Hammock camping: Everything you need to know to get started

Shel hammock shelter
Nate Edwards/BYU

In recent years, hammock camping has become one of the more popular trends in the outdoor industry, going from a fairly small subset of backpackers and campers to a full-fledged movement. As a result, gear manufacturers have introduced a growing number of options for those looking to ditch their tents in favor of sleeping suspended above the ground instead. If you’ve been considering joining this movement yourself, we have some tips to help you get started, including our picks for the best beginner-friendly hammock camping gear currently available.

Why choose a hammock over a tent?

The traditional tent has been a staple of camping for decades and remains a viable option for those looking to get a good night’s sleep in the backcountry. So why would anyone leave their tent behind in favor of a hammock instead? For starters, hammocks tend to be smaller and lighter, not to mention faster and easier to set up. A hammock doesn’t require the camper to find a flat piece of ground that is perfectly cleared of rocks, branches, or other items either. All you need are a couple of trees and the right gear to hold your hammock securely in place, lending it a versatility that a tent doesn’t always have. And since you aren’t sleeping on the hard ground, many people find them to be much more comfortable too.

ultimate hammock camping guide hennessy

What about bugs, wind, and rain?

One of the reasons campers love their tents so much is that they do an excellent job of keeping insects at bay while also protecting us from the wind and rain. The addition of mosquito netting and a rainfly gives the modern camping hammock the same capabilities however, without adding much in the way of weight and bulk. Once the hammock is secured in place, the mosquito netting and rainfly are hung above it a bit higher in the tree, providing shelter that is a lot like having a full tent suspended in the air. In fact, some camping hammocks are full systems that include these features and more, but a simple insect net and tarp will suffice.

Nemo Cloudview Hammock best outdoor gear

How do I stay warm?

A sleeping bag remains one of the best ways to stay warm while camping, whether you’re sleeping in a tent or hammock. The big difference is that with nothing but open air beneath you, things can get a bit chillier while hanging amongst the trees. As usual, if you’re using a sleeping bag you’ll want one that is rated for use in the temperatures that you’ll be experiencing while camping, with a lighter bag preferred in warmer weather and a heavier bag for use when the mercury starts to drop.

When spending the night in a tent, a sleeping pad serves as a buffer between you and the cold ground, providing a bit of extra warmth as a result. Sleeping pads aren’t quite as common amongst hammock campers, although Klymit’s Hammock V and Insulated Hammock V are both designed specifically with hammock campers in mind. These pads have built-in “wings” along the sides that help to keep the user warm while also blocking the wind, ensuring a better nights sleep when things get breezy.

Alternatively, many hammock campers choose to leave the traditional sleeping bag behind and carry top and under quilts instead. These lightweight blankets are made from the same materials as a sleeping bag, but are designed to be more versatile and less restrictive. An under quilt is secured to the bottom of the hammock, providing both warmth and comfort to the camper. Meanwhile a top quilt works in conjunction with the under quilt to create a warm and cosy sleep system that keeps cold air out while allowing the user to move about more freely.  These quilts have the added advantage of being highly compressible, taking up less room in a backpack than a sleeping bag without compromising performance.

glamping sea to summit ultralight hammock

What should I look for in a camping hammock?

Just like the rest of our outdoor gear, modern camping hammocks are lightweight, extremely durable, and surprisingly technical. They tend to be made from extremely strong nylon fabrics and are built to work in conjunction with aluminum carabiners and polyfilament webbing straps, which have been engineered to leave no trace on the trees. The hammocks come in a variety of lengths and widths, they’re made to compress down to a surprisingly small size, and some even support two people.

Unlike the hammock you have in your backyard, which is mainly meant for lounging, a camping hammock is designed for sleeping. They are built to cradle your body, allowing you to sleep comfortably. Most are plenty long, although if you’re especially tall, you may have to look for a model that offers some extra space. Generally speaking, you want a hammock that is a minimum of two feet longer than your height in order to get a proper fit.

