Hammock Hanging Method
A few months back I decided I could improve on the combined suspension and ridge line method I had been using for hanging my hammocks.
Long ago, I had tried the setup technique of hanging my hammock from a single rope, tree-to-tree, using Prusik loops. The problem was that in order to get Prusiks which could hold the forces exerted by a hammock, the Prusik cords had to be a minimum of 3 mm diameter, which then demanded a hang rope of at least 6 mm diameter. 6 mm diameter rope is very heavy. Thus, the method just didn't work for a backpacking hammock.
I decided to revisit the Prusik loop method for hanging my hammocks, but I needed to replace the Prusik loops so that the method would work for hammocks using 3 mm dyneema Prusik cord and a 3 mm dyneema hang rope, i.e., a line from which everything is hung.
I developed several methods for accomplishing this. One has survived many months of use and another is still gestating and may survive also. The latter method weighs 0.15 oz more than the method detailed below and, in some respects, is even easier to use. Not enough experience with it yet to determine all the glitches and work out solutions. If the newer method survives, as I currently think it will, I can easily combine both into a single method and get the best of both. That will be a "hang rope between 2 trees, done" method.
My New hanging Method
For a Speer or Hennessey type hammock you will need to tie a loop in the suspension rope, as close to the fabric as possible. A bowline works very well for this. That is the ONLY "modification" needed. No modifications are needed for a Bridge Hammock unless you are using webbing for the Bridge Hammock suspension.
A full three wrap Prusik is no longer needed, a simple Larks Head will suffice. I use a 10" length of the 3 mm dyneema, tie an overhand knot on each end and then tie into a loop with a double sheet bend. Simply attach to the hang rope with a Larks head. I call these the "hang knots". 2 are needed.
The hammock is secured to the hang knots using a Toggled Bight as illustrated by Ashley, #1919 (Note that #1920 shown is more secure, but the extra security isn't really needed here).
The toggled Bight and Eye, #1921, shown could also be used. The Toggled Bight knot places less force on the toggle and thus wood is suitable for this toggle.
For the hang knot toggle I use 1.5" length of 1/4" OD steel tubing. It weighs 0.1 oz.
Slide the hang knots on the hang rope to the desired positions. Tie stopper knots next to the hang knots on the side away from the tree "locking" the hang knots in their positions.
I needed a "stopper knot" to keep the hang knots from sliding when the hammock is occupied.
For the stopper knot, I use a Marlin Spike Hitch using a toggle as the Marlin Spike.
Since the stopper knot will be moved to different positions on the hang rope, it is essential that it be quickly and easily tied and untied.
I tried various knots for the stopper knot before I settled on the Marlin Spike Hitch as the easiest and quickest to tie and untie.
Tying the Marlin Spike Hitch (Note: the standing part is the part towards the tree):
- Begin with an overhand loop.
- twist the loop and lay on the standing part such that the standing part is visible through the center of the loop.
- Use the toggle to snag a bight of the standing part through the loop.
The first two steps can be accomplished in a single motion by twisting the working part with the fingers until a loop forms and lays over the standing part. Try it - its very, very easy and becomes very easy and natural after practicing a few times.
Always remember that the loop should be pointing towards the tree when it is laid on the standing part.
For the Marlin Spike Hitch toggle, I again use a 1.5" length of 1/4" OD steel tubing.
The forces "lock" the toggle in place when tied. The toggle surface is polished so I can undo the Marlin Spike Hitch by sliding the toggle out of the hitch when the hang rope is loosened. This is true no matter how tight the Marlin Spike Hitch has been pulled - and it will be pulled very, very tight. I investigated quite a few knots and there may be an even better toggled knot than the Marlin Spike Hitch for this use. I doubt it. From experience, I strongly advise to NOT use a crossing knot such as the Clove Hitch. They can be very difficult and almost impossible to untie after being pulled tight in this application.
