hammock camping mistakes can lead to chaos in camp

26 Hammock Camping Mistakes You’ll Want To Avoid

After hammock camping for years, I’ve made quite a few hammock camping mistakes. I’ve also experienced other hammock campers making some solid mistakes, firsthand.

These are the most common mistakes I’ve made myself through the years of hammock camping, and the blunders I often see others make when trying out hammock camping.

For tips on where to start and how to do it right, definitely check out Hammock Camping 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Hammock Camping (2024) and you will be a hammock camper in no time!

Here are 26 hammock camping mistakes you’ll want to avoid when heading out camping.

Bring the right hammock camping gear
Make sure to bring the right gear!

Hammock Camping Mistakes For Gear And Preparation

Preparation mistakes for your next hammock camping trip

  1. Going straight for the woods: Not testing your setup and gear before the actual camping trip, is one of the classic big hammock camping mistakes. Hammock camping has a bigger learning curve than tent camping, so you should familiarize yourself with your gear and how to set it up. That way you will find faults and problems with your gear before the stakes are higher. You can also venture out with confidence once you get the hang of your gear.

  2. Not bringing a tarp: In my opinion, not bringing a tarp for hammock camping is a big mistake. I have seen more than one beginner hammock camper get drenched in their humble beginnings. If the weather turns, you need something to shelter you and your beloved hammock.

  3. Not bringing a bug net: Nothing bugs me more than a mosquito singing his annoying swan song in my ear right before I clap him out of this world. Bringing a bug net really is essential if you want a good night’s sleep in your hammock.

  4. Choosing the wrong camping hammock: Not getting a hammock that fits your body size and weight. Picking a hammock made from materials that aren’t durable or comfortable. Generally, fresh hammock campers tend to impulse buy a hammock without considering brand, fabric, and size, is one of the big hammock camping mistakes to make, as it leaves you in uncomfortable for the duration of your trip.

  5. Ignoring environmental impact: Fresh campers sometimes forget about or don’t know about, not leaving a trace when going outside in nature. Figure out how you will be bringing back your own trash, and read up on practicing “Leave No Trace principles”.
Hammock camping mistakes can leave you freezing in your hammock

Gear mistakes when hammock camping

  1. Forgetting about insulation: One of the major hammock camping mistakes fresh hammock campers make is forgetting about insulation. Your hammock is a thin piece of fabric. In addition, your body presses all the insulating air layers flat under you. Cold air cools you down from under your hammock and you start losing body heat. Making you miserable all night long. This is especially a problem during colder hammock camping. The remedy? An underquilt, which is a piece of fabric that hangs underneath your hammock, but can get quite pricey. A sleeping pad, which ranges from “bring your own yoga mat” to properly specialized hammock pads with different ratings. Some bring wool blankets or reindeer pelts.

  2. Not using tree straps: Beginners sometimes bring rope or paracord to hang their hammock. That is a mistake that damages trees as it digs into the bark of the tree. In addition, it can easily snap and make you end up on ground during the night. Being more elastic, sometimes rope just stretches during the night as well, which can destroy your sag or leave you on the ground altogether. Cheaper camping hammocks, or camping hammock sets, tend to use rope – so watch out for that. Instead get some hammock camping tree straps, which are easier to set up and gentler on trees.

  3. Not taking boots off before getting into the hammock: This just makes me sigh. Just … don’t. Leave your boots outside the hammock. To keep animals and insects out of your boots during the night, here are a few tips. You can stuff your boots with your socks by dragging your socks over the entrance and kind of creating a wall. You can always hang your boots up on a nearby branch, or your ridgeline. My last tip is to put your boots upside down on a couple of pegs, or just finding a couple of sticks for the same purpose.

  4. Not protecting your gear: Your gear needs to be protected. In a tent you would have space to put it, but when hammock camping things are a bit different. Your gear needs to be sheltered from wet weather and moisture. If your backpack has a rain fly, drag that over and hang your backpack to a tree. You can always improvise with plastic bags. Remember, you are outside. Curious animals can run off with unsecured gear, so take precautions.

  5. Not having a place to put your important items: When people are used to tent camping, they are used to placing their stuff inside the tent. With a hammock, you don’t have the same options, which people tend to forget. If you don’t get a camping hammock with pockets for storing your most important items, like a headlamp, knife, and whatever, consider hanging up a side bag, or hang it on your ridgeline if you have one.

