Sleep in a hammock once, and you'll forget all about your tent. Here are some tips to help you discover the most comfortable way to sleep outside.

Hammock Camping Basics

Let's face it—tents are high maintenance, and the last thing you want to deal with on your relaxing excursion into nature is tricky gear. For the past few years, hammocks have been taking the camping world by storm, and if you've ever camped in one, you know why. Now that hammocks are made of parachute nylon, they're lighter and easier to use than ever before. Hammocks can easily weigh less than 2 pounds, and they pack down smaller than a loaf of bread. (If you want a tent that small and light, brace yourself for some sticker shock. Hammocks, on the other hand, are far less expensive and just as durable.)

The greatest part of hammock camping, though, is the ability to #hanganywhere. With a hammock in your pack, you can skip the search for level, rock-free ground. All you need is two trees (or dock supports, or structural columns—whatever floats your boat) that are 12 feet apart or closer, and your bedtime view will look like something off the cover of a nature magazine.

After one trip with a hammock, you'll never want to dig out your old tent again. To help you out on your first few hammock camping adventures, here are three helpful tips that will help you enjoy all the comfort, ease, and beauty that hammocks have to offer:

sunset hammocking

1. Lay diagonally. Some people don't find the natural curve of a hammock comfortable, which makes them hesitant to sleep there overnight. There's a simple solution for those who prefer a flatter sleeping position—try positioning yourself diagonally. Doing so will stretch out the fabric to create a more level surface. Many people find this position to be more comfortable for their back and neck during the night.

2. Use a sleeping pad. The parachute nylon that hammocks are made of isn't very thick—that's part of what makes them so light and portable. In cooler weather, though, that means there isn't much separating you from the chilly air. To stay warm, bring along your sleeping pad (the same one you'd use while tent camping) and stick it inside your hammock before going to sleep. The pad, combined with your sleeping bag, will keep you cozy and insulated all night long.

3. Kick off your shoes. To prolong the life of your hammock, leave your shoes on the ground before settling in. Heavy hiking boots and rubber-soled shoes strain and wear down the fabric of your hammock much faster than your bare feet. Plus, your shoes are probably dirty from the day's adventures. Who wants to sleep in a hammock full of dirt and rocks? Instead, bring along an extra pair of socks to keep your feet nice and warm, and leave your shoes just below your hammock for easy access.

In no time at all, you'll be an expert hammock camper, and the days of falling asleep outside without the fresh air and a clear view of the stars will be a distant memory. Remember to share your favorite hammocking spots and tips using #hanganywhere. Happy hammocking!

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Austin Wilson