One of my all time favorite things to do while travelling or camping is sleeping in a hammock. Up until recently, I’ve never actually asked myself how to sleep in a hammock properly. I’d always just arrive at some beautiful destination, find two trees with the best vantage point, hang up my hammock and chill out.
However, last summer a close friend of mine started crying with laughter when he saw how I set my hammock up. Apparently, I had been hanging my hammock wrong all this time.
If you haven’t asked yourself how to sleep in a hammock yet (the right way), now is the time to do so.
In this article I am going to guide you through this process, step-by-step.
Choosing a Hammock
Get a hammock made of nylon
If you plan to sleep in your hammock, I’d really recommend you avoid those rope hammocks you always see for sale in boutique beach shops. There’s nothing wrong with them, they are just rather made for brief chill out sessions in your garden as opposed to sleeping a full night in them.
Instead rather invest in parachute nylon hammocks, they are the most comfortable hammocks to sleep in for longer periods of time.
Choose a hammock that fits your height and weight
In general hammocks come in various different shapes and sizes, usually ranging in small, medium and large. You will find that longer/wider hammocks are more comfortable. If you are a rather tall person, I’d recommend you look for hammocks at least 8 feet (2.4m) long.
If you are in doubt, rather opt for a larger/wider hammock, this way you will avoid any breakage due to overloading, this is the last thing you want. Most manufactures display the weight their hammocks are able to withstand. Usually, It’s quite a load so don’t stress too much here.
Single or Double Hammock
This point is quite straightforward, if you plan to sleep alone you will need a single hammock. If you plan to sleep with someone else, you will need a double hammock. I recommend getting a double hammock even if you plan to sleep alone, there’s just more room to move around, I find them comfier.
How to Hang a Hammock
Hang your hammock between 2 objects at least 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 m) apart.
Make sure the trees or poles are strong and will not sway in the wind, or worse break when you get inside the hammock. I personally love hanging my hammock as high up as possible, if you are like me, make sure to alway test the trees you are hanging your hammock on. Sometimes the tree could be dying but still look strong, be sure that this isn’t the case. Use this guide to figure out if a tree is dying or dead.
Make sure there is a deep curve in your hammock
This is the part I always got wrong. I would hang my hammock as tight as possible, my reasoning being that the straighter the hammock the more comfortable my sleep would be.
Well, I was wrong. A tight hammock makes it harder to fall asleep. The walls will often squeeze your body and any extra fabric will constantly flap in your face if there’s a slight breeze. The deep curve will ensure the hammock fabric does not become too loose. It’ll give you flexibility to find the best angle most comfortable to you and will actually allow for a horizontal sleeping position.
Put your pillow and blanket in the hammock for comfort
Treat your hammock like a bed. I always add a blanket and pillow to my hammock, it adds that extra bit of comfort. If you plan on sleeping outside in your hammock, blankets can also help insulate you from the cold. Of course warm clothing would also be necessary in this case. Read our article keeping warm in a tent for cool ideas you can use for sleeping warm in your hammock.
Use a tarp for protection from the rain
If you plan on hammock camping, I recommend you to keep a tarp on hand. It will protect you from any rain or falling branches (which happens more frequently than you’d think). Check out our beginners guide to basic camping for some helpful tips you can use while camping with your hammock.
How to Sleep in a Hammock
Getting in your hammock
If your hammock is close to the ground simply sit into the middle of the hammock, butt first. This will distribute your weight across the hammock equally. Once in, swing your legs and upper body into position. Getting into a hammock only becomes more tricky the higher you’ve hung it. I usually climb trees and all sorts to get inside, it’s a tad risky but well worth the views once safe and snug inside. If you are not comfortable with climbing trees, rather just hang your hammock close to the ground.
Lie down diagonally on your back slightly off centre
As you can see from the picture above, it’s best to lie slightly off centre. Doing this you’ll find your body weight equally supported which means you won’t curve into the hammock. A straighter back makes for a comfier sleep.
Slide up or down until you feel cradled
You can prevent your head from rolling left or right by sliding higher up into your hammock. When you do this you’ll find that the fabric supports your neck and head much more. If your neck and head still feel unsupported at this point, this is where your camping pillow comes in.
