Campouts are at the heart of Scouting, and hammocks have become a popular way to sleep comfortably under the stars. In addition to being relaxing, hammocks are a lot of fun — especially when everyone in your patrol hangs their hammocks together.
But in popular camping areas, tying a hammock over and over, day after day, on the same trees can tear, rub and cut into the bark. This can cause short- and long-term damage to the tree and may result in complete hammock restrictions.
As we live the Outdoor Code, how can we be clean, considerate and conservation-minded in our outdoor manners? How might we apply the Leave No Trace principles to protect the environment when hammock camping?
Here are some tips that can help you hang sustainably:
1. Before you go, find out if it’s OK to hang hammocks from trees in the area you will camp. Follow any posted rules.
2. Bring a portable hammock stand to areas without trees or where restrictions are in place.
3. Trees’ size and bark quality vary. Always use wide webbing straps — between 1.5 and 2 inches — to minimize any damage to the tree.
4. If you’ll be hammock camping on the same trees for a few days — like at a resident week-long summer camp — place a section of closed-cell foam between the strap and tree for added protection.
5. Make sure your webbing straps are long enough to fit the trees you will encounter. This will prevent you from resorting to rope or twine to close the gap.
6. It’s easy to keep a site pristine by using a hammock. There is no need to remove rocks, twigs or pinecones, or to damage live trees and plants. Consider moving to a new set of trees before breaking branches or altering a site in any way.
7. Be sure to take down any hammock structures and leave a site as you found it. For example, dismantle a tripod hammock stand built from driftwood on a beach.
8. Remove hammocks when not in use. In some areas, deer and elk can get tangled in lines left suspended between trees.
9. In pristine areas, consider setting up your hammock out of view to respect other visitors.
10. If used, hang a floor mat off the ground during the day to avoid damaging the vegetation beneath.
11. Consider partnering with a campground to build and install permanent hammock stands to create a long-term, sustainable option for future events.
12. Be an advocate with others to share these tips with hammock users.
Author Derek Hansen is an Arizona Scoutmaster and hammock-camping enthusiast who first used a hammock at age 14 at the BSA’s Beaver High Adventure Base in Utah. He’s the author of The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide To Hammock Camping (2011) and the website, The Ultimate Hang.