camping or hiking in the woods because there are trees all around.  You don’t have to hunt for a big open space and you are likely to find two trees that will provide you with good support.  It’s also convenient because you don’t have to fuss with posts, or stands, or purchase any extra equipment.

If you aren’t near any trees and don’t want to spend money for straps or other equipment to hang your hammock, then a tree hammock might not be right for you.  Also, a tree hammock can be a little unstable if you are not properly hanging the hammock.  Bad knots or picking the wrong kind of tree can lead you sleeping on the ground unintentionally.

Jungle Hammock

Another type of hammock that you can find is a jungle hammock.  Yes, it is made to be used in the jungle or other tropical climates, but it is also designed differently than other hammocks that you can find.  When you are in the jungle there are certain things that you have to keep in mind like the climate and things like insects and other animals.

Materials and Features

A jungle hammock will typically be made to hang between two trees, which is good because when you are sleeping in the jungle there is an abundance of trees.  You won’t usually have to buy any special straps for this because it will already be built in.

Another important feature is the rain tarp because when you are in the jungle or other tropical climates, it’s common to experience bouts of heavy rainfall.  While it might not last a long time, a tropical rainstorm can soak you in a matter of minutes.  A good rain tarp will keep you and your hammock completely dry and protected.

The rain tarp will be separate from the actual hammock and is suspended from the same two trees your hammock is tied to, just higher up.  It will also have two flaps on the side that are held up by anchoring to posts in the ground.  This gives you a shield from the rain above and on the sides keeping you totally dry.

You will also have to deal with a good amount of bugs and insects attacking you while you sleep, mainly mosquitos.  Not only are these bugs annoying and leave you itching, they can carry deadly diseases like yellow fever and malaria.  That’s why a jungle hammock will come with a mosquito net.

The mosquito netting in most hammocks will zip over you and create a top layer to keep bugs away while you are sleeping.  Most can be rolled away when it’s not in use and some hammocks even come with mosquito-free bedding to provide extra bug protection.

While not a standard feature, many models of jungle hammocks will have pockets and zippers so you can store things like flashlights or maps in your hammock while you sleep.  Jungle hammocks are very versatile and can be set up in almost any setting.  You can be suspended between two trees, up high or down low, or even out over water if need be.  If you’re going to be taking a camping trip to a tropical climate, using a jungle hammock might be one of the smarter choices in bedding.

Parachute Hammock

If you frequently use a hammock while you camp or hike, then you are probably pretty familiar with aparachute hammock.  A parachute hammock is one of the most popular hammocks for many outdoor activities.

Materials and Features

It is made out of nylon and has a kind of “crinkly” look to it and as the name suggests, looks like a parachute.  This hammock is one of the strongest on the market and highly durable which is why it is so common.  They are fairly flexible which makes a comfortable sleeping surface and can usually protect you from the elements pretty well.

There are two sizes when it comes to parachute hammocks:

  • Single- This comfortably sleeps one person and with a little bit of stretch make sleeping in them for a few nights acceptable.
  • Double- This hammock can seat two people comfortable, or is great for one person wanting extra room. Because of the bigger size, sleeping in a double hammock is better for colder or wetter climates.  It almost turns into a cocoon and there is less chance for your feet or head to be exposed to the elements.

You can find a variety of different kinds of models when it comes to hammocks as well.  Things like:

  • Ultralight
  • Expedition
  • Backcountry
  • Heavy-duty

Each model provides a different amount of protection as well as storage and set up, so you will have to choose the one that works best for your adventure needs.

Setup

Setting up a parachute hammock can be tailored to your needs as well as whichever method you prefer.  Some come with carabiners and cords to make setup quick and easy and others you will have to buy a few accessories like hammock straps before you can use them.

Overall, a parachute hammock is going to be one of the most used and versatile hammocks for people who like to spend their free time outside.  They travel well, hung quickly, and made for a variety of elements and locations.

Brazilian Hammock

A Brazilian hammock looks a lot like a parachute hammock, but the material and purpose are much different.  These might not be the best hammocks for an extreme camping expedition in the mountains, but they make great napping spots on a warm beach or in the shade of your backyard.

Materials and Features

Instead of a strong nylon material, Brazilian hammocks are made with hand-woven cotton.  They don’t look like rope hammocks though because the cotton is a tighter weave.  They are slouchy like a parachute hammock because they don’t have the spreaders that a rope hammock uses to keep a flat and taut surface.

They also come in bright and lively colors that can make them works of art as well as comfortable places to sleep.  There are a few types that also have fringe around the edges.

While the cotton does allow for some airflow, it is generally better for a slightly cooler climate.  The cotton and the closer weave will keep you warmer on a cool night than the wide open weave of a rope hammock.

