Hammocks can have several distinct advantages when camping. They get your sleeping area up off the ground, they allow air circulation around them, and they can even be strung in a tree.
By applying insecticide to the hammock’s hanging ropes, crawling, biting insects can be discouraged. With the addition of mosquito netting, flying insects can also be discouraged. Hammocks are kind to people who have joint problems or who find a regular bed too restrictive, too soft, or too hard so you definitely need to learn how to hammock camp.
Hammock tents, in many cases a tent that’s structured so that it can be suspended above the ground, can provide not only protection from insects but also shelter from inclement weather.
Hammocks have also been used as cradles for children (a practice now discouraged by physicians), and are too frequently used as toys.
It could be said that a hammock can be a comfortable place to sleep, but caution should be used. Hammocks are also responsible for more than 3,000 accidents per year in the United States, some of them debilitating or even fatal.
In one infamous case, a girl was caught in the fabric of a hanging tent when she was attempting to use it as a swing. In another, a young woman became a paraplegic after her hammock pulled a brick column down on top of her.
How to Camp with a Hammock
If you wish to enjoy this traditional lounge or camp bed, you need to know how to camp with a hammock. Better yet, you need to know how to camp in a hammock.
For the most part, it boils down to simple common sense and taking a few reasonable precautions.
1. Secure your hammock to supports that won’t topple or fall down. One excellent hammock support set is two strong, live trees that are well-rooted and at least six inches in diameter. One of the leading causes of hammock accidents is from toppling supports, such as dead trees or insecure porch supports. Another good hammock support is a tubular steel frame made specifically to support a hammock.
2. Discourage children from playing in or on a hammock. A child who’s tumbled from a hammock (or an adult, for that matter) runs the risk of becoming entangled in the hammock strings and either strangling or breaking a bone. In fact, strangling injuries or deaths rank as the second most frequent hammock injury.
3. Clear all loose matter, especially rocks, from beneath a hammock. The fewer hard objects beneath your hammock the less likely that you’ll be bruised or broken. Falling out can be embarrassing. Hitting your head on a rock can really hurt.
4. Never hang your hammock higher than you want to fall. Remember the classic nursery rhyme about broken boughs and babies. Hanging your hammock from the treetops might put you out of the way of some large predators, but it will also increase your risk of injury from falling. If you wish to put your hammock in the treetops, give some thought to how you’re getting into and out of it.
5. Fabric hammocks are both more comfortable and safer than string hammocks. It’s easy to entangle a hand or fingers in a string hammock and break a bone. Believe it or not, nylon string is much tougher than human bone. A canvas or linen hammock obviates this hazard. They are also more comfortable to rest upon since they provide even pressure. Waffle prints from a hammock can become uncomfortable after a time.
6. Tether one edge of your hammock so that it won’t swing, turn over, and dump you on the ground. Remember those rocks you cleared out from under your hammock? Pine needles, leaves, or even fine sand will help give you a soft landing.
7. For cold weather camping or hammock tent camping, line your hammock with a sleeping bag or insulated camp mat. This will keep cold air from seeping up underneath you as you sleep. Thus equipped, your hammock will keep you off the frozen ground and out of puddles or streams.
8. Select your hammock tent with care. Some hammock tents are simply a rainfly and mosquito netting attached to a hammock. When placed as intended, they can make an excellent summer shelter. If you want something more robust, a hammock tent that’s suspended from a dedicated steel frame can provide a more stable home. As mentioned, look for cloth hammocks rather than string hammocks.
These traditional hanging beds can be extremely comfortable in any season but need to be treated with respect. They are not toys and they should always be hung in a way that’s completely secure.
When used properly, they can offer a secure, comfortable place to sleep. They can be set up as a breezy place to keep a little cooler than the ambient temperature, and definitely cooler than any permanent structure. With a little insulation and a thick sleeping bag, they can also keep you off damp, cold surfaces when you’re winter camping.
The important thing to remember is to make sure that your hammock supports are sturdy and secure. Falling trees, falling porch supports, and even brick structures have been found to be problematic. Hammock supports that are made for the purpose are usually ideal.
Hammocks aren’t toys. Playing in a hammock is even more hazardous than jumping on the bed. And you know what happened to all ten of the little monkeys who were jumping on their bed!
Just a few basic safety practices will allow you to enjoy this traditional sleeping arrangement in both comfort and safety.
Tents can be a place to sleep securely and comfortably in nearly any weather, providing they are treated as a place to sleep, not a place to play, and they are properly secured to sturdy supports that won’t break or fall on the sleeper.