To Untie the Marlin Spike Hitch as used here, simply twist the toggle while pulling it out of the knot. As soon as the toggle is free, the knot falls out completely.
I have used this method for over 4 months now, long enough to know that it is far easier and more convenient to hang a rope between two trees and then find the right position on the rope for the hammock.
I have greatly modified my method of using a tree hugger. Using a tree hugger is now the easiest method of securing to a tree for me. When I used to tie the suspension to the tree hugger end loops, trying to keep the tree hugger on the tree was a real hassle. This technique eliminates that hassle.
A loop is needed on only one end of the tree hugger. Wrap the tree hugger around the tree one or more times. Once is really sufficient. Pull the free end through the end loop, pull the tree hugger tight and tie a Marlin Spike Hitch close to the loop and tree. Again the loop of the hitch should be pointing towards the tree.
For the Marlin Spike toggle here, I simply pick up a stick from the ground, preferably about 1/2" in diameter and 2" to 4" long.
Once the Marlin Spike Hitch has been tied, simply secure the hang rope to the tree hugger by looping around the Marlin Spike Hitch. I use the bowline loop on one end of the hang rope to loop around the Marlin Spike Hitch. On the the end of the hang rope, I use a dyneema tree hugger loop made from 1' of the 3 mm dyneema. Fit the dyneema tree hugger loop around the Marlin Spike Hitch on the tree hugger proper, then pull a bight of the hang rope through the dyneema tree hugger loop to the sag desired in the hang rope. Tie a Marlin Spike Hitch in the hang rope using another toggle of 1.5" length of 1/4" OD steel tubing. This Marlin Spike Hitch is an exception to the others in that the hitch loop should be pointing away from the tree. Insert the just tied Marlin Spike Hitch in the dyneema tree hugger loop.
Note: in these pictures, I have an SMC descending ring girth hitched to the tree hugger end loops to make the parts easier to see.
Bowline loop secured to tree hugger Marlin Spike Hitch:
Adjustable end of hang rope with Marlin Spike HItch on tree hugger and Marlin Spike Hitch on hang rope and both in rope loop:
The use of the Marlin Spike Hitch on the tree huggers makes using tree huggers the easiest method of securing to trees that I have used. Even easier than the full webbing suspension with buckle, either cinch or ring. The tree hugger "hardware" needed is picked up from the ground which keeps the hardware weight at low.
The suspension system consists of the following:
- 25' length of hang rope with a bowline knot on one end. I use 3 mm dyneema rope, 0.055 oz/ft. 1,200 lbsf rating. Very light and strong. The hammock is hung from the hang knots on this rope using a bowline loop in the normal hammock suspension rope for a Hennessey or Speer hammock or the apex of the suspension triangle on the Bridge Hammock. With the 25' of hang rope I can handle tree separations up to 20' easily and even a little further if absolutely necessary.
- 5 toggles: 1.5" lengths of 1/4" OD steel tubing. 0.1 oz each. 2 hang knot toggles, 2 Marlin Spike Hitch stopper knot toggles, 1 hang rope Marlin Spike toggle.
Do NOT use wood for the stopper knot toggles. Wood is too compressible and the wood will be compressed under the Marlin Spike Hitch making it more difficult to undo the Marlin Spike Hitch. However, wood scrounged from the ground could be used in the field in a pinch, but should be replaced daily. A hardwood such as oak works okay for the hang knot toggles.
I finally just used the steel tubing toggles all around so that they are all interchangable.
- 2 hang knot loops. I tie each using 10" lengths of the same rope as the hang rope, 3 mm dyneema.
- 1 tree hugger loop. I use a 1' length of the 3 mm dyneema.
- 2 tree huggers
Before I give a more detailed description of the hanging technique, a word or two about having initial sag in the hang rope. Using some initial sag in the hang rope has benefits:
- you do not have to loosen the hang rope to move/tie Marlin Spike Hitch stopper knots. Thus you set the hang rope once only.
