GetOutside Champion: Matthew Kettlewell
Matthew Kettlewell is an expedition leader and adventurer from the Yorkshire Dales.
Blonde Two, Fi Darby, answers your questions on the ins and outs of hammock camping.
In January this year I turned 50 and set myself the rather relaxing challenge of sleeping outdoors (or very nearly outdoors) for 50 nights during 2018 (#50nights).
I was first introduced to hammocking by my son who writes a hammocking blog and has a grand total of 22 hammocks; enough to take the whole family for an Easter hang. My hammocking career was further aided by a 50th birthday gift of the most luxurious of hammock kits that included a tarp, a mosquito net and a little pocket for storing things in.
I wouldn’t count myself as an expert at hammock camping but, so far, my knots haven’t failed and I haven’t fallen out. In fact, I have had some very good sleeps.
Here are my answers to some of the most important hammocking questions.
Hammocking is increasing in popularity and there are plenty of camping hammocks out there to choose from.
Choosing a hammock is a bit like choosing a tent, if you want to go lightweight, choose a basic one, if you want a little bit of luxury, choose one with a few mod cons. Most hammock manufacturers give a weight recommendation and are happy to discuss your requirements with you.
When pricing your hammock, bear in mind that you may also want a tarp to protect you from the weather.
One massive advantage of a hammock is that it holds you off the ground and away from any puddles that may develop overnight.
If you want to keep dry from above, however, you will need to invest in a tarp and learn how to rig it.
I would recommend checking the weather forecast for this one; the direction of the wind can make a big difference to whether or not you end up in a hammock puddle (I have seen it happen) and, if it is going to be a dry night, you might want to consider sleeping without a tarp so that you can enjoy the stars.
I have slept in my bivvy bag, in my hammock, on a night that predicted showers, I kept dry but wriggling into a zipless bivvy bag in a swinging hammock took some practice and a bit of faith in my ability to tie knots!
When you are hanging in the trees, you are not in touch with the ground but the chill from underneath you, is still not to be underestimated. It doesn’t take much of a breeze for you to notice a certain cooling of the nether regions.
There are a few ways to combat this hammock ‘under-chill’,
All good campers know that the ground is a cold place to be.
A hammock moves to fit your body and gently supports you in a way that the ground is never going to. That said, getting the hang of your hammock and the way that you lie correct is really important.
The position you are trying to avoid is that of a banana, if you sleep banana-fashion, you will end up with cold feet, cramps and a crick in your neck. In order to avoid nighttime banana dramas, make sure you pitch your hammock without too much slack and sleep across it diagonally.
Lots of modern camping hammocks are asymmetrical in design to make diagonal sleeping easier.
"I can honestly say that some of my best camping sleeps have been in my hammock."
Hanging a hammock takes as long as it takes you to be satisfied with your efforts.
Some hammocks don’t require any knotting but should you be required to tie yours, make sure that you take instructions with you the first time and get a bit of practice at home.
No matter how many times you hang your hammock, that moment when you first commit your weight to it is a slightly tense one (always hang your hammock at easy sitting height).
I use the method recommended here by Hennessey Hammocks because it is an easy one to remember and undo, but there are lots of options out there.
The recommendations for hammock camping are the same as for any other type of camping.
Even if you are going to be on a campsite, make sure that you ask permission first; people are, quite rightly, particular about their trees.
Finding hammocking sites on access land can be tricky, as many wooded areas are privately owned and out of permissive camping areas but many land owners don’t mind the odd hammocker from time to time if they ask politely.
Any type of wild camping has an environmental impact.
Hammock camping won’t damage the flora and fauna on the floor as much as a tent but it can damage tree bark.
Most good hammock suppliers sell webbing straps, which offer some protection to the tree.
The ‘leave no trace’ principles apply whenever you camp so try take everything home with you and, if you have to go to the loo, do so away from paths, bury your leavings and take all toilet paper, hygiene products etc. away with you.
"Don’t ever be tempted to remove bits of the tree to make space for your hammock; there is always another tree just along the line."
I hope this guide encourages you to try hammock camping. It really is a most relaxing and enjoyable way to Get Outside. I recently went on a trip to New Zealand and was really glad that I had taken my hammock with me.
If you want to learn more about Fi's hammocking travels, check out the links below...
Fi Darby is a freelance copywriter and blogger and the co-author of the successful outdoor blog Two Blondes Walking. Fi now runs her own blogging and copywriting business Fi Darby Freelance and works with some great clients from all over the world (including Australia and Argentina).