Note: If you have to get up at night and don’t have a headlamp nearby, you are setting yourself up for an unpleasant experience, my friend.

hammock camping mistakes can lead to chaos in camp

Hammock camping mistakes when setting up your hammock

  1. Hanging your hammock wrong: Common hammock camping mistakes are having no sag, too tight, or too loose hang in your hammock. Your hammock should hang at about a 30-degree angle. You can use the finger test as a tool to get it right. To do the finger test, point your thumb and index finger like a finger gun (pew, pew). Hold your index finger parallel to the ground. When holding your finger gun under your suspension straps, both your thumb and index should be touching the strap at their tip. There you have your hammock at about 30 degrees. Practical.

  2. Setting your tarp up wrong: If it is cold and you set your tarp too high, you lose insulation around your hammock. If its colder and you need to camp out a bit warmer (at the expense of getting a solid view) set your tarp closer to the hammock.

  3. Underquilt too close to hammock: If you make the mistake of setting up your underquilt too close to your hammock, you can lose insulation. It is the air between the underquilt and the hammock that warms up. If there is not enough air to warm up, it will get less insulation.

  4. Not using drip lines: An easy thing to forget, but it can make your experience miserable all the same. If your hammock doesn’t have a moisture barrier, water can rain or form on your hammock straps, and follow your straps down to your hammock where it will make both you and your hammock wet. This can be easily fixed by tying a couple of drip lines around your straps that lead the water away and down to the ground.

  5. Ridgeline too tight or too loose: Your ridgeline should be tight, but you should be able to bend it slightly with your thumb and hand. Not too tight, not too loose.

  6. Hanging in dangerous trees: All trees are not hammock camping trees. It can be quite dangerous to hang out in the wrong environments, sort of speak. You need to check if the bark is falling off, then the tree is most likely dying. Also keep an eye out for widowmakers – big ol’ branches that can snap off and crush you at any time.

  7. Using paracord: This will leave you on the ground in the morning, as the cordage stretches overnight. Instead, use straps.

  8. Twisting your straps: If you twist your straps when setting up your hammock, you can damage the straps, and the load is not evenly distributed. Your straps will not be able to carry as much weight as they are intended for, and they can also drill into the tree bark. The strap should run right off the tree.

  9. Hanging too high: Beginner hammock campers, especially, find it amusing to hang higher. It’s like a challenge for them. “How high can I hang?” When the novelty wears off, a couple of things become more apparent. It’s not very practical to get into. You can’t use your hammock as a chair, and if you fall, you fall harder.

  10. Hanging too low: While this is more due to miscalculation than a personal challenge of “how low can you go”, sagging onto the ground is quite a common mistake due to hanging your hammock too low in the first place.

  11. Not sealing in underquilt draft collar: As we mentioned earlier, it is the air pocket between your underquilt and your hammock that insulates you with warm air. If there is a breeze blowing straight into your underquilt, you will get less insulation. A common mistake for beginner hammock campers, is to forget to seal their draft collar on their underquilt. Seal it up if you want to camp out warmer.

  12. Overlooking tree distance: Setting up between trees that are too far apart or too close is a common one. Imagine a guys with trekking poles spreading each arm out. That is the distance you are aiming for, approximately.

Hammock Camping Mistakes When Sleeping

  1. Sleeping like a banana: Most fresh hammock campers jump into their new hobby straight on. Literally. They sleep straight on in their new hammock, which is no good. For a good night’s sleep, you should aim for a diagonal angle. That way the pressure of the fabric will be distributed evenly. When you sleep straight, you will get pressure on your shoulders, and tightness all around. Avoid ending up like a banana in a hammock. Lay asymmetrical, as flat as you can. Each person is different, though. A wider hammock is better if you are taller.

  2. Not raising foot end: Beginners make a lot of hammock camping mistakes. Among them is not raising their foot end. By raising your foot end, you will lay flatter and more comfortable.

  3. Hyperextending your legs: Hyperextension in your legs is a common mistake. Instead, you should put something under your knees, like a pillow, if you have one. If not, a sweater, jacket or whatever you can find in your camp works as well.

  4. Ignoring calf tension: If you feel tension on your feet/calves from laying diagonally in your hammock, don’t ignore it. You might wake up with those 2 AM cramps, which is not recommended. I find that lifting one leg up, pressing my foot “into the pressure” and driving my foot down into it, and extending the fabric works well for releasing the pressure and sleeping more comfortably.

Related: Can You Sleep on Your Side in a Camping Hammock?

Conclusion On The Blunders Of Hammock Camping

As a beginner hammock camper, you might be overwhelmed by all the mistakes you need to avoid. I say don’t be. Take it as a challenge.

It’s a journey where you learn along the way and the most important part is to just start. Avoid the worst mistakes, try hanging out at home first and find a safe hang for your hammock, and the rest will work itself out.

There were 311,985,998 visitors in the National parks in 2022. According to experts, two common mistakes many of these might make are disregarding safety and not planning in advance. Make sure that you take that into account before your next trip.

Now get out there and start hanging out.

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