Be sure to check the maximum supported weight on a hammock as well. Most models are strong enough to hold anywhere from 300 to 400 pounds, but if you dip into the ultralight category that number can come down significantly. Plus, you have to remember that isn’t just your bodyweight that you need to factor in, as you’re likely to have a sleeping bag (or quilts), smartphone, headlamp, and other items in the hammock with you too. Those things may not seem all that heavy, but extra ounces can add up quick and its always better to have plenty of cushion just in case.

rei quarter dome air hammock stock featured

So What Should I Buy?

In addition to purchasing a hammock, you’ll also need a suspension system (aka straps) to attach it to a tree, plus carabiners to hold everything in place. At some point, you’ll probably also want add a rain fly and insect netting, particularly if you’re going to be doing any serious backcountry camping. These days there are plenty of options to choose from for each of those items, but we have some suggestions for which ones to consider. Below, you’ll find our picks for the best options for hammock campers.

One Person Hammock – Kammock Roo Single ($69)

ultimate hammock camping guide kammock roo single

The Kammock Roo Single is pretty much the perfect one-person hammock for beginners. It weighs just 10 ounces, supports up to 400 pounds of weight, and packs down to an incredibly small size for stashing in your backpack. The fact that it costs just $69 doesn’t hurt either, making it a good investment for those just dipping their toe in the hammock camping waters.

Buy one now from:

REI Kammock

Two Person Hammock – ENO DoubleNest ($70)

Eno DoubleNest Hammock

If you’re looking to share your hammock with someone else, you’ll definitely want one specifically built for two. The ENO DoubleNest is the model of choice for many thanks to its spacious interior, ability to support up to 400 pounds, and all-around comfort. At just 1.2 pounds, it isn’t especially heavy either, making it easy to carry with you on just about any outdoor adventure.

Buy one now from:

REI Campsaver

Hammock Straps – Hummingbird Ultralight Tree Straps ($30)

ultimate hammock camping guide hummingbird straps

When purchasing straps for use with your hammock you’ll want to look for ones that are strong enough to support your weight but won’t cause any damage to the trees that you’re wrapping them around. They get bonus points if they happen to be lightweight too. That describes the Hummingbird Ultralight Tree Straps to a tee. At just 1.55 ounces they are incredibly light, yet can still support up to 400 pounds of weight. On top of that, when packed away, the two straps are roughly the size of a candy bar, which means they don’t take up a lot of space in your bag either.

Buy them now from:

Amazon Hummingbird

Carabiners – Rallt 10 KN ($10)

ultimate hammock camping guide rallt carabiners

Most hammocks will ship with carabiners designed specifically to be used with that particular model, but if you find you have to replace one of your original models, Rallt has you covered. These aluminum carabiners feature wire gates that are very easy to use and were made specifically with hammock campers in mind. They feature a 10 kilonewton rating, which is enough to safely hold about 2,248 pounds. That’s not bad for a tool that is just 3.15 inches in length and only weights .7 ounces itself.

Buy a set of two from:


Rainfly – ENO ProFly ($80)

ultimate hammock camping guide eno profly

Many hammock campers go the DYI route and simply use a basic plastic tarp as their rainfly. But if you’re looking for something that was made specifically for use with a hammock, then its tough to top the ENO ProFly. At 22 ounces it isn’t especially heavy and its six anchor points help to keep it securely in place, even during a heavy downpour. The ProFly’s durable nylon ripstop fabrics allow it to shrug off general wear and tear, ensuring that it will be a useful piece of gear for many years to come.

Buy them now from:

Amazon ENO

Mosquito Netting – Chill Gorilla Bug Net ($37)

ultimate hammock camping guide chill gorilla insect netting

If you’re going to sleep in a hammock you’re also going to need an adequate defense against biting insects. That’s why most hammock campers carry mosquito netting of some kind with them on their backcountry excursions. One of the best options is the Chill Gorilla Bug Net, which is designed to work with any hammock and offers protection in the form of a very fine, lightweight netting that keeps the insects out and a steady breeze flowing in.