- the forces on the hang rope and hence the lateral forces on the trees and hence the tree bark is reduced, reducing/preventing damage to the tree bark, and
- the initial drop of the hammock when occupied is reduced. The more the inital sag of the hang rope, the less the drop.
Note that this method of hanging the hammock works no matter how much inital sag you use in the hang rope when it is hung. The method works if the hang rope is pulled very tight, moderately tight, just tight enough to take out the slack, or left with some sag or a great deal of sag.
A more detailed description for this method of hanging the hammock is:
- secure tree hugger to tree 1 at desired height and secure bowline end of hanging rope to tree hugger. Since the hang rope does NOT need any adjustment, simply secure firmly to the tree hugger using your favorite method. I simply loop the hang rope bowline over the Marlin Spike Hitch.
- walk to tree 2, secure tree hugger and firmly secure hang rope to the tree hugger in the manner you prefer and pull the hang rope to the desired sag or tension. I use the rope loop and Marlin Spike Hitches detailed above. I like about 8" to 10" initial sag in the middle of the hang rope for a 16' separation. That gives enough slack to easily tie the Marlin Spike Hitch stopper knots.
- position the stopper knots and hang knots on the hang rope.
First stand back and eye ball the current positions - if they look like they are reasonably positioned, skip the rest of this step.
- Move both of the stopper knot Marlin Spike Hitches towards the center of the hang rope so that they are positioned inside of their final position on the hang rope. This is essential to get proper positioning.
Now simply slide the hang knots to the appropriate positions on the hang rope. You are positioning the hammock ON the hang rope instead of moving the rope.
This positions each of the hang knots on the rope.
- Pull a toggle from a Marlin Spike Hitch and retie next to the corresponding hang knot, on the side away from the tree and pull tight. To tighten, it is best to pull the hang rope away from the tree while simultaneously pushing the Marlin Spike Hitch towards the tree and against the hang knot without moving the hang knot. This will keep the stopper knot tight against the hang knot.
Repeat with second Marlin Spike stopper knot.
Note: If you pull the hang rope tight, then you will have to loosen it to re-position and tie the Marlin Spike Hitches and then re-tighten. One of the advantages of having sag in the hang rope.
Note that the step of setting the positions of the hang knots doesn't have to be accomplished every time the hammock is hung. I have found that if I set the hang knots for trees set x feet apart, then I can use the same positions for trees set anywhere from x-1 feet to x+1 feet apart. The hammock will be slightly off-center, but no more so than when I used the traditional hanging method. So, if I set the toggles and knots for trees 15' apart, I'm good for trees from 14' to 16' apart. I have even pushed it further without any discomfort. Actually for Speer or Hennessey hammocks, hanging the hammock slightly off-center with the foot end closer to a tree works better for some people since this makes the head lower and eliminates the sliding to the foot end that some people experience.
Note: The hammock may be left tied to the hang knots at all times or removed when the hang rope is taken down. Using the Toggled bight knot makes attaching and detaching from the hang rope trivial. Either option has it's advantages and disadvanatges. Just use whichever you prefer.
Thus, if I can use trees so that I don't have to reset the hang knots and the stopper knots, the hanging sequence is as follows:
- secure tree hugger on tree 1 at desired height and secure bowline end of hang rope to tree hugger,
- walk to tree 2, secure tree hugger, secure hang rope to tree hugger, pull to desired tension and secure,
- done - no adjusting, no fuss
All of the adjusting and finagling with the suspension to position the hammock is greatly reduced or eliminated. The positioning need only be done if you cannot find trees separated by a desired distance or if you need to hang off center between the trees.
Even when positioning needs to be done, it is accomplished by simply sliding the hang knots to the desired positions and securing with the Marlin Spike Hitch stopper knots.
I have been using this method for hanging my hammocks for several months now and have worked out the glitches I found as I used it.
