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How to Hang a Camping Hammock – Essentials and Best Practices

Before getting into how to hang a hammock, you should know what type of camping hammock you own or would like to purchase.

It’s not as easy to figure out as a tent, which usually has color-coded poles and clips to simplify assembly.

A hammock is a lot more manual and intuitive. The setup varies a little bit from location and location.

When you get your hammock, you should master how the hanging equipment works. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to set it up anywhere.

Deciding On Your Colors

The color of your hammock and your straps are more important than you may know. If you’re going on a hunting trip, you’ll want your hammock to be either dull green or camouflage.

You want to maintain low visibility in your campsite to avoid running the animals off.

If you intend on wandering around and leaving your campsite frequently, a brightly colored hammock will help you find your way back to where you belong. You’ll be able to see it from a longer distance, and you’re less likely to get lost.

Some people prefer brightly colored straps. Sometimes, straps are harder to see in low lit environments.

Campers can absentmindedly run into these straps, knocking themselves backward.

If you’re concerned that you might trip, opt for brightly colored straps or straps with colored stitching. They’re a little easier to see.

sleeping-in-hammock

Types of Camping Hammocks

Gathered End

This hammock is gathered at each end, hence the name, Gathered End Hammock. This hammock is easy to hang and get in and out of. It is well suited for lying at an angle and does not take up a lot of length under a tarp.

They are also usually the lightest hammocks, and the most widespread hammock available. This guide focuses on the gathered end hammock.

Bridge Hammock

This hammock has spreader bars and is wider at the top and narrower at the feet. A Bridge Hammock needs a smaller hang degree than other hammock types.

You do not lie at an angle in a bridge hammock, but there is more room to spread your feet and they do not squeeze your shoulders like other hammock types.

They do however have less room for your arms as they are narrow in the middle. Also, you need to consider the weight the spreader bars add when backpacking.

90 Degree

This hammock is suspended from the sides of the hammock as opposed to the ends. This Hammock requires a special sleeping pad that has air chambers that run up and down the length of the hammock.

The benefit of this hammock is that it lays flat, so if you sleep on your stomach this may be a good option.

There is no shoulder squeeze, but they usually weigh more than other hammocks. It will also need an especially large tarp because of the way your body is positioned.

Double Layer

This is not actually a type, but it is an important feature you can choose when selecting a hammock.

Double layers hold more weight and can accommodate a sleeping pad between the layers. They also give more protection from bug or mosquito bites than a single layer.

Nap in Hammock

Location, Location, Location – Where to hang a hammock?

Where should you hang your camping hammock?

Unlike tents, hammocks can’t go just anywhere. If you’re camping in the desert or on a mountain, you may not be able to find the trees you need to set that hammock up

So, the standard answer is between two trees, and that is a great answer, but there is more to the answer than that. The quality of the tree matters. There are also other places you can hang your hammock.

The perfect hammock campsite is an area that’s at least lightly wooded. You’re going to need to find two sturdy trees that are close enough together to safely hang your hammock.

About Trees

The ‘best’ way how to hang a hammock is generally thought to be between two trees. The trees need to be healthy and large enough to hold your weight. No saplings or young trees!

The roots of young trees are not deep enough. Dead trees are also bad because they may not be able to hold your bodyweight. They’ll also shake in windy, rainy weather, and this can cause your hammock to slip.

Find old trees with a larger diameter, and make sure there are no hanging branches that may fall on you when you sleep.

You might want to trim the trees with a camping machete before you set up the tent.

The trees should be 12-15 feet apart for standard size hammocks and 13-17 feet for Extra Large models.

Other Hanging Locations

If you do not have two trees available that does not automatically mean you won’t be able to use a camping hammock.

You can hang from rock formations, cars, overhead cables (non-electric of course) securely planted signposts, and more.

This guide will focus on how to set up a hammock between two trees because it is the most common way, not because it is the only way.

Hammock by the Pier

Essential Hammock Hanging Definitions

Anchors

The two trees/posts/points etc where the hammock hangs from. These should be between 12 and 15 feet or 3 paces, 6 steps or 4 to 5 meters apart.

