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Making the switch from a tent to hammock camping is a decision you definitely won’t regret. However, forgetting key pieces of gear could taint your experience so I’ve put together this handy checklist for beginners to ensure you have the best possible time on your first trip.
Keep reading below to find out all my recommended brands and products with links to buy them if you’ve not already got them.
- Hammock Camping Checklist
- Recommended Gear to Pack for Hammock Camping
- 1. Hammock
- 2. Suspension System
- 3. Tarp (+ accessories including ground stakes)
- 4. Underquilt (or Sleeping Pad)
- 5. Top Quilt (or Sleeping Bag)
- 6. Bug Net
- 7. Driplines
- 8. Ridgeline
- 9. Ridgeline Organizer
- 10. Gear Hammock/Spare Carabiner/Pack Cover
- 11. Tandem Pole
- 12. Pillow
- 13. Repair Kit
- 14. Essential Camping Gear
Hammock Camping Checklist
In a rush? Here is my quick hammock camping checklist:
- Tarp (+ accessories including ground stakes)
- Underquilt (or sleeping pad)
- Top quilt (or sleeping bag)
- Bug Net
- Ridgeline organizer
- Gear Hammock/Spare Carabiner/Pack Cover
- Tandem Pole
- Repair Kit
- First Aid Kit
- Swiss Army Knife
- Insect Repellent
Get a downloadable PDF of this checklist here.
Recommended Gear to Pack for Hammock Camping
In this section, I’ll run through all of the gear outlined in the checklist above to explain why you need to pack it and provide some recommended products to consider.
Of course, at the top of the list is the hammock itself. There are two main types of hammock for camping, a standard camping hammock with a gathered-end style and a bridge hammock with spreader bars.
For most beginners, a gathered-end camping hammock is perfectly fine. I like to use a double-size hammock by myself to provide extra space but if you’re concerned about weight then opt for a single.
If you prefer a better view of your surroundings or like to sleep on your side, a bridge hammock might be more suitable as the spreader bars give it a more open structure.
Top Pick: ENO DoubleNest
ENO hammocks are made from nylon taffeta which is strong but still lightweight and breathable. They are made to a high standard and include a lightweight aluminum carabiner.
Budget Pick: Wise Owl DoubleOwl
2. Suspension System
Aside from the hammock, the most important piece of gear when hammock camping is a suspension system to hold it up.
Although you have the choice between ropes, straps, and whoopie slings, for a beginner I’d recommend opting for hammock straps because they are easy to hang and you don’t need to worry about tying any knots.
When buying straps, look out for the wording the manufacturers use. Working load limit is the best measure of a strap, this is the recommended weight capacity the straps can hold. Some manufacturers will try to confuse you by stating break strength instead, this is the maximum point before the straps will break and is always much higher.
Top Pick: Kammok Python 10
Kammok’s Python 10 straps are my top pick because they’re made from strong nylon with nanoweave technology that ensures they don’t stretch over time. They have more attachment points than any other strap, are lightweight, and come with a lifetime guarantee.
Budget Pick: MalloMe
There are plenty of budget straps available and all with similar features. I recommend MalloMe straps which are available as 10ft and 12ft. They have lots of attachment points, although they are heavier than most others.
Find more recommendations in my guide to the best hammock straps in 2021.
If you’ll be hanging your hammock without trees, you can also opt for a lightweight hammock stand such as the ENO Nomad. This is only advisable if you are car camping or going to the beach because they are too heavy for carrying long distances.
3. Tarp (+ accessories including ground stakes)
If you’ll be camping in the rain, you’ll need a tarp to make sure you stay dry and protected from the wind. There are several different types of tarp available, each providing different levels of protection.
An asymmetrical tarp provides the least protection but is the most compact, whereas a winter tarp with doors provides the most protection. In between, you have hexagonal and square tarps. For most use-cases, I’d recommend a hex which is a nice balance between functionality and portability.
Top Pick: ENO ProFly
This hex-shaped tarp is a great all-around pick as it provides a good balance between coverage and portability.
The LineLoc fasteners make it very simple to set up and the material is very durable with ripstop re-enforcement.