Mexican/Nicaraguan Hammock

These kinds of hammocks are very similar to the Brazilian hammock.  They are woven out of cotton in bright and lively colors and can feature decorative accents like fringe or tassels.  While the Brazilian hammock uses thick cotton, the Mexican or Nicaraguan hammock uses a tight stick but thinner cotton.

Materials and Features

This makes it a great sleeping surface for warm climates, but be careful that it doesn’t get too humid because they can be susceptible to mold or mildew.  You can also find a variety of sizes when it comes to these hammocks.  There are single, double, and even king sizes that can fit up to three or four people at a time.

Originally these kinds of hammocks were made to be strung between two trees, but it is easy to find hammock stands or posts to set up the hammock.

While most types have the same slouchy appearance as Brazilian or parachute hammocks, there are a few out there that feature the spreaders you find in rope hammocks.  This flattens the hammock out and gives you a more supportive surface.

No matter which type of hammock you choose, Brazilian, Mexican, or Nicaraguan, these hammocks provide a colorful and comfortable spot for a lazy afternoon on the beach or your favorite island spot.

Hammock Gear

Now that you have a little more understanding about the types of hammocks that you can find and use, you need to learn about all the different kind of hammock gear you can use.  Some hammocks come with everything that you need to use them right away while others are going to require a few more purchase to make them usable.  You might also decide to get some extra equipment based on your needs and desires in order to make your hammock comfortable and customized.

We briefly touched on a few of these products while going in depth with the types of hammocks you can find, but this will give you a closer look at the kind of gear you can purchase for your hammock.

Hammock Straps

Hammock straps are one of the most common pieces of equipment that you will buy if you plan on using your hammock to camp or travel.  You have to suspend your hammock somehow and hammock straps allow you to attach your bed between two trees or any two stable posts.  There are a lot of different schools of thought when it comes to hammock straps that concern material, types of knots, and hardware.

There are three main things that you should consider when deciding what kind of hammock strap to get:

  • Safety- You want to make sure that both you and your hammock stay up in the air. You can seriously hurt yourself if you choose the wrong kind of strap or don’t properly attach the strap to the tree.  It is very important that you choose a strap that will support your weight as well as handle some wear and tear if you happen to run into bad weather.
  • Support- The whole point of hanging and using a hammock is to not sleep on the ground. You need the right kind of strap to keep you supported in the air the whole time you’re in the hammock.  Besides the kind of strap that you use, you need to make sure that the trees you choose are strong enough.
  • Environment- You don’t want to damage the trees that are used to suspend the hammock. Some types of straps have clips or other hardware that can dig into the tree and cause scarring.  While it might seem like this will make the suspension and hammock sturdier, you can find straps and knots that will keep you safe and supported while also causing no harm to the tree.

Keeping those three requirements in mind, you can decide what kind of strap will work best for your activity.

Strap Material

The first thing that you want to choose when you pick a hammock strap is the kind of material it is made with.  There are a few different options and each has its own advantages.  Straps can be made with nylon, polyester, spandex, or any other synthetic material.  You can also find options with low-memory stretch or high-memory stretch.

Low-memory stretch means that the strap will stretch as you lay in the hammock but won’t snap back as you get back up.  This keeps you off the ground and will last a longer time.  High-memory stretch straps will spring back after you get out of your hammock.

While this might seem better, it means that your hammock will get lower and lower each time you use it.  Nylon has a high-memory stretch and might not be the best option for hanging your hammock, especially if you are going to be using your hammock for a long period of time.

Strap Hardware

Hanging a hammock with hammock straps doesn’t necessarily require any special type of hardware.  Some people prefer to use a series of knots and loops to keep the hammock suspended.  While that works just fine, you might prefer to use a few pieces of hardware to keep your hammock secure.

  • Carabiners- You can use a carabiner to connect the hammock to the straps around the tree. This is a simple way to suspend the hammock and makes it easy and quick to set up.
  • Ring Buckles- Ring buckles make it easy to adjust the tension and suspension of the hammock. It can be hard, especially for those new to hammocking, to figure out the exact length they should use to hang their hammock.  If you use knots and loops, it is a little more time consuming to adjust the length.  A ring buckle can make it simple to tighten or loosen the rope.

While hardware can make it easy and quick to set up your hammock, they do come with a slight disadvantage.  They can cost a little more and they will add weight and bulk to your hammock as well as the rest of your gear.  If you are hiking or doing other activities that require you to tote your hammock, you might not want the extra weight in your pack.  You will have to decide if the cost and weight are worth the ease of hanging your hammock.

Hammock Suspension Kit

While you can choose the type of cords, rope, and hardware a la carte, you might find it easier to use a hammock suspension kit.  You can find these kits online or in sporting goods stores and they include everything you need to hang a hammock.