The measurements are approximate so there is no need to pack the measuring tape.

Sheer Force 

The perpendicular force of the occupied hammocks weight on your anchor point and suspension. Think of it as a force pulling the tree down on top of you and make sure you use a solid healthy tree to hang your hammock from.

This force is calculated using the weight in the hammock (that would be you) and the angle your suspension has relative to the anchor point. A larger angle means less force.

Suspension

The webbing, rope, cord, knots, hitches, toggles and carabineers, etc that you use to hang the camping hammock.

Ridgeline

There are two types of hammock ridgelines, structural and non-structural. The structural ridgeline of a hammock is a tight cord of a set length that directs the hang or sag of the hammock and is built into the hammock.

A structural ridgeline will increase the shear force so you will need to make sure your anchor points are up to the task.

A non-structural ridgeline is a cord or line built into the hammock used to hang a bug net but does not change the way the hammock lays.

A tarp ridgeline is used to hold a tarp or other gear and is generally separate from the hammock itself.

Cord Tension

The force exerted by the cords of your suspension system on the anchor points. This force is similar to shear force, but it pulls down the angle of the cord, as opposed to perpendicular.

Cords

Suspension Length

The length from the hammock end to the hang point on the anchor.

Seat Height

The height of your hammock measured, when occupied, at the lowest point of the hammock.

Basically, how high your butt is from the ground when you are in the hammock. Ideally, this should be about the height of the seat on a chair (aka seat height).

Hang Angle

The angle of your suspension cord. The angle starts with a horizontal line and is measured up to the angle the cord makes with the anchor. This should be about 30 degrees.

Hang Point / Attachment Point

How high up the suspension is attached to the anchor. The hang points should line up with each other, so if the ground is uneven, they will not necessarily be hung at the same height from the ground, only hung in line with each other to make a straight horizontal line.

Hardware

In the case of a camping hammock, the hardware is a piece of equipment used in place of a knot.

This can be a carabineer, toggle, clip or any number of inventions. There are many types of hardware that could possibly be used in the suspension.

Hardware is sometimes easier and faster than tying knots, but it also weighs more and sucks if you forget it and don’t know how to tie knots.

  • Carabineer – a ring, sometimes D shaped, used frequently by rock climbers. It has a small latch that opens inward. In the case of a camping hammock, it is a piece of hardware used as part of the suspension.
  • Toggle or Toggle hitch – is a DIY hardware solution, usually a stick, that is used to attach the webbing to the hammock cord, or can be used for other tasks like hanging supplies.

Toggle

Photo credit: Pearson Scott Foresman

  • Knots – knots are used to tie up and attach the suspension. They can be used instead of hardware. Knots take time and practice to use and are tricky with a slippery material. Knots can also reduce the load a cable or cord is able to hold.

The benefits of knots are they do not add weight and are handy in case of emergencies, or if you lose your hardware.

Lay

The angle and bend of your hammock as you sleep.

The closer to a horizontal line the more the hammock allows you to sleep in a ‘flatter’ lay. More on this later.

How to Hang a Hammock with Ropes

The best way to hang a hammock with ropes is to allow friction to do most of the work. Simply by wrapping the rope tightly around a tree several times and tying a sturdy knot, you’ll be able to keep your hammock up.

The friction will prevent the hammock from sliding, so long as it’s wrapped and tied as tightly as possible.

For extra security, choose a forked area of the tree. Even if it slips, it won’t be able to slide all the way down the trunk of the tree.

The notch will catch the line. If you’re ever worried that your knots and weight won’t hold up on a smooth trunk, always hook your hammock up around a fork between two large limbs.

You may have to climb to reach these points, but that’s a small price to pay for safety.

There are a lot of kinds of rope, but cotton ropes or paracord are the best kinds of ropes to use.

Cotton is resistant to the UV rays of the sun, and it won’t degrade over time. It’s safe to get cotton wet, and it’s durable enough to hold a heavy weight load.

Knots in cotton can be tied very tightly and will not slip. As long as the ends are sealed, cotton rope is unlikely to fray. Just be careful not to snag it.

Paracord can hold a lot of weight, but you may want to braid or weave several lengths of paracord together before you use it to hang your hammock.

