If you have spent any time looking into hammock camping or are already a hammock camper, I’m willing to bet that you have come across people who stack their hammocks. If you aren’t yet familiar with it, stacking hammocks is when you use the same two trees for multiple hammocks and essentially “stack” the hammocks above one another. It’s like hammock bunk beds, if you will.
How Do You Stack Hammocks?
- Select two trees that are more than 12’’ in diameter
- Hang your lowest hammock first. You want to have your bottom hammock about 12” off the ground
- Set the next set of hammock straps 3’ to 4’ higher than the lower hammock on the tree trunks.
- If your straps are the same length for each hammock, set them on the same loop setting.
- Then repeat if you want to stack more than two hammocks.
Now that I briefly went over how to technically do it, let’s get a little more in-depth on things to think about when stacking hammocks.
I myself have stacked hammocks for fun. BUT this can be dangerous and I would strongly recommend anyone trying this to use extreme caution. Most hammock manufacturers do not advise stacking hammocks. Stack at your own risk!
The Stacking Controversy
You may or may not be aware of the controversy surrounding the topic of stacking hammocks. You have two camps with very little overlap. In one camp there are those that believe that you should never stack hammocks. They mostly cite valid safety concerns and liability concerns for metro parks and other camping venues. I haven’t found any substantial evidence supporting the legal side of things, but I could see how it could potentially negatively affect the smaller parks. Then you have the second camp that doesn’t see anything wrong with stacking hammocks as long as you do it safely for both human and nature.
Protecting the trees and nature is the other reason that people are against stacking hammocks. I have found evidence in support of this as well. Stacking hammocks can put too much strain on the trees and damage them. You risk the possibility of damaging the trees if there is too much weight and the tree cannot handle it.
If you are considering stacking your hammocks, there are a few important factors you need to pay attention to:
- How many hammocks are you planning to stack?
- What is the combined weight of the people who will be hanging in the stack?
- What are the diameters of the trees you are hanging the hammocks from?
Getting any one of the three factors above wrong could lead to damage to the trees. You all know how I feel about the importance of protecting the trees and maintaining tree health while hammock camping. Please, if you decide to stack your hammocks make sure you are doing it safely. I get more into detail on this a little later so be sure to read on.
Just be warned if you stack your hammocks regularly or discuss it on forums you may eventually run into some people that strongly disagree with you stacking your hammocks.
One of the biggest sayings in the hammock camping community is:
“Never hang higher than you want to fall.”
This is especially true when it comes to stacked hammocks while camping. Keep in mind that ZERO manufacturers of hammocks recommend that you stack hammocks.
I do stack my hammocks sometimes with my two boys, but I am extremely careful about doing so and always keep safety in mind. If you do stack, I suggest not to stack more than three hammocks. The risk of a dangerous fall is much higher if you stack more than three, in my opinion.
Always inspect your equipment if you decide that stacking hammocks is right for you. You should already be doing this when using your hammock, but my suggestion is to double and triple check when planning to stack.
Selecting the Trees
The first item on your agenda is to select the proper trees that will safely support your hammock stack. This is critical to ensure you do this safely. Or I should probably say lessen the safety risk as there is always an inherent risk when stacking hammocks.
Spacing and distance between the trees are important as well. You still want to follow my guidelines and find two trees about 6 paces apart. In other words, the trees should be spaced around 12 to 15 feet apart. Once you have found the correct tree spacing, then you want to start to look at the integrity of trees themselves. Here is a list to go through when inspecting trees:
- Is the tree healthy? Do you see a canopy full of leaves, no dead branches, or Widow Makers?
- Is the bark healthy? Do you see bark peeling off or exposed wood where the tree could be infested with damaging insects and not be structurally sound?
- What is growing around and on the tree? Check for poisonous plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
- Is the ground rocky? If stacking hammocks you might not want a rocky ground under you. Use common sense. If you don’t want to fall on it, don’t stack over it.
- Is the tree standing straight up? If it’s leaning I would walk away no matter how healthy the tree may look. Not worth the risk.
If you are unsure and need more information about selecting good trees, I would suggest you read my in-depth article about How to pick the right trees to hang your hammock. It will help you determine what is a healthy tree and what is not. Super important for what you are wanting to do.
The last thing you want to do is to make absolutely sure you check that you have chosen trees with at least a 2-foot diameter. You need to select big, strong trees. If you go too small in diameter you can, and will, hurt the trees and possibly the humans hanging from them. This is important so do your due diligence to find good, strong, healthy trees if you plan to stack your hammocks.
Just be sure you are looking out for all these things when selecting the right tree. The controversy with this really breaks down to people are unsafe when they stack hammocks. So don’t be unsafe. I have stacked hammocks with my boys multiple times and we were safe about every step and we had a good time and no one got hurt. (not even the trees)
The Weight of People
You also need to take into account the bodyweights of each of the persons you plan to stack. You will need to have a set of reliable quality straps. Every set of straps has a weight limit and you never want to exceed that limit. This is especially true if you are planning to hang above someone else. Going past the weight limit of your straps can affect the integrity of the strap and can ultimately cause it to fail. When a strap fails you hit the ground – or the person below you. So please double check your straps. Look them over and if they look a little worn or frayed do not hang until you get yourself some new straps.
Think through and plan your stacked hammocks and human logistics. It’s amazing how many people don’t plan ahead and have no foresight on the logistics of stacking hammocks. It’s the little things that you do or take for granted when you are sleeping in a single hammock. Let me explain what I mean.
Person on top: “I have to go to the bathroom!”
Person on bottom: “Ok let me get out of my hammock and hold a light to allow you to get down.”
You have to think about and plan for situations such as this. You have to plan for the possibility of having your sleep interrupted. What if you’re a deep sleeper and someone needs to get down and they can’t wake you up? These are the situations where the stacking of hammocks starts to look not so glamorous. It’s fun to do as a test or just for an afternoon nap, but sleeping overnight in a stack can sometimes be a pain in the butt.
If you are only stacking two hammocks, the logistics of getting people in their hammocks is fairly straight forward. The person that is sleeping in the top hammock will need to get in first – unless you want to use the person on the bottom as a step stool, but I doubt they would appreciate that. Depending on how high the top hammock is you may have to jump up a bit and swing yourself in. Two hammocks is pretty easy to figure out.
The situation gets a little more tricky when you have more than two. Not everyone takes a step ladder with them into the woods so you will need to learn how to get into a hammock upside down. You essentially flip your hammock upside down so it is over the top of you, then wrap your arms around the hammock on the inside with the slack, and finally kick your feet up and then spin. This is something that can be quite tricky to do so I recommend you practice this.
It’s hard to visualize just from reading text so here’s a great visual that explains what I’m talking about.
Easily getting into a high hammock:
Positioning of People
Another thing you need to think about is how to position each person to effectively sleep in a hammock stack. You want to have each person sleeping in the opposite direction. That way you are not going to sit up and hit your head on someone’s back. Doing this just gives you more space above your head and wiggle room if you need it.
Just Be Smart About It
Well, despite the controversy surrounding stacked hammocks, it can be really fun. The key is to do it safely on the right trees, with the right equipment, and with the right people. Just like any experience with hammock camping, it does take practice. If you are planning to stack, I would test it out a few times at home or a local park before you actually spend a night in the woods. All in all, it’s up to you. Use your best judgment and take into consideration the tips I’ve shared to be as safe as possible while stacking your hammocks.
As always I hope you have a great time in that Wanderful Wild!