Basic Components of a Hammock Camping System
Taking advantage of hammock camping is not that difficult, but it involves properly setting up a few components. Technically, all you need is a tarp and some cordage to set up a rudimentary hammock. However, you can get a lot more mileage, and comfort, by following some generally-accepted guidelines no matter what type of hammock you are using.
Most modern camping hammocks include a few common components. This includes the hammock, rope and webbing, carabiners, straps, a tarp and maybe some netting for bug or mosquito protection. Most camping hammocks are made from nylon or a blend of nylon and other synthetic materials that are lightweight and strong. This is often the same material that is used to make parachutes, and it only takes a thin layer of quality material to support hundreds of pounds of weight.
The hammock rope is usually some form of elastic cordage, but it you can use almost any material you like as long as it can support your weight. The rope is usually a couple of feet long and comes with a loop that can be attached to a carabiner. The carabiner is what connects the hammock rope to the webbing which is connected to the straps that wrap around the tree.
The reason it's important to know about these basic components is that many hammocks that are sold today don't include the straps or carabiners, and you have to buy them separately. The straps are probably the most important component of any hammock system because they anchor it to the tree. You want straps that are adjustable, stay in place and cause as little damage to the trees as possible. Again, you can improvise by using rope or cordage, but proper straps tend to support hammocks better while also protecting trees.
Tarps and Netting
Unless you are using your hammock for a late-morning or afternoon nap, chances are that you will want to include some netting to protect you from bugs. Some hammocks, particularly jungle ones, have netting built in. However, you can also buy netting designed specifically for hammocks, or you can improvise by cutting your own. In any case, it's important that you have some netting on hand in order to keep you from being devoured by insects all night long.
Tarps are also an essential part of the standard hammock system as they provide protection against rain and wind. However it's important to use a tarp that is strong enough to resist the elements and big enough to cover the surface area of the hammock. Expect to get a tarp that is at least a couple of feet longer than the hammock. This is because it will be slung over the hammock at a perpendicular angle, and you want the points to extend far enough from the hammock to provide adequate protection.
You can either attach the corners of the tarp to the straps or hang it from a line of cordage that you run just above where the straps are situated on each tree. You should also plan on staking the ends of the tarp into the ground, or using guide ropes and stakes to keep it taut and anchored in place.
This is just a brief overview of the standard hammock set-up, and keep in mind that there are many variations out there. At the end of the day, all of the components that you need will generally still weigh less than your standard tent, and it only takes a couple of minutes to put everything together. The important thing is that you're properly equipped before setting yours up for the first time, and hopefully this information will help you to get started on the right foot.