Relax In A Hammock This Summer!!!!
Spring is here and Summer is just around the corner and you decided to go hammock camping, but don’t know where to begin. In this article we will go through the various options when it comes to purchasing your new hammock and the variety of accessories you will need or want to make your time spent in your new hammock more comfortable. There are a variety of hammock styles, fabrics, materials and sizes to choose from.
Rope Hammocks & Quilted Hammocks: are made of cotton or polyester ropes and have spreader bars on each end. Cotton is the most traditional material for building hammocks, either in rope or fabric. This soft material makes hammock-lounging perfect for anyone, anywhere. Quilted Hammocks are made of two layers of fabric with filling, such as polyester material or olefin fibers, for comfortable cushioning. These come in a variety of colors and patterns and are often reversible, so you can switch up the look of your hammock. These types of hammocks are what we commonly see in someone’s backyard attached to a hammock stand.
- Breathable and perfect for a cool breeze on a hot summer day.
- Polyester ropes are more durable and weather-resistant.
- Cotton is fairly lightweight, especially without spreader bars, making these hammocks portable.
- Cotton fabric hammocks are very comfortable and ideal for sleeping in.
- Very comfortable and supportive due to the added cushion of the quilted material.
- Ideal for cooler climates.
- Fairly durable, weather-resistant, and fast-drying.
- Cotton ropes absorb moisture, so they don’t dry quickly and are more prone to mildew.
- Ropes are not the most comfortable for sleeping in, making them more suitable for lounging.
- The holes are unsafe for children to use since their hands and feet can easily get caught in the hammock.
- Cotton ropes are not as durable as other materials and are more likely to fray or get damaged by sharp objects.
- Not great for warmer climates due to the added insulation of the quilt.
- Not very breathable.
- These hammocks usually have spreader bars, so they’re not easy to pack for camping or hiking.
Now that you have determined that you aren’t camping in your backyard and you’re going to venture into the woods, let’s discuss the size of the hammock. Essentially you have two options to choose from, Single and Double. A double hammock might imply that two people can sleep in it, but unless you want to be squished, lying face to face, I don’t recommend trying to sleep two people. Single hammocks are generally 4.5 feet in width while double hammocks are generally 6 feet in width. The length of hammock ranges from 9 – 14 feet. A rule of thumb for camping and lounging hammocks is to look for a hammock that’s at least 2 feet longer than your height. If you’re looking to spread out and have some comfort while sleeping, an 11 foot hammock is a great size.
Denier (d) is the weight of a single fabric used. The higher the Denier, the better quality the fabric is. But this also increases the weight of your hammock. And when going on long hikes, every ounce matters. So when comparing hammocks be sure to look at this Denier number.
When choosing the type of material of your hammock for your camping, hiking or backpacking trip, generally you will have two types, Nylon and Polyester. I’ll break down each for simplicity.
- Nylon is softer than polyester.
- Nylon is stretchier than polyester which can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your use case.
- Nylon has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than polyester meaning that a nylon hammock can often be stronger than a polyester one without being heavier.
- Nylon absorbs water and can stretch up to 3.5%. To counter this problem, nylons typically have a durable, water-repellant (DWR) coating on the fabric. The DWR coating prevents water from soaking through the hammock, but the fabric itself can still absorb water.
- Nylon can also expand in humid climates, and contract in dry climates.
- Polyester has a finer thread so it can be woven with a higher thread count without increasing the thickness of the fabric.
- Polyester also is more abrasion resistant than nylon.
- Polyester is more receptive to color dyes. Polyester holds color better and fades less than nylon when exposed to the sun’s UV rays.
- Polyester is hydrophobic: it repels water.
- A polyester hammock won’t get heavier or stretch when exposed to moisture like a nylon hammock will.
- A polyester hammock will also dry faster than a nylon one because it absorbs less water.
- Lower strength-to-weight ratio.
Nylon isn’t better than polyester. Polyester isn’t better than nylon. They have slight, but meaningful, differences that can make one better than the other in high performance situations. The choice between nylon and polyester for camping, hiking or backpacking is an aesthetic and value choice, not a matter of performance.
Rip Stop nylon is a woven fabric using a special reinforcing cross hatched technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping.
For me personally, I typically will go with a Rip Stop Nylon Hammock due to the durability considering the conditions I utilize my hammock in.
Apart from comfort and durability, some other factors to consider when choosing the right hammock would be your physical build, height & weight, weather conditions and bugs. Yes I said bugs!!!
