People have responded to the Coronavirus in a bunch of different ways. Us, we’ve been sleeping in a hammock.
Over the last few months, I’m sure the lot of us have been testing out some pretty interesting ways to get our adventure-fix from home: making fires from scratch, cooking meals from a camp stove, rappelling from the roof, climbing any climbable objects… it’s all been necessary during the Stay Home, Save Lives era.
We’ve tried a bunch of different things but the best has been the simplest: garden campouts. One man, one tolerant girlfriend and two hammocks.
Yes, the lockdown rules are quickly changing and more adventure is back on the menu, but, we still can’t camp (in the UK at least). Whilst things remain this way, we’ll continue sleeping in a hammock in the garden.
It’s actually taught us a bunch of surprising things, from problematic peeing positions and ideal pitching techniques to the dangers of the double hammock, the pros and cons of local birdlife and a reminder of how lucky we are…
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Garden hammock camping… here’s what we learned
1. Simplicity at its finest
The coolest thing about hammock camping has to be simplicity. If you’re used to tent camping, faffing about with multiple parts, camping mats and a complicated assembly, this is a breathe of fresh air. With a hammock, you’ve got one piece of material, some rope and a sleeping bag if it’s cold.
It’s light, it’s simple and it’s pretty damn awesome.
2. You can make an adventure out of anything
When the virus hit we were 1,000 miles into a round-the-world cycle tour. Sure, the hammock camping doesn’t make up for the shelved adventure, but when life gives you lemons…
Actually, stringing up a hammock in your garden and spending the night under the stars can really make you feel worlds away. When night falls and you close your eyes, you can still feel the elements on your skin and the nature around you – with a little imagination it feels like you’re back in the wild.
Plus, if there’s rain forecast, pitch it with a tarp (or a makeshift poncho/tarp in my case) and then it really does feel like you’re on the trail. Perfect for garden mini-adventures, lockdown or not.
3. Don’t try peeing off the hammock!!!
Do I even need to explain this one? It might seem like an easy task but it’s not. Don’t make the same mistake I did…
4. Those birds are loud!
Each night we’ve been sleeping in the hammocks we’ve been woken by birds before 6-7 am. Even tent walls mute them slightly, but with a sleeping hammock all the sounds feel right on top of you. Anyone else thinks this is the nicest way to wake up? An alarm clock I’ll never switch off.
We’ve always had lots of birds in the garden but nowhere near as many as there are now. Us humans have had limited activity for just a few months and in that short space of time nature is absolutely flourishing.
The air is filled with shrill birdsong, unspoiled by passing cars or overhead planes; we’ve had muntjacs walking past the house which has never happened before; there’s been more squirrels, butterflies and birds of prey than ever before.
We’ve even got some rodent friends thanks to our green bins not being taken for 2 months, but that’s a whole different story…
And this has all happened in the space of a few months. When this all blows over and the lockdown finishes, can we keep a good thing going and allow the nature to keep regenerating? I hope so.
Warning: if you’re pitched under two trees very popular with the local bird community, pitch a tarp and expect it to be pretty messy in the morning. Better the tarp than your face though!
5. Why have we been tent camping so long?
We’ve owned these hammocks for years (handmade from a small shop in Indonesia), but for hiking trips, cycle tours, climbing adventures etc. we always take the tent – why?
The hammocks are lighter, are pitched quicker and are a hell of a lot cooler. A mosquito net keeps you free from bugs, they’re better ventilated and why fanny about with tent poles and pegs if you don’t have to?
They can be as light as a bivvy too. The ultimate mobile adventure accommodation!
As soon as this lockdown is finished we’ll be planning some hammock-based hikes and tours to see how it fares for longer stints.
6. The tighter the better
This might not be the case for lounging around, but for a good night’s sleep – pitch the hammock as tight as you can – you’ll get a much deeper sleep. Hang one properly and you can even comfortably sleep on your side.
7. The big sleeping bag question!
This definitely took a few tries to get it right: do you A) get into the sleeping bag and then flop into the hammock, or B) get into the hammock and then shimmy into the sleeping bag?
