Hammocks are wonderful alternatives to tents when camping. In most areas of the country, hammocks will actually provide better comfort than even the fluffiest sleeping bag. Additionally, they offer just as much protection from the elements as a camping tent. Because you are suspended off the ground, you will not have to contend with sleeping on a hard surface, and the cold damp of the ground will not seep through to chill you during the night in fall or winter weather. Setting up a camping hammock is easy and can be done almost anywhere off the trail without having to find level ground or clear brush. All you need is two trees, your rope, and fasteners and you are set to go.
The key to comfortable camping is purchasing the right hammock. You want a large hammock, preferably a double, which will provide you with plenty of room for you, your sleeping bag, and camping pads, if you want them. Camping pads are designed specifically for camping hammocks and are used for additional cushion. For camping, you can use a cotton or nylon hammock, but keep in mind that nylon will hold up better in rainy weather if you camp often or plan to camp for an extended amount of time. To ensure the hammock can be hung and that ropes can reach around the trees, it is a good idea to attach longer lengths of rope to each end of the hammock. This allows you more options when you get ready to hang your hammock. Attaching lengths of rope along the rings at either end of the hammock and to each section of rope where the weave begins is also a good idea. Called "drip strings," they will help divert any water running off trees in the rain by having the water drip down these strings to the ground, rather than dripping toward the center of the hammock, where you are sleeping.
Because you are suspended off the ground, you can sleep almost anywhere it is permitted as long as there are two trees approximately 15 feet apart. In some areas of parks and preserves, camping is restricted to hammocks only, so if you are in the habit of hiking in rugged areas or restricted areas, a camping hammock is the ideal choice. In addition, a hammock, even with a large tarp and additional ropes thrown in, takes up less space and weight considerably less than a tent, making travel on foot much easier.
When camping with a hammock, always bring extra rope and a tarp with you, providing you with the option of putting a "roof" over your hammock by suspending it from the trees as well in a tent formation over your hammock. If you are camping in the colder months, you can warm your feet by simply slipping a hand warmer or two into the toe of your sleeping bag. You will find yourself lulled to sleep by the gentle sway and surrounding comfort of your camping hammock. Lay back and enjoy the comfort of this camping "cradle" while gazing at the stars and sleeping in nature. Once you camp with a hammock, you will never want to stay in a tent again!