How To Sleep In A Hammock

Hammocks are rising in popularity amongst campers and backpackers. The gentle rocking motion lulls people to sleep, and many find them more comfortable. But how do you sleep in a hammock? Is it possible to rest on your side or slumber on your stomach?

How to sleep in a hammock in 9 steps:

  1. Select a hammock that fits your body type
  2. Select 2 trees 12-15 feet apart
  3. Ensure your hammock isn’t hung too loose or tight
  4. String A Rain Fly Above
  5. Place a tarp or ground sheet below
  6. Obtain a mosquito net
  7. Use an underquilt
  8. Decide: overquilt vs. sleeping bag
  9. Sleep alone

1. Select A Quality Hammock That Fits Your Body Type

People new to hammock camping are often shocked over how much more equipment is involved than just pitching a tent. But on certain terrain, hammock camping is the only option that makes sense.

Also, after folks leave their 20s behind, they find hammocks are the only way to sleep comfortably outdoors. Even camp cots don’t cut it for some.

But not all hammocks are equal in quality, nor do they serve all body shapes. So if you are particularly tall, short, or heavy, pay special attention to reviews and specs to find one that works for people built similar to yourself.

Some models to consider are:

2. Select 2 Trees 12-15 Feet Apart To Hang A Hammock

Most camping hammocks use available trees or posts rather than lugging a stand to the site. General guidelines are to find a space three to four feet longer than the length of your hammock. Thus, scout around for two trees that are 12-15 feet apart.

However, you can extend the distance to as much as 17 feet if needed. Such a breadth works better for 11-foot tents, as you might not get your optimal sag with shorter hammocks.

3. Ensure Your Hammock Isn’t Hung Too Loose Or Tight

Hammocks are at their most comfortable when hung at a 30–45-degree angle. You don’t want it perfectly straight, like a nylon plank. Nor do you want to sleep like a ‘U,’ with your knees pressing against your nose.

Also, remember to make sure it is high enough that your bum doesn’t sweep the ground when inside it. However, most campers find it easier to have their hammock fairly low to make it easy to get in and out. The optimal hammock hike is usually achieved by putting the hooks 4-5 feet off the ground.

4. String A Rain Fly Above Your Hammock

String a rain fly or tarp above your hammock. It will protect you from the rain and also make it slightly cozier. Larger tarps can also buffer against the wind, significantly impacting warmth.

Ideally, the tarp should be hung high enough that you can sit up without whacking your head but close enough to keep things snug. The tarp must extend at least 8-12 inches past the ends of the hammock, or you’ll risk getting a wet bed. If they extend further, it can also double as a shelter when cooking.

Tarps specifically made for hammocks come in various shapes. Each tarp style has its pros and cons to consider.

Asymmetrical Tarps For Sleeping In A Hammock

Asymmetrical tarps are the favorite for backpackers as they are lightweight. These tarps are also very user-friendly, so they are attractive to people who do not fancy themselves as camping engineers and want a straightforward choice. When using this style, the hammock is positioned diagonally underneath.

Diamond And Square Tarps For Sleeping In A Hammock

Backpackers and summer campers also enjoy the diamond or square-cut tarps. Like the asymmetrical, they are user-friendly and often lightweight. The downside is their lack of coverage, but this isn’t a big deal for fair-weather campers.

Hexagon Or Catenary-Cut Tarps For Sleeping In A Hammock

Hexagon tarps, or the catenary-cut, are a versatile choice. These can keep the rain off while also allowing for wind-blocking positions.

But with the versatility and added coverage comes extra weight and a more challenging setup. However, the added effort might make the trip far more enjoyable if you are camping in spring or fall.

Four-Season Tarps For Seeping In A Hammock

A hammock in winter is possible, but it is more challenging than a tent. Thus, you need a four-season tarp to have hammock success during the cold months. These are heavy and thick and have more material, so they can be positioned to create a “tent” over your hammock, providing excellent shelter.

5. Place A Tarp Or Ground Sheet Below Your Hammock

A ground sheet, footprint, or tarp below your hammock can create a tidy area for your stuff. It also acts as thin insulation between your hammock and the ground. One of the biggest reasons hammocks are colder than tents is the air circulation between your back and the ground.

6. Obtain A Mosquito Net For Your Hammock

Mosquito nets are the easiest way to ensure you get a good night’s rest when sleeping in a hammock. Without one, you’re likely to be pestered by the high-pitched whine in your ears while having insects “kiss” your face, leaving you itching in the morning.

Some hammocks are sold as a system that includes the net. Examples include:

You can also just buy a mosquito net shaped for hammocks on its own.

7. Use An Underquilt In Your Hammock

Camping hammocks are made of thin materials such as nylon. It makes the hammock light and easy to lug. However, it also means there is no insulation between your body and the crisp, cool night air. With your body compressing a sleeping bag, the dreaded frozen bum is a real problem.

