Hammock Camping

Hammock camping? Yeah baby Hammock Camping! It’s a trend that is starting to pick up steam in a big way. Since I started hammock camping in 2009 there has been a plethora of innovations in fabrics and gadgets that can make your noodle spin! In fact if you try to absorb all that information in one sitting blood would shoot out your nose… seriously I’ve seen it happen.

So whats the point of all of this… I’m going to try to make sense of this whole mess in a simple and easy understandable manner:

 Types of Hammocks:

Basically there are 2 types of camping hammocks out in the market.  A regular open style (or netless) hammock and a hammock with an integrated bug net. The open style hammock is more suited for cooler times of the year when bugs are not an issue. The integrated bug net hammock is for… say it with me… bug season!

Generally speaking the hammock with the integrated bug net will be heavier as the noseeum fabric used for the netting adds weight (approximately 8 ounces or 1/2 pound).

There are vendors out there in the hammock community that make attachments for the netless hammocks which allow you to attach netting in the buggy season. This allows you to have a modular system and to only add weight to your hammock when necessary and thus makes your pack weight more manageable.

Ridgelines & Suspensions:

What the hell is the purpose of a ridgeline??? That’s what I said the first time I started reviewing hammocks. Well it is really quite simple. A ridgeline’s primary goal is to keep your hammock with a constant “sag”. Keep a sag in the hammock greatly increases comfort and the ability to lay in a diagonal position… why diagonal? Calm down I’ll get there shortly just not in this area.

Obviously the other benefit of having a ridgeline is to keep that bugnet off yo face son! Chiggity Check yo self.

And the standard for most people is having around a 100 inch long ridgeline. That seems to be the norm as far as length compared to comfort. That does vary but again most people will fall within that length.

Now your suspension system… what is that? Well that’s what you use to attach your hammock to those lovely objects called trees. There are basically 2 types of suspensions out there:

Adjustable webbing suspension – This suspension is a polyester strap that attaches from your hammock and wraps around a tree and secured with a carabineer. In the middle of the strap is a buckle which allows you to adjust the tension and height of the hammock at both ends. This is quite possibly the easiest suspension to start out with but the ugly side is that it is the bulkiest and heaviest option too.

Whoopie slings – yeah you read that name correctly. What exactly is a whoopie sling? Well a whoopie sling is a piece of amsteel or dynaglide rope spliced into itself called a “bury”. The “bury” creates a way for the sling to be adjusted to various lengths and when tension hits the line the splicing “locks” into place. This method requires 3 items to attach to a tree; 1 – the whoopie sling; 2 – a polyester strap (usually 6 feet in length); 3 – a toggle such as a stick or commonly used is a piece of an aluminum arrow shaft.

How to attach a whoopie sling suspension to a tree – wrap the polyester strap around the tree, create a marlin spike hitch and place the toggle in and cinch it down, finally wrap the whoopie sling around the knot of the marlin spike hitch and adjust the sling as necessary. I know, I know the whole thing sounds so damn complicated… but in reality it isn’t.

Take a look HERE for a video tutorial on how to attach a whoopie sling to a tree. Also, review this VIDEO on how to attach a whoopie sling to a hammock.

Now here’s some important information… the straps you use for your hammock need to be of a material that doesn’t stretch or stretches very little. Polyester is the fabric of choice. If by chance someone out there in the world wants to give you nylon straps… kick them in the yams. Nylon has been known to stretch overnight and leave you butt dragging on the ground. Especially if it is raining! Remember if you hear nylon you better monkey paw that person in the mommy-daddy button.

How to lay in a camping hammock:

This ain’t your back yard hammocks here. And you don’t lay straight on and sleep in a banana position. Camping hammocks are designed to have extra fabric to allow the user to lay in a diagonal position. Yes diagonal. What this does is eliminate the banana effect and flattens your back out so that you can achieve a nice and comfy position.

Here’s my review of my personal favorite hammock (there are many other vendors out there but I like this one) which goes over most of the basics I talked about:

 Insulation – Below:

OK here is where every hammock noob or hammock dissenter tends to freak out like you need totally different items to keep warm. Ya don’t, period.

Like in tent camping you will need something to insulate your back side. Most beginners use the sleeping pads they use in a tent. Will it work, you betcha. But once you start digging for hammock info you will come across a term known as “Under Quilt”. Basically an under quilt is what it sounds like… a quilt that attaches to the bottom of your hammock.

