Hammocking in the Backcountry
A swaying hammock is often associated with tranquility. A cool drink sweating in the heat. Dappled sunlight flowing through foliage. Gentle rocking that lulls you into a midday slumber. It's the actual embodiment of the term "chill." However, its portable, lightweight form is equally at home in the backyard, the park, or on the beach as it is for camping in the backcountry.
After a hard day of hiking, hammock camping is a simple method to set up camp and is a far more sustainable and low-impact way to camp. It'll even lessen the weight in your bag if you don't need all the extras for every trip—like a rainfly or insect netting. But it's a different game, and there are a few things to consider before taking your hammock and hitting the trail.
Finding the Right Hammock
First and foremost, you'll need to purchase a hammock. However, selecting the "right one" is really just a matter of finding the right size, material, and any extras for you.
Single and double wide hammocks are common in backpacking hammocks. A single is an excellent fit for one person, while a double is a little broader and great if you're expecting company or just want a little more space to kick it solo.
The material is a trade-off between weight and durability. A more durable fabric will last longer, but it will add weight to your bag. A lighter fabric will wear faster, but it will pack down smaller and be lighter on the trail.
Keeping warm is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of hammock camping. It's simple on the ground: just a sleeping bag and a pad. It's not that straightforward on a hammock, though.
The bottom layer of most sleeping bags is made of down or synthetic insulation. However, when compressed, as it is beneath a person's body weight, it is much less efficient than its temperature rating suggests. This fault is corrected on the ground or a tent platform by the surface itself and a sleeping mat, which provides its own insulation.
You can get around this in one of two ways using a hammock. Using an under-quilt that hangs beneath the hammock will insulate the bottom. Alternatively, put a sleeping pad inside the hammock.
If you get motion sickness easily, this may not be for you. You'll move around, whether it's due to the wind or your own tossing and turning. This could cause issues during the course of a night's sleep. If you're unsure, try it out in the yard for an hour or two on a sunny afternoon to see how it makes you feel. It's tedious, but it's better to play it safe.
Picking Your Spots
Two trees are often simpler to find in the mountains than a flat area of ground to pitch a tent. This alone is a compelling argument to try hammock camping. It'll take some time to figure out your preference—the ideal hang is subjective—but with two trees and enough line and a pair of straps, you'll be OK. Using straps is recommended to prevent the trees from being harmed. Keep it off the trail (human or animal) and allow for two feet of ground clearance. That's just enough room to avoid an unpleasant nighttime encounter with a curious porcupine. With a sturdy hiking staff and a little creativity, you can even hang your hammock with just one tree!
We’ve just scratched the surface of hammock camping. It can provide more flexibility in your pack and your destination options. There’s plenty to explore and seemingly endless possibilities. And remember when compiling your hammock backpacking necessities, if weight is a key factor, make sure you have your favorite Littlbug Stove to lessen the load.
If you already camp with a hammock, what tips do you have?
If you haven’t tried it yet, where would be the first place you try it?
ICYMI: Littlbug was featured on The Camping Show! Check it out HERE if you haven’t watched our episode yet!