The number of camping accessories on the market is astonishing. Some are good, some are bad. Some seem like they were designed by drunken monkeys with a crayon. The trick for any outdoorsman is to find quality supplies that will meet your needs and last you for years to come.
The following list isn’t an endorsement of any one product over another; it’s my list of items I use when camping in the backcountry. While many of these products may interface perfectly with my system there’s no assurance that yours will do so as well. You’ll need to decide which works best for you before you invest in them.
Proper equipment can make or break even the most enjoyable backpacking trip With this article I give you my opinions of the equipment I use. My hope is they’ll help you in choosing what’s right for you when it comes to your camping gear.
How can I make my camping hammock more comfortable?
Rain protection is your priority when it comes to camping in a hammock. If you’re just starting I strongly recommend that you include a rainfly with any hammock purchase. You can add bug netting later if and when the need arises, not the other way around.
For many years I used a standard A-shaped fly from Tentsile. It weighed nearly two pounds and worked great for keeping me dry during short showers, but would only withstand the weight of small precipitation (less than an inch) before water leaked through its seams and onto my expensive down sleeping bag. For fair weather camping, it’s fine; but I use my gear year-round and don’t like gambling on what nature has in store for me while I’m sleeping.
It was also a pain in the butt to take down and set up every night, requiring me to spend 20 minutes fiddling with bungee cords and guylines just to get it into place before I could do anything else. On overcast days I’d often find myself setting up my tent because “just knowing” whether or not I had a dry bed at the end of the day seemed better than taking a chance on getting soaked if I stayed out in my hammock instead. That added even more weight and bulk to an already heavy load when all I needed was quick access to some shelter from rain or bugs!
I’ve since replaced that A-frame with a Hennessey Hammock Hex Fly. This is by far the best accessory I’ve ever purchased for my camping hammock. It weighs less than half of what the A-frame did, sets up in seconds flat, and has never leaked on me under any conditions.
It’s made of a heavier duty material than most traditional tarps so it can handle brisk winds without flapping all night long. The Hennessey also provides complete protection from bugs while remaining breathable enough to allow evaporation during hot weather. This is important because if you build yourself a bug net but don’t have adequate ventilation underneath you’ll still get eaten alive!
A proper rainfly will keep your camping hammock dry when water isn’t an option A good rainfly should be made of waterproof material that has no more than a 10% “loft allowance”. The loft allowance is the thickness of the material after it’s been compressed by your weight. If you’re lying in a hammock with 5 inches of water on top of you that extra half an inch can make all the difference between soaking wet and perfectly dry!
Bug netting is another important accessory to have if you’ll be camping where there are more bugs than stars at night. I’ve used both types: flat material that drapes over your head or rainfly, and open-mesh designs. To be honest, I don’t notice much of a difference between them as far as protection goes; either will work fine for most situations since most bugs aren’t strong enough to punch through the material and bite you.
For open-mesh nets I recommend buying a separate stuff sack for it; otherwise, your gear will become their buffet. Hammock Hennessey sells some nice accessories for this as well, including “snake skins”. They’re like duffel bags made of the same material as the hex fly and help keep everything (including snakes) from getting into your hammock when you want to store or carry it.
The weight of a camping hammock is one of its best features – until you have to pack it up again! Make sure all your gear is packed inside something bug-proof before hanging it in a tree. Put a strap on top just in case they don’t cooperate and find themselves outside where they belong.
A complete camping kit for your hammock might look like this: fly, bug netting, tent stakes, waterproof stuff sack(s) for your gear, and extra cord/straps for setting it up. Make sure you include enough drinking water to keep yourself hydrated during the day; expect to go through at least a quart every couple of hours when you’re active. If you’re hiking somewhere there won’t be any water around then bring iodine tablets or something similar so that you can purify what rainwater you can collect without getting sick.
What do you do with your gear when hammock camping?
Toss it in the trunk of your car or put it in a storage locker at the campsite. If you’re backpacking bring along some extra cord to hang your food bag from; it’s not fun having to search for rodents two weeks later when you get back home.
You should always keep an eye out for trees that are healthy, strong enough to support your weight, and far enough apart that you can get comfortable between them. You don’t want to get halfway through setting up only to find out they’re way too close together! When I’m hiking somewhere new I look for big pine trees with low-hanging branches so that I won’t be able to go anywhere else without climbing gear.
While you might be tempted to camp on the ground, don’t! You’ll be all alone out there with nothing but leaves to protect you from animals that want to eat you… and your food.
Even if you’re tough enough to sleep on the cold, hard ground I won’t let you do it without a proper pad. A closed-cell foam pad is lightweight and will insulate you from whatever’s underneath it; I use one for car camping too since they’re small enough to stuff into my bag. Of course, if weight isn’t an issue then bring two because then nobody will be able to come between you and whatever fool made the mistake of telling someone else about this article! 🙂
Do you need a sleeping pad with a hammock?
No, but not having one is like saying it’s okay to be cold and uncomfortable at night. What good is a hammock if you can’t sleep in it?
How do I keep bugs out of my hammock?
Keep all your gear inside the bug netting when you’re not using it. If you’re backpacking tie up your line-locks so that they don’t get wrapped around anything else; otherwise you might find yourself face down on the ground with half your stuff still hanging from the tree!
Keeping your ropes tight enough will prevent them from loosening as you move around during the night. For extra security attach some spare cord to the loop next to each line-loc buckle, then tie those cords to the tree.
How do I keep the rain from pouring in?
If you’re hammock camping during a storm then wrapped up inside an emergency blanket is probably your best bet for staying dry. In some parts of the world that might be enough protection to inoculate yourself against hypothermia before going into full-body shutdown mode; I wouldn’t know though since I’ve never been there! 🙂 If it’s a light shower just put a garbage bag over your stuff sack and you should be fine until morning.
This isn’t based on firsthand experience either, but why take chances when you can stay dry by hanging under your fly sheet? 😉 You can also get ‘rain flies’ or ‘storm rolls’ which are big tarps that go over the fly and give you a little extra protection from the elements.
You might think it’s pretty funny when someone with this much gear shows up at a campsite; it wasn’t very funny when I realized I had forgotten to bring my rainfly though, and not when I found myself face-down in the mud without one! When you’re traveling light you can set up your hammock in seconds – however, when your stuff weighs almost as much as you do then it takes forever… and results in some really bad damage to the tree that saved your life.