The image of sleeping in a hammock invokes thoughts of relaxation, comfort, and fresh air. Unfortunately, the reality is most backyard hammocks do not meet that promise. This is where the modern style hammock (the kind without the awful spreader bars) comes into play, especially for camping and backpacking.
Once you know how to sleep a hammock, it can provide some of the most restful nights of sleep you’ve ever had outdoors. And that’s really what we’re all after if you think about it.
Sleeping in a hammock allows your body to curve and flex naturally, without the pressure points of a mattress or the cold hard ground. With the right hammocking gear and some practice, you too can experience the ultimate in camping comfort!
Making Your Hammock More Comfortable to Sleep In
Before delving into the best sleep position options and insider nuances about sleeping in a hammock, it’s crucial to have all the essential and, perhaps, non-essential gear. In too many cases, people purchase a quality hammock and think that’s all there is to it. But like many other things in life, higher quality pieces of gear improve the experience from mundane to exceptional. Consider the gear on this checklist for a more comfortable sleep:
- Suspension System: Support straps and other items that anchor your hammock between two points ranks second only to the bedding itself. Some products come with built-in support systems while others can be outfitted with advanced options. Invest in only the best quality suspension system.
- Rainfly: Mother Nature does not check in with mere mortals about our hiking and camping schedules. Even a light rain or passing shower can make for a soggy night’s sleep. A good rainfly that exceeds the outer margins of your sleep area is a must.
- Bug Net: Many of today’s elite hammocks either come with mosquito netting or make it an optional accessory. There’s nothing optional about the fact that mosquitos and biting insects are highly active at dusk and dawn. Some bug nets offer 360-degree protection.
- Underquilt: An underquilt delivers two benefits that can heighten the experience of sleeping in a hammock. First, it provides heat insulation for cold weather hammocking. Second, it provides additional cushioning for improved sleep comfort.
- Top Quilt: Although campers tend to focus on using traditional sleeping bags, adding a specialized hammock top quilt provides a unique, blanket-like option that can feel less restrictive.
- Sleeping Pads: For people who require, or prefer, a firmer surface to sleep on, pads can deliver. There are specific models designed to be used in hammocks. Check which model matches your hammock.
- Carabiners: It’s generally advisable to carry a few extra carabiners for emergencies or convenience, not only for hanging your hammock but for attaching all types of camping gear.
- Paracord: Another handy item to have. Paracord can expand your hammock suspension and rainfly options in a pinch.
- Guylines: Having an ample supply can prove useful in the event you need to create enhanced weather protection with tarps and other items.
- Stakes: Gusting wind can negatively impact a rainfly. Sturdy stakes can make a significant difference when anchoring this and other accessories.
- Pillow: Saved this item for last on our checklist. It’s incredible how easy it is to forget to bring a lightweight camping pillow. Don’t get stuck resting your head on a T-shirt!
This checklist may seem like a lot of gear to carry if you decide to take on a major hike such as the Appalachian Trail. Fortunately, there are lightweight, compact products engineered to deliver enhanced benefits for outdoors people. With your gear secured, the next step is learning exactly how to sleep in a hammock.
The Sag is Good
One of the common missteps that beginners make is trying to flatten out their hammock. The experience goes a lot like this. You locate a perfect sleeping spot, deftly secure the suspension apparatus, gather your comfort accessories and stop dead in your tracks. The bloody thing is curved! Now what? If you try to mitigate the curve and make your hammock flat, these are unwelcome things that could happen.
- Cocooning: The walls of the hammock will likely press against your shoulders and arms causing an uncomfortable and claustrophobic experience.
- Center Position: A tautly pulled hammock generally forces the user into a center-only position. This restricts natural movement during sleep hours.
- Pressure: An excessively tight suspension system exerts additional pressure on anchors such as trees and posts. Under these conditions, it can cause unnecessary damage. Outdoors lovers prefer to do no harm and leave no trace other than footprints.
Although there is almost no real wrong way to sleep in a hammock, the sag is a good thing. If you are reading this on your phone and stopped in your tracks, kindly proceed and accessorize your hammock, and we can discuss how to craft a curve that works for you.
