Hammock camping is a popular and efficient way to sleep outside. Your gear is lighter, setup is quicker, and in some situations, hammock camping has fewer effects on the environment than tent camping. But, just because this style of camping is easy doesn’t mean mistakes are impossible to make.
I know because I learn through failure, and I made some significant mistakes the first couple of times I went hammock camping. Learn more below:
Mistake #1: Thinking a sleeping bag replaces an underquilt
- Sleeping bag: a down-filled bag that surrounds you as you sleep.
- Underquilt: a down-filled bag that surrounds your hammock as you sleep in it.
The weather was slightly colder than normal – about 40 degrees at night in early May – but nothing I thought i couldn’t handle. I hung my hammock, put on sweats and a hoodie, and got inside it with my sleeping bag.
It was one of the most miserably cold nights of my life.
Why did my sleeping bag let me down? Because I didn’t understand what makes a sleeping bag work, I didn’t have an underquilt, which is the right tool for the job.
Sleeping bags work by trapping heat in tiny air pockets created by the down filling, and they don’t work quite the same when there is a hammock squeezing them from all sides. Underquilts solve this problem by surrounding both the sleeper and the hammock, trapping heat and keeping campers toasty warm, as they should be.
So, instead of being toasty warm all night like normal, I have a painful memory of what an exposed back feels like after 8 hours in a 40-degree refrigerator.
Get an underquilt; it’ll save your camping trip!
Mistake #2: Not learning how to use a rain fly first
- Rain fly: The roof over your head when hammock camping; set up correctly or wake up wet.
This one really was me being an idiot, but other people can find themselves making the same mistakes even if they aren’t being idiots. Here’s the basic point: A rain fly isn’t that hard to use, but it is if it’s already raining and you haven’t tried it before.
Like I said, I learn through failure. This time, I was trying to set up as fast as I could before a big storm came in. Mistakes were made, and I wound up inviting a sizable amount of rainwater right into my hammock. It wasn’t fun at all!
Camping without experience isn’t hard, it just requires prep
Those two mistakes taught me an important lesson: if you don’t know what you’re doing, figure it out before your trip starts. Nobody’s going to judge you for not knowing how to do certain camping tasks; I’d never been camping before college, and I’ve figured most things out on the fly because camping really isn’t a complicated thing. That said, any time you’re using something new or doing something differently, test it out at home first.