Currently I use a length of guy line with a bowline knot on one end and overhand knots at set distances and intervals. One of the knots is tied at a distance equal to 1/2 of my ridge line length. A second knot is tied at a distance equal to my ridge line length. The guy line cord itself is a little over 1/2 of the maximum tree separation. So for my 20' maximum separation, my cord is 11'.
If you hang the hang rope with sag and without the hammock, then simply find the lowest point of the hang rope. That is the center between the trees or very close to it. Tie the guy line cord to the hang rope at this point using the bowline knot - wrap 3 times just as for a Prusic, then insert a toggle in the end of the loop to keep it from coming undone. Pull tight to keep from slipping inadvertantly. Position the hang knots using the overhand knot on the guy line at 1/2 the ridge line length.
If you do not want the hammock centered, but are hanging off-center to clear rocks, bushes, whatever, then simply position one hang knot as desired, tie the bowline on the guy line cord to the hang knot and then position the second hang knot using the appropriate knot on the guy line cord.
For those who like to pull the hang rope tight, the following procedure for centering the hammock works well.
Note that describing the procedure takes longer than actually doing it and makes it seem harder than it actually is. In practice it is very simple and quick.
- using the bowline knot on the guy line cord, tie to the hang rope near the assumed center using a toggled Prusic, i.e., use the bowline loop to wrap 3 times just as for a Prusic, then insert a toggle in the end of the loop to keep it from coming undone. Pull tight to keep from slipping inadvertantly.
- walk to one of the trees, playing the guy line out, pull to take out the slack and hold the point of contact with the tree between your fingers to mark the distance.
- now walk to the opposite tree and using the guy line cord measure the difference in the distance from the first tree.
- walk back to where the guy line is tied to the hang rope and slide the toggled Prusic away from the nearer tree by the half difference measured in the last step. This has centered the tie off point between the two trees.
- now slide one of the hang knots to the knot on the guy line cord marking 1/2 your desired ridge line
- repeat on second hang knot.
That centers your hammock to much less than an inch.
This is the easiest method I have been able to devise for hanging a hammock. It is also the lightest and least bulky.
For those interested in the weight, the above hang system as I use it weighs as follows.
- 25' 3 mm dyneema hang rope: 1.40 oz
- 2 hang knot loops: .10 oz
- tree hugger loop, 1' 3 mm dyneema: 0.05 oz
- 5 steel toggles: 0.50 oz
- 2 42" tree huggers w/6" loop one end: 2.00 oz
- Total: 4.05 oz
The tree huggers used above are made from the 1.5" Strapworks polyester seatbelt webbing. The best webbing for tree huggers I have found.
If you use the 1" Harbor Freight polyester webbing at 0.224 oz.ft, 2 equivalent tree huggers will weight 1.8 oz, so subtract 0.2 oz from the total above.
If you use the regular 1" polyester Strapworks webbing at 0.39 oz/ft, 2 equivalent tree huggers will weigh 3.1 oz, so add 1.1 oz to the total above.
If you use 2.8 mm Spyderline, 25' weighs 1.8 oz, so add 0.4 oz to the total above.
If you use Amsteel 12 or Amsteel Blue, 25' weighs 2 oz, so add 0.6 oz to the total above.
Increase or decrease the total according to the rope you use and the weight of your tree huggers.
Also, this method uses a bare minimum of hardware. The only hardware being the toggles used for the Marlin Spike Hitches on the hang rope and the Toggled Bight Hitches to the hang knots. If absolutely necessary, wood picked up from the ground could be substituted for those toggles. This is especially true for the toggles used for the Toggled Bight Hitches.
That is very light for a fully functional hammock hanging system including the ridge line.
For comparison, for the cinch and ring buckle and webbing suspension systems that I analyzed previously, the Harbor Freight webbing is the lightest and it alone weighs 4.5 oz. Both buckle methods weigh more than twice my new system and are a LOT more bulk.
