Just Jeff's Hiking Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

How Do I Make My Own Hammock?

Ridgelines are a nice option if you want one, but they're not necessary. Almost all of my hammocks have structural ridgelines...but other folks don't like them. Like almost everything with camping, it's just personal preference. Put one on, test it out, and decide for yourself if you like it or not. But just so we understand what's up, there are two types of ridgelines.

First, the structural ridgeline is very tight, non-stretchy, and sets the amount of sag on the hammock. When you pull the hammock supports tight, you're also pulling the ridgeline tight...but since the ridgeline holds a fixed length, the fabric in the hammock body isn't affected. Tom Hennessy has a patent on this kind of ridgeline so other hammocks can't be sold with it, but you can make your own or add it on to another model with no issues. I like it b/c no matter how you hang your hammock, it always has the same amount of sag. Also, you can tie the supports to the tree at a lower level and still have a comfortable hammock b/c it increases the sag. Important note - since ridgelines generally decrease the angle of the hammock supports, the supports put more stress on the trees. Make sure whatever you're tying to is strong enough to hold you up.

Next, non-structural ridgelines are just strung up to support bugnets and don't change how the hammock sags. Some of these are elastic and some are cord, occasionally webbing on some homemade ones. But the important thing is that non-structural ridgelines don't change how the hammock lays.

Both kinds are good for holding boots, jackets, stuff sacks with nighttime essentials, etc. I always hang my headlamp and emergency whistle up there...that way I can blow the whistle if a bear comes sniffing and I never have to leave the hammock. Since I switched to a soft-sided Nalgene I use my water as a pillow, but before that I always had a stuff sack with a snack and bottle of water hung on the ridgeline.

Hammock ridgelines are also different from tarp ridgelines. Tarp ridgelines are sometimes just a sewn seam running along the center length that needs to be sealed, but some folks actually run a cord for the full length between the trees and the tarp lays on top of it. Each type has advantages...but as I said, don't confuse tarp ridgelines with hammock ridgelines.

If you want to see a technical analysis of ridgelines, check out Youngblood's Hammock Sag Angle in the Jan 2006 Hammock Camping News.

Structural Ridgeline

No Ridgeline

Non-Structural Ridgeline

How to Add a Structural Ridgeline
So why do I use a structural ridgeline? I like the convenience of always having the sag set at the same level no matter how or where I hang, and I like hanging my nighttime essentials within easy reach. It's really simple to do.

First, choose your cord. Anything with a breaking strength of about 200-300 lbs should work, but just like hammock supports it should probably be low-stretch. I've had 550 cord stretch so much that it wasn't useful. I've also used BPL Air Core 2, which is very thin and light so I thought it would be perfect...but it was so thin that it was damaging the hammock supports. Right now my favorite is BPL Air Core Plus...it's really too expensive for this use, but I had some already cut to the right length so I put it on there. Webbing can also work.

So here's how to put one on. It helps if you hang the hammock loosely before you start.

I start by tying an overhand on a bight, and sliding this over the hammock support.

In this picture, the ridgeline is looped over the support and I'm holding it vertically above the support.

Pull the ridgeline to the other support and wrap it around. Then pull it tight until you like the amount of sag you get. Then lash the ridgeline to the support...I use the same figure-8 lashing as Hennessy recommends for hanging the hammock with tree huggers. If your ridgeline is pretty tight, you're ready to get in and try it out.

If it's comfortable, you can leave it like it is. Or if it's not quite comfortable yet, undo the lashing and adjust. The shorter the ridgeline, the more sag you'll get. Even small adjustments in the ridgeline can have a big effect on how the hammock lays...experiment until you find what works for you. Just for reference, the hammock in these pics is about 108" between whipping and the ridgeline is 90". This hammock is 60" wide...I've used ~80" ridgelines to give me more sag when I use narrower hammocks.

When you find your perfect length, you can measure it and replace the lashing with another overhand on a bight...might look cleaner and save some fraction of an ounce. I usually don't bother with this, though.

A