Is It Dangerous To Sleep In A Hammock In The Woods?


If you love the great outdoors and are thinking about spending a few days in the woods, you might be wondering if you can ditch your tent and just use a comfortable camping hammock. Sleeping stretched out between two trees might seem dangerous, so we have put together a guide of things you should remember to sleep in a hammock in the woods safely.

Sleeping in a hammock in the woods is safer than sleeping in a tent because you are off the ground and have an elevated view of your surroundings. Camping in the woods can be dangerous, but sleeping in a hammock can be an exhilarating experience if all safety precautions are followed. 

You might feel a little nervous and vulnerable at the thought of possibly becoming a bear-taco while sleeping in a hammock in the woods. Fortunately, there are some tips to follow that will give you peace of mind and ensure that you enjoy a safe and trouble-free sleep while hammock camping. 

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What Are The Dangers Of Sleeping In A Hammock In The Woods? 

Whether in a hammock or a tent, there are inherent dangers to sleeping in the woods. However, the rewards of this experience far outweigh the challenges, so hammock camping is definitely something to try if you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. 

Of course, whenever someone mentions hammock camping, the first thing that springs to mind are predators, especially bears! And while they certainly are a concern, they shouldn’t outweigh some of the other risks. 

You might think that being in a hammock would make you more vulnerable to hidden dangers lurking in the woods. One often feels safer inside a tent because it feels more like a little room with four walls around us. In reality, a nylon tent offers no real resistance to a bear that wants to claim your food stock or a snake looking for a warm spot to curl up. 

Why Sleep in a Camping Hammock

Sleeping high off the ground can make you less of a target. Being in a hammock will also make you feel closer to nature, and if you have the right hammock, it can be comfortable and lighter to carry when hiking. 

Hammock camping is becoming a popular phenomenon as it is easy to set up as long as suitable trees are available. Unlike a tent, you can quickly create a snug, dry sleeping spot that doesn’t require a lot of bulky items or level ground. 

It is essential to note that camping hammocks differ significantly from garden or beach variety rope hammocks that are completely unsuitable for camping trips in the woods. So choosing the right hammock is the first step to ensuring that you will have a comfortable night’s sleep no matter where you decide to set it up.

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Before you set off on a hammock camping trip, check with park officials at your destination that hammock camping is allowed in the area. 

Let’s consider some things that you should think about to be properly prepared before you set off on your hammock trip in the woods.

  • Animals
  • Bugs
  • The weather
  • Inspect the trees for safety

Check out my article on how to make hammock camping more comfortable

Will Animals Bother You In A Hammock?

Wild animals are everywhere in the woods. Bears, coyotes, skunks, snakes, and plenty more. But don’t let them put you off. The key to any camping or hiking trip is proper preparation and following all safety rules. 

Keeping animals away from your sleeping area when you are out in the woods has a lot to do with taking measures to keep your rations out of reach. Bears and other animals are attracted to the scent of what’s in your food pack, so never sleep with any food anywhere nearby. 

Find out if music scares or attracts animals while camping

Keeping Bears Away From Your Hammock and Gear

Some parks have designated metal tin storage boxes where campers must secure all food items. Even if they don’t, it is good to keep rations inside a bear canister also known as a bear vault. It may be slightly bulkier to carry around during the day, but you will be able to rest securely knowing that your supplies are impenetrable to bears. 

If you are hammock camping in the woods, specifically in bear country, food must be kept at least 100 feet away from where you are sleeping. Even chipmunks or squirrels dashing over you during the night to find a tasty morsel that you forgot in your pocket can be very unsettling so check carefully that there is nothing that may attract them while you are asleep. 

In areas with a lot of bear activity, sleeping in the woods in a hammock can be very unsettling. Some hammock campers use a portable camping electric fence to set up a perimeter around where they are sleeping. At around $220, units like the type from Udap may add weight to your pack, but they will undoubtedly provide greater peace of mind. 

Protecting Food and Gear From Small Animals

In areas with no bears, you may be able to forgo the bear canister, but you will still need to take some precautions to keep other animals away from your food, especially while you are asleep. Sleeping in a hammock means you have limited storage space, and you definitely don’t want to be fast asleep in the woods surrounded by delicious camping snacks. 

Suspending your food bag at least 4 ft off the ground, a distance away from your hammock is a good idea as it will remain safe from smaller animals. 

Sleeping in a hammock can be safer than sleeping at ground level in a tent in terms of animal interactions because you are suspended off the ground. So long as you can easily get in and out of the hammock, setting it up higher than usual will ensure that most animal activity will pass by underneath, and you will be safely out of harm’s way.  

Selecting Your Hammock Hanging Area

When selecting a position in the woods to set up your hammock, avoid choosing an area close to water. As lovely as the lakeside setting may be, it is also a water point for wild animals. Bears and other animals are usually most active after dark and in the early morning hours when you may be asleep, so find a quiet location away from water.

Tuning in to nature is one of the most important things when choosing a safe place to spend the night in the woods. Look around for signs of animal activity before you decide on a spot to hang your hammock. You may be searching for two perfectly positioned trees that can hold your hammock, but be sure you won’t be suspended over a game trail. 

