I have rebuilt my camping-hammock setup based on what I've learned up to this
point. The design includes a slightly-larger hammock body, lace-on tree-hugger
straps, various modular add-on components, and lighter weight. The development
of the hammock for this year's trip is now complete as of March 21, 2005. The
final change was the addition of storm hoods to the tarp.
In the spirit of "modular
components" I have a section on each
piece below. If you have any comments or suggestions, please
free to contact me via email (rgarling AT yahoo DOT com) or by posting
on the Yahoo group: HammockCamping.
The complete hammock includes the tarp, equipment hammock, tarp snake skins, hammock body, support lines, 'shoe string' tree huggers, ridge line, Garlington Insulator, hammock shirt, hammock pants, and hammock hat. These are described in turn below:Click the images for a larger view.
Based on suggestions by Gardenville, I decided to try using silk for the hammock body. He used 8mm Habotai Silk for the body of his hammock, and it has held up well for him. Here is a quote from a post he made concerning the use of silk for the hammock body.
@TLB (Bill Fornshell on
Why silk for a hammock? That is a good question. If you have ever worn something made from silk vs Ripstop nylon you might understand. The ripstop for warm weather can be sticky and hot. I had at the time 3 hammocks made from some kind of nylon. There was some talk on the yahoo group "hammockcamping" about a different fabric for summer use. No one had a real answer. I asked about making a hammock from silk. Most folks think silk costs a lot and don't consider it. Ed said he didn't know much about silk and had no real idea if it would work. I asked if he would try one out of silk if I sent him the silk. He said yes. That has been about a year ago and the silk is holding up great. The weight of the silk I used is 1.02oz per square yard . Ed also made the bug net out of a very light weight silk gauze. The hammock with bug net and Ed's standard straps is about 14oz. This is lighter than his standard hammock and also lighter than (I think) any HH.
The silk is SO nice. It is very cool against your skin and will dry fast if it happens to get wet or needs to be washed. I now use the silk hammock year around and have sleep in it down to 29 degrees. I use any number of pads for how ever cold I expect and a good down sleeping bag or quilt. I have a new Stephenson DAM to try this winter and expect to extend the hammock sleeping range down to between 0 and 20 degrees. This is with a sleeping bag/quilt rated at the expected temp range.
He makes it sound pretty appealing, doesn't he? Anyhow, I am a little heavier than he is (my weight is ~180 lbs) and decided to use a heavier weight fabric. I used 10mm silk and it seems strong enough. Bill recommended Thai Silk as a source. I ordered 3.6 yards of 10mm silk (021J) for the body, 3.6 yards of 3.5mm gauze (024N) for the bug screen, and 4 yards of the 5mm silk (021F) for the bottom insulator bag. They call it Habotai silk, and you can just enter the codes that are in parenthesis into their "Quick Order" block.
The basic steps for building the hammock body are hemming the body fabric, gathering the material at the hammock ends and whipping it together, tying on the hammock support lines, configuring the tree huggers, and attaching a ridgeline.
body of the hammock is 114 inches between
whippings. If you leave 3" for hemming and whipping on each end, you'll
need to start with about 120" of fabric. Just hem it all the way
To begin, fold the hammock body in half (along its length). At one end, start gathering the material from the fold moving directly toward the hemmed edge. When you get to within about 4 inches of the hemmed edge, pull it outward about 2 inches away from the opposite end. (This will serve to tighten the sides of the hammock slightly when it is set up.) You are now ready to whip this end to hold the material in place.
I used the standard Boy-Scout-style whipping technique for ropes. Here is an image that shows the technique. Now get your 1/16" cord, make your whipping loop over the material you have gathered, then start winding. I wound the cord very tightly, pulling it with pliers to make it easier on the fingers. When you have about 1.3 inches of winding, thread the end through the loop and pull it home. I needed the pliers for this also. Repeat for the other end.
At this point you are done with the hammock body, and can starting thinking about how you want to deal with the support lines.
A lot of people are happily using webbing for support lines. I have never been inclined to try this, since I like the idea of separating tree protection from the hammock support function. Anyhow, up to now, I've been using 5/16" woven polyester rope without tree huggers, and have decided to use thinner rope to hold the hammock up. Now I'm using a commonly-available (Lowes) 3/16" woven polyester rope.