If you are new to hammocking, this might be the best option.  It is much simpler to pick up a suspension kit than it is to go around and find each piece you need.  A suspension kit will also help teach you how to hang your hammock.  Once you have done it a few times, you might decide to try different options for hanging your hammock and can purchase the gear you would prefer.

Those of you who have been using a hammock for a long time probably know exactly what you need and like, so a suspension kit might not be the best option.  While you can find a variety of kits that include a few different pieces of equipment, ultimately you won’t be able to customize the hanging gear as much as you would like.

Hammock Underquilt

When you sleep on the ground you usually use a pad or some type of insulation to keep you warm.  If you are camping in a place with colder weather, the ground will absorb most of your heat if you don’t keep yourself insulated.

While you might think that a hammock will solve this problem because you’re no longer on the ground, you can run into the same problem.  Because air can flow all around you in a hammock, you might find yourself getting just as cold as if you were sleeping on the ground without any insulation.

This is where a hammock underquilt will come in handy.  An underquilt is a thick blanket that is hung underneath the hammock on the outside.

This will keep the hammock and you insulated and warm, no matter how cold it might get.  You can find quilts made of down, cotton, and wool, but you need to decide which material will keep you warmest as well as what you don’t mind toting around.

Some people might think that a sleeping pad or sleeping bag inside the hammock will work just as well, and while these can keep you warmer they might not be the best option.  Because you will be laying directly on the pad or bag it will compress over time leaving less bulk between you and the cold air.  That’s why an underquilt is a better option because it hangs outside the hammock and can’t be compressed under your weight.

Hammock Quilt

If you are going to be sleeping in a hammock in very cold weather, you might also want to consider a hammock quilt to go along with the underquilt.  This piece of gear looks a lot like a sleeping bag but it will line the inside of your hammock.  You can use it along with your sleeping bag and other blankets to make sure you stay warm and dry.

It also works well with the underquilt because just in case any cold air gets in the bottom of your hammock you have another layer to keep you warm.  You will have to consider carrying the extra weight if you decide to have an underquilt and a top quilt, but it could be worth it in extreme conditions and climates.

Hammock Tarp

We briefly touched on hammock tarps when we talked about jungle hammocks, but it a tarp can be an important piece of gear for all kinds of hammocks.  If you are an avid camper and like to go no matter what kind of weather is in the forecast, a hammock tarp is going to be a must-have.

Just like there are a ton of different hammocks to choose from, there are a ton of different tarpsto choose from.  You can find tarps of all different sizes and materials and what you purchase is going to depend on your situation.

Tarp Material

If you are using a tarp to just block the sun and perhaps provide a little shade, you aren’t going to want to pick a heavy material.

You also won’t need a very large tarp because you only need to shade the hammock, not provide shelter all around.

If you are camping in a place that has a lot of rain, then you are going to want a thicker and larger tarp to cover your hammock area.  These tarps are usually called winter tarps and provide full coverage and can even have things like flaps and doors to make a suspended shelter over your hammock.

These tarps will be made of heavier material to make sure that you stay dry and mostly out of the bad weather.

Many people recommend using a winter tarp no matter what season you are using your hammock.  They provide the most coverage and because the weather can be unpredictable, you never know what you might need it for.  It’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

Tarp Size and Rigging

Beyond the material of your tarp, it’s size and  the way you hang it is going to be the next step.  There are a few different shapes and sizes to tarps and the way they are designed is going to determine the way that you rig the tarp over your hammock.

A few different cuts of tarp are:

  1. Asymmetrical
  2. Diamond
  3. Hex or Cat Cut
  4. Rectangle
  5. 4-Season

The one constant that is going to remain in rigging all of these tarps is that they will hang over a rope that is suspended over your hammock.  After that, the way they are cut is going to determine where you anchor the sides on the ground.

The least amount of coverage is going to be the asymmetrical tarp and this cut will work best for milder climates and those looking for just a little bit of coverage.  This won’t keep out a lot of rain, especially if it’s windy and blowing sideways.

The 4-season tarp gives you the most coverage and is pretty much a tent that is suspended and anchored down around your hammock.  If you don’t want to have to worry about any bad weather that might pop up while you’re sleeping, a 4-season tarp is going to be your best bet.

Tarp Hardware

You will need a few extra pieces of hardware to make sure that your tarp stays in place.  Some tarps come with the equipment you need and others require you to purchase the extra parts.  You will need a rope that can be tightly suspended over your hammock.  You need this to be strong and secure so the tarp doesn’t fall.  The same pieces and gear you use to hang your hammock will also work well with this part.

You will also need posts or anchors to secure the sides of the tarp.  The tarp you choose will have eyelets or hooks that you can use to secure the tarp to the ground.  You can use rope, bungee cords, or straps to anchor this part of the tarp.  A lot like tents, you will need posts that can go into the ground.  Again, the stronger the better because you don’t want the sides of your tarp flying up in the middle of a bad storm.