Place a rolled up towel under your knees to protect your back
If you suffer from back pain, slide a rolled up towel or pillow underneath your knees. This will support your lower back and prevent any aches or pains from forming. If you do not have a towel or pillow to place under your knees, try crossing your legs. This will also support your lower back while sleeping in a hammock.
Wrap yourself up in your hammock
This is why I love sleeping in double hammocks, there is so much extra space left over. Parachute material also acts as a windbreak so if is windy outside, cocoon yourself inside the hammock to be protected. Keep in mind that hammock material does not really insulate you and keep you warm, so if you plan on sleeping in a hammock in cold weather make sure to bring a sleeping bag or warm blanket with you.
Pros and Cons of Sleeping in a Hammock
The pros of sleeping in a hammock
Deeper and more restful sleep
When i sleep in a hammock i tend to fall asleep faster and also much deeper, my dreams become super vivid. It does take some getting used to, but once you’ve slept in a hammock a couple of times, you should find the sleep more restful.
Gets rid of back pain
Sleeping in a hammock for me eases any stiffness I may have gained from the day before. This is completely personal and may not do the same for you, but why not give it a try.
I have traveled all over the world with my hammock, the hammocks pocket is the bag itself. Once compressed all in the hammock is just bigger than the palm of my hand. You can essentially carry your bed in your jacket pocket.
Hammock saves space
As the hammock is pitched in a straight line, you’ll save so much space at your campsite/sleeping area.
It’s cheaper than a mattress
Mattresses cost so much money, sometimes 1000’s of dollars. A good hammock will cost you less than $100. This will potentially allow you to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Easier to make your bed
No more tucking in sheets and fluffing your pillows. With a hammock you simply wake up, dismantle it (which takes about 30 seconds – depending on how high/where you hung it) and off you go.
The cons of sleeping in a hammock
2 people can’t sleep in it
Yes you can purchase a double hammock, but that doesn’t mean two people can sleep in it comfortably for an extended period of time. For this you are better off buying two double hammocks so each person has their own space.
May be challenging to get out of
This depends on your flexibility and where you hang it. Sometimes I climb 6 metres high into two trees to hang my hammock. In the morning while I am still sleepy, this can prove tricky to climb out of (worth it).
Not as spacious as a mattress
If you are expecting loads of space to move around in, forget it. Hammocks are cosy, there’s not much room to move around in. If you want a lot of space, stick to a double bed.
The fact that it moves is for me, a pro. I love the swaying motion of the hammock while I sleep, I feel that much connected to nature in the wind. However, speaking to quite a few people abroad, I’ve noticed that not many people share my enthusiasm for a swaying hammock.
May need replacing more often
Depending on the fabric of your hammock, i.e cotton you may need to replace it every few years. Especially if you use it outdoors in the sun a lot. My advice is you get a solid parachute material hammock that will allow you to sleep in it for decades!
Best Travel/Camping Hammocks
(Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more detail.)
Below I recommend the best hammocks for camping and travel. If you’re like me who loves to travel with a hammock at all times then some of these will really excite you!
Wise Owl Outfitters
Unlike the majority of other hammocks, Wise Owls are made of high quality heavy duty 210T parachute nylon. This extra soft yet super strong material gives you the most comfortable and relaxing experience ever.
Vivere Double Cotton Hammock
Vivere combo, the double hammock with stand and carry bag is the top choice for hammocks with a stand. The double hammock is tightly woven with high quality cotton thread resulting in a heavy, durable fabric.
Legit Camping – Double Hammock
With this Double Camping Hammock from Legit Camping, you’ll have everything you need to relax in complete comfort on your next camping or hiking trip. Don’t leave home without your parachute hammock. With its lightweight, spacious design and 400-pound capacity, it’s the camping companion you can’t go without.
After reading this article I hope you have a much better idea of how to sleep in a hammock. Perhaps you’ve been doing it right all along, and if you haven’t do not despair, welcome to the club 😉
Feel free to share you hammock sleeping experiences in the comments section below. I want to hear all about the wildest/most magnificent locations you’ve hammocked at!
Kyle was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. In his spare time he kitesurfs with whales, gets attacked by jellyfish, SUP’s with great white sharks and rescues seals. He is not a best selling author like every other Tom, Dick and Harry out there but loves to write nevertheless. Especially about climate science and animals.