Below is a compiled list of some of my favorite hammock companies that range in price to fit everyone’s budget.
Retail Style Hammocks:
The two most popular retail style hammocks for weekend and summer use are Grand Trunk and Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO). You more commonly find these types of hammocks hung up on trees in parks for a day of relaxation, picnics and a dip in your favorite lake. Both companies have quality products. Grand Trunk will have hammocks that are a little more budget friendly for those just starting out.
Novice to Intermediate Experience Level Hammocks
Cottage Style Hammocks:
Cottage companies are a small-scale business often focus on the production of labor-intensive goods but face a significant disadvantage when competing with factory-based manufacturers that mass produce goods.
Intermediate to Advanced Experience Level Hammocks
Advanced to Expert Experience Level Hammocks
Once you have figured out which hammock you’re purchasing, you will need to decide the type of suspension (how you’re hanging your hammock from trees). A suspension system spans the gap between the hammock and the tree. It should also provide a mechanism to adjust that gap, depending on how far apart the trees are. Some systems combine the anchoring and suspension into a single system. Out in the field, you don’t always know what types of trees you’ll have to work with, particularly how far apart they might be and how big around. If your suspension system isn’t versatile enough, you could be stranded. I would strongly recommend using tree straps instead of rope. Number one, rope is going to stretch and more importantly you’re going to cause permanent damage to the tree which could land you a hefty fine especially if you’re in a state park. When deciding the height of your hammock straps you will generally secure them 4-6 feet off the ground. You may have to adjust them to get the perfect height. Generally speaking you want the “sag” in your hammock where you can sit comfortably in your hammock with your feet touching the ground.
Some trends have revolutionized hammock suspension completely, such as the introduction of lightweight-but-strong Dyneema cordage like Amsteel and Dynaglide, cinch buckles and straps; Marlinspike hitch and Whoopie Slings; or carabiners and daisy-chain straps. The “best” system is what works best for you. For me personally, I use a combination of daisy chain strap and whoopee sling in order to adjust the length of my suspension. Some hammocks will come fully equipped with tree straps while other are sold separately.
The more advanced systems are going to be based on preference on how you like your hammock system setup and this can get complicated, fun and even more comfortable.
Now you have your hammock hung and ready to relax but you have encountered some pesky mosquitos, or you’re staying overnight and if you’re like me, do not like creepy crawly things walking their little creepy crawly toes all ov
er me while I’m sleeping. So you need a bug net. Most bug nets are sold separately, but some hammock systems have a built in bug net. A built in bug net is great as its one less piece of gear to set up, but if your bug net encounters rips and tears, this could lead to buying an entire system again as opposed to replacing just the bug nut. So, careful consideration needs to be taken.
If you are going ultralight and don’t plan on having too many accessories with you, I would highly recommend the outdoor vitals bug net. It takes a little getting used to considering you have to cinch it from inside and need to be careful to not fall out of your hammock, but this bug net has serious pros about it. The bottom layer and ends are DWR treated for splash protection. Roll the non-mesh material over your body for added heat or to turn your hammock into private mode for changing clothes. https://outdoorvitals.com/collections/sleep-systems/products/hammock-bugnet
I use this system quite frequently for overnight or weekend trips and when it comes to ultralight there is no comparison as it weighs in at 8.2oz for the 11 foot version. Goes perfectly paired with the Outdoor Vitals Ultralight Hammock but can also be used on other brand hammocks as well.
If you’re looking for something a bit more on the conventional side of things when it comes to bug nets, generally you have two types, traditional and shelter. A traditional style bug net is more form fitting to the shape of the hammock whereas the shelter is almost like a screen in gazebo.
One bug net I’ve tested out is by the brand Ayamaya, and I have to honestly say it is a quality net and I’ve used it in some pretty extreme cases and it has held up. One thing in particular that I really liked (besides keeping bugs out) was on the head sides of the netting are two pull tabs on each side where you can attach guy lines to pull the netting so you’re not so claustrophobic. Not all bug nets have this feature, but I definitely recommend finding one that does. https://ayamaya.com/collections/hammock-1/products/ayamaya-mosquito-bug-net-for-hammock-360-degree-protection
While we all love sitting in the sun and catching a few rays, you may want to consider a tarp, especially if you want some shade or are preparing for the weather to change and don’t want to get wet. There are a variety of tarp styles, weights and fabrics to choose from just like choosing the right hammock. While tarps from your local hardware store can be quick solutions, there are tarps made specifically for hammocks. For proper coverage while hammock camping, you’ll need a tarp that covers your entire hammock. At the very least, the tarp should cover along the ridgeline and width of the hammock, extending between 6 to 12 inches over each end of your hammock. The coverage ranges from a roof over your head to complete coverage on all sides. The type you choose depends on your preference for weight, wind coverage, and rain coverage.
