* Please note that all links to products in this article are links to items we have reviewed and either have purchased or would purchase after researching them thoroughly.
Sleeping in a hammock when camping seems like a really great idea. When I heard for the first time about the new trend in camping of sleeping in hammocks, I thought it sounded fantastic. So I got a hammock and got ready for the best night of sleep in my life. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I found trying to sleep all night in a hammock to be extremely uncomfortable, cold and much worse than just sleeping in a normal tent.
However, I have learned some tips since then that have really helped me to get a better sleep in a hammock. In fact, I actually really enjoy camping a whole lot more than I used to! In this post, I’d like to share the tips that made a big difference for me so that hopefully it will help you on your camping journey.
Tip #1: Put Something Between You and the Hammock
The first tip is to make sure you have something between you and the hammock netting under you. When I tried hammock camping I found that there was too much of a breeze coming underneath me and it made for a chilly night despite the temperature being quite mild. Instead of just climbing into a sleeping bag, I would suggest using a simple camping mat between the sleeping bag and the netting. The one that I bought is an air-filled mat that is just about the same size as my sleeping bag and is contoured to the shape of the sleeping bag. This mat accomplishes two things; first, it reduces the amount of air passing underneath your body, and secondly, it keeps the netting from digging into your body, which will allow you to sleep a whole lot more comfortably.
Tip #2: Tighten with Tie-Downs
The second tip I have for you is to tighten the ropes between the trees as much as possible. One of the problems with having a hammock is that it can make you feel like your back is being bent as if you were sleeping in an easy chair! I don’t know about you but when I try to sleep in an easy chair or a bean bag, I always wake up in the middle of the night feeling uncomfortable even if it felt comfortable when I first laid down. Some people use ratcheting tie-downs around a tree trunk and then attach the ropes from the hammock to those tie-downs. This allows you to easily adjust the length of your ropes to fit between the trees, and it also allows you to get the hammock much tighter. As the hours unfold during the night, you can often find some sagging in the hammock which did not exist when you went to sleep. If this happens you can simply go to the tie-down and quickly ratchet it three or four times, and your hammock is perfectly tight again. By the way, we use these tie-downs for our van-top canoe and a whole lot more!
Tip #3: Get a Quality Hammock
The last tip that I would suggest for you is to consider the type of hammock that you purchase. First of all, make sure that it is wide enough. Some manufacturers can skimp on the width and this can lead to the hammock curling up around you too much. It may be smart to choose a model with a stand (or order one separately), so you’re not totally dependent on the environment around you (ie. 2 sturdy trees spaced perfectly for your hammock). A stand can, however, add to the weight of your gear and you won’t be able to reef on the ratcheting straps (or even use those straps at all) on most hammock stand models. Nevertheless, if you get a well-designed hammock, you’ll be rewarded with a bed that won’t curl tightly around your shoulders, or contribute to your poor posture!
What Would I Buy?
There are a few decent options out there that won’t break the bank. If you’d rather focus on quality and not “nickel-and-dime” your way through your purchase process, there are even more options! My approach to purchasing sleeping bags, tents and hammocks is one of quality over price. That cannot be said for everything I buy in life (hey I’ll go for the cheapest gas I can find for my car rather than the highest octane rating for a higher price!). To that end, my first choice is the Lawson hammock which stands head and shoulders above any of the other camping hammocks I’ve found. Unfortunately, it is more expensive (closer to $200 rather than $50 which will buy you a decent unit), but I guarantee you that price will become a non-issue if you find yourself waking up every 20 minutes all night long for lack of comfort.
If you’re looking for a bit of a deal and your budget won’t allow for anything premium, there are TONS of options just for you. However, I’d suggest staying away from some of the least expensive models since quality issues plague many of them. In the budget category, we really like the ETROL 2-person hammock with mosquito net. It packs a number of extra features not available in a lower-end model and it still comes in under $50.
It’s also not the worst idea to throw in a good rain fly (if it’s not already included like in the Lawson model) to increase your odds of having a memorable trip (in a good way)! We like the Bear Butt rain fly made specifically for your 2-person hammock. If you don’t have 2 people, so much the better since it’ll give you the extra coverage you need even when sleeping solo!
Okay, I couldn’t leave you at this point without showing you something worth looking at if only for the curiosity or “freak” factor! The hammocks we’ve been discussing range in price from less than $50 to nearly $200, and really, you don’t need to spend more for a decent, comfortable camping trip. However, for those whose pockets are a bit deeper and who would like to enjoy the “finer” things in life, here’s a hammock (or three) to check out around the $6K price point! Yes, you read that correctly! Hmm, a decent used car, or a piece of cloth to sleep on? Tough decisions we make in life right?
Let me know if your hammock experience is different than mine and if you have a favorite product you just can’t keep quiet about!