If you are always going to
center your hammock between two trees
will be no further than 15 feet apart, each support rope needs to be
about 52 inches long. (180" maximum distance
minus 100" for the length of the hammock equals
80" to be
spanned by both ropes. Each rope must be 40 " long plus about
Everyone has a favorite knot they like to use, but mine is a clove hitch positioned just inside the whipping. I finish it off with a half hitch to lock it. A good upgrade from the polyester cord is spectra cord, commonly used in sailing applications. It is quite a bit stronger, more expensive and harder to find. The breaking strength of spectra 3/16" cord is about 1800 - 2000 pounds.
Concerning the breaking strength of rope/cord, I found the following information.
Most hammockers these days are trying to go easy on the trees, and I have decided to join them by using tree huggers. I have avoided using them until now, because they seemed cumbersome and took more time. However, with a little fooling around, I found a method that makes using them faster than what I had been doing. I stumbled on this technique like so:
Previously, I had been wrapping the support line around the tree several times,
then tying it off. After doing this countless times, I became annoyed
doing all that wrapping, but in so doing managed to notice something useful.
After the first wrap around the tree, there is almost no tension on the line.
This means that it wouldn't take much to hold the rope in position once the
first turn was complete.
How does this translate to tree huggers? First, tie the hammock support line (loosely) to the middle of the tree hugger strap. You'll tie it tightly later. At each end of the tree hugger strap, thread a 1/8" diameter line (about 30" long) through the preformed loop and tie it off. (I am using Hennessey Hammock tree huggers. On each end there is a loop of webbing formed by sewing the webbing back upon itself). So, you end up with a tree hugger strap with laces on each end.
When you set up the hammock, locate the two trees you are going to use. Grab one of the tree huggers by the laces and go hug one of the trees. Cross ends behind the tree, then bring the ends back to the front. Keep wrapping until you get to the laces you added, then just tie them off like you were tying your shoe. Repeat on the other side, then tie off the hammock support lines to the tree hugger. When tying the hammock-support line to the tree hugger, it is useful to wrap the rope a full turn arount the strap before tying it off. This will make untying it easier.
Thats about it. If you don't
waste time with the knots, you be
lying down in about 2 minutes.
A fixed-length ridge line is a
patented feature of the Hennessey
Hammock, so you probably won't see it on hammocks from other
manufacturers. If you use one on your home-built
you'll find that setting up your hammock is easy and repeatable. Plus
you can hang stuff on it.
I used 1/16" cord for the ridge line. For the hammock I'm building, the effective length of the ridge line is 100 inches, but you'll need extra length to tie it to the hammock. Tie one end of the ridge line onto the hammock support line where it joins the hammock body. Leave 100 inches, then tie to the support line on the other end.
The fabric for this
hammock is 114
inches between the whippings, and the
ridge line is 100 inches. In this case, the ratio of
to body length is 100:114 or about 90%. This ratio results in
is very comfortable, and in which you can lie very flat.
|Here is the hammock
waiting for a customer. The tree
hugger straps have been tied to each tree, and the hammock support
straps secured to the huggers. Set up time is about 2 minutes
you are slow.
|This shows the junction
of the hammock support line, whipping
(white line), and the ridge line (red). After this picture was
and after installing the hammock shirt & pants, I decided to tie
line directly to the support rope, rather than around the
whipping. Either way seems to work OK.
|Here is the 'shoe lace' tree hugger
at the head end of the hammock. The
tree is about 8 inches in diameter, and the tree hugger strap
quite make it twice around. The two laces, which are tied to the tree
hugger ends, are merely tied together with a bow knot (just like tying
Here, the hammock support rope is tied around the tree hugger strap with two half hitches, except the final hitch is not complete. The rope is just looped through making a slip knot.
|This is the tree hugger at the foot end of the hammock. This tree is about 5 inches in diameter and the tree hugger goes a little over twice around. The laces are brought around the to back of the tree and tied. They could go around the tree at least once more. All of these knot pictures were taken with someone in the hammock, so the lines are under full tension.|
|Here is a 1/4 view of the hammock from the foot end while it is occupied. Notice the nice flat position the occupant is able to attain.|
The idea of using a lightweight shell to hold insulation continues to work well for me; however, the idea doesn't seem to be making much headway with others. Perhaps there is a better way that I've been ignoring . . . . guess I'll have to try that 2 layer hammock idea some day. :) Anyhow, I'll probably make another shell that is a little longer but uses a lighter fabric. I'll use the extra length to wrap around the foot end of the hammock, sort of like how the first-ever GI shell wrapped around the head end of the Hennessey Hammock. By tying the foot end of the insulator around the support rope, I'll get a more or less storm-proof foot end of the hammock.
