Is Hammock Camping Really That Environmentally Friendly?
One question that comes up often is whether or not there is a difference between tent and hammock camping when it comes to being able to leave no trace when you're finished. The answer is yes and no, and it ultimately depends on how mindful you are of your surroundings and what site you choose. While it is true that a hammock is less-invasive than setting up a tent and maintaining a site, there are still steps that we can take to minimize the impact that our presence has on the area.
The most important thing to consider, aside from using best practices while on-site, is to take care not to damage trees when setting up or using your hammock. Keep in mind that certain species of trees are susceptible to infections, rotting, drying out and the impact of opportunistic insects and other critters if wide-swaths of bark is removed.
Good camping hammocks usually come with straps that are designed to be as gentle on trees as possible. You can also purchase these straps if your hammock didn't come with them. These straps are less-likely to dig into bark and cause abrasion that will leave behind large bare spots. In all seriousness, thousands of trees are damaged, some irreversibly, every year due to careless campers or hikers.
You also want to choose the right kind of trees. Look for ones that are mature, appear healthy and have a nice, thick and consistent layer of bark. If a tree seems marginal, consider erring on the side of caution and choosing another instead.
Aside from damage to trees, other environmental impacts generally involve trash people leave behind or damage caused from cutting wood for fires. However, if given the choice, hammock camping by nature will leave less of a footprint on the site itself. In fact, you really don't need to choose a specific campsite at all, since you don't have to worry about finding areas of flat, open land. You also don't have to be limited to using sites that are well-worn and over-used by throngs of other campers or hikers.
Consequently, those who are concerned about the impact of hammock camping shouldn't worry, as it makes it easier to live with the environment in a less-invasive way. However, it's equally-important to minimize the impact that our camping habits in general have on the environment, as these are the things that tend to leave their mark long after we've gone.