With more people getting out and enjoying our wild places, there is increased impact on the places we travel. As good steward of our public lands we need to take steps to reduce our impact and take care of the places we play.
Hammocks are a prime examples of minimum impact shelters. When used with appropriate, tree friendly suspension systems, hammocks don’t alter the natural environment. The smaller our footprint, the less likely we are to impact existing plant and wildlife. Here are steps we can take to minimize our impact when hammock camping.
Use Tree Friendly Straps
Straps made out of nylon/polyester webbing with a minimum of 1″ in width will minimize the impact of hammocks on trees. They reduce girdling and damage to the bark and cambium layer, which can cause wood tissue death. Never hammer or screw anything into the trees or use anything made from a non-tree-friendly material, such as plastic zip cords. Think of the bark of a tree like a straw. When a straw is cracked it is hard for liquid to travel through it. If we damage the bark of a tree, the tree has a hard time getting the nutrients it needs from the ground.
Preserve the Riparian Zone
Set up your hammock camp at least 200 feet away from any water source to protect riparian areas (the interface between land and water.) These areas provide unique plant habitats and communities, and are significant in soil stabilization. Also, it is best to check with local land managers to ensure the area allows hammocking.
Protect Plant Life
Hammock camping is a great way to protect fragile plant species. When you find two perfect hammocking trees, make sure to thoroughly check the ground area for sensitive plant life, wildlife habitat, and potential hazards like yellow jacket nests or poisonous plants. Always check for roots and lichen, and avoid stepping on them entirely.
Look for an established, or already existing, campsite to set up your hammock. As prescribed in the Leave No Trace Principles: “Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.” When you find an existing campsite focus activities in areas that are already void of vegetation and avoid increasing the area of impact on the site.
When hunting for the perfect tree make sure that it is alive and sturdy. Hanging your hammock from a dead tree could result in you hurting yourself or others around you. Even if your chosen tree looks alive, check above you for dead branches that could fall.
Hanging your hammock no more than 18” off the ground is best for preventing accidents and avoiding damage to higher branches and leaves. Always hang your hammock on the thickest part of the tree trunk and avoid trees that bend or are planted in wet areas – they could potentially become uprooted and wet soils are far more susceptible to impact than dry ground.
Leave Only Footprints
When you are finished, pack everything up and inspect your campsite and surrounding area for anything you could have left behind. Double check that all trash and leftover food is packed up and taken with you. Your site should be left as good, if not better, than the way you found it.
Most importantly, have fun and relax knowing that you are doing your part to keep our wild places wild!
For more information on how to Leave No Trace on your next adventure, visit www.LNT.org