Speaking from experience with the ring buckles, my new system is lighter, less bulk and easier to use in hanging a hammock, any hammock.
My method does have pros and cons in it's use. More pros than cons (but then I may be biased):
- easy to run hang rope from tree hugger to tree hugger
- NO adjusting back and forth of hang rope - easier to adjust position on the rope
- easy to hang from hang knots - simple Toggled Bight
- Field replacement of hang rope easy - only requires a rope of appropriate length and strength, tie bowline in one end and 3 short lengths for hang knot loops and tree hugger loop
- unlimited hammock positioning between trees
- unlimited ridge line length between trees
- easy to change ridge line length
- easy to change hang position
- easy to change initial hang rope sag by re-positioning a Marlin Spike Hitch
- requires setting hang knot positions ONLY when tree separation changes by more than 1' to 2'
- less bulk than webbing suspension systems
- lightest of any hammock hanging system except plain knots which are a P.i.t.A. to use.
- requires resetting hang knot positions when tree separation changes by more than 1' to 2'
- requires high strength toggles, steel preferable - scrounged wood can be used in field if toggles lost, but need to be replaced daily
- If scrounged wood toggles used, may be more difficult to untie Marlin Spike Hitches hang rope due to compression of wood - degree of difficulty depends on type of wood used
- not possible to remove ridge line for lounging if desired
I tried using friction knots. A friction knot would have the advantage in that the Marlin Spike Hitch wouldn't be needed so you wouldn't need to tie the Marlin Spike Hitches. This really isn't much of an advanatge since the Marlin Spike Hitch is so extremely easy to tie.
I have tried the following friction knots:
- Prusic - well known, but requires the main rope be at least twice the diameter of the Prusic cord and still not enough hold, slips easily and quickly in this application
- Icicle Hitch - a fairly recent development and has a good reputation. The reputation is not very well deserved in my experience. It holds slightly better than the Prusic when used for this application. However, it may work better for you. Be careful with the Icicle Hitch since there are variations that are purported to be the Icicle Hitch. Not all variations work equally well. The variation here is probably the most accurate and has the most holding power of any of the variations.
- Taut Line Hitch - quick and easy to tie, good for tarp guy lines and other applications, but not nearly enough hold for this application
- Adjustable Grip Hitch - a little more complicated to tie than the Prusic or Taut line hitch. Good for other applications, but not nearly enough hold for this application
- Death Grip Hitch. This friction knot has the best holding power of any friction knot I have tried. It is more complicated to tie and requires more work to loosen after a heavy load so that it can slide. But the holding power on equal sized ropes is really impressive. It almost held my weight in the hammock. It might work for a smaller person or a child.
Bottom line: I am still looking for a good friction knot for equal sized rope that can be used for hanging a hammock. Until then the Marlin Spike Hitch method above works great.
There probably is no weight/load limit for the Marlin Spike Hitch beyond the load limit of the hang rope and the knot combination. I haven't done any testing, but my feeling is that the rope would probably break before the Marlin Spike Hitch would slip.
I forgot to include how I set the sag for my hang rope in the above.
To set the sag, I have found the easiest way for me is to simply pull the slack out of the hang rope, then let out 1" to 3" of hang rope. If I'm at or close to the minimum tree separation (12' for me), I let out 1". If I'm at or close to the maximum tree separation (20' for me), I let out 2.5" to 3". In the middle somewhere (approximately 14' to 18'), I let out 1.5" to 2" of rope. When I got home, I computed the drop of a catenary for a 16' tree separation and that 1.5" slack - it gives me that 10" drop I want.
For all practical purposes, the above method gives me the same sag every time.
Also, in my experience, I have found that 95% or greater of the time, I don't do anything with the hang knots. Just leave them alone. I have them set for 16' tree separation. At the minimum or maximum tree separation, I am off center, but I find that with my Bridge Hammocks, it isn't very noticeable in the lay of the hammock.
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