Paracord is very thin, and you don’t want to skimp out on the durability. It takes a little time, but you can hold onto these woven or braided lengths of rope for the next time you go camping.

As far as the knots you use, a basic knot will work fine with simple hanging methods. It doesn’t hurt to learn a few extra knots that will hold better.

School of Hard Knots

You should learn a few basic knots, even if you don’t plan to use them. If hardware breaks or gets lost, or some other emergency arises they can be quite useful, and its free to learn and use.

Plus, if someone asks: “Do you know how to hang a hammock with a rope?” You could enjoy being a bit of a scout and with confidence say: “Of course!”

Sheet Bend/Hammock Knot/ Becket Hitch/Weavers Knot

Commonly used to tie hammocks, it is quick to tie up and release and is frequently used to join two ropes with different diameters, such as the webbing and the hammock cord.

Schootsteek

Photo credit: Sawims 

Double Overhand Knot

A stopper knot used to secure the webbing to the anchor.

Double Overhand Knot

Photo credit: Markus Bärlocher

Clove Hitch

This hitch is good where you need to make adjustments, like support lines or lines running to stakes.

clove-hitch

Photo credit: Parkis

Bowline

A knot which forms a fixed loop. It is easy to tie and untie.

Bowline

Photo credit: David J. Fred

Taught Line Hitch/ Riggers Hitch

This knot also makes a loop, but this loop is adjustable and is used on lines under tension.

Taut Line Hitch

Photo credit: Chris 73

Truckers Hitch

This knot makes a fixed loop in a line which is used as a pulley point to add tension to a line threaded through the loop.

Truckers Hitch

Photo credit: StromBer

Tied Tight or Let Loose?

There is some debate as to whether suspension lines should be tied tighter or looser. Some say the benefits of a tighter line are they make for a flatter lay, but that is debatable.

Laying on the diagonal is actually better for getting a flatter lay, but some taller folks like tighter lines.

The cons of tight lines are they add more cord tension and shear force, so you will need stronger anchors.

They also make gathered hammocks tighter at the shoulders and can make the hammock a bit claustrophobic.

If the line is too tight you will not be able to turn, adjust or even lay on the diagonal. Too loose of a line and the camping hammock will have too great a sag and be uncomfortable. 

Get Your Hang on in 7 Easy Steps – How to Set Up a Hammock

Note: For simplicity, the terms here are defined above. Also, there are many ways you can set up a hammock, the following is one way to hang a hammock, not the ‘best’ way to hang a hammock or the ‘only’ way to hang a hammock.

Those things do not exist. These steps use widespread techniques, and the most prevalent hammock, the gathered end hammock.

Hennessy Hammock Expedition Series

1. Select Your Anchors

Usually two trees 12 to 15’ apart. (See Anchors in the definitions above for more info)

2. Attach Webbing Straps to Hang Points

Webbing straps should be 1 to 1.5 inch wide straps. The width protects tree bark from being damaged because the weight is spread out, as opposed to a rope where the weight is focused on a smaller area and can cut into the bark.

The hang point should be about 6 feet up the anchor (tree, post, or whatever you are hanging the hammock on).

If the ground is uneven or sloped, the hang points should be set in a horizontal line, or the same relative height.

3. Install Bug Net (optional, if you use an aftermarket or unattached bug net)

There are two kinds of bug nets. One of them attaches directly to the hammock, and the other one is loose and flowing. These kinds of nets aren’t worth getting.

Insects will simply fly up underneath it and become trapped in your hammock. Always choose a bug net that attaches right to the hammock, or slides over the hammock.

All you need to do to install a bug net is run a thin line a few feet over the top of the hammock. Pull the net up, and clip it to the line. It will create a tent-shaped enclosure.

The net shouldn’t fall on you while you’re sleeping. Never attempt to sleep with the net lying directly on top of you. You can get tangled up in your sleep and tear the net.

If your Camping hammock does not have an integrated bug net, you can place one over the suspension and the hammock before you tie everything up.

