First Impressions on Hammock Camping

Sooo, I’ve decided to take up hammock camping as a cheap and interesting way to travel! I’ve got to tell you, as a first time hammock camper, that it certainly seems like an amazing plan on paper. Then, you try it. And, it’s still an amazing plan! Honestly, setting up a hammock, be it a single hang or a dual hang (like our setup) is incredibly easy. I still don’t know much about it, and with little prompting I can “probably” get the whole system set up on my own after just a couple of nights. So far, I’ve done it for three nights, and each night I’ve learned something different. It’s gotten easier and better each time, and I’ve managed to adjust better as well, which is why this first time hammock camper is turning into a many times hammock camper!

 

High Points for Hammock Camping

  • Easy, easy setup. The first time we set up on the beach in Oregon, it took about 10 minutes to find the perfect trees and about 7 minutes to set up the entire system. It gets smoother and easier with practice, I guarantee it. Faster than checking into a hotel though!
  • Cheap!! OMG, if you are comfortable “stealth” camping, or if the area you are in has no ordinances against camping, then it’s free! Otherwise, you can get really nice campgrounds for less than $10-15/night depending on where you are. (California is a bit more, but there are plenty of free sites there if you know where to look)
  • Comfortable!! I’m an overweight software consultant who has an achy back, and I’m super comfortable in the hammock. I wake up without aches, which was a nice surprise. (No pressure points in a hammock, everything is supported like being in a cocoon)
  • Convenient! You don’t have to make reservations at a hotel, then keep them. No getting charged for missing a reservation. Just find a place with trees, or poles, or fences or practically anywhere, set up the hammocks and fall asleep. Perfect for a backpacking trip across Europe (stay tuned cause that’s what we’re doing for the next month), or South America or Asia or even the US!
  • Versatile! If you get the right gear and setup, you can sleep outside very easily even into the freezing temperatures. Check out our gear page for what we use, but we survived quite toastily in the mountains near Mt. Rainier in the low 40’s. (I was too warm in fact, so I didn’t even use my over-quilt)

High Points for Me Specifically

  • Fresh Air! Love sleeping in fresh, cool air. I sleep with a fan on year round for the breeze and fresh air. So, this is even better than tent camping.
  • Water sounds. I can sleep next to the ocean, lake, stream or river and get those soothing sounds to fall asleep.
  • Gear is super light! I can fit all of our gear into my backpack along with my clothes and a laptop and a liter of water and it’s not very heavy at all. (Easier than a night at the gym with the trainer, that’s for sure)
  • I get to experience more of the towns I visit. With this system, instead of being sucked into my usual style of travel, (Resort for a week, poke around an area, drive to all the tourist stuff, park, wait in traffic, get bored, sleep on the beach etc.) I can see more of the culture that I’m really looking for. In Europe, we get to walk around and experience the cities firsthand, instead of seeing them from the window of a moving car. One of my best travel experiences was walking around Rome for a day, and I’m excited to repeat that experience!

Things to Consider for a First Time Hammock Camper

  • If you are not a person who comfortably sleeps on their back, spend a few nights in a row in your back yard with this system learning how. I’m normally a stomach sleeper, so I’m using this to transition to side sleeping, and possibly to sleeping on my back, but it’s a challenge. Still worth doing and I still get very good sleep when I finally get there, it just takes a lot longer. Prepare for it!
  • Research the right gear! On our Highway 101 trip from Seattle to San Francisco, we learned first hand that not having the right gear makes for some miserable sleeping arrangements. I thought any sleeping bag would do, but I nearly froze to death because I didn’t understand the nature of insulation and how it works. Read up on it, we have resources and links on our website. As soon as we got back, I ordered an over quilt and an under quilt to maximize that insulation, and I was extremely toasty at 40 degrees in the mountains when we tested it.
  • Research campsites! There are a lot of web resources for finding free campsites, or just any campsites depending on where you are going. For example, research suggested that free camping in Spain was very, very regulated and they hand out a ton of fines to offenders. The rules are subjective, and it’s probably best to just stay at the designated campgrounds for 5-10 euros/night rather than risk a fine. It’s easier to be prepared in case someone tells you that it’s not ok to camp where you’re set up, and have a backup plan. (It usually works to just say that you’re planning to leave very early in the morning, and they’ll let you stay)
  • Some countries are very friendly to campers! As you can see from Ashlynn’s accounts, seven weeks in Japan was very easy with restrooms, running water and amenities practically everywhere!

Summary

From my perspective as a first time hammock camper, I think this is going to be a fantastic way to travel. I’ll still lobby for some resort traveling (don’t want to waste my airline miles and hotel points), but anytime I’m looking to really get out and see a country, immerse myself in a culture, and see things from a more local perspective, I’ll be going hammock camping!

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