Hanging a hammock looks intimidating, but with the right gear and a little bit of practice you can set up camp in next to no time.
Regardless of whether you’re planning to take a quick break or sleeping over for the night, you must know how to hang a camping hammock. The last thing you want is to go crashing down as you hop into your hammock, or harming the nature around your camp.
So, if you’re keen to perfect the art of hammock hanging, read on!
Where is the best place to hang a camping hammock?
Unlike tents, hammocks can’t be set up just anywhere. The standard answer as far as location is concerned is obviously between two trees. But there’s more to it than just that. While the quality of the trees you’re using is important, there are also a few other places you can hang your hammock.
The “best” way to hang a hammock is between two healthy trees that are large enough to support your weight. Choose two trees that are 12-15 feet apart for standard size hammocks and aim for 13-17 feet if you’ve got an XL hammock.
If there aren’t any trees in the area, you can still hang a camping hammock from rock formations, overhead cables (non-electric obviously) and securely planted signposts.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on how to set up a hammock between two trees because it’s the most common way, not because it’s the only way.
What should I consider when setting up my hammock?
The basics of backcountry stewardship apply to any outdoor adventure. Here are some other basic principles to keep in mind:
Don’t hang your hammock to close to water
It might seem super tempting to take a picture of your hammock overlooking a stunning lake, but the shoreline is fragile. This isn’t the right place to set up camp for the night. Respect this delicate habitat and find a more suitable spot.
Properly examine the trees you intend to use
Are the trees you plan on using to hang your hammock surrounded by any sensitive plant life? Does the area pose any hazards like insect nests or poisonous plants? Your best bet is to use an established site with the least amount of vegetation.
Never hang your hammock in the middle of a trail
Hanging a hammock across pathways that people or animals use can be a hazard for you and the animals that use the path. Even if it doesn’t look like an obvious path, make sure it’s not a route that leads down to a water source.
A note on trees
It goes without saying that you should never hang your hammock from trees that have dead branches. Once you’ve picked two healthy trees that can support your weight, there are two other things you always need to keep in mind:
Use tree saver straps
Never, ever, hammer or screw anything into a tree, and please don’t use zip cord or wire to hang a hammock.
Rope and cord can dig into trees and damage underlying layers that the trees need for survival. Use nylon or polyester webbing straps (at least 0.75 inches in width) to guard against bark abrasion instead.
Two trees = ONE hammock
If you’re traveling in a larger group, always spread out multiple hammocks with each person using different trees to reduce strain on the trees and disperse the impact of your group. We know that the idea of stacked hammocks looks great on photos, but it’s a setup that not only risks a painful fall for everyone involved but also puts unnecessary strain on the trees.
How do I set up my hammock?
As mentioned before, there’s no such thing as “the best” or “the only” way to hang a camping hammock. We’re going to give you some pointers on hanging a gathered end hammock since it’s the most prevalent, but it’s by no means the only option.
Choose your anchors
This is where you select two healthy trees that are 12-15 feet apart.
Secure your straps to the hang points
Since tree saver straps (also known as webbing) help reduce strain and stress on the trees, they’re much more eco-friendly than zip ties or thin cord. Your hang points should be roughly 6 feet up the tree (or whatever anchor you’re using).
Attach the hammock rope to the webbing
Attach the rope that comes out from the ends of your hammock to the webbing using a knot or hardware like a carabiner.
Fine-tune your hang
Ideally, you should aim for a 30 degree hang angle with your hammock at about char height when you sit in it. You’ll need to adjust the height, so your sitting height is about 1.5 feet off the ground.
I generally prefer to have the feet end slightly higher than the head end of the hammock
Bring in the tarp
Now it is time to add some protection from the elements, and tarps are great for keeping out the worst of the rain, wind, and cold.
Once you’ve set up your hammock, you’ll run a line over the top of it, which is where the center of the tarp will clip on. The sides of the fly must be staked to the ground or secure to other trees.
Most tarps require three connection points, but how you set up yours really depends on the style of the fly.
Hammocks are amazing in hot and humid conditions, but as soon as temperatures drop below 70°F, convective heat loss starts to kick in, leading to Cold Butt Syndrome (CBS).
This is where under quilts, closed-cell foam or self-inflating sleeping pad come into their own. Depending on your preference, equipment and temperature, you can use one or more of these to help keep you warm.
Add Drip Lines
There is nothing worse than doing all the hard work setting your gear up, only for water to trickle down the ropes and seep into your nice warm and (formerly) dry bedding!)
To get around this, you simply need to tie some short pieces of rope around your lines and this way the rain will run down them rather than into your hammock.
A note on hang angle and height
We’ve already mentioned that you should aim for a 30 degree hang angle. Tempting as it might be, pulling the hammock tighter for a flatter sleeping platform isn’t ideal since it creates tension in the sides, which can quickly make your sleeping space feel constricting.
You also don’t want your hammock any more than 18 inches off the ground unless you like the idea of battling to get in and out of your hammock.
When you get into your hammock for the night, lie down at a slight angle. Angling your body 10-15 degrees away from the centreline will automatically put you into a more horizontal state, which solves the problem of having your back bow uncomfortably.
It isn’t that hard to figure out how to hang a camping hammock, and if you follow the advice we dished out in this article, you should be able to practice happy hanging in no time at all. While we can’t possibly cover every aspect of hammock hanging in this article, we hope we did the topic justice and paved the way for many happy camping adventures to come!
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.
- 1 Where is the best place to hang a camping hammock?
- 2 What should I consider when setting up my hammock?
- 3 A note on trees
- 4 How do I set up my hammock?
- 5 A note on hang angle and height
- 6 Final thoughts