Trying option A seemed like the best way, but doing this with a tightly pitched hammock wasn’t so easy and nearly resulted in flipping over the other side.
When first attempting option B, I tried to wriggle into the bag in the hammock which was pretty exhuasting and very frustrating.
Sarah unzipped the sleeping bag, laid it out across the hammock, climbed inside and zipped it up easily and graceful. That definitely seems like the best option which we’ll call option C. That’s the method we now both recommend.
Do you have any of your own tekkers for sleeping bags and hammock sleeping? Hit us up in the comments!
8. Sleeping in a hammock is probably the best way to feel connected with your surroundings
When you’re tent camping you’re zipped-up away from the world. Bivvy bag camping, you’re also zipped up. Sleeping in a campervan? Is that even camping?
Pitching a hammock between two trees is as close to nature as you’ll get. You can feel the elements easily, look up into the sky above (unless you’re using a tarp) and you can hear the wildlife from the trees you’re hanging from.
If it’s windy enough, you’ll even have mother nature rocking you to sleep. It’s not so relaxing in a tent, when the tent walls are crashing in around you.
With all the stresses of lockdown, our hammock sleeping has been the perfect way to keep positive mental-wellbeing whilst the outdoors is less accessible.
9. Keep everything close to hand
You get nicely settled into the hammock and then realise you left your water/headtorch/book a few metres away… it’s not the biggest inconvenience but it does suck if you’ve just got yourself nice and warm in a sleeping bag.
And I guess this brings us on to the next point…
10. Is sleeping in a hammock the most practical?
Hammocks definitely have their size, weight and ease of pitching to their advantage but it’s not all good news. There are a few cons to sleeping in a hammock…
Firstly, you need trees. This might not be so easy to come across in different landscapes.
Secondly, you can’t store things very well. For short hiking or backpacking trips and other adventures with little gear you can probably make do, but for cycle touring or heavier-clad backpacking trips you don’t want the gear in the hammock with you. I’m happy to leave my bags against the tree in my garden, but this wouldn’t be the case on the road.
Finally, it isn’t so good in the cold. Even with a good quality sleeping bag, you don’t have the same warmth as a tent, camping mat and sleeping bag combo. My sleeping bag good for up to -17°C and I was damn nippy sleeping through -2°C, even with thermals and proper clothing. It was a pretty crappy night’s sleep.
Yes, you can get a hammock underquilt, but we’re yet to get our hands on one.
11. The double hammock!
Testing out the double hammock has been on our to-do list for a long time (by ‘double hammock’ I mean pitching two hammocks on the same two trees, like a hammock bunk, not a 2-person hammock). Check the photo below for reference.
After a bit of scepticism from Sarah, it actually went surprisingly well. Just make sure you pitch the top one well enough so it doesn’t loosen through the night and the person in the bottom bunk doesn’t end up with arse in their face.
Other considerations: let the person who is more prone to getting up go on the bottom, and perhaps avoid too many beans for dinner – you’re in pretty close quarters!
13. Is there a better place to read a book?
I don’t know about you, but can you beat rocking in a hammock bed with a good outdoor book? I don’t think so.
14. The outdoors is worth protecting
Most of all (and this is the case with all of our outdoor trips, whether they’re in the garden or in the wild) these hammock camps are a reminder that we’ve got to protect our environment.
This whole Coronavirus and lockdown situation has really shown how much we need our natural surroundings. We gotta get back in sync with nature and start showing some more appreciation. Every morning, waking up under two huge trees, with wildlife and the elements surrounding you… it’s hard to deny how lucky we are for these opportunities.
As soon as it’s possible, I’ll be planning an adventure where I can have the same morning experience but in the middle of dense woodland in a national park or along new cycling expedition – I can’t bloody wait!
Until then, I’m pretty content sleeping in a hammock in the garden.
Are you already a hammock fan, or are you tempted to plan your first hammock camping trip? Spill the beans in the comments below!