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Do Hammocks Damage Trees?

As an avid camper, I always have my hammock with me whenever I go outdoors. Especially during the summers, I use my hammock as my full-time sleep system instead of a tent. Hammocks are great and relaxing but at the same time, they can be dangerous to the trees if not properly set up. Do hammocks damage trees? Let’s find out.

Hanging hammocks damage trees if you don’t use a proper suspension system. If you hang your hammock using a thin rope, it can cut into the tree bark and damage the layer that is responsible for carrying the nutrition. Using tree straps and web slings can save the trees from this damage.

If you are going hammock camping for the first time or are just about to set up a hammock in your backyard, read this post before you hang your hammock. This will help you hang your hammock properly so that you don’t end up killing all your backyard trees inadvertently. I have also written a comprehensive guide to hammak camping that you can reference.

Will a hammock kill a tree?

Simply put, yes. An improperly hanged hammock can kill a tree over time. Not only can hammocks stunt the growth of trees, but they can also superficially damage tree bark. And that’s not all. The ropes can cut into the trunk and expose the inner layers to diseases and insect attacks in severe cases.

Some cities have banned hammock use in parks altogether because people use rope anchor systems, which causes even rapid wear.

So, what can you do about It?

The GOOD NEWS is that whether or not your hammock damages the tree is entirely dependent on how you hang your hammock. Before we discuss safe ways to hang a hammock without killing trees, let’s understand how can hammocks kill trees in the first place.

How Can A Hanging hammock Hurt Trees?

To start with, you need to understand the basic structure of tree bark. Just like exposed skin, tree bark is made up of multiple layers(Refer to the image below). And off these layers, the most vital one is the Cambium, a delicate layer of meristematic tissue sandwiched between the inner bark and the outer wood.

Cambium, aka the growth tissue, produces new layers on the inside and is responsible for the annual expansion of a tree. This means that a tightly tied rope can wear at the bark and expose the Cambium to infections and harsh weather. What’s more, it will also affect its growth by reducing the flow of nutrients. Remember that even if the hammock rope is loosely tied, it will get tighter as the tree ages and grows in diameter.

Cross-section of a tree trunk

Note: the bark refers to all tissue outside the cambium, including both the inner and outer bark

How do you hang a hammock without damaging a tree?

Chose a suitable tree for your hammock

Trust me when I say that selecting the right trees to hang your hammock is half the battle. Your safety should always be your primary concern.

It’s pretty obvious once you think about it. You first need to select two healthy and mature trees to set up your hammock. Ensure that the trees are sturdy enough to support your body weight. Additionally, the trees should be ideally spaced- Around 12 to 16 feet apart. Now before you go ahead and start throwing straps across the trees, let me stop you right there. It would be best if you made it a habit to look up.

Why Do I say This?- The reason is to look for dead and loose branches that have the potential to fall on or around you. On the off chance that you don’t see leaves on all the branches and a few of the larger branches appear dead, move on to another campsite with healthy trees. Lastly, look below to check what is underneath your hammock. You wouldn’t want to fall on thorny bushes, right?

Use tree saver straps

Tree straps to hang hammock without damaging trees

Make no mistake about it; Easily the most important part of hanging your hammock without killing the trees is- The Tree Trying Strategy.

You can fatally damage a tree if you aren’t careful about what you use for the suspension system. Now you can go ahead and use ropes to hang your hammocks. But if you are serious about protecting the trees, that’s a big NO-NO.

And Here’s Why- Ropes can pull on the tree bark, exposing the inner layers and leave them vulnerable to diseases and insect attacks. Beyond that, ropes cause most of the damage by reducing the tree’s ability to circulate nutrients to the injured area. Hence, killing the tree in the long run.

SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?- Use Tree Saver Straps.

Tree Saver Straps are specially designed to be wide webbed- Around 1 to 2 inches- than regular rope, which spreads the pressure on the tree over a larger surface area, reducing tree girdling and harm to the underlying layers. Above all, these straps are made of nylon or polyester, which are equally sturdy synthetic materials.