Budget Pick: Gold Armour
The Gold Armour hammock tarp is the same shape as the ENO so you’ll get a similar level of coverage.
However, it’s made from polyester which is a cheaper material, this means it’s much heavier and bulkier in your backpack.
See my dedicated guide for more of the best tarps for hammock camping.
4. Underquilt (or Sleeping Pad)
Next, we’re onto the insulation which is needed if you want to keep warm in your hammock during winter. We split insulation into below the hammock and above the hammock.
First off, I recommend you use an underquilt that hangs underneath the hammock to provide a layer of insulation to keep your back warm.
Top Pick: ENO Blaze
The ENO Blaze is a premium winter underquilt from ENO that’s suitable for four-season camping with a comfortable temperature limit down to 30°F (-1.1°C) although it still performs well in temperatures slightly below this.
It uses a down filling which is very effective as an insulative material and it’s very lightweight.
Budget Pick: Onetigris Hideout
For a cheaper underquilt, I recommend you turn to Onetigris. The Onetigris Hideout is made from synthetic material instead of down so it’s suitable for three-season camping with temperatures down to 41°F (5°C).
A sleeping pad is an alternative to an underquilt. If you already have a sleeping pad for tent camping and don’t want to invest in extra gear then this is perfectly fine and common among beginners.
However, it can be harder to use and takes up much more space in your backpack so if you’ll be hammock camping regularly then you might want to consider upgrading to an underquilt.
Certain hammocks will have a sleeve underneath the hammock to place a sleeping pad which makes them much easier to use, although I’d still opt for an underquilt.
5. Top Quilt (or Sleeping Bag)
To keep your front warm, I recommend you opt for a top quilt. These are designed for hammocks and sit between a sleeping bag and a camping blanket with a mummy-shape design and a foot box, although they are open on the rear so your back still sits against the hammock material.
Top Pick: ENO Vesta
The Vesta is a mid-range top quilt from ENO that offers a good balance between performance, weight, and price. Although it uses synthetic materials, the Primaloft Gold insulation is high-quality and comparable to many down fillings, although slightly heavier.
Budget Pick: Onetigris Featherlite
Onetigris make some great affordable camping gear. Their Featherlite top quilt uses a similar style to the ENO Vesta with a foot box, although it’s much narrower so you have less room to maneuver.
It has a less-favorable temperature limit compared to the Vesta at 40°F (4.4°C). but is still a great pick for three-season adventures.
See my full guide for more of the best hammock top quilts.
Instead of a top quilt, you could opt for a sleeping bag. This might be a good choice if you want something suitable for both hammock and tent camping.
The downside to this is that you will be lying on the sleeping bag rather than the breathable hammock material, they are also quite wide compared to top quilts so are heavier to carry.
See my full guide to top quilts vs sleeping bags for a full rundown of the pros and cons of each.
Alternative Idea: Sleeping Bag Pod
Instead of having separate insulation underneath and above the hammock, a sleeping bag pod is two-in-one. Unlike a regular sleeping bag which you might use inside the hammock, the pod wraps around the outside of the hammock.
However, the downside is that they aren’t very versatile. They have more gaps that let cold air in, but if you do get too hot, you don’t have many options to adjust the top insulation without losing the bottom insulation.
I tend to prefer the underquilt and top quilt combination, but if you would like to consider the sleeping bag pod then the Hyke & Byke Crestone is a good recommendation, although quite expensive.
6. Bug Net
A bug net (also known as a mosquito net) is a must when camping near lakes, rivers, low-land areas, or rainforest/jungle environments.
A bug net for a hammock is designed to sit around the hammock providing protection from all directions. This is important because mosquitos can still bite through the bottom of thinner hammocks.
Note: If you have a jungle hammock, this will likely have a built-in bug net so you don’t need to worry about this.
Top Pick: ENO Guardian DX
My top pick is the ENO Guardian DX bug net which has an innovative design unlike any other net on the market by including a spreader bar to reduce contact with your body and provide a more spacious feel. The spreader bar is made from aluminum so overall the bug net is still a reasonable 13oz (367g).
Budget Pick: Bear Butt
For a budget choice, the Beat Butt mosquito net is a more traditional style with a separate ridgeline (included) above the net which means it can take longer to set up. It’s made from polyester and comes it at the same weight as the ENO.