I'm pretty sure I'll use the old GI shell. Making one of
lighter fabric won't save much weight. Even though it is a little
short for this hammock, the hammock pants and shirt the hammock protect
the ends well enough.
The previous information talks a lot about different types of lightweight insulation that can be used inside the shell. Since that was written, I have settled on using down. It is very light, it lofts up well against your back and is quite warm. To those who worry about keeping down dry, I have managed to keep a down sleeping bag and a under-quilt (aka bag-o-feathers) dry, despite stormy conditions. I use a stuff sack, lined with a plastic bag, inside a pack, which is under a poncho.
When designing how much
insulating material you need in an
you can use this chart to get close. This is the same chart
you'll find at the Thru-Hiker web site where they discuss how
down is necessary when making a quilt.
|Comfort Rating in Degrees Fahrenheit||Respective Loft Height
All you really need for the underquilt is some breathable, down-proof fabric and about 10 ounces of feathers. Just make a bag, about 30" wide by 60" long, and leave it open at one end. Dump the feathers in, let them settle to the bottom, then sew the top shut. This is a very easy project once you get the right type of fabric for the bag. You'll end up with a bottom pad that will take you to single digits when used in conjunction with the shell.
The the bag-o-feathers I'm using now weighs 17 ounces. Initially, I used the 5mm silk I bought to make the shell; unfortunately, the silk was unable to contain the feathers and they leaked everywhere. As a result, I had to replace the 5mm silk with .75 ounce ripstop nylon that I got from the Kite Studio. The new shell weighs 4 ounces. Just before sealing it up, I dumped another big handfull of feathers into it, so it now has about 13 ounces of feathers, and easily lofts to 4+ inches.
I like to have a bug net available, mostly because I hate bugs, and particularly ones that bite. I plan to make a 'hammock shirt' out of silk gauze that is fastened at the head end of the hammock and ready for deployment. If you have one of these, and bugs attack, you just reach up and pull the hammock shirt over your head and let the free end rest on you or the sleeping bag. I'd like for it to ride above the ridge line, so a split will be necessary in the middle, along with some sort of drawstring closure to keep it from blowing open. Deb W has a picture of a similar one here. You will have to be a member of the HammockCamping group on Yahoo to see that.
Since writing the above, I have completed the hammock shirt. It has a tapered silicon-nylon end cap and uses 3.5mm silk gauze as the bug screen. It rides over the ridge line on two guides made of grosgrain ribbon sewed to the 'shirt'. There are two loops at the waist of the shirt that can be fastened either to the hammock body, or to the hammock pants if they are used.Note: this picture also shows hammock pants. Click on the picture for a closer view.
Hammock pants are shown in the previous photo. They are a tapered sil nylon shell that covers the foot end of the hammock up to about the hammock waist. There is a drawstring at the waist end and loops that can be fastened to the hammock body, to the hammock shirt, or both.
I got the germ of the idea for Hammock Pants when I saw Ricks "Travel Pod" and wanted to see if something similar could be done without using a zipper. The original pants went up over the shoulder and is described here. I suppose the originals were more over-alls than just pants.
Notice that when using the bug shirt with the hammock pants that the front screen has been left "untucked" riding above the ridgeline and over the pants. I plan to weight each corner to keep the shirt tails from flapping in the breeze. If the shirt was used without the pants, the ridgeline would exit through the front screen where it joins the cylindrical gauze portion of the shirt and lay directly on the legs of the occupant.