Currently there are 3 main types of underquilts:

2/3 under quilt – which insulates from your shoulders to the middle of your legs. This is the lightest and most compact option out there. You will need a small pad for your legs to keep them insulated.

3/4 under quilt – this is a bit longer and it insulates from your shoulders to the middle of your calves (depending on your height). A pad is still required for your legs but not as much as the 2/3 under quilt.

Full Length Quilt – This bad boy is basically the entire length of your hammock. Usually beginners in quilts choose this option. It is the heaviest and bulkiest option out there but there is no required additional padding needed because you are encased in true downy goodness. If you are into lightweight and ultra-light backpacking you would want to steer clear away from this one. But if weight isn’t an issue and you want less fiddle factor have fun with this bad boy.

Most of the quality vendors make the quilts with 800+ grade down which packs down the smallest and maintains the best warmth. There are other vendors who use synthetic insulation which decreases the price in the quilts. I haven’t heard bad things from the synthetic insulation quilts so if it’s in your budget go for it.

Why would someone opt to go in the under quilt direction as opposed to a pad… comfort baby. It’s hands down more comfortable to have an under quilt than a pad. Also, if you choose the 2/3 or 3/4 versions you can actually save weight and bulk carried compared to the normal pads on the market.

 Insulation – Above:

Just like in tent camping you will need some sort of sleeping bag to keep your core temperature stable at night. Most beginners just use their normal mummy sleeping bags in the hammock. Yes it can be a bit of an acrobatic feat to climb into a mummy bag in a hammock. I’ve done it and it’s not too terrible. Eventually if you take hammock camping seriously you will most likely migrate to what’s called a “Top Quilt”. What is a top quilt… damn you ask a lot of questions! Well it’s basically a mummy bag without the hood and no back. Advantage is that all you need to do is slip it on instead of wiggling around trying to zip up your mummy bag. Take a look at my Hiking 101 Video HERE and see what I’m talking about.

Weather Protection:

Just like a tent needs a rain fly your hammock needs some way of keeping the elements out. Enter the TARP. Again this is where you will seem to be confused because there are starting to be so many options out there in regards to size and fabric.

So lets talk fabric first. Right now there are 3 main choices for fabric –

1) Silnylon

2) SpinnUL aka Spinnex

3) Cuben Fiber

Silnylon is the cheapest, second most compactible fabric and easy to work with. Drawback is that it stretches overnight (not a whole lot) but it is definitely noticeable and it is the heaviest.

SpinnUL – This fabric is used for sailing and it is much lighter than silnylon and it has very little if any stretching overnight. Drawback is that it is more expensive, does not compact down as well, and is god awful noisy. It’s a crinkle noise machine really.

Cuben Fiber – This is currently (Year 2011) the Mecca of all fabrics to choose from. It doesn’t stretch, is super light, and compacts down to basically nothing. Drawback… It costs a considerable amount of scratch. How much… well lets say an 11’ x 9’ tarp in silnylon would run you around $120. That same tarp in cuben fiber would cost around $350! Yeah I know that’s crack prices but I have a couple and they rock.

Now with size…

Basically when you start out you will be a bit uncomfortable so you will most likely choose the biggest tarp you can afford. Eventually, as you become more comfortable and start to look for ways to shed weight you will start to decrease the size of your tarp. It really is up to your comfort level in this area.


Ok are you at a cerebral overload yet? OK good. Now how did I gain so much info on this subject? Well I am an active member of a really fantastic community known as HAMMOCK FORUMS I suggest you mosey on over there pronto and check out what these knowledgable people have to offer. I look forward to seeing you post there.

Can you Taste What the Water Monkey Is Spilling?!!

  1. Travis says:

    Hey Raul,
    Looks like a very good explanation/ list for noobs to understand how to get started in hammock camping and some terminology. Can I add a couple things to add to your list? Under hammock types Bridge hammock was one more type that you could add. As for tarps, PU coated tarps are another economical choice for people to start out with. Hope this will add to an otherwise great hammocking 101 section!

  2. Manda says:

    Decent page, I am browsing back usually to watch out for up-grades.

  3. Howard says:

    Hi there I discovered your website by mistake when i searched Yahoo for this topic, I have to express your blog is very valuable I also enjoy the style, its good!

    • Hey Howard,

      Glad you liked the blog and I hope it helps you out. Sorry it took so long for me to respond your post got placed in my spam folder… weirdness.

      Wa Wa Water Monkey Son!!!!

  4. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  5. Excellent review. Covered all the basics. I have been hammock camping for 5+ years and love it. SOOOO much more comfort. Love your site

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