Keeping wild animals away while sleeping in a hammock in the woods does take a bit of preplanning, but it can be done. If you have taken all the necessary safety precautions, you will be able to enjoy the feeling of being closer to nature as you settle into sleep. 

Do Bugs Bother You When Sleeping In A Hammock?

Hammock camping puts us closer to nature. We can fully experience nature’s sights and sounds from close-up. As delightful as it may be to sleep in the woods in a hammock, the buzzing of pesky mosquitos or other bugs is sure to put a damper on things. 

When selecting a camping hammock, choose one that comes with a securely fitted mosquito net. This will also prevent spiders or other stinging creatures like scorpions from dropping out of the trees into your sleeping cocoon while you are fast asleep in the woods. 

It is not only harmful bugs that can be pesky. Moths are naturally attracted to any light, so if you are using a flashlight or phone, you may quickly find that you are sharing your hammock with a small army of moths. A fitted mosquito net will save you a lot of discomfort and protect you from harmful stings. 

Spraying the bottom of the hammock with a bug-repellent can also help keep determined bugs away. 

The Weather Factor When Hammock Camping

One of the biggest dangers when sleeping in a hammock in the woods is cold. Being more exposed means that heat cannot be retained, and unless the weather is mild, you will need to pack on some extra layers to stay warm. 

Unlike a tent that provides an encapsulated space that will stay warmer, sleeping in a hammock will expose you to the outside temperatures directly from all sides. A foam sleeping pad on the bottom of the hammock is recommended if there is any doubt about overnight temperatures. 

Staying warm and dry while sleeping in a hammock in the woods go hand in hand. A sudden rainstorm can quickly turn a camping outing into a dangerous nightmare if you don’t have a suitable rain fly or tarp to cover the hammock. Hyperthermia while camping can be serious and can occur very quickly if your hammock becomes damp. 

While you are preparing to sleep outside in the woods, ensure that you have adequate protection from the elements, as this can be one of the most serious dangers to adventurers. 

See my recent article on keeping your gear dry while hammock camping

Checking The Trees When Hammock Camping

Selecting a safe place to suspend your hammock in the woods involves a lot more than finding two sturdy trees that are the correct distance apart. Suspending your hammock from an unsuitable tree can be dangerous.

Always try to select trees to suspend your hammock from during daylight so that you can inspect them thoroughly. You need to stay aware of a few things when choosing the trees that your hammock will be attached to in order to sleep safely in the woods. 

  • Check that both trees are healthy and can support your weight. If you can move the tree while checking, it is better to find another spot.
  • Will you be able to attach your hammock straps securely to the trunks? Sometimes the biggest trees are not best because the diameter is too big, and they use up all the strap attachment.
  • Inspect the area around the bottom of the tree for any poisonous plants. 
  • Carefully inspect the upper parts of the tree. Ensure that the tree is healthy all the way to the top. Sleeping in a hammock in the woods can become hazardous if the wind picks up and any upper branches break off.
  • Check for animal or insect activity in the trees you want to use. Wasps, ants, squirrels, and many other animals might call the trees you have selected home. If you see any movement in either of the trees, go and find another spot.
  • Avoid selecting trees that have thick brush or undergrowth around the base. These can rub against you while you are sleeping and may even poke holes into your gear. Additionally, pests like ticks often cling to undergrowth in search of passing hosts, so finding clear areas is definitely preferable to sharing your hammock with creepy crawlies. 

Hammock or Tent – Which is Better?

Most of us have slept in a tent at some point. However, there is a growing trend towards lighter camping, and a hammock is a great option. 

Both tents and hammocks have some pros and cons for sleeping in the woods. 

Hammock – ProsTent – ProsHammock – ConsTent – Cons
Lightweight and easy to set upCan be warmer for camping in cold weatherIt may be cold when the weather is cool.Might be bulkier to carry and takes longer to set up
Wet ground is no problemCan include more people in a tentNeeds suitable trees or hammock standRequires level terrain
Offers greater flexibility and freedomMore privacyLimited space – maximum of twoThe ground might be wet or uneven.
Elevated viewYou can sleep lying flatLimited privacy and some people suffer from motion sicknessYou may not be aware of your surroundings
Being off the ground makes you less vulnerable to snakes and other predatorsEasier to get up if you need a bathroom break.Not usually suitable for kids, and you can’t take a pet.It takes longer to roll up and pack away.

Selecting between a hammock or tent to stay outdoors comes down to personal preference and the availability of a suitable area to suspend a hammock safely. Each has limiting factors, and precautions need to be taken no matter which one you choose to use while camping in the woods. 

Conclusion

Hammock camping offers a new dimension to sleeping outdoors. It is lightweight, comfortable, and provides more flexibility in terms of setup than tents. However, you can feel more vulnerable sleeping in the woods suspended between two trees. 

Animals, bugs, weather conditions, and the selection of suitable trees to attach the hammock to can all be limiting factors when hammock camping. Fortunately, sleeping in a hammock in the woods can be a safe and exciting outdoor adventure with the correct preparation and attention to set up.

Beau

Beau is an avid backpacker and camper who takes every opportunity to get outdoors and into nature. Having accomplished many different multi-day hiking and camping trips throughout the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia he's always looking for great ways to lighten his pack and get the most out of his gear.

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