Asymmetrical tarps (hammock G-strings as I call them) provide the least amount of coverage but are lightweight and easy to set up. For maximum coverage, you must sleep in line with these tarps. To do this, sleep diagonally in your hammock with the angle of the tarp. This style of tarp is good for those relaxing days in the park but I don’t recommend them if you are going to be dealing with a variety of weather conditions.
Diamond or square tarps are ideal for use in summer. These tarps are also lightweight and easy to set up. And they provide more coverage than asymmetrical tarps, especially on the sides. But they don’t provide much coverage on the ends.
Hexagonal & Catenary-Cut
For camping in spring, summer, and fall, hexagonal catenary-cut tarps are the most versatile. Although these are not as lightweight or easy to set up compared to diamond tarps, they do provide better coverage. You can find hexagonal tarps and hexagonal catenary-cut tarps. Catenary-cut refers to the curved cut edges that reduce the weight of a typical hexagonal tarp since it has less material. This also keeps the tarp taught, preventing it from sagging and flapping in the wind.
Hexagonal & Catenary-Cut Tarps
Rectangle tarps are larger and have more material, making for a heavier tarp but with ample coverage. These tarps take longer to set up, and due to the extra coverage, have less ventilation than smaller tarps.
For winter camping, you will need the full coverage of a four-season tarp. These are the heaviest tarps, and the most complex and time-consuming to set up. But a winter tarp will shelter you from the biting cold and heavy winds, snow, and rain.
These tarps have extra material on each end that can be closed, acting as storm doors. When these doors are closed, the tarp is essentially a hanging tent that keeps chilly air and inclement weather out and your body warmth in. When it comes to winter tarps the Cadillac of tarps on the market today will either be the UGQ Winterdream https://ugqoutdoor.com/product/fast-track-tarps/winterdream-12-dark-olive/ or the Warbonnet Outdoors Superfly https://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/product/superfly/
Both companies also have a customized feature when it comes to tarps.
Light tarps are ideal for camping in fair summer weather. They are small, lightweight, and easy to pack and carry. But depending on the type and size, lighter tarps may not provide adequate coverage from the elements. If the weather forecast for your camping trip is mostly sunny and clear skies, then you should be fine with a lighter diamond tarp. If you plan to camp in cold, stormy weather, and you want to stay as dry as possible during a rain or snow storm, larger, heavier tarps are the way to go. Although they are heavier to carry and often more difficult to pitch, large tarps provide adequate shelter and privacy in all weather.
Ridgeline: You must first hang a ridgeline; a rope or a cord used to suspend a tarp over a hammock. You can tie a ridgeline to the hammock suspension. However, this will cause the tarp to sag and reduce your coverage, especially when you get in and out of your hammock. You’re better off tying the ridgeline tightly to the trees and not to the hammock. This is helpful when it’s raining since you can set up the tarp first and have better coverage when hanging your hammock. Keep in mind that your hammock suspension and tree straps should be attached higher up the tree than the tarp ridgeline suspension. Some tarps come with end-only ridgelines to reduce weight and make for an easier setup. Cords on each end of the tarp are fastened to a tree and tightened with line-locks so there is enough tension to support the tarp and prevent sagging. Full-length ridgelines are more common. These run under tarps, extending to the anchor points on each end. A full-length ridgeline provides extra support to tarps in rough weather conditions, such as high winds, torrential rain, and heavy snow in blizzards. Ridgelines are also useful for hanging up wet clothes to dry and setting up bug nets. Make sure to set up a water break or drip line on each end of your hammock’s suspension to help keep you dry. Tie a piece of string on the hammock’s suspension. This creates a water break, causing water to drip down to the ground instead of down to your hammock.