Buy one now from:


Under Quilt – ENO Vulcan Underquilt ($175)

ultimate hammock camping guide eno vulcan underquilt

As mentioned, an under quilt is one of the best ways to stay warm in a hammock without the constraints that come with sleeping bag. The ENO Vulcan Underquilt offers a lot of a bang for the buck by using PrimaLoft insulation, water-resistant fabrics, and a design that makes it compatible with pretty much every hammock on the market. The Vulcan is so warm in fact it can be used for four-season outings, making it a good choice in the winter too.

Buy one now from:

REI Amazon

Top Quilt – Hammock Gear Burrow 20 Quilt ($259)

ultimate hammock camping guide gear burrow topquilt

A good under quilt is a great place to start, but you’ll also want the right top quilt too. The Burrow 20 from Hammock Gear is one of the best available at the moment for hammock campers because it is lightweight, highly compressible, and uses goose down insulation to keep you warm in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also easy to get in and out of and does away with the traditional mummy-bag hood to help reduce feelings of claustrophobia.

Buy one from: 

Hammock Gear

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.

Score a free Google Home Mini when you buy an Nvidia Shield TV from Walmart

There are a lot of great streaming devices available today, but one really shines when it comes to gaming. The Nvidia Shield TV is our favorite all-in-one streaming and gaming device, and you can now score one from Walmart and get a free…

The best iPhone deals for October 2018

Apple devices can get expensive, but if you just can't live without iOS, don't despair: We've curated an up-to-date list of all of the absolute best iPhone deals available for September 2018.

Bird will deliver one of its electric scooters straight to your door

With so many scooter-share services out there, Bird thinks it may have found a way to stay ahead of the pack. Bird Delivery lets riders request delivery of one of its electric scooters to their home or office for all-day use.

The best snowshoes you can buy right now (updated for 2018)

Snowshoeing is a great way to stay fit and active during the winter months, but finding the right pair can be a challenge. Here are our picks of the five best snowshoes available today to keep you moving on the trail this winter.
Product Review

Garmin's Fenix 5X Plus is built for fitness freaks who fawn over every feature

With onboard music, full-color topographic maps, and new sport metrics, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus sets a high bar for GPS smartwatches. Find out how it can help boost your performance in our Fenix 5X Plus review.

Sell your house and explore the planet with these awesome camper vans

Camper vans aren't just for pensioners. Check out the wildest creations that will go anywhere on the planet while keeping you comfortable no matter how far off the grid you end up.
Emerging Tech

Like a Bat-Signal for cyclists, this laser light makes bikes visible to drivers

The Laserlight Core is a smart projection system for bicycles that's designed to promote safer cycling. It works by projecting an image of a cyclist 20 feet in front of you as you ride.

These zip-on bike tires change up your tread to match the terrain

Retyre gives cyclists the ability to change the tread on their bike tires simply by zipping on an overlay designed to provide better grip on trails or in the snow, without replacing the existing tires.

From filters to mounts, these 16 GoPro accessories help you shoot all the action

A GoPro is only as good as the tools you use with it. Here, we've rounded up the best GoPro accessories currently available, from rotating time-lapse mounts to a wearable camera harness for your best friend.
Product Review

Withings Steel HR Sport is a fitness tracker you’ll love wearing

Withings jumps back in the wearables game with the new Steel HR Sport, a hybrid smartwatch that is as much a fitness tracker as it is a timepiece. It's so good that it hasn't left our wrist since we pulled it out of the package.

Here are all the best rain jackets on the market right now

Spring is here which means it's officially raincoat season. From high-tech, lightweight shells to modern-looking, waterproof trench coats, check out our list of the best rain jackets built to keep you dry.

Garmin’s new Instinct GPS watch is built for the sportsman in all of us

The new Garmin Instinct is a GPS multisport watch for people who love to be outdoors. The $300 Instinct takes the best features of the company's popular Fenix watches and packages them into rugged, military-grade package.