As I was preparing to make an 8'x8' tarp, I rolled out the fabric and compared it to the original HH Explorer 2.5 tarp. On the spur of the moment, I decided to go with Risk's idea and just use the rather unusual size of about 5' x 10'. I reasoned that I'd have better shoulder / foot coverage than the HH tarp afforded, and since that was really my only beef with it, things would be OK. Besides, I was making other protective stuff like hammock boots and hats.
Actually, I was just getting tired of sewing. Anyhow, the
blue tarp uses a
ridge line, 4 corner lines, four stakes and snake skins. All of
this weighs 15 ounces.
I think using a tarp pitched
diagonally as on the Hennessey Hammock
results in the easiest setup since only two side tie outs
are required. If pitched diagonally, how big should the tarp
On this hammock, the ridge line is 100 inches, and
like the tarp to extend about a foot beyond the hammock body
each end. This results in a desired diagonal measurement of
124 inches. Since a square tarp is desirable, the equation
c*c) reduces to 2aa=cc. So aa = 124*124 / 2 = 7688,
and a =
87.7" or 7.3 feet.
I'll probably go with an 8'
square tarp and get more overlap on each end. (An
foot tarp results in a diagonal distance of ~136" giving about 18" of
overlap on each end of a 100" hammock.)
Others have reported that an 8' square tarp is a good size,
Jacks are Better sells such a tarp for a reasonable price. Also,
Hammock Bliss seems to be selling one now too. Since this is
popular size, I'll leap to the conclusion that it works well in the
The equipment hammock is made of 5mm silk and attaches to the tarp ridge line.
It is a place to hold all the miscellaneous junk you don't want to throw on
the ground or into the GI shell. It is about 60" long and 30" wide, and
weighs 1 ounce.
The clothing metaphor for
hammock accessories is good for me,
because I get a lot of ideas thinking along those lines. Some other
things that come to
mind when thinking about dressing a
hammock include: other kinds of shirts, belts, boots, rain
These could coordinate in some manner with a various types of hammock pants (not style wise, but in functionality). There's the net shirt, and perhaps a storm shirt or various combinations of these. Deb W has already made a bug shirt and posted a picture here. You must be a member of the HammockCamping group on Yahoo to see it.
The shirt I built for this hammock was meant to be a combination storm shirt / bug screen. Having built it, I have some ideas for improving it:
A belt could join a pair of pants & a shirt. A belt must be functional
from inside the hammock, and can be permanently attached to each side of the
hammock. It could thread up through belt loops in the hammock pants and interleave
with loops in the shirt. This would result in a loose, somewhat leaky
connection between the two.
Hammock boots are a shorter version of pants to act as a drip shield and protect the feet from wind.
A waterproof wrap like Deb W's hammock bivy, or Ricks travel Pod.
The hammock hat is a small tarp used in stormy conditions to close the open ends of the tarp. I'm thinking about a clip-on, diamond-shaped piece of sil-nylon that would connect to the support rope near the hammock body, and to the support tree near ground level. The remaining two points of the diamond would clip to the mid point on the tarp edges.
Alternatively, the hat could clip to the tarp ridge line, the tree near the ground and the midpoint on the tarp edges. I this case, the hat would have to be preinstalled on the hammock support rope (or made with a split to go around it).
In working with the idea of a clip on hat, as described in the "Hammock Hat" section above, I decided to merely sew the component onto the tarp body. Attaching it permanently necessitated the introduction of a new name; ergo tarp hood. Each hood is merely two triangular pieces of fabric, sewed in an overlapping fashion at the end of the hammock. In my case, I bisected an isosceles triangle, hemmed and sewed it to the tarp as shown in the image on the right. The resulting split allows the hammock support line to pass through the hood at an arbitrary place. Notice that during construction, each triangular piece is tacked about an inch past the centerline of the tarp. The panel is then sewed starting at the other side of the centerline all the way to the end near the corner tieout for the tarp. This leaves a gap to provide a passage for the tarp's ridge line and ridgeline pull out.
Here is a side view of the hooded tarp. The tarp body is 5'x10' and has a ridgeline, a hood at each end, 4 corner pulls, four stakes, snake skins and a stuff sack. It weighs 18 ounces. Under the tarp is the hammock equipped with a shirt, pants, Garlington Insulator shell and belt. You can't see it, but there is an equipment hammock under the tarp.
Click the photo for a close up view.