4. Attach Hammock Rope to the Webbing

The hammock rope is the rope coming from the ends of the hammock. This must be tied to the webbing using a knot or secured to the webbing using hardware.

A sheet bend is an example of a classic knot used for this purpose. A carabineer is a more modern piece of hardware that serves this purpose as well.

Camping with tent

5. Adjust Your Hang

Aim for 30 Degree hang angle. Adjust the hang so your sit height is a foot to a foot and a half off the ground. You don’t need to bring any tools to measure, you can just eyeball it.

There are also phones that have apps that can act as a level and give you an idea of the angle you have if you bring your phone and are so inclined.

6. Add a Tarp

Some hammocks come with a rain fly or tarp, and other manufacturers may require you to purchase one separately. A tarp is useful for protecting against the elements, such as rain. They also block wind and keep heat in.

If you’re camping somewhere that sees frequent rainfall or you just like to be prepared, you’ll definitely want a rain fly to rely on.

The way a tarp needs to be set up depends on the style of the fly. Most of them are easy and require three connection points.

After your hammock is installed, you’ll run a thin line a few feet over the top. The center of the rain fly will clip to this line, and this is how it will stay above you. The sides of the rain fly will also need to be either staked to the ground or affixed to other trees.

With guylines, you can pull the sides until they’re taught and as far from the center as they can be without being stretched.

If the tension is too high, the hard rain can actually puncture the rain fly, and wind storms can cause it to tear. Using tent stakes, anchor these guy lines to the ground.

7. Add Under Quilt or Undercover (optional, sort of)

Hammock Camping can get cold quick. If you are camping in cold weather or there are strong winds you might want to use an under quilt or undercover respectively.

There are other methods to stay warm but an under quilt is popular because it does not shift or compress and is effective.

An undercover can be a tarp or Mylar blanket that you hang under your hammock to block the wind.

You can also add insulation to an undercover, like dried leaves or camping gear that sit between the undercover and the hammock.

If you can carry one with you and you’d like to get one, some manufacturers make sleeping pads for hammocks.

These are thin pieces of slightly flexible foam that fit inside of your hammock. They’ll offer you a little more back support, and reduce the amount of curling you’ll experience. All you need to do is set this pad inside of the hammock and lay on it.

Many hammock pads have a texture that’s designed to minimize slipping, but the material of a hammock naturally encourages sliding.

This pad may shift throughout the night, and you may need to readjust is as it comes out from under you.

One of the best workarounds to this is to use hammock sleeping pad wings. These are a slipcover that fits over the hammock sleeping pad that will help you affix it to the hammock.

It will prevent the sleeping pad from sliding, allowing you to get a great night’s rest without having to wake up and make adjustments.

Now, what about if you have hammock tree straps? How do you set up your hammock then?

How to Set Up a Hammock with Straps

Most people will use tree straps to hang their hammocks because they’re the easiest method.

hammock tree straps with carabiners

Tree straps come in different lengths. The distance between trees varies by the length of the straps you’re using.

Most manufacturers will clearly state the combined length of the straps, helping you determine the maximum length between trees.

Most straps are made of a polyester kind of material. These are durable and woven thick. They’re less likely to snag when they come into contact with tree bark, and it’s safe to get them wet.

Look for hammock tree straps with loops that are at least double stitched, although triple stitched straps are better for durability.

Avoid straps made of a material that can stretch or straps with single stitched loops – they’ll warp over time, and using them can become dangerous.

Hammock straps feature loops. The amount of loops varies from strap to strap, but they all serve the same purpose. Wrap the strap around the tree, and pull the slack through the tightest loop. It should wrap around the tree, and free up the slack.

You should do this at least five feet above the ground, slightly above the widest part of the trunk. Never try to stretch your straps beyond their limits – doing so can cause damage.

Hanging it between trees that are too close together can cause sagging, which can cause the hammock to drop.

Use the carabiners to attach your hammock to the straps. They’ll clip right on. After you’ve clipped it, test out the strength by slowly sitting on your hammock, seeing how it reacts to your weight.

If it wiggles or slides, stop and adjust the hammock to make it tighter.

