Gain peace of mind with eight expert tips for comfortable hammock camping
Recreational hammocks are quickly becoming ‘must-haves’ for Scout campsites, and many are small and light enough that people also take them on day hikes. Some of the main reasons people love hammocks are that they’re fun, comfortable to relax on, and fairly quick to set up. Whether you are a veteran of the “hanger” or just starting out, here are some tips for getting the most out of your hammock.
Hang your hammock with good sag. Too many people try to tie a hammock as tightly as possible between the anchor points. This can cause a cocooning effect that can tighten the shoulders and arch the back uncomfortably. Instead, try hanging your hammock with a good sag, like in a smiley face. If you really want to stand out, a good starting angle is 30 degrees from horizontal. This is the most important tip to make your hammock more comfortable. Deep sag also lowers the center of gravity, making the hammock more stable and harder to fall.
Lie diagonally on the hammock. Once you have a good sag (see tip # 1), you can lay diagonally across the fabric. You will be amazed at how comfortable it will be when your head and feet fall down and your body ergonomically reclines flat on the fabric. This is how hammocks were designed to work.
Raise the foot higher. In some cases, your body can naturally slide down the middle of your hammock, which can sometimes be uncomfortable. To prevent slipping, try hanging the foot side of the hammock about 8 to 10 inches higher. This helps prevent your heavier torso from sliding down the middle.
Try a knee pillow. Depending on the size of your hammock (and your height), you may feel a tight ridge under your legs when lying diagonally. This can cause hyperextension in your knees. Ouch! To relieve this pressure, place a padding under your knees. Additional clothes or a small pillow would work just fine. (Remember: longer, not wider, hammocks are generally more comfortable, allowing you to lie diagonally without hyperextending your legs.)
Use an insect net. While some jungle hammocks come with a sewn-in insect net, simple recreational hammocks do not. No one likes bugs buzzing around your face, especially if those bugs are biting. A full length mosquito net can completely surround your hammock and create a spacious carrycot for reading, lounging and relaxing.
Use a sleeping pad (or under a duvet). Many people think that all you need is a sleeping bag to stay warm in a hammock. After all, you’re not on the floor, so you don’t need a cushion for extra comfort. What this cushion helps, however, is the warmth. You will compress the sleeping bag insulation under your body in a hammock just like you would on the floor, so that you will feel cold in a hammock without the uncompressed insulation under you. To prevent the sleeping pad from sliding under you, try putting it in your sleeping bag.
Use a drip line on your suspension. On rainy days, water can seep into your suspension and wet your hammock. To avoid this, attach a drip to your suspension, positioned under your tarpaulin (you are using a tarp, right?). See illustration for details.
Fold the edge of the hammock for a more comfortable chair. Sitting in a hammock can feel like a deep bucket seat. It can be comfortable, but if you want a chair that doesn’t cut off your knee circulation and allows you to sit up straight, take the edge of the fabric and fold it toward the center of the hammock. Sit on this lined area for a nice flat sitting.
Do you have any other tips for maximizing comfort in your hammock? Please share them in the comments below.
Hammock camping can be a fun alternative to pitching a tent. Stay safe by following these safety guidelines, suggested by the BSA Health and Safety team:
- To avoid dangerous falls, hang your hammock no more than 3 feet from the ground.
- Do not hang your hammock over bodies of water, sinkholes in the ground, or over tables or sharp objects.
- Do not participate in hammock stacking, in which several hammocks are stacked vertically.
- Just like a tent, don’t keep food in your hammock.
Author Derek Hansen is an Arizona Boy Scout leader and hammock camper enthusiast who first used a hammock at the age of 14 at BSA’s Beaver High Adventure Base in the Utah. He is the author of The Ultimate Blow: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping (2011) and the website, The ultimate blow.