Hammock Camp the CDT: Gear, Advice, Special Considerations

Other hikers: “What do you do if the area you are in has no trees for a hammock?”

Hammock camper: “Go to a place with trees.”

Secret hammock spot on CDT’s second night in the New Mexico desert.

Of the three trails that make up the famous Triple Crown of American Hiking, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), known for its epic views over exposed mountain ridges, appears to be the least possible hammock camp of the three. But as I learned firsthand on my 2021 CDT thru hike, this is not exactly the case.

In this article I am going to discuss my complete CDT hammock setup. But before we dive into the gear wormhole, let’s discuss a few common myths about the CDT’s hammock camping, along with my opinion of them as someone who actually did it.

The desolately beautiful bootheel section of the CDT in New Mexico.

Common myths about hammock camping debunked on the CDT

1. There are no trees that are suitable for hammock camping.

This may be the case in some areas (more on this below), but in my experience, as long as a hiker is north of Silver City, New Mexico and not in the Wyoming desert basin, there are at least a few options to get off the ground to sleep when you are ready to look. Being a seasoned hammock camper helps a lot with this task.

Hammock cdt

Hanging out at the CDT’s Gila Alternate in New Mexico.

2. The path is too exposed.

The CDT offers some extremely beautiful, exposed ridge walks, but usually even within reach of a modest hiker there are areas where hammock campers can easily duck off the trail to find a nice place to sleep. I have never been the one to camp myself with a tent in an extremely exposed area. The legendary bad weather conditions at the CDT also tempt hikers to look for a nice spot that is not exposed. A nice spot outside of the CDT’s howling wind usually makes for a great night’s sleep.

Hammock cdt

Looks pretty exposed in the San Juans of Colorado.

3. You cannot camp with your tent / tarpaulin friends.

I’ve always enjoyed camping with other hikers, even if I hike alone for most of the day. In the northern section of the CDT, where you could be visited by a grizzly bear, I enjoyed being with a larger group even more. In my experience, people with tents – especially the non-detached version – go to some of the same areas that hammock campers seek. For example, a beautiful area with trees that offer nice shelter from the wind in bad weather. Reviewing the topo map for the day will help a hanger find a good place to shoot.

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Camping by tram south of Hope Pass, Colorado – a group of four tents and a secluded hammock.

CDT Hammock Camping Equipment Considerations

Floor structure

The CDT’s logistics often make it to where you’re running out of daylight before running out of the way to hike on a given day. With the possibility of a hammock camper ending up in an area that is not suitable for hanging, it is important to always be prepared to either go cowboy camp or put your tarp on the floor for a grumpy night’s sleep .

To set up on the ground, a hammock camper needs a moisture barrier, insulation, and proper rigging for a tarp. This assumes they are wearing trekking poles, which is common with most hikers. Make sure you practice and master this development BEFORE your hike.

Resources To Help With This Ground Setup: Shug’s Going to Ground Youtube Video, Long Distance Hiker’s All-Terrain Setup

Soil Life, PCT 2018.

Hammock suspension

In order to use the hammock accessible areas of the CDT, it is important to have a good length of straps. This will help with unusual hammock spots with trees much further apart than a hammock would normally hang. I recommend 12 ‘Dyneema straps that optimize durability, length and weight.

Resources To Help With Your Hammock Suspension: Two Speed ​​Under 2 oz Hammock Suspensions, CDT Approved, MyersHammock Tech Straps

Time for the 12th in the Gila Alternate.

Full equipment list for a hammock setup that worked on the CDT

In April 2021, this hammock camper set off to hike the CDT with a hammock. I used a cowboy camp in New Mexico that added a very uncomfortable neo air air pad to Silver City, New Mexico, and then a tarp tent and luxury sleeping mat from Sea to Summit for the Wyoming desert basin by Lander, WY.

Here is a list of the main hammock-related items I have worn, along with some references to help you learn more about each item.

Hammock: Dutchware Half-Zipped The Trek Gear Review, Two Speed’s Gear Review Video

Upper quilt: Hammock Gear Burrow 20F 950 down

Suspended ceiling: Hammock Gear Phoenix ¾ 950 down: Two Speed’s Gear Review Video

Under: Hammock Gear Standard Tarpaulin with Doors: Two Speed’s Gear Review

Check out the videos below for more information and if you have any questions, feel free to contact in the comments below or in the youtube comments section.

Questions about the packing weight

The CDT’s gear changes quite often along the way, but the few times I’ve been on a scale, my pack weight has been with or under people with a light tent pitch (about 25 pounds fully loaded). It wasn’t as light as some of the microlights, but with my under blanket, I basically had two sleeping bags with me, which was to be expected.

Backpack used: Seen-better-days 2017 40L Gossamer Gear Gorilla with Custom Rolltop: Trek’s equipment test, Two Speed’s video test, link to purchase the current gorilla.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla looks like it has a few too many ramen bombs, its normal condition.

Areas of the CDT that you would like to have a tent in

Mexico border with Silver City New Mexico

The New Mexico bootheel is one area that demonstrates the ruggedness of the CDT. The lack of water, shade, and sometimes even trails definitely makes it a place where hammock camping is challenging at best. For this section, I wore a -length Therm-a-Rest Neoair Pad and it was fine. The best thing about this section was the cowboy camping under the stars in the desert. I’d heard others describe this experience, but it’s hard to appreciate until you’re in your own five million star hotel room.

New Mexico desert, can still feel the heat even looking at the picture.

Wyoming desert basin

The Wyoming desert basin is known for being bleak and extremely windy at times. Knowing this, I decided on a Tarptent Stratospire for a ground setup. I believe this section could have been hammock camp, but if I had to do it all over I would probably still use a tent for the desert basin. I picked up my trusty tarp tent in Encampment, WY, and traded it back for my hammock in Lander, WY.

It’s also important to note that this section is very flat. The easy terrain, coupled with the heat and lack of water, encourages many hikers to test their skills on a 24-hour hiking challenge. I had a lot of fun as a hammock camper because I knew that I would feel good again after the section. I had covered 68 miles after completing the 24 Hour Challenge, and I’ll admit that even my tent was comfortable that morning.

A warm day in the pool with the famous @friedgreenexperience, a great episode on Instagram.


The CDT is an excellent trail no matter what’s in your backpack. It is possible to camp in hammocks most of the way depending on your hammock camping experience and the overall experience you wish to achieve. I loved 98% of my hammock camping experience on the CDT – but then it was exactly what I was looking for.

Hammock cdt

The look of a happy person who brought their hammock tarpaulin during an Idaho downpour.

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