Enter the Cocoon: Hammock Camping

If you’ve ever experienced a hammock power nap in the crag, you will know that once you slip into that divine cocoon, life changes for the better and there is no going back. These trusty hanging people pockets have been around for ages, with the word “hammock” originating from an Arawakan term for “fish net”. Traditional hammocks originated in Central America, and can be traced back nearly one thousand years to the Mayan civilization.  

Dane, Lexi and James having a kloof nap

Originally, hammocks were not designed for leisure, but instead served as protection. The suspended beds safely kept hammockers (hammockians?) away from dangerous creatures and the pesky insect clouds found in warm climates. In the mid-16th century, hammocks were adopted as the primary on-deck sleeping choice by Spanish and English navies. These portable beds were used aboard ships for three centuries spanning World War I, World War II, the Civil War, and the Vietnam War.

Today, they serve as a cosy option for an afternoon nap or the perfect spot to tuck into a crag lunch while you gaze up at the climbers on their projects. For those who enjoy fastpacking or prefer to keep their baggage lightweight, they make for great overnight sleeping. Camping hammocks are available in single and double sizes with accessories such as rain tarps and mosquito nets for creating your perfect hanging haven.

Some basic hammock camping beta:

  • – Make sure your destination has trees or rocky areas to set up your hammock. If you’re dealing with the latter, a few pieces of trad gear will ensure a secure setup.
  • – Be a good tree steward by picking a big, healthy, robust tree, ideally with a diameter of 20cm plus. Check that no birds or other animals are using this tree as their home. Use wider slings (2cm plus) so you don’t damage the tree on your attachment point. If possible, bring along some towels or slacklining tree protectors to save the bark!
  • Nylon daisy chains with a carabiner make for quick and easy length adjustments and lots of extra loops to clip up extra things (if you play your cards right, you can reach everything you need for the entirety of your trip without leaving your special banana).
  • – A hammock that is too flat or too bent won’t be comfortable. The ideal setup is to have the straps angle up at about 30° towards the tree.
  • – The low point of your hammock should be no lower than 45cm off the ground to protect it from tears due to contact on abrasive surfaces e.g. sand, rocks, surprise cacti etc.
  • – When it comes to hammocks, you’re most likely to enjoy a blissful night’s sleep during summer or warm weather. To escape the 2am chill, try lining the bottom of your hammock with a yoga mat or your camping mattress (and however many blankets you can fit) to insulate yourself against the cold air.
  • – Your sleeping bag is essential if you wish to stay warm while you snooze. Even in summer, temperatures do drop at night and the cold will find you.
  • – If you are hammock-camping in cooler months, a beanie and gloves are a must ­– you can even try a Buff over your face to keep you snug as a bug. It’s also a good idea to check that your sleeping bag is equipped for the predicted temperatures of your destination.
  • – A mosquito net is a fantastic way to keep those creepy crawlies and blood thirsty mozzies well away.
  • – If it looks like rain is brewing or the area is known for high dew, a hammock tarp will keep you dry and also sheltered from the elements.
  • – The ridgeline that is needed above your hammock for the rain tarp or mosquito net is also very useful for hanging your headlamp and other smaller items for quick and easy access.
  • – Adding an extra carabiner to the tie-in attachments of your hammock will allow you to clip your backpack and other items off the ground and avoid water run (in rainy conditions) or creepy crawly surprises in the morning.  
  • – As with all wilderness camping and outdoor adventures, try to uphold all leave no trace principles.

Tips for sleeping comfortably in a hammock:

  • – Lie slightly off kilter. If your body is angled 10° to 15° away from the centerline, the fabric under you will flatten out a bit and you won’t feel like the hammock is swallowing you.
  • – Find the right pillow! Many people find that the lip of the hammock serves as a perfectly sized headrest. If that doesn’t work for you, then experiment with a small pillow or stuff sack filled with the softest squishiness you can find – a puffy down works perfectly. Large pillows don’t tend to work well for most people.

So… what are you waiting for? Try out the hammock life on your next crag day or hiking adventure and never look back!

Cally and Dash enjoying their cocoon

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