Thus, the underquilt. An underquilt is like insulation, but instead of sticking it in your attic, you put it around the outside of the hammock. This wards off a frozen bum, helping you stay cozy throughout the night.

Some quality underquilts to consider:

8. Decide Between An Overquilt And A Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags can be clunky and awkward to get in and out of in a hammock. Consequently, many people choose an overquilt. Overquilts are similar to a sleeping bag but don’t cover your head, and the flaps from the waist do not always zip. In addition, Overquilts often have tabs to hold the lower end, so you won’t lose it at the bottom of the hammock.

Some top overquilts for hammocks include:

However, some people like to have a sleeping bag that can zip them into the hammock. This turns the entire contraption into a cocoon. These are often sold as a “mummy” style. It is very warm, and snug but can make getting in and out on your own a challenge. On the upside, you don’t need an underquilt.

Some great mummy sleeping bags for hammocks include:

9. Comfy Pillow Help With Sleeping In A Hammock

Hammocks provide some head support, so a comfy pillow isn’t a must. But when you are tucked in and reading a book, it can make the experience easier. Also, a thin pillow provides a little extra insulation for your head. Inflatable camping pillows often provide enough thickness for your hammock needs.

Some people struggle with their necks when in a hammock. These folks don’t really want a pillow but neck support. Just hooking yourself up with a U-shaped travel pillow can assist with these. While some are stuffed, many blow up, making them a light option for backpackers.

10. Consider A Sleeping Pad For Your Hammock

There is considerable debate if you need a sleeping pad if you are using an underquilt. However, the two do not do precisely the same thing. Both can provide insulation and structure to the hammock. However, the underquilt gives greater side insulation, and the sleeping pad better support.

However, using any old sleeping pad in a hammock is awkward. They can slip and slide around, making the whole experience cumbersome. There are some designed specifically for hammocks. Otherwise, look for narrow models or those with flexible side “wings.”

Some sleeping pads to consider:

11. Add Support With A Rolled Towel

If you are over 20 or have some chronic woes, you might find a rolled towel that can offer support in a hammock. Most popular places to tuck one in are under the knees, the small of the back, or under the neck. It really depends on your body’s needs and the shape of your hammock.

12. Sleep Alone In A Hammock For A Good Night’s Rest

The number one tip for getting a good night’s sleep in a hammock is to do it alone. Double hammocks are lovely, and you should totally get one, but for yourself.

Sleeping cocooned with your lover is very nice if you are twenty-one. But the rest of us need space and don’t need someone else causing turbulence. So, feel free to get cozy in the early evenings, but once it is time for shut-eye, everyone should go to their own bed. Really, it’s a game changer.

How Do I Get Into A Camping Hammock?

Hammocks are different from getting in and out of bed. Many folks report their first attempts look a bit like a fish floundering on dry land. But hammock entry doesn’t have to be such an ungraceful experience.

1. Place Your Bum In The Middle Of The Hammock

Sit in your hammock as if it were a chair. Aim for the center both in width and length.

2. Swing Your Legs Into The Hammock

Most people find it easiest to swing their legs up next rather than lie back. It’s okay if they are not in the center but resting against the front rail. It is how most people get in.

3. Lay back Into The Hammock

Once you feel secure, lay back. You will probably be at an angle. Some people find the angled positioning the most comfortable way to sleep in a hammock. For everyone else, you simply shift your upper body until it is centered and move the legs into position.

Can You Side Sleep In A Hammock?

You can side sleep in a hammock. Some people just have a very flat hammock which makes sleeping on the side easier.

For more traditionally curved hammocks, try hanging them with a 30-degree sag. The camper should position themselves diagonally to help hold themselves on their side. Lastly, side sleepers sometimes find it most comfortable using a double hammock alone.

Some hammocks loved by side sleepers are:

Can You Sleep On Your Stomach In A Hammock?

Never say never when contemplating if people have tried a specific stunt. Thus, sleeping in a hammock has been done, although usually by folks who were not sober enough to remember how they pulled it off. Nonetheless, the physiotherapy and chiropractor bills are generally a big enough reminder not to try such a stunt again.

For anyone determined to make stomach sleeping work in a hammock, look for a stiff, flat model instead of the cocoon style.

Do People Use Hammocks As Beds At Home?

Some people have found using a hammock at home rather than a bed highly beneficial. However, research on if hammocks are superior is scant. The studies that have been done have primarily focused on babies. But one study has suggested that hammocks are best for people needing a short nap.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that hammocks can be worth a try if:

  • It is difficult to fall asleep right away
  • Wake up numerous times in a night
  • Struggle to sleep through the night
  • Struggle with insomnia
  • Have back issues
  • Struggle with shoulder pain

For people using a hammock at home, some favor a camping brand. However, others prefer a slightly different aesthetic. Popular options include:

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

James has been escaping to the outdoors for as long as he can remember. This first started in family camping trips but soon turned into adventure camps and hiking through the Scottish Hebrides. Now he has turned towards trying to make camping more comfortable and accessible.