Basic Guide on How to Sleep in a Hammock
If you've found yourself reading this blog, you're likely in a similar situation as I found myself in not long ago. I was like most other people -- I knew what a hammock was and had climbed inside one on a handful of occasions but I would have never considered myself an "avid" hammock camper. Of course, that all changed when I stumbled upon a small company nestled below the beautiful Rocky Mountains who had an aim to make sleep the highlight of camping. I quickly learned that there was more to the word "hammocking" than just hanging out with a book between two trees. If you choose to keep reading, I'll share some of the most basic tips and tricks that I have learned over the past few years that will help you have the best possible experience with your hammock.
What to do before going through the set up process
Try sleeping in a hammock in your yard before buying all the gear
Have you ever asked yourself, "Howe do I sleep in a hammock"? Before spending oodles of money on a legit setup, make sure you know what you are getting into. If you just cant get comfortable in a hammock, no need to spend the money on expensive gear. That being said, don't give up immediately. There are options out there that are more comfortable than others (like the Haven Tent) and don't have the feel of a regular hammock.
Practice going through the process
Setting up a hammock is typically incredibly simple, but there are tips and tricks to getting the right hang to maximize your comfortability.
How to avoid common set up mistakes
Your experience with a hammock is highly dependent on how it is set up. Don't let the simplistic nature of the hammock fool you into thinking it doesn't matter how it is setup. I've provided a few tips here that should help out.
Select the right hammock
You'd be wildly surprised to learn that hammocks come in shapes and sizes other than your traditional gathered end hammocks that you'd find at Walmart. If you don't have back pain and find being curled up like a banana at all comfortable, these hammocks will likely work fine. They're the cheapest option, are fairly lightweight, and work well for a lot of people in short doses.
I use the word "porch" pretty generally here. When I say this, I am referring to most hammocks that you see on the back porch of just about any house in the USA. These are mostly the rope hammocks that are made from woven strands of rope and are attached to a free-standing hammock stand. There are also fabric and woven hammocks that are constructed in similar ways. If you are hanging out with your family and friends and need some place to lay down or sit in and rock or take a nap in, these are a good option. In my opinion, these hammocks tend to be used a handful of times in practical uses, and sit as a bulky decoration the rest of the year. You can probably sense my intense love for these types based on how I talk about them...(not).
This is where we get into the real good stuff. If you are planning on sleeping in a hammock, this is the hammock you want. There are a lot of options out there that you can look into depending on your budget and needs. My personal recommendation? Get yourself a Haven Tent. Now, call me biased because I am closely affiliated with the company, but realize that I don't advocate for things unless I truly believe in them. Just ask my coworkers at Papa Murphy's. I once told a customer that they'd get a better deal and pizza than what we would make them by going down the street to Little Caesars. So believe me when I say that the Haven Tent is a game changer. I won't get into all the specifics here, but you can check out this blog post to learn more about its features and what makes it unique. Just know that this will bring the comfort of your bed at home anywhere you go by utilizing its patented lay flat design.
If the Haven Tent isn't your gig though, just know you have options. Most camping hammocks will have a rainfly to keep you safe from the elements, bug nets, and inside pockets to stash your candy that everyone knows you smuggled into camp. Different hammocks will have different features that you'll want to take into account when making your decision, so make sure you do your research.
Make sure you've got everything you need to stay organized. The last thing you want is to show up to your campsite and realize you forgot your rainfly.
Change the hammock angle/curve ("Hangle")
I like to call this your "Hangle". No matter what hammock you choose, you'll have at least one thing in common: you will find yourself suspended between two trees (or some other anchor point). Depending on your situation and preferences, you'll likely need to adjust your hang angle. If you don't know what this means, its really simple. It is the angle in which your hammock body hangs in relationship to your tree straps. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to hang somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. For exact measurements though, I recommend checking out this hang angle calculator.
Source:"The Ultimate Hang" - Derek Hansen
Don’t set up hammock too tight
If your hammock is too tight between trees, you likely won't be too comfortable. You'll also risk damage to the hammock once stress is applied to it.
If you are camping with someone you like to be really close to during the night, you'll want a two-person hammock. These are usually made with more material and are more conducive to a good night than trying to fit two people in a hammock that is designed for one person. They are also made of more durable materials and have been tested to hold the weight of another person.
Hang hammock between 2 trees at least 12 to 15 feet
This is the general guideline for your hang distance between anchor points. Most tree straps are long enough to span the distance between two trees but occasionally, you may find yourself in a situation where the two trees are further apart. This is why I always recommend you travel with a set of Whoopie Slings. These heavy duty cords can more than double your distance potential between trees. They also weigh next to nothing and are really easy to use.
Check deep curve
Depending on your hang angle and tension on the hammock body, you may have a deeper curve than at other times. If being curled up like a banana is your jam, awesome! However, I've found that for most people, it's not. Make sure to check your curve before jumping in.
Have a tarp on hand for protection
This should be common sense. The last thing you want is to be sleeping outside and have a freak storm roll in without a rainfly or tarp. On the other hand, you won't have a better night sleep than hanging out between two trees with a protective shield and hearing the pitter-patter of the rain knowing you won't get soaked.