Employ the “Hammock Angle”
When setting your hammock suspension, consider an appropriate elevation for someone of your height and weight. There are two basic things you may want to avoid. One is scraping the ground while you lay in it. The other is setting the elevation to high, making it difficult to negotiate to get in and out.
In order to get the perfect curve for your hammock comfort, a tried-and-true strategy is to set the system at an elevation at the top-end of your height necessities. And, make it slightly on the tight side. Test it for comfort and then begin to incrementally loosen the suspension until as Goldie Locks said; it’s just right.
The reason for starting tight at a top elevation is that as you release tension, the bottom of your curve will get closer to the ground. Working in reverse would mean raising the suspension anchors and a lot more effort.
As mentioned above, there is no one-angle-fits-all curve when sleeping in a hammock. A deep or even moderate curve may not make sense for you. Some people find their best hammock rest comes by remaining almost flat. An increased degree of flatness can be accomplished without futzing with your suspension system in many cases.
Start your comfort testing by lying prone in the center of the hammock. Move your feet 8-10 inches to one side. When they seem to be resting lower and flatter, position your head to the other side. You should discover that you have increased the flatness of your posture without necessarily needing to alter the suspension settings. The more you adjust this head-to-toe angle, the more the curve will be changed.
When sleeping in a hammock, an ideal position is one that does not antagonize the body’s pressure points. This can be accomplished by enjoying a hammock’s natural curve. However, those who have unique pressure points due to injuries, surgeries and other issues can apply a variation on the 30-degree head and foot swing to enjoy their best possible sleeping position.
Side & Stomach Sleepers Rejoice!
More than a few of us move about during the night, and some people are devout side and stomach sleepers. If you thought this effectively made you a hammock outsider, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you can quickly learn how to sleep in a hammock regardless of personal preference.
It’s not uncommon for people who are unable to sleep on their back to suddenly discover hammocks make a world of difference in this regard. Even the most ardent side or stomach sleeper wakes in the morn wide-eyed that they enjoyed an incredibly restful sleep entirely n the back. But a change of habit is not the only reason that side and stomach sleepers can rejoice.
Today’s high-quality hammocks are designed to not flip over due to tossing and turning. If you move about in a securely suspended hammock, it will accommodate your little sleep quirkiness. Sometimes just placing a pillow between your knees can provide all the support you require for perfect side sleeps. For stomach sleepers, just employ the 30-degree flattening protocol and make yourself comfortable. Hammocks are created to serve all sleepers equally!
Do You Need a Sleeping Bag in a Hammock?
The short answer to this question is: No. Using a sleeping bag in your hammock is merely a matter of practicality or personal choice. A sleeping bag can provide enhanced warmth and comfort on, particularly cold nights. But because of their restrictive nature, the trend has been to utilize underquilts and top quilts for bedding.
Can Sleeping in a Hammock Hurt Your Back?
Sleeping in a hammock may seem like a vastly different experience at first blush. However, there are many platforms used for resting the body and hammocks are just one of the most enjoyable.
That being said, it’s imperative that you work with a rest system that conforms to your physical and spinal capabilities. If you have certain limitations, a hammock won’t change that reality. On the other hand, someone with a reasonable constitution shouldn’t anticipate having a backache if they set up their hammock in a suitable fashion.
Sleeping in a hammock tends to lower pressure point impact. If you have a physical condition, speak with a physician about your limitations.
Sleeping in a Hammock with a Partner
Today’s innovative hammocks come in all shapes and sizes, and that includes sleeping two. Deciding whether to purchase a double hammock for you and a partner is more about the experience than the product.
For couples who are natural cuddlers at night, the double hammock option can take your tenderness to the great outdoors. If you are planning a weekend getaway, again, sleeping in a hammock together can be an intimate experience that you will fondly remember. You may not have realized it until now, but hammocks can be very romantic.
Select a High-Quality Hammock that Fits Your Lifestyle
Today’s hammock products range in price, quality, and versatility. In terms of your best hammock, select a quality hammock that meets your height, weight and accessory requirements. Keep in mind that sleeping in a hammock is not necessarily reserved for camping excursions. Setting up a hammock in your yard, porch or even indoors are trending options. The best hammock is one that meets your lifestyle needs and provides the restful comfort you deserve.