You may have to play with the tension for a little while by making a series of small adjustments, but don’t settle for “good enough”. Your hammock needs to keep you safe, so it’s not worth cutting corners.

eno hammock in beach

How to Set Up a Permanent Hammock

Ropes and straps can be used to hang up permanent hammocks, but if you know your hammock is going to be in one spot for a very long time, you may want to take things to the next level.

If you have trees or posts in your yard and that’s where you intend to hang your hammock, there are several ways you can do it.

Some people prefer to attach the straps or ropes to eyelets or hooks that have been drilled directly into the posts or trees.

If you’re working with trees, it’s worth noting that permanently screwing or drilling anything into that tree will damage it.

It’s unlikely it will kill the tree, but it won’t be able to recover. Make sure you’re drilling far enough into the tree, past the bark. If the bark sheds, you don’t want to lose your hooks.

You can also purchase a hammock anchoring kit. Every kit works differently, and they’ll come with instructions.

Most of them involve tapping special nails into a tree that are designed to hold the weight of your straps or ropes.

Always consult the instructions before you set up the anchor kit. If you don’t follow the instructions, you can wind up with a dangerous assembly that won’t hold up over time.

How to Sleep in a Hammock

Hammocks are designed with different height and weight limits. Always choose one that’s appropriate for you. If the hammock is too small for you, you won’t be able to sleep.

You may even break the hammock in the middle of the night, which may potentially injure you.

If you’re ever unsure, purchase a double hammock and use it alone. These generally offer more space.

Sleeping bag

Entering a Hammock

For a gathered end hammock grab the edge of the hammock material at the center and lift it up.

Take a step or two back. Place your bottom in the center of the material lean back into the hammock while letting your feet lift off the ground. Place your legs in the center. Ta-da

Sleep Diagonally

The most often way how to hang a hammock seems – between two trees. Which isn’t wrong, but there are other ways too.

The same with sleeping.

Usually, it’s assumed that one must sleep parallel to the hammock – which basically leaves you in a banana position.

Laying at an angle, or diagonally, means one side of your body is turned to the left and the other to the right. You’re making the most of the surface area of the hammock, and reducing the natural curling that happens to the sides when a camper climbs inside.

This will allow you to sleep in a more flat position, not the curve you see before you enter the hammock.

Another way to reduce this curling is to use a spreader bar. Not all hammocks are compatible with spreader bars, so check with your hammocks manual before you attempt to use one.

Banana Lay

This is when you sit parallel to the edges of the hammock. It is called a banana lay because your body is in the shape or curve similar to a banana. This is OK for lounging, but not great for sleeping.

If you pull your lines too tight, you will end up this way by default, which is why you should not tie the suspension too tight.

Just because you can pull the cords so tight the hammock looks flat, does not mean it will stay that way once you enter.

Some Useful Tips for You

  • Water Dripping – If you have water that drips from the suspension lines, tie a small piece of utility rope on the line with the tie ends facing down. The water will then drip down the ends of the tie instead on into your hammock.
  • Cold weather – If the weather will be cold or windy you must be prepared. Camping in a hammock leaves you more prone to the elements. An under quilt and undercover is advisable. A sleeping pad can add insulation as well.
  • Your hammock location also plays a role here. If you sleep on the east side of a hill or ridge it is usually less windy and gets the sun first in the morning. Also hang the hammock away from lakes or rivers or any body of water.
  • Another advanced technique serious Hammockers can do is hang the hammock low to the ground and use leaves and insulation or a groove dug in the snow to block the wind. You need something between you and the wind blowing under you stealing all your heat, especially if you do not have an under quilt.

Hanging a Hammock is Easy

As long as you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions for both the hammock and the straps, it isn’t that hard to hang up your hammock.

The guide will show you how to hang a hammock in the way the brand intended. Every accessory you purchase might also come with instructions and they’re worth looking at, no matter how simple they may seem.

These instructions usually feature pictures that make assembly easier. Some manufacturers even make tutorial videos for those who are visual learners.

While one article cannot possibly hope to cover every aspect of camping in a hammock or even every aspect of how to hang a hammock, we hoped to do the topic justice and cover the basics of hanging your hammock.

So, we thank you for reading and happy hanging!

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