Ten Reasons You Should Try Hammock Camping

Hammock camping is taking Scouting by storm. More troops are incorporating them into regular monthly outings and sightings at large-scale events such as the recent World and National Jamborees.

But what is hammock camping and should your troop really take it seriously? Are hammocks really that great? Most people aren’t convinced until they’ve had the chance to stretch out in a hammock, but until that opportunity presents itself, here are 10 reasons to consider camping in a hammock, according to Derek Hansena lightweight backpacker, Scoutmaster, and “hammock lover” who wrote The Ultimate Kick: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping.

Before you begin, it’s important to note that injuries can occur if a hammock is set up incorrectly. Before spending the night in a hammock, read our safety moment for hammock camping and click here for more information on the importance of choosing the right place to set up a hammock.

10. It’s affordable! Hammocks are among the simplest shelters and have been used for centuries. A basic hammock costs as little as $20, and models with built-in mosquito nets (eg, “jungle hammocks”) can be found for $60. Our scout troop chose to make their own hammocks, complete with zippered mosquito nets and inexpensive tarps, for $30 each. High-end commercial camping hammocks, complete with tarp and mosquito net, are still reasonable at $100.

9. It’s light. A fully decked out camping hammock, complete with zippered bug net and tarp, can weigh as little as 30 ounces. Creative hangers have gone sub-ultralight with hammock setups as light as 13 ounces.

8. It’s packable. Unless you’re camping on a tarp, most backpacking tents are bulky. Separating the poles, rain and tent body helps distribute the mass, but they still take up a lot of space. Most camping hammocks are the size of a small cantaloupe. An 8ft by 10ft tarp can fold flat and tight, freeing up space and reducing weight.

7. It’s refreshing! At a summer camp in West Virginia, I remember being locked in a dome tent desperate for ventilation. Even with all the doors, vents, and windows open, there was not much I could do to cool myself down. Hammocks, in comparison, are specially designed for hot and humid climates. With 360 degree air circulation, hammocks are the perfect summer accommodation with superior ventilation, convection cooling and airflow. Quick-dry nylon camping hammocks can even be sprayed with water for refreshing evaporative cooling.

A sample of the illustration guide in “The Ultimate Hang”.

6. You can still use your usual sleeping bag and mattress. A hammock doesn’t replace the need for proper insulation, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to stay warm. You can use the same bedding from a tent, including a good sleeping bag and an insulating mattress (closed-cell or self-inflating foam). With the right insulation, you can hammock camp all year round.

5. It reinforces and supports youth protection guidelines. The hammocks are designed for single occupancy, providing separate accommodations in a private, bug-free enclosure. The intimacy of young people is favored by a fully enclosed individual shelter.

4. It’s streak-free. Hammocks can be set up in impact-resistant places where tents cannot fit comfortably, such as over rocks and rocky fields. Hammocks are also suspended above the ground, which reduces trampling in a campsite. Additionally, the ground no longer needs to be cleared of rocks, twigs or other offensive discomforts, leaving a site in a more pristine state. And with protective straps, trees are protected from strangulation and scarring.

3. It keeps you away from rocks, roots, bugs, mud and ground slope. Speaking of discomfort, hammocks hang above everything. You no longer need to find a flat spot and you can avoid the nasty routine of scraping the tent floor and drying the tent before packing it up. The hammocks can be set up without ever touching the ground, and the mold-resistant nylon hammock tarps can be packed separately when wet.

2. It makes camping exciting! Scouts love hammock camping, it’s just plain fun! No matter how many times I bring hammocks on camping trips, they seem to retain their novelty and Boy Scout appeal. When I started with a new troop in Arizona, I noticed that many scouts and leaders had a certain apathy towards camping, but after the introduction of hammocks, their interest was piqued. I used a hammock on our 50 mile backpacking trip and then the scouts were begging for theirs. At subsequent troop meetings, we sewed hammocks for each Scout. Now youth and adult leaders are asking about upcoming camping trips and whether or not we can bring hammocks.

1. It’s incredibly comfortable. The main reason Scouts should use camping hammocks is that hammocks are extremely comfortable. No more rocks and roots on your back, and no more slipping on uneven ground. Scientific research confirms that the gentle rocking motion contributes to a deeper, more fulfilling sleep. During long-term resident camping, hammocks provide a comfortable bed you can look forward to night after night.

Be sure to check with the ranger or park officials first to make sure you can use a hammock in the wilderness you are camping in.

Find hammock camping gear at your local Scout store or on ScoutStuff.org.

Sally J. Minick