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Hammock camping with kids – crazy or brilliant?
Truthfully, it’s a mix of both. We’ve had perfect hammock camping trips where everyone slept beautifully and had nothing but fun, and other trips with kids who tossed and turned all night and woke up to rain on our uncovered hammocks.
If you’re here, I know that you’re at least intrigued by hammock camping with kids. I’m going to break down the basics of hammock camping so that you can see the benefits, drawbacks, challenges, and how to overcome them all to have a fantastic hammock camping trip.
What Is Hammock Camping?
Hammock camping is just like regular camping, except you sleep in a hammock instead of a tent. That’s it! You can set up your hammock anywhere that you would set up a tent, and many places that you couldn’t. As long as you have a place to anchor each end of your hammock, you can go hammock camping.
While some people go all-in for their hammock camping trip and only take hammocks, others choose to do a combination of tent camping and hammock camping often with some members of the family in hammocks and others in the tent. We’ve done both, and truthfully you can’t go wrong when choosing to go hammock camping.
Essentials To Pack For Hammock Camping With Kids
Many of the things that you will pack for hammock camping with kids will be similar to your normal camping gear. While there are a few extra things to take, it’s a whole lot easier than hauling around a giant 6 person tent (or even an 8 man tent). Here are a few things that you might not normally bring along that could be helpful:
- Clothesline rope – perfect for tying things up and attaching tarps
- Tarps – 1 per person
- foam camping pad for insulation
- bear bag for storing food and scented items in bear country
- extra webbing (in case trees are too far apart)
- Extra carabiners
- clothespins (for holding things still in the wind)
Where Are The Best Places For Hammock Camping?
While there’s no perfect place for hammock camping, there are some situations that are more suited for family hammock camping than others. The best situation for hammock camping is hammock backpacking. We love hammock backpacking with kids because they usually aren’t strong enough to carry a tent, but since hammocks are incredibly light, they can easily carry their own hammock. This is also a great option if you’re going on an extended backpacking trip and taking an ultralight hammock will really help you cut down on your pack weight.
When you’re planning your hammock camping trip, make sure to scout out your camping site well in advance so that you can make plans for where you can hang hammocks and how many hammocks your site can accomodate. If you’re goig camping in the desert or above timber line, hammock camping is probably a bad idea.
Do A Trial Run At Home
Don’t let your hammock campout be the first time that you or your kids sleep in a hammock for the full night. I guarantee you’re going to run into a few problems and it’s a whole lot easier to sort that out in the comfort of your backyard. Let them try out different positions and find what works for them before you’re all set up in the woods.
Get A Kid Sized Hammock
You don’t need a special hammock to camp with kids, but getting one designed specifically for children can help make the experience much better. These hammocks are usually smaller and don’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the larger hammocks have, but they get the job done. We love small hammocks for kids because they cocoon them inside the hammock better and we find that they sleep better in a kid-size hammock than in an adult hammock. If your kids are constantly sliding out of their sleeping bags, getting them a smaller hammock can be a good solution.
Bring Extra Tarps
The first time we took our kids hammock backpacking, we had one giant tarp, which would have worked great…except that we couldn’t find a good tree configuration where we could all sleep near each other. That meant that only one person was covered by the tarp, and the other 4 of us weren’t…and then it started raining!
Lesson learned – BRING EXTRA TARPS. Make sure that each person has their own tarp that’s at least 50% bigger than their hammock. While that may feel like overkill, if it starts raining on your hammock camping trip, you’ll be glad you brought them.
Set Up Hammocks In Kid-Friendly Areas
Kids absolutely LOVE playing in hammocks, and often things get a little bit wild (and so much fun). Make sure that you set your hammocks up in kid-friendly areas. Avoid places with lots of rocks or sharp sticks underneath. Basically, you want to remove anything that kids could get hurt on from under and around the hammock. If you have younger kids, consider hanging their hammocks lower to help them have an easier time getting in and out.
It’s also a great idea to set up ground rules for hammock use to prevent injuries. Things to think about when establishing family hammock rules:
- Is swinging in hammocks allowed
- Can kids push other kids in their hammocks to swing them?
- How do you feel about flipping hammocks upside down with people inside?
- How many people do you want to hang out in each hammock?
- Is eating allowed in hammocks?
- Are you okay using hammocks for chairs, or do you prefer people to only sleep there and sit in a camping chair?
Insulate Your Hammocks Well
Even on summer nights, sleeping in a hammock can make you COLD! Make sure to insulate your hammocks well by using a good camping sleeping pad and a warm sleeping bag. We are HUGE believers that the best investment you can make in your famil camping gear is good high quality sleeping bags for kids (yes, even a sleeping bag for baby), so don’t skimp on a hammock sleeping bag.
I’ve found that foam sleeping pads work best to insulate hammocks because they don’t slide around as much and they insulate better than air filled pads.
For kids who are really wiggly, I recommend putting their sleeping pad INSIDE of their sleeping bag, or investing in a sleeping bag that has an attached sleeping pad sleeve (like the Big Agnes kids sleeping bags).
If you don’t want to use a pad, put an extra quilt down in the hammock under where you’re sleeping. It will work wonders for keeping you warm while hammock camping.
Hang Hammocks Close Together
While you can’t always choose exactly where your hammocks will go, if you do have a choice, we recommend having your hammocks pretty close together. This can help create more family unity and it makes it easier for you to keep an eye on everyone while they’re sleeping. Another benefit of putting your camping hammocks close together is that it can be easier to hang tarps over your hammocks if they’re all together in a big cluster.
Of course, if your kids are older and can handle hanging out in their own space, feel free to give them some more room.
Let Everyone Have Their Own Hammock
We only made this huge mistake once and it resulted in me hardly sleeping at all, and a baby who was tossing and turning next to me all night. Learn from my mistakes and DO NOT SHARE HAMMOCKS for sleeping. Sure, it’s fun to snuggle up together in a hammock to read a book or take a short nap, but sleeping with two people in a hammock for a full night is another story.
I know you’re probably thinking “it’s okay, our hammocks are double hammocks, so we can share”. Even with most double hammocks, sleeping together for a full night is usually a very uncomfortable experience.
Can I Hammock Camp With A Baby?
You may be curious if you can hammock camp with a baby. While it is possible, I don’t recommend it. Babies should not be left alone in a hammock, since there is a big risk of them falling out. Unless you cosleep in a similar setting at home, it’s unlikely that either you or baby will sleep well together in a hammock. If you really want to hammock camp and have a baby, consider having baby sleep on the ground in a baby camping bed. Either way, they’ll need a baby sleeping bag for extra warmth.
When Should You Take A Tent Hammock Camping
There are some times when you might want to split up your group and have some of your family sleep in a tent and others sleep in a hammock. Here are some times that you might want to have BOTH a tent and a hammock:
- You have a baby or small child who can’t be trusted to stay in the hammock without falling out, so they sleep in a tent
- Someone in your family doesn’t sleep well in a hammock
- You don’t have enough hammocks for everyone
- You’re expecting bad weather and want a place to stay drier than a hammock
- You aren’t sure if there are enough trees to hang hammocks for the whole family, so you bring a tent as a backup.