If you are environmentally conscious and enjoy camping you might have a question or two.
And one that might spring to mind is, do hammocks damage trees?
Because the last thing you want to do is hurt these majestic plants that do an important job for the eco-system and have been alive for a long time.
So will slinging your hammock up kill a tree?
We take a closer look…
Do Hammocks Damage Trees?
Hammocks can damage trees, but it is very, very rare. If a hammock with thin straps was hung around a weak or stressed tree, over a long period of time, the strap could eventually penetrate the bark and stop water and nutrients from being circulated. To prevent damage to trees it is always best to use wide, tree-saver, hammock straps.
Will a Hammock Hurt a Tree? Or Even Kill It?
The answer is… it depends, but in all honesty it is unlikely a hammock will harm a tree, much less kill it.
However, that doesn’t mean it is impossible, and it is very much dependent upon the tree, the straps, and the amount of time it is hung for.
Let’s look at each point in turn.
#1: The Tree
Most trees are incredibly resilient, and over their long lives will survive all kinds of trauma, such as fires and disease, and still flourish.
Certain types of trees would be more susceptible to damage from hammocks though, notably softwood trees like pine, birch and aspen as they have thinner bark, that will be more easily damaged.
And if a tree is already stressed, maybe it suffering from a disease, or it is old, then you are more likely to harm it.
#2: The Straps
The types of straps you use when hanging your hammock are also a factor.
It short the narrower the strap the more damage it can do.
Using cord or rope can be particularly harmful to trees as it can cut into the bark and expose the tree to infections and reduce the flow of nutrients.
Have you ever walked with a heavy bag of shopping in each hand for a prolonged period of time?
If the handle is thin and feels harsh, it will cut into your hands and hurt more than if it is thick and soft.
The same goes for the way a hammock is attached to a tree, and this is the reason many National Parks that permit hammocks have guidelines on how wide the tree straps must be (usually one inch wide or more).
Wide straps made from nylon or polyester webbing, will do the least damage to a tree.
#3 How Long It is Suspended For
It goes without saying that the longer a hammock is hung on a tree, the more damage it is likely to do.
Now most of us won’t sleep on the same hammock, between the same two trees daily for a number of months or years.
But where this can be a problem is in campgrounds or National Parks that get a lot of visitors.
Then the same trees might regularly be subject to hammocks, tarps or even washing lines being attached to them.
And if that is happening every day over a long period these trees might be affected (hence the rules many National Parks are introducing that I mentioned above).
In summary, if the perfect storm were to gather, and an old tree, or a softwood tree, was subject regularly to hammocks being hung from it, and those hanging the hammocks used narrow straps, it could harm or even kill the tree.
But How Can a Hammock Damage a Tree?
So as discussed, over a period of time, the incorrect types of straps (narrow rope straps in particular), can penetrate the bark of a tree and cause irreversible damage.
The bark of a tree offers protection against potentially hazardous insects and infection and keeps the moisture content within the tree balanced.
Bark is split into two sections, inner bark and outer bark.
Damage to the outer bark isn’t too much of a problem, as it is mostly dead tissue and can regenerate itself.
However it is damage to the inner bark, and the layer beneath it, called Cambium, that can cause issues.
This part of the tree produces new vascular tissue and wood and transports water and nutrients through the tree.
In short, it is responsible for the growth of a tree.
If it is sufficiently damaged, the part of the tree above the damage will be starved of water and nutrients and will not grow anymore.
In fact, it will most likely die.
How You Can Stop Your Hammock From Damaging a Tree
The best and most efficient way to ensure your hammock doesn’t cause any harm to a tree is to buy proper straps.
Buy tree-saver hammock straps that are at least one inch wide, and are made from nylon or polyester.
A cheap substitute, if you don’t mind making them yourself, is an old seatbelt.
The width of the straps spreads the load and reduces the stress on the tree.
Tie these straps around the thickest part of the tree about 4 to 5 feet above the ground.
Ideally you won’t want to leave your hammock up for too long, as prolonged exposure to rain and sun can damage it.
Taking it down regularly will give the tree a breather and allow you to make sure your hammock dries out when needed, and mold or mildew doesn’t accumulate.
Some campers even place pads, or sticks under the straps to distribute the weight more evenly if they are particularly concerned about damaging a tree.
With proper straps, you are very unlikely to cause any damage to a tree with your hammock.
You can see it would take an extreme set of circumstances to align for a hammock to kill a tree, but it could certainly damage one.
If thin narrow straps are used, over a long period of time they could harm an old or stressed tree.
That is because they may eventually penetrate the bark and prevent parts of the tree from doing their jobs of transporting water and nutrients around the tree.
The straps would have to be hung in the same spot for a very long time for this to happen, but in National Parks or popular campsites that have lots of visitors, it is possible.
To ensure your hammock doesn’t hurt any trees, make sure you buy tree-saver hammock straps. These straps are very wide and distribute the load of the hammock evenly so it won’t damage the tree.