For what it’s worth; If you have to use a rope and don’t have access to straps, you can pad the rope with rope covers or lengths of garden hose. This will help keep the rope from cutting into the bark. And you are good to go!

Avoid hammock stacking

Agreed! Stacked hammock photos might look very appealing. And you will probably be tempted to try it. But trust me when I say that this could prove fatal. In addition to straining the trees, it also risks a painful fall for the upper hammocks. And for those unlucky enough to be below them, even worse.

The best course of action is to spread out multiple hammocks, preferably stick to each person using different trees. Not only will you reduce the strain on the individual trees, but you will also be in for a low-risk fall.

Use hammock poles (at home)

If your backyard isn’t home to mature, healthy trees, you can always use fence posts and poles for your next hammocking adventure.

Make sure to buy posts that are a minimum of 5- inch wide and 6 to 8 feet long. THE REASON? Anything less and your hammock won’t be able to support your weight. You can easily buy high-quality posts at any nearby hardware store.

Here’s What You Do Next.

  1.  The first thing you need to do is dig two holes into the ground. Make sure that they are at least 2 feet deep, 5 to 6 inches wide, and 12 to 16 feet apart.
  2.  Next, place your posts in the holes and fill the holes up with concrete. This will encase the posts firmly in the ground. So they don’t come crashing down under load.
  3.  Now, wait for around 10 to 12 hours for the concrete to set fully. Then fix J- hook to each post which will serve as anchors.
  4.  Lastly- and this is the best part- simply tie each end of your hammock to the posts and adjust until the tension is evenly distributed throughout.

Nail your hammock to the trees

Yes, Drilling a hole inside the trunk and putting a nail in to hang your hammocks is possible. Hammocks are often permanently hung to trees via screws or bolts. Surprisingly enough, a screw or a nail will not cause any long-term damage to a mature tree. It will put a hole inside the trunk and pave the way for infections, but it won’t permanently damage them.

When you drill inside a trunk, the tree seals around the hole with sap, thick serum-like liquid, which possess strong antibacterial qualities and protect the injury from getting infected.

Also, it provides robustness and enhances the hammock’s weight-carrying capacity. What’s more, the screw stays at the same height as the tree grows. Preferably use stainless steel or galvanized metal eyelet screws to prevent rust.

Use a hammock stand

Unable to find ideally spaced, sturdy trees on which to hang your hammock? That’s where FREE- STANDING HAMMOCK STAND fits in.

The best thing about these eco-friendly hammock stands is that you don’t have to worry about damaging the trees. What’s more, they are super easy to assemble, and there won’t be any need to measure or hassle with straps or ropes. And on top of it all, they can be used as a permanent hammock at your home.

So What’s The Catch?

If you plan to carry your hammock stand on a hike or to a poolside, it would be quite impossible to do so. These stands are quite heavy and not very portable. Not to mention that they can get very difficult to maintain and are a little heavy on the pocket.

Do Hanging Hammocks Damage Trees? – Summary

So the bottom line is- Yes, hammocks can hurt trees. But the good news is that there is a way around that. You can continue enjoying hammocks at little to no expense to the trees with a few surefire ways.

Still Not Convinced?

You can always opt for free-standing hammocks and avoid risking damage to the trees altogether. Remember always to remove the hammocks when you aren’t using them anymore at the end of summer. This will help your hammock last longer and avoid tree girdling in the meantime.

Hammocking isn’t a crime. And with a little effort and consideration, you can easily hammock all summer long with no risk to the environment or yourself. So if you are someone who loves staying in nature but is worried about your hammock fun killing the trees, we have just bailed you out.

Share with friends or family who might be planning the next hammock camping trip. Happy hammocking.

Recommended Camping Gears: I have compiled a list of my favourite camping gear in one place. The selection is based on my own personal experience using them for many years camping as well as feedback from fellow campers. Check them out on my Recommended Camping Gears page