Why You Should Try Hammock Camping

New comforts, greater immersion, lighter weight during your outdoor adventures
Ensign Lake in the Boundary Waters is ready to host your hammock

Photo by Josh Hild

The trees of Minnesota parks and beaches are primed for folks lounging in brightly colored slings of parachute fabric this summer. Afternoon dozing is one thing, but hammocks are also practical for overnight snoozing.

“I would say our driving hammock buyers are college students,” says Adam “Chip” Vachon, a retail associate at Midwest Mountaineering. “The amount of hammocks on campus or down by the Mississippi on a nice day is absolutely bonkers.”

It’s not just college kids, though. Vachon finds himself chatting with customers in their 50s and 60s looking for a way to get their aching backs off of the cold, hard ground.

Vachon’s interest in hammock camping stretches back before the recent fad. In the summer of 2010, the outdoors enthusiast was taking his first southbound run at the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail after finishing his undergraduate studies. About 400 miles in, he realized his heavy tent was going to be a backbreaker. He ordered a Hennessy hammock, one of the first all-inclusive hammock camping systems, and kept on trucking.

Last summer, Vachon returned to the Appalachian Trail with the additional goal of completing it in just 70 days. It necessitated a grueling average of 35 miles per day and an ultralight pack weight. His sole concession to human needs? Looking forward to a night’s sleep in his hammock.

The appeal of hammock camping balances the benefits of shaving ounces and enhancing comfort. On the hypothetical perfect summer evening, you could camp in your hammock with no more gear than you might need for dozing off in your backyard. When you lie slightly diagonally in the hammock—hung at a 30-degree angle from tree-safe anchors—it removes pressure points and sets you up for an ergonomically advantageous slumber. Another tip: hanging the foot of the hammock 8-10 inches higher prevents your body from sliding to the middle.

In the wild, Vachon recommends strapping a tarp over the top of your hammock to protect you from the rain. Since we live in mosquito country, many camping hammock makers, like the wildly popular ENO or Vachon’s preferred brand Kammok, sell bug netting systems tailor-made for their hammocks. Vachon also says that one of the most common rookie mistakes hammock campers make is forgetting to pack insulation, like an under-quilt hanging below your hammock’s fabric to keep heat in.

“Wind will just come right by if you don’t have anything there, sweep any heat that’s exuding out your back away from you, and you’ll end up with CBS,” Vachon jokes. “It’s a hammock camper acronym that stands for Cold Butt Syndrome.”

Prepare properly, and you’ll be treated to one of the most comfortable nights of sleep you can find in the outdoors, and feel more connected to your surroundings.

“A lot of times, you’ll find yourself in a hammock with a little more opportunity for that closer-to-nature feel, “ Vachon says, “You can see the stars a little bit easier, and you can see those grand views a little bit better.”