Scouting Forums

Do Hammocks count as Under the Stars or Tents?

Where can I go to get the official answer as to how to log nights spent in a hammock? And does it make a difference if there is no tarp draped over the hammock? Most advancement and merit badges need tent nights, but some need Under the Star nights and I’d like to log things correctly.
Personally, I think it should count as under the stars since there is no shelter from rain or snow. I’ve read some blogs that seem to say it should count as a tent due to the knots required to secure it to the trees.
Thanks for the help!

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Don’t think there is an official answer that I have ever heard - it is a matter of interpretation


@ErickaHernandez - let’s see if I can beat Donovan to the post.

It’s a judgement call. There are also ways to erect a rain fly of some sort, which could make it more similar to camping in a tent (because they would have had to erect some sort of shelter from the weather).

I should add that camping merit badge requirement 9a. says:

“Camp a total of at least 20 nights at designated Scouting activities or events. One long-term camping experience of up to six consecutive nights may be applied toward this requirement. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.”

So it does not matter if it is “under the sky” or “in a tent you have pitched”. Either one is permissible for purposes of the camping merit badge.

For rank advancement (Second Class and First Class 1a.) it might make a difference, but it is up to the Scoutmaster or Scoutmaster’s designee to decide if it meets the requirements or not.

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Hi, @ErickaHernandez,

I have historically accepted hammock camping where the scout hung the hammock himself, selected the appropriate trees/suspension systems, and appropriately protected the trees/complied with regional regulations (because some areas in which we camp prohibit hanging anything from the trees, require special precautions, etc).

I know that as a scout in Louisiana, there were some swamp campouts where we couldn’t have put a tent down, because there wasn’t any truly solid ground. And besides…we could at least pretend that the alligators couldn’t reach us if we weren’t laying on the ground. :wink:

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The question is interesting. I have not heard of anyone contesting the use of a hammock versus a tent to meet any of the requirements. I think the provision is really meant to differentiate between sleeping in a bunkhouse or an Adirondack style cabin (any permanent constructed shelter). We have had boys that have forgotten to bring a tent or a hammock, in which they literally slept on the ground in their sleeping bag “ under the stars.” In the end it is usually under the discretion of the scoutmaster to decide what qualifies for under the stars. As leaders we are not here to put roadblocks up for the scouts, but to provide them with a safe, enriching scouting experience, using common sense and erring in favor of the scout.

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Just to be very clear, it is the discretion of the scout and his merit badge counselor, who may or may not be the SM for that particular badge.

This is the first that I’ve known anyone make a distinction between hammock and tent. My favorite rigging for my hammock is with the tarp on a ridge line rigged in a loop. A pull of the rope brings the tarp taut above my precious hide. So, were I a scout and counting mattered, I guess that would be “under the stars, provisionally?”

We just spent a week at Camp Rainey Mountain in Adirondacks. I’m counting that as a long term camp to meet whatever nights the scouts need for either rank, Camping MB, or OA nights. The requirements that I read today seem to indicate sleeping in a shelter you help construct. My guys added a 4th wall to the Adirondack, so as far a I’m concerned, it meets the requirement.

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@KennethTillman @Qwazse Awesome!!! I agree. If the scouts are out on a camping trip and are sleeping in a tent, hammock, Adirondacks, or even sleeping on the floor of a church building (as a way-point to final destination) I am incline to count the night too. For example, we just got back from SeaBase. We slept 6 nights in/on a sailboat. We had to get real creative with the sleeping arrangements, but I would count those nights too. As long as you are not camping at the local Marriott or Days Inn, I am in favor of erring on the side of the scout. It is about them enjoying the experience and wanting them to continue camping. If you start docking them nights, they could get discouraged.

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Interesting. On the way to CRM, we spent the night in the Youth room of a church either on the floor or a couch. On the way back, we rented a Cabin in the Mountains; we had floors, couches and beds to sleep in. I hadn’t planned on counting those nights because we were in buildings…I’m beginning to reconsider my position…

I think it depends on the wording of the requirements.

On the floor or couch of a church could count for some things (for example: JTE camping see JTE Unit FAQ #24), but I don’t think it would meet the requirements of the camping merit badge requirement #9a, which specifies that the nights must be “under the sky or in a tent you have pitched”. And Second Class / First Class rank requirement #1a. says: “On campouts, spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave, or tepee.”

A hammock that a Scout erects outdoors I think would be “under the sky” for purposes of the camping merit badge. Throw in a rain fly and I think it’s basically a tent at that point.

A lot is at the merit badge counselor’s discretion (camping merit badge) or the Scoutmaster’s (or Scoutmaster’s designee’s) discretion as to whether or not it meets the requirements for a merit badge, rank requirement, or award.

Cub Scouts “do their best”, but for Scouts in Scouts BSA: “advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,” “demonstrate,” or “discuss,” then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice.” (Guide to Advancement section

@ KennethTillman: Our Troop frequently uses CRM as well and just got back 2 weeks ago. We too used the Adirondacks as we also have and IMO if it’s on a BSA facility made for the purpose of Scouts Camping then it’s perfectly fine. As for Hammocks, I see no reason to exclude that use as well. They do make rain flys for hammocks for those that feel the need. I use one and I like it.

