A couple camping in a hammock

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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Girl sleeping in a hammock
No hammock pad, just a sleeping bag

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…

Pitching a camping hammock
Fortunately the peeing attempt was not caught on camera, this is just preparing our beds for the night…

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.

Fancy some hammock camping yourself? Check out some options on Alpine Trek or REI.

Hammock with a mosquito net
Very grateful for the mosquito net!

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.

Woodland canopy
Unfortunately this isn’t our garden, but it is just a short cycle down the road

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.

Man hiking in the mountains
“Just gotta find me some trees…”

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!

Couple in a hammock bed
The double hammock, or hammock bunk… what do you call it?

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!

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14 Things I Learned Sleeping in a Hammock, During Lockdown, in the Garden

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14 Responses

  • I didn’t even know this was a thing! My partner is obsessed with her normal hammock so I think you have just given me the best birthday present idea! Love that you actually tried peeing off it 😂 next time we need footage!
    Cheers for a great read!

  • Your point 6 isn’t correct. You should hang a gathered end hammock with a decent sag.
    1) it provides a lower center of gravity so becomes very hard to tip (that’s why you were almost tipping out with your tight set up)
    2) it puts a big force on your anchor trees. Pitching so your suspension is around 30° reduces stress on the anchors and the hammock.
    3) it gives you a loose pocket of fabric to lay diagonally in resulting in you being able to lay flat which is way more comfortable. Gathered end hammocks are less comfortable the more you lie directly in line with the suspension.

    You should read the ultimate hang by Derek Hanson for hammock camping tips. It is the single best source of hammock camping knowledge!

    • Hey Geoff, thanks for the tips! I’ll admit, we’re not hammock sleeping pros but will put it to test hopefully in the next few weeks. Will also take a look at the book recommendation. Do you do a lot of hammock camping?

      • I only started around a year ago so have had a dozen trips out now in my growing collection of hammocks and tarps.
        I like to get out and introduce my kids to hammock camping too – they love it!
        The book above was a great help to me getting started.
        Enjoy your future trips!

  • I too discovered hammock camping this year! I’ve wanted one for my pond for a while and bought one on a whim while camping. I set it up at the campsite to try it out and have never looked back. Where has this been my whole life?

    I would crawl out of my tent every morning hunched over and cursing the air mattress. Now I can sleep in the hammock until noon and get up pain free. Not to mention you can pack in up in minutes.

    I agree with Geoff that you don’t want your hammock tight for better sleep. Also, I have a double hammock and I’m a small person. It’s ok to hang out with someone in it but you wouldn’t want to sleep together in one imo.
    Happy hammocking!

    • We also bought ours on a whim whilst travelling but are really glad we did.

      Glad you found a good sleeping solution 🙂 It can really suck getting poor sleep, especially on longer trips. Are you using a particular brand of hammock?

      After Geoff’s comment we tried it out and also agree. Some slack is definitely more comfortable and I can imagine a double for one is also very nice. Plus it’s likely a whole lot lighter than any tent options.

      Do you sleep in colder conditions with it too?

  • You guys are doing it wrong… But I’m glad you are having fun.

    This is to help you sort stuff out… Not making fun of ya… Or a superiority thing…

    First… You are killing your trees with the rope… Crushing the cambium layer of bark… You need straps to distribute the weight better over a wider area to prevent this. It’s a common newbie error because some shady companies sell hammocks with rope… But any park that caught you doing that will probably kick you out or fine you.

    Second as someone else said loosen the hammocks up they should be hung at a 30 degree angle… This is most easily accomplished by adding a structural ridgeline between the gathered ends locked in at the continuous loops set at 83% the length of the fabric material. You need good cordage with no stretch… Paracord doesn’t cut it you want like zing it or Emmakites sells this stuff
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085XX1VKC
    Even with that ridgeline when you get in you want it to not have a lot of sag in the line but also not guitar string tight… You check it by trying to bend it.

    Third… You should be laying diagonally across the hammock… That is how you get a flat lay… Currently you can’t do that because they are hung too tight to lay anything other than center. You are also getting swallowed up and becoming “pod people” because that is what a hammock does when hung tight.

    Fourth you don’t get in the sleeping bag…. You only keep it zipped for about a foot stick your feet in and leave the rest over you just like a blanket… But since you don’t have an underquilt yet I actually understand that this isn’t an option for you YET… But when you get the underquilts… Remember only zip it enough that your feet fit in. Wish has some low end underquilts and Amazon has the onetigris…they are not great by any stretch of the imagination but a nice down underquilt is usually on a 4 month or so back order right now… So… Yeah… You make due with what you can find. The one I got on wish was only good for like $30 a bit small and hard to use on a diagonal which as I said is important…. But um… $30… And the $150+ ones that you would really want are on backorder.

    Gear storage… Most peeps use a “gear sling” which is like a mini hammock… you attach it off the continuous loops and it hangs below your hammock… But there are 2 of ya already bunked… You should probably just hang a 3rd hammock and chuck stuff in it. We also sometimes hang out packs from the hammock suspension… Like the carabiner between the hammock and treestrap would also have a backpack strap slipped in also.

    I’m not in the UK… But I know a lot about hammocks and the big dealer in the UK is DD

    https://www.ddhammocks.com/

    Not 100% positive but I think Trailheadzhammocks, autumnultralight, and dutchwaregear etc will also ship to the UK… But like you pay VAT taxes or something… I’ll let you worry about how the taxes work… But those are some vendors for ya.

    There are tons of forums to discuss hammocks on… I help run one on Facebook you can find from hammockshelter.com you can learn a ton there from the “units” “the ultimate hang” is another site (and also a book) you can get from Amazon with a ton of info.

    I hope with this info you can get more comfortable… And avoid killing your trees… (Which I really think you are 100% unaware that you are doing it)

    • Hey Chris, appreciate all the advice!

      Yes, I’d recently been told about the rope so will make sure to pick up some straps before our next time out with the hammock. Will also try the different pitching and sleeping bags tips.

      I know DD are pretty popular over here so I’ll check out some of their products too.

      I’ll catch you on your Facebook group 🙂

  • Nyoka, hammocks are so much more comfortable. I also used to wake up stiff and with back pain but find a night in the hammock to be much better.

    We are just coming into winter season now with temps down around 4 Celsius which will likely continue to drop down to around -6 Celsius (about 20 F I think). So have upgraded to a higher spec underquilt so I can keep hammocking through the winter.

    Currently I am using a hummingbirds hammock single+. I also have a dutchwear chameleon with winter top cover on the way to try on the colder nights.

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