Use sleeping pad under quilt
CBS (Cold Butt Syndrome) -- This is a real thing. If I could sum up all the questions I get about hammocking, one of the most frequently asked is how to stay warm. Depending on the hammock you get, you may hop in and forget that you are even in a hammock and instead think you are in your bed at home. Guys. I don't care who you are or how great your hammock system is. It's still a hammock and there is still cold air underneath you. Now, there are ways that you can reduce the effect this has by getting a good pad cover or under or over quilt and making sure you are dressed for the occasion. And if you are planning on going into the mountains overnight, remember that temperature fluctuations are going to be more dramatic with higher elevations.
Use drip line
Drip lines are just a piece of material that hang close to your hammock and attach to your straps. When rain falls, it travels down your straps and without a drip line, can seep into your hammock and leave you soaked. Its a small and easy thing to do that can make all the difference.
Source:"The Ultimate Hang" - Derek Hansen
Fold hammock into a chair
This is easier to do with some hammocks than others. If you need a place to sit, you can raise and lower your hang angle to turn your sleeping platform into a lounge chair. Some hammocks have features that are built into the hammock that make this easy. Check out the Haven Safari for a great example.
Avoid setting it up on dead trees
Ever tried to snap a branch in half that had been dead for a while? How about one that you just cut off of a live tree? Which one breaks easier? If you hang your hammock on a dead tree, there's a good chance that it will snap and fall on your face during the night. Play it safe and only hang on living trees.
How to sleep in a hammock the right way
Get a hammock made of durable material
Not all hammocks are created equal. Some are made of lightweight, compact and packable material while others are made of heavy duty and durable material. I would recommend looking into something like ripstop polyester. It is durable and fairly lightweight and will work for most applications.
Choose hammock that fits height and weight
Make sure the hammock you choose is going to hold your weight and be comfortable for your height. Most hammocks will have something like "Rated to..." written on the package so you can ensure that you are getting something that works for you.
Decide if you need a single or double
Planning on an outing with that special someone? You can find plenty of options out there for two-person hammocks. Never put two people in a hammock that is designed for one. It can cause damage to the hammock and subsequently, those inside it.
Sit down in the middle of the hammock
If you don't do this, you risk flipping the hammock over. Sit down in the middle of the hammock as if you were sitting in a chair and kick your feet up over the side. Tada! You are laying in a hammock!
Lay down diagonally on your back
Asymmetric Hammocks, are bigger versions of the traditional gathered-end hammock. With more material, you are able to lay at an angle to the suspension which can reduce sag. Asymmetric hammocks are best for back sleepers. What's even better for back sleepers though is the Haven Tent. Check out how it works here.
Source:"The Ultimate Hang" - Derek Hansen
Slide up or down on the hammock until you feel cradled
You are going to naturally shift in a hammock when you are inside. Make sure you scooch up and down until you find that sweet spot where you can doze off. In most hammocks, you want to make sure your waist is right in the middle of the hammock.
Place pillow under knees to protect back
If you want a surefire way to mess up your back, sleep in a banana position for long periods of time without some support on your back. Adding a simple pillow under your knees and/or back can help reduce any pain that you might feel in the mornings.
Source:"The Ultimate Hang" - Derek Hansen
Wrap yourself up
Think cocoon. Use the sides of the hammock to wrap around yourself to keep bugs and the cold out. But don't think that doing only this will solve all your problems. Without a bug net, rainfly, or good insulation, you may find yourself in a scenario you don't want to be in.
Raise head end higher
Unless you are a vampire that likes to hang upside down with all your blood rushing to your head, you'll want to hang your head end slightly higher.
Use bug net
If you are headed to a place with lots of mosquitos and other bugs, you'll want a bug net. Most camping hammocks have these built in and they are an absolute game changer.
While unlikely, there is always a risk of your gear failing which would result in you falling. To reduce risk of injury, always make sure to follow these "Hang Safe Guidelines":
- Hang hammock no more than 3 feet off ground
- Don’t hang hammock over water features
- Don’t hang hammock above tables or sharp objects
- Don’t participate in hammock stacking
- Don't keep food in your hammock
- Never swing or stand up on hammock
Sleeping Flat in a Haven Tent
If you are like me, you would much rather prefer a system that is easy to setup, extremely comfortable, and doesn't make you remember all these things. If you don't want to be curled up like a banana but still enjoy the soft sway and simple setup of a hammock, we've got the best solution. You want something that is self explanatory and you don't have to worry about. The Haven Tent is the perfect combination of a hammock and a tent. It's easy to setup and works for back, side, and even stomach sleepers. It also comes with a bug net, rainfly, insulated pad, and a ton more awesome features. Most of the time, you'll wake up thinking you slept in your bed at home...its that comfortable. So if you want to make sleep the highlight of camping and also call yourself a hammock camper, we've got you covered.
Check out Derek Hansen's, "The Ultimate Hang" for even more awesome tips and tricks into hammocking!