Find more recommendations in my guide to the best bug nets for hammocks.
Another top tip for keeping your hammock dry is to use drip lines. You don’t need to buy a dedicated product for this, just ensure you have some spare pieces of string to hang from your suspension system. A good example of a dripline is an old shoelace cut-up.
I’ve put together a full guide with images that show you how to set up hammock driplines.
You don’t need a ridgeline but many hammock users like to have one. There are two types of ridgeline, here’s a rundown of what they mean:
- Structural ridgeline – this is one that affects the shape of the hammock. It will usually be about 83% of the length of your hammock and ensures it maintains the correct sag no matter what the hangign distance is.
- Non-structural ridgeline – this does not affect the shape of the hammock and is purely for hanging items from. You might have a ridgeline for your tarp, bug net, or for hanging your gear.
Find out more in my guide to hammock ridgelines.
9. Ridgeline Organizer
Whether your ridgeline is structural or non-structural, a ridgeline organizer is a great hammock accessory for keeping important items in such as your phone, torch, or glasses.
Top Pick: ENO Talon
10. Gear Hammock/Spare Carabiner/Pack Cover
You’re going to need somewhere to store your gear whilst hammock camping. Whilst some people may opt to place their backpacks on the floor next to the hammock, other people may want to ensure it is placed off the floor to stay dry.
- Gear hammock – A dedicated gear hammock (also known as a gear sling) can be used to hang underneath your hammock with all your gear in. My top pick is the ENO gear sling which weighs 7oz and can hold 50lbs of gear. Alternatively, there’s a cheaper Onewind gear hammock which is slightly heavier and less compact.
- Attach it to your hammock suspension – You can attach your gear to your hammock suspension, all you need for this is a spare carabiner.
- Hang it from a tree – A final place to put your hammock is around a tree using a spare hammock strap and carabiner. You’ll need a backpack rain cover too as it won’t be under the cover of the tarp, I recommend the Osprey Ultralight Cover.
11. Tandem Pole
Rather than sharing a hammock between two people which can end up being quite uncomfortable, you can use a tandem pole to hang your hammocks parallel to each other and still take advantage of being close together and sharing the cover of the tarp.
I only know of one tandem pole on the market and that’s the ENO Fuse. It’s a 31” bar that folds away for compact storing in your backpack and weighs less than 10oz for two poles.
You will still need two sets of straps and insulation such as top quilts and underquilts, although you won’t need two tarps.
It’s not essential to have a pillow in a hammock, however, some hammockers tend to like them for comfort and they also provide another layer of insulation underneath your head which can be good in cold weather.
Top Pick: Wise Owl Travel Pillow
My top pick is the Wise Owl travel pillow which uses a memory foam material with a polyester case which makes it very weather-resistant. It can be compressed down into the included stuff sack.
There’s both a small and medium-size pillow although I’d recommend the smaller one as being suitable for hammock use.
13. Repair Kit
Something you might want to consider for longer backpacking trips is If you’re going away for a multi-day trip and will be using your gear a lot, it could be worth taking something to repair your hammock and other camping equipment.
You could pack some strong tape, but it’s better to use a proper repair kit such as this Tear-Aid Repair Kit which has been specifically designed for camping gear such as tents, sleeping bags, and hammocks.
14. Essential Camping Gear
The following items are not unique to hammock camping and apply to all types of camping whether in a tent, RV, or under the stars.
A headlamp is a must-have piece of camping gear and far better than a traditional camping lantern when using a hammock. You’ll thank me when you’re trying to get out of your hammock and bug net to use the toilet at night.
First Aid Kit
The amount of first aid equipment you take will depend upon the adventure you’re taking and how long you’re away. As a minimum, you’re going to want wound coverings such as bandages and tape, medicines and antiseptic cream, and basic tools such as scissors and tweezers.
Swiss Army Knife
This multipurpose tool has long been a favorite item among outdoor enthusiasts. From starting a fire to opening food, it’s the most versatile piece of kit you’ll own.
Even with a bug net, it’s still advisable to take some insect repellent, especially if you’ll be trekking through the backcountry or sitting out around a fire at night.