Hammock Bug Net

Almost as important as the rain tarp is the bug net.  This just provides another layer of protection against the elements when you are using your hammock.  Even if you aren’t camping in the jungle, you don’t want pesky bugs bothering you all night long.

While you might not be dealing with bugs if you are camping in the dead of winter, it is still a good idea to have a net for the times that you are dealing with bugs.  You can buy a hammock that comes with its own net.  These hammocks will have a top covering that can zip over the top of the hammock so no bugs can get inside.

You can also purchase a net separately from your hammock which might be a good option if you don’t always need a bug net.

The best option for a net that is separate from your hammock is one that surrounds the whole hammock.  It will have the same slouchy shape as your hammock and can be suspended from the same trees or posts that your hammock is hanging from.

Bug nets are extremely light so you don’t have to worry about any extra hardware to help suspend it.  It also won’t add any extra bulk or weight to your pack so it’s really easy to carry no matter where you go.  A bug net isn’t only to keep you comfortable while you sleep, it can also keep you safe.  Bugs can carry a lot of different diseases so minimizing the amount of bites you get can keep dangerous illnesses at bay.

Hammock Stands

You don’t necessarily have to suspend your hammock from two trees while you’re camping.  You can use a hammock stand to hang your hammock.  There are few different kinds of stands that you can use and each one serves a different purpose.

Backyard Stands

Not everyone is into camping and sleeping in their hammock after they have hiked up a mountain, but the still enjoy using a hammock for the occasional nap.  Most of us have seen a backyard hammock and are familiar with the types of stands for this purpose.  These kinds of stands are made with an inverted arc and the hammock will hang between the two ends of the curve.

There are a few models that can hang from above, but they tend to take up a lot of space and can be a little top heavy.  Most backyard hammock stands are NOT going to be ideal for camping or hiking purposes.

Portable Stands

This is what you are going to want to use for your hammocking adventure, especially if you will be moving from site to site on your trip.  Most portable stands can be set up relatively quickly and are sturdy enough to support most weights. There are a few different ways that portable stands are made and what you choose will largely depend on your personal preference and the area you will be making your campsite.

Metal or wooden poles are most common, but there are some models that use fiberglass or other materials. You can also find plenty of ways to make your own portable stand using metal pipes or PVC pipes. Doing it yourself can be cheaper and ensure that you create a design that works for you and your activities.  Just make sure that it is sturdy and stable and that you test it thoroughly before you use it on your trip.

Why You Should Switch To Hammock Camping

You can know everything there is to know about hammocks and all the different gear, but the important question is, why should you switch to hammocks and hammock camping? There areplenty of benefits to using a hammock when you camp and you might just find that your love of camping is enhanced by sleeping in a hammock.

Better Sleep

Believe it or not, when you use a hammock you can sleep better than on the ground or in a traditional bed.  There have been many studies done on the best sleep position  and it turns out that sleeping on your back with your head elevated.  That is the exact position that a hammock will allow you to sleep in.

This position is good for anyone who suffers from acid reflux or GERD and it helps with any breathing problems you might have while asleep.

The gentle rocking of a hammock also lets you have a deeper sleep.  The rocking soothes you to sleep faster as well as calms your brain wave activity while asleep.  It’s no wonder that babies fall asleep and stay asleep if they are rocked.  That same principle applies to hammocks.

It’s Not The Ground

Even the most enthusiast camper will have to admit that the ground can be pretty unforgiving. You can use pads, insulation, and the fluffiest sleeping bag, but you will probably still be a little sore after sleeping on the ground.  Plus the ground can be uneven and full of rocks, twigs, and other debris.

Floating in the air is going to be a much more comfortable experience.  There is no cold hard ground to deal with, there are no twigs or rocks that can find their way into your sleeping bag, and you will wake up feeling rested and energized for the day.

As Many Features As A Tent

Sleeping in a hammock doesn’t have to mean being out in the open exposed to the elements anymore.  There are so many ways that you can set up a shelter around your hammock and protect yourself from the weather and other dangers.

Rain tarps, bug nets, underquilts, and pretty much everything that we have talked about, make sleeping and camping in a hammock as simple and easy as camping with a tent.

Once you learn how to set up your hammock and its shelter, you can camp just as comfortably as if you were using a tent.  Hammocks are great ways to get outside and enjoy nature while sleeping well and staying protected from the elements.

With so many different choices and gear to customize your hammock, there is no reason that you can’t start using and enjoying a hammock on your next camping adventure!

Next step is to learn how to choose the best hammock for you and your lifestyle – click here and find out.


  • FLorent Landry on

    How big a net do I need how wide and how long for a regular sise .

  • Jerry Di on

    What a great article – thanks for sharing. Makes me want to get outside and starting hanging.


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