Once you’ve secured a ridgeline to two trees, you can drape the tarp over the ridgeline. To keep the tarp in place, you will need to tie down the corners of the tarp with guy lines and stakes. Guy lines anchor the tarp downwards. Asymmetrical and diamond tarps are the easiest to pitch since they usually only need two guy lines. You may not need to set up a ridgeline when pitching a catenary-cut tarp, making this an easy tarp to setup. Instead, the shape can create enough tension for a ridgeline by tightening the attachment ropes. Hexagonal, catenary-cut, rectangle, and four-season tarps all have four anchor points to stake to the ground with guy lines. So pitching these tarps takes more time than diamond or asymmetrical tarps. When conditions are bad, keep tarps tied down low for better coverage. And when the weather is nice, you can prop up one or both sides of your tarp with trekking poles for ventilation and a better view of the great outdoors.
Since we have talked about a ridgeline for your tarp, I would highly suggest utilizing a ridgeline for your hammock as well. The purpose of this is not only to hang accessories from it but it will give your hammock the “perfect sag”. The Outdoor Vitals Hammock comes equipped with its own ridgeline, but other brands this will be an add on. A great company to get a structural ridgeline from is Dutchware Gear https://dutchwaregear.com/product/structural-ridgelines/#type-size
Now that you have the main components for hammock camping, let’s talk about accessories for your hammock that will provide a bit more comfort for whatever type of trip you’re taking. Keep in mind, the more you accessorize your hammock, the more weight you are going to add to your backpack.
If you’re looking to hang some of the gear you need to keep handy while relaxing in your hammock you might consider a gear sling, or gear sling or both. A ridgeline sling is going to hang from the hammock ridgeline where you can hang your cellphone, headlamp, water bottle, snacks etc. The gear sling is just that, meant for the rest of your gear so it’s not sitting on the ground. There are weight capacities to consider with these items so keep that in mind. There are several companies that provide these, but I recommend either Dutchware Gear, Hammock Gear or Dream Hammock as these have quality products. For a gear sling I recommend Sea To Summit.
One of my personal favorite “luxury items” to have with me anytime I hang my hammock is the Hammock Gear Hangtime Hook. It’s perfect for hands free, hanging your cell phone while playing music or to watch a movie during those rainy days. https://hammockgear.com/hangtime-hook/
Since you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time in your hammock especially while you’re sleeping, you may consider a light weight inflatable pillow. These are an absolute game changer when it comes to comfort during a good night’s rest. For me personally, I chose the Outdoor Vitals Pillow https://outdoorvitals.com/products/pillow Another great company with a variety of styles to choose from is Sea To Summit. They carry a variety of styles with a range in budget. https://seatosummitusa.com/search?q=pillow&type=product
Doing a simple internet search when it comes to accessories for your hammock can definitely lead you down the rabbit hole. Just remember, not every accessory is needed and most are luxury items which all depends on “you”.
One vital piece of gear that you need to consider especially on camping and backpacking trips, is an under quilt. While you’re suspended in the air relaxing in your hammock, you need to keep in mind that air flow runs all around you and your body heat has nowhere to stay trapped. Your backside is going to feel a lot cooler at night or on cool windy days. Something us hammock aficionado's don’t like very much is a cold rear end or “cold butt syndrome”. Under quilts are meant to cover your back, butt and legs. There are a variety of styles, material and temperature ratings that you will need to consider depending on the trip and weather conditions you are expecting. Another important thing to consider is the material. Down under quilts are going to warmer and lighter weight, but also soak up water if they get wet making them virtually useless. Synthetic under quilts will not be as warm, a little heavier, but generally do better when it comes to water. All of them will have some type of resistance to water, so preference will be up to you again on this item. Below are a few companies that I recommend when it comes to under quilt's with a range of price and material.
If you’re looking for an under quilt that is a bit more budget friendly but will keep your back side warm on cooler nights try the Ayamaya Under quilt. https://ayamaya.com/search?q=underquilt
One thing about the Outdoor Vitals Aerie Under quilt that differs from a traditional under quilt is that it can also enclose the top of you like a sleeping bag. A nice little feature to help keep your entire body warm and not have to necessarily purchase a top quilt. https://outdoorvitals.com/collections/sleep-systems/products/aerie-20-30-f-down-underquilt-sleeping-bag
Each of these companies will have top quilts available as well. It really becomes a preference when it comes to utilizing under quilts and top quilts, vs. mummy pods or sleeping bags.
For me, I’m always looking for ways to set my hammock up more conveniently and be able to play with adjustability on the fly especially if the weather may change rapidly. Several accessories are available to assist with this especially if knots are really not your thing.
Looks like you’re all set to start floating on a cloud in your new hammock. No matter what brand you choose or what budget you fall in, just get outdoors and enjoy the comfort and relaxation your hammock will provide. Admire the beauty around you and free your soul!!!
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