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Thank you, everyone, for your input. I wish I could say that this discussion has made everything clearer, but it has not. It seems there is no official ruling as to how to document a hammock. Some say it’s under the stars, some say it’s a tent. Some say it’s under the stars unless a fly is used. It seems to be a matter of interpretation. I will discuss it with my troop leadership and we will come to a decision that works for us. Unfortunately, these individual Troop decisions can lead to inconsistency and confusion. “My troop does it this way.” “But, my Troop does it that way.” I was looking for something that would be considered universal.

Please understand that I’m absolutely putting the scouts first and not refusing any of my scouts credit for a camping night because they used a hammock instead of a tent! I was just looking to be as correct as possible and detailed in my recording of their camping experiences in case, some where down the road, they needed credit for under the stars evenings.

Ericka, for purposes of the camping merit badge, it does not matter. Nights spent “under the sky or in a tent you have pitched” BOTH count for requirement #9a:

“Sleep each night under the sky OR in a tent you have pitched. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.”

On the other hand, for purposes of Second Class and First Class rank requirements:

“1a. On campouts, spend the night in a tent that you pitch or other structure that you help erect, such as a lean-to, snow cave, or tepee.”

It is up to the Scoutmaster (or Scoutmaster’s designee) to decide if sleeping in a hammock meets the requirement or not. Just my opinion, but the examples given in SC/FC rank requirement #1a. (tent, lean-to, snow cave, tepee) are all structures that provide some kind of protection from the elements (rain, snow, etc.).

By itself, a hammock does not provide protection from the elements - it is basically a cot hanging in the air (this is why I would say that it is similar to sleeping under the sky). But add a rain fly and it becomes similar to a tent, because the rain fly is now providing some protection from the elements.


That’s an important distinction. The requirement for 2nd Class and 1st Class isn’t just to sleep outside, but to learn how to set up a tent or other shelter.

If it were up to me, I’d count hammock sleeping as “under the stars”, not “in a tent”.


Just to muddy the waters, what about a jungle hammock?

More like a swinging tent with bug proof bottom, mosquito netting sides and rain roof. Haven’t seen one since 1968, SPL used one in Nicaragua. :slightly_smiling_face:

I dunno, @SteveCagigas . My ENO DoubleNest is more complicated to set up than any of my tents (except maybe the crusty old canvas ones that I used as a scout with the five-part poles). It seems pretty comparable to the level of skills involved in setting up a tent:

  1. Find two trees the right distance apart, large enough to support the loads without being damaged. (Find a suitable place to set-up your tent.)
  2. Place the suspension system the correct distance from the ground. (Clear the area and place your ground sheet.)
  3. Slide the bug netting over the hammock before attaching the hammock to the suspension system. (Tents generally come with no-see-'em pre-installed.)
  4. Attach the hammock to the suspension system (Place the right poles in the right sleeves and stake down your tent).
  5. Run the ridge line and attach the rain fly. Guy out the rain fly. (Attach the rain fly to your tent and guy it out).

Are they the same skills? No. Do they require as much planning and skill to execute correctly? I think so, if not more since not every pair of trees is suited to carrying a hammock, but almost any tent pad will take a tent. That said, if all you’re doing is stringing a “sheet” between two trees and hopping in, that sounds a lot more like sleeping under the stars, as has already been suggested.

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I would say yes to under the stars but no for the tent.

So I am curious as to why the designation of “under the stars.” Is there some local (or regional) award for that? Or is there some national award I am not aware of? The only place I can think of that this might come up is in Wilderness Survival, but that says “improvised shelter” and I wouldn’t count a hammock for such.

I ask because I am curious. Our troop doesn’t document under the stars vs a tent.

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I have found this to be an interesting conversation. It is very informative, but also confusing.

I thought I knew what a tent was, what a shelter would be and what sleeping under the stars might mean. I do not think a hammock ever meets the definition of a tent or a shelter. A tent is defined as a portable shelter that is erected with poles and rope. Most of the temporary shelters that have no walls might be a synonym for a tent, but would not qualify as a tent.

If I put up a tarp, sleep on the ground exposed to everything in the world except the sky directly above me, I am in a tent? I do not think so. So merely putting a rainfly over a hammock does not convert it into a tent. Tents fall into very specific categories and none of them describe a hammock or a tarp cover. When attending an OA Ordeal and sleeping under the stars, not in a tent, everyone brings something to roll up in so if you find yourself in a pouring down rain you can stay moderately dry. No one calls it a tent, no one says you are not sleeping under the stars. I think we sometimes take things like sleeping under the stars too literal. Taking it full course, if we are sleeping in a heavily forested area and cannot see the stars due to the leaf canopy above us, are we now in a tent as well? A pop-up, a tarp, a plastic drop cloth are potential tent synonyms, but they are not tents.

So we now have one more opinion, enjoy.

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