Devout tent campers may question hammock camping, but there are advantages to setting up your sleeping quarters between two trees. No rocks poking you in the back, less gear to carry, greater comfort, and, of course, easier set up. By following some basic rules, hanging your hammock can be an easy task.
Choosing the Right Trees
When choosing trees to hold your hammock, look for ones that are a minimum of six inches in diameter, but bigger is better. Smaller trees do not have a deep root system or the sturdiness needed for the job at hand. The bigger choice is the better choice.
Distance between Trees
A distance of approximately fifteen feet between trees is optimal. You need enough distance to allow the right amount of tension and a few extra feet will allow you some flexibility to adjust for your best comfort once the hammock is hung.
Condition of the Trees
Pay attention to the condition of the trees you want to use for your hammock. Are they obviously thriving and healthy? If a tree looks sickly, or has a lot of dead branches, think twice. It may not be sturdy enough to last through the duration of your stay at this location.
Type of Tree
Be aware of local rules before using a tree. There are some parks that prohibit hammocks. Furthermore, be aware of the different types of trees in the area. Learn about protected species of trees and avoid them.
Last, there are some trees that are simply not a good choice- know which ones. Many conifers, like Spruces, have fragile bark and are not a good choice. Likewise, other trees, like the Joshua Tree have small root systems and are not good for supporting the extra weight.
Look up and down before hanging your hammock.
Up: Dead branches, fruits, and nuts in a tree may seem inconsequential until they hit your face in the middle of the night when you are sound asleep. Avoid sleeping under them.
Down: It may seem fun to hang your hammock over a creek or rocky terrain. The fun would end very quickly if you fell out of your hammock, however unlikely it may seem. You should also look for any plants beneath the hammock that may be protected. Climbing in and out of the hammock may damage them.
How to Support the Hammock
When preparing for hammock camping, you must choose between ropes and straps for circling the tree and supporting your weight. Straps that hug the tree, sometimes called “tree huggers”, have several advantages over ropes.
Sturdy tree straps come ready to secure around the tree, unlike ropes, which require knot tying expertise. Some of the knots required can be quite complex. Also, straps allow more flexibility. You can adjust and accommodate the distance between trees during setup. What’s more, once the hammock is in place, the tension for optimum comfort can easily be fine tuned with straps.
Protecting the Environment
Beneath tree bark is the layer that is responsible for transporting water and nutrients to the rest of the tree. If the bark is damaged, there is a risk of damage to that crucial layer.
When you pull at a loop in both a rope and a strap, you can feel the difference in the effect of each on a tree trunk. Rope is narrower and can cut into the bark of a tree. Tree straps, on the other hand, have a wider flat surface less likely to do harm.
Most tree straps are one to two inches wide; they distribute the weight and pressure on the tree, so they are less likely to cut into the bark. When in doubt, it is best to err on the side of nature and protect the trees. The age old adage for camping is to leave everything at your campsite as it was when you arrived. Tree straps can help you do that.
Reliability and Security
Tree straps are designed for minimal stretching. With tree straps, there is a lesser chance that you could wake up in the morning actually resting on the damp ground with the bugs.
A well secured hammock is key to a pleasant and successful hammock camping experience. Attention to a few key points, like the size and condition of the trees used for support, awareness of the surrounding environment, and the use of proper accessories, like tree straps, can make all the difference.