Hammock Camping In The Ozarks
Hammocks are a fun, comfortable, lightweight great way to sleep outdoors. Not only for camping and backpacking, but also for bicycle touring, kayaking and canoeing, and so much more. Here in the Ozarks it can sometimes be a challenge to find a level place to set your tent. Not to mention not full of sharp and jagged rocks. For many years hammock camping has been a great alterative to tent camping in the Ozarks. Hammocks make it easier to stay in the back country. It can keep you out of the mud in the spring, cooled off in a summer breeze, or suspended over an autumn vista.
Not only is it fun to sleep suspended above the ground between two trees, but it’s also very comfortable. The gear is very lightweight, making a hammock an excellent choice for weight-conscious backpackers. Hammocks have numerous advantages over tents when it comes to camping. It’s much quicker to setup and easier to find two trees than to find a suitable spot for a tent. Since they are suspended in the air, they are much more comfortable to lie in than most sleeping pads on the ground. With accessories like mosquito net, rainfly, hammock and suspension system, a hammock can provide as much protection from the elements as a tent.
Gear You Need for Hammock Camping
While a hammock (and a hanging method) is the only piece of gear you really need for hammock camping, investing in a few important accessories helps guarantee a much more enjoyable trip.
The Straps or Tree Savers
Although some camping hammocks come with straps, you’re sometimes required to buy them separately.
Hammock tree straps are the most effective hammock hang method. Not only are they easy to use, but they protect the trees from damage as well. Many hammocks come with a set of paracord or some other type of rope as their “suspension system”. Using a bare rope on the tree will dig into the bark of the tree. This damages the bark and causes stress on the tree. To avoid this, always use some form of webbing or tree straps when setting up the hammock. The width of the tree straps spreads the weight across a larger surface area. Remember that you’re using a living tree to get that perfect hang. Do it a favor and don’t cause unnecessary damage with cords and rope! If you need to tie your hammock to the webbing, here’s the only knot you’ll need.
Your number one hammock camping accessory. It keeps you warm and dry in rain and provides shade from the hot sun in warm weather. You will want a hammock rainfly that’s large enough to cover your entire hammock.
Rainflys come in many different shapes and materials. Almost any kind of tarp can turn into a sturdy shelter to protect your hammock from the elements. But there are several rainflys out there that are specifically designed for hammocking. These have some hammock specific features to differentiate them from a standard ultralight tarp. These rainflys are made with silnylon, a strong waterproof material. Silnylon is much lighter than the standard blue plastic tarp but just as effective of a shelter. While silnylon is superior, any kind of tarp will work to create an effective shelter from the rain. The plastic blue tarps can make a variety of effective shelters for your hammock. They are also durable and cost only a fraction of a silnylon fly. The downside of these tarps is the bulk and weight, making them less than ideal for ultralight packs. There are new rainfly designs coming out on the market every year. I recently saw a shelter like rainfly that looks more like a tent type shelter with roof, 4 walls, and zippered door.
These extreme shelter systems will convert your hammock into a floating fortress. Essentially, your shelter becomes a suspended tent. You’ll have the comfort of sleeping in your hammock with the complete protection of a tent. But these fully enclosed shelters are restricted to a single hammock. If you are trekking with a group, each person will need their own fortress. In lighter rain, a single rainfly can provide enough coverage to protect 2 or even 3 hammocks.
The Bug Net
Another common complaint from tent campers is the insect problem that comes with any open air camping. Many options exist for you to protect yourself from biting insects.
Many bug nets are designed specifically for a hammock. They’ll give you complete 360 degree protection.
Mosquitos are the scourge of campers almost everywhere. But here in the Ozarks we have many other flying insects that will be trying to hang out with you. Hornets, wasps, horse flies, the list can go on. If you have ever clicked a light, on at night in the woods, here in the Midwest you know it only takes a minute to attract every bug in the neighborhood. Although some camping hammocks have built-in bug nets, it’s essential to bring your own if yours does not. A bug net helps keep mosquitos and other creepy crawlers at bay. The best models offer 360-degree protection. Most large trees you strap up to in the Ozarks has ants crawling up and down the trunk night and day. The bug net will definitely help them stay out! When shopping for a bug net, try to find one that has a horizontal zipper instead of a vertical zipper like the example below from Bear Butt for only $29.97. The Horizontal design is way easier to get in and out of.
If you want to hammock camp in cooler weather, you will definitely benefit from an underquilt. specifically designed to fit comfortably inside a camping hammock, an underquilt adds a whole lot of insulation to your setup, allowing you to stay even warmer at night.
For the seasoned hammock camper, the ultimate form of insulation comes from an under quilt-top quilt combo. Under quilts provide an insulating layer beneath your hammock that you hang on the outer layer. Since the under quilt is on the outside, it can expand and provide a ton of insulating surface area. And it won’t compress when you lay in your hammock. Quilts are ideal for the hammock camper, but new hammockers might not want to break the bank. Fortunately, are a couple tricks to get great insulation without buying a new quilt. Although it’s possible to use your normal camping sleeping pad in your hammock, a special hammock sleeping pad is an even more effective bet. Designed to fit into the narrow confines of your hammock, these sleeping pads not only help increase nighttime comfort, but boost insulation and warmth as well.
When you choose a hammock spot, make sure you pick sturdy trees that can bear your weight. Avoid saplings as they will bend and stay away from dead trees because they can snap under the load. The ideal tree should be at least thick enough that you aren’t able to completely wrap your hands around the trunk. Named for their potential to seriously injure the unaware. Make sure you’re not hammocking underneath " Widow Makers ". These sections of dead branches can be deadly. This is especially important if you are camping in the winter.