Hammocking is an absolute blast! It’s easily the most enjoyable, comfortable, and fun way to enjoy the outdoors. But, just like anything, there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way. In this article, we’ll discuss what you should (and shouldn’t) do while hammocking. We’ll discuss hammock tips and tricks, being prepared, and how to protect the environment while hammocking.
Hammocking is easy to learn, but there’s plenty of tips and tricks that aren’t immediately obvious. Here are a few of our favorite hammock hints:
When you lay in your hammock, lay diagonally for the most comfortable hang. It’s natural to want to hang in a straight line, but doing this causes the sides of the hammock to pinch in and squeeze you. Laying diagonally in the hammock is much more comfortable.
Image courtesy of The Ultimate Hang, a great resource for everything you could possibly want to know about hammocking.
When you put your hammock away, put the tree straps in last. We pack all of our hammocks with the straps right at the top so you can access them right away the next time you set up your hammock.
Double check that your hammock is set up correctly before you use it! The most common mistake people make is not setting up their tree straps correctly. More often than not, this means a sore backside. Avoid falling from your hammock by double checking your setup before you use it.
When you hang your hammock, hang it with a slight curve (think “banana-shaped”). Some people like to hang their hammocks very tightly, but doing this puts a lot of added stress on your hammock and causes damage to the trees.
Notice the slight curve in each hammock - almost banana-shaped.
Avoid hanging too close to lakes, rivers, swamps, and streams. In warmer months, these bodies of water breed lots of biting insects. If you know you’ll be near water, be sure to bring a bug net.
Bring the right equipment. At a bare minimum, this means remembering to bring your tree straps. With Octopus hammocks, these are included, but that’s not the case for many other hammocks. Before you go, check that you have a pair of tree straps. If you’ll be hammocking for a longer period of time, you’ll need some additional gear. We recommend Rain Fly’s, Bug Nets, and Underquilts as the three main accessories you should have if you’re going to be adventuring longer than a few hours. (we talk about gear in more detail in Part Two).
The two most important things: your hammock and your tree straps
Dress for the situation. The best way to do this is to remember to wear sunscreen and bug spray when you’re outside (you can still get sunburnt in a hammock!). It’s also a good idea to dress for the weather, especially when you’re hammocking. On windy days it will be much colder in a hammock because the thin nylon fabric used by most hammocks is very breathable.
Avoid hammocking in dead trees. Hanging from these trees is a bad idea because dead trees are much weaker than living ones. The tree could fall over, or it could drop a heavy limb onto you. Outdoor enthusiasts call these falling limbs “widow makers” because they are known to cause injuries and even death. To identify a dead tree, look for missing bark, the absence of leaves or needles, and a damaged trunk or roots.
Notice the difference between a dead tree (left) and a living one (right).
Do your research beforehand. Before you go hammocking, it’s a good idea to get a sense of the area. For example, you’ll want to know if your destination has trees or your trip will be pretty uneventful. Doing your research before you go is a good idea for any adventure- often, it helps you avoid common pitfalls and get the most out of your trip.
Always use tree straps. Many hammocks come with a rope based suspension system as a default. These systems are very harmful to trees. Over time, the ropes will eat through the tree’s bark and damage the inner bark, killing the tree. Instead, you should always use webbing tree straps or tree huggers. These systems spread your weight out more evenly, and more importantly, they don’t cut into the trees.
A set of our hammock straps, with a pupper for scale.
Never hammock on young trees. Young and growing trees are very sensitive to any damage, and their bark isn’t strong enough to withstand hammocks. We’ve personally seen dozens of young trees killed by hammocks. When you’re looking for good hammock trees, choose trees that are at least 8 to 10 inches in diameter- about the size of a basketball. If you’re not sure about a tree, it’s always best to choose caution and find a tree that you’re confident is strong enough to carry you.
Always clean up after yourself. Whatever you bring with you, you should also take when you leave. Double check that you don’t leave behind any trash, food, or gear. When you leave your hammock site, it should look like nobody was ever there.
Sunset over Devil's Lake State Park. Where will you go on your next adventure?
Like most things, hammocking is best learned by going outside and doing it. There’s nothing quite like relaxing in your hammock on a sunny day, so grab your hammock and get out there!
What hammock hacks do you know of? Let us know in the comments! To learn about how to set up your hammock, check out Part One of this series. To find out more about getting the most from your hammock, take a look at Part Two.