When choosing where to set up camp think of the 4 w’s:
Weather – which direction is the prevailing and current wind blowing from? Shelter against this.
Water – is there some close by?
Wood – collect more than you need. Fire is vital for cooking and warmth
Widowmakers – check for trees above and around your site to make sure they won’t come down on you. If in doubt about how sturdy a tree is, do not hang the hammock from it.
Everyone has their own way to hang a hammock. This guide offers one, basic way, but it’s worth experimenting to find out what works best for you. Below is a diagram showing a basic hammock setup:
The diagram above shows the points you need to tie knots. You can get by with just something like a Reef/Square knot but I like to use a Tautline hitch at the peg end of the guy ropes, so they can be adjusted.
Hammock set up
- Find 2 trees with at least 4 big footsteps between them.
- Tie one end to a tree. A good starting point is chest height.
- Tie the second end to the other tree, aiming to have the hammock central, with a 30 degree hang angle. Some people prefer the feet end higher than the head end.
- Test that the hammock is about chair height, low enough that you can easily sit in it.
- Thread your ridge line cord through the central loops of your tarp.
- Tie the ridge line above the hammock to both trees, ensuring it’s tight.
- Use at least 4 guy lines to pull the tarp taut and away from the hammock. You can tie them to pegs or other trees.
You may wish to do steps 5-7 before 1-4 if it’s raining.
It’s much harder to fall out of a hammock than you’d think (I’ve never managed it and if anyone would, I would!). The main thing is to make sure you get in to the hammock properly:
- Check the hammock is secure.
- Use your hands to spread the center of the hammock across the width.
- Sit back, as if in a chair.
- Lift your legs and swivel in to the hammock.
You will find that at the leg end of the hammock a central ridge is created, which can be uncomfortable to position between your feet. To make this more comfortable, to give yourself the most space, avoid the hammock cocooning you and to get the flattest sleeping position, most people like to lie diagonally across the hammock, feet one side, head the other:
Many problems people encounter are due to having the hammock too tight, but it’s worth taking a little time to experiment and work out how to hang a hammock in the way that is most comfortable for you.
Other hammock accessories:
- Vital to keep creepy crawlies and buzzing beasts away from you while you sleep. Some hammocks have one built in but you can buy stand-alone ones too.
- This should be longer than the hammock. Many hammocks are around 2.8-3m long so I’d recommend at least 3x3. If your tarp is not long enough you may find that putting it up in a diamond configuration creates enough length.
- When in a hammock your sleeping bag is compressed between it and your body, which stops the warm air from being trapped inside the insulation. With your backside flapping around with cold air all around it, you will need another form of insulation when the temperature starts to drop. The warmest and most comfortable option is an under blanket. This hangs from the underside of the hammock and traps a cushion of warm air to keep you cozy. If the hammock has a double layer you can use this to house a bed roll. This insulates you but it is usually less comfortable and can still move during the night.
- As the underside of sleeping bags provide almost no warmth in a hammock many people prefer to use a blanket. It also avoids the shuffling around that is needed to enter a sleeping bag.
- These wrap around the trees and, along with a pair of carabiners, allow the hammock to be hung without having to tie knots each time. Some have multiple loops to allow quick adjustment of the hang.
- Another way to improve the ease of hammock hanging, Whoopie slings allow instant adjustment of the hammock hang. They are usually made of Amsteel, so are much lighter than standard webbing and don’t get waterlogged. These should be used with tree huggers as they cut in to bark.
- These are tubes of fabric that cover a hammock when not in use. As they are waterproof you can hang your hammock without it getting wet. Once hung and protected from the elements you can then roll it back to release the hammock. They also makes packing your hammock up much easier. Simply roll the sleeve back over the hammock and pack away. No fiddly folding. Highly recommended.
- One problem with having webbing tied to a tree is that it’s not protected from the elements. To stop water running down the webbing and onto the hammock, cordage can be tied to the webbing, just before the hammock, to make drip lines. The water will run down the webbing, hit the drop line, run down it and drop to the floor, keeping your hammock dry.
This guide should help get you started as a tree-dweller, but for more advice please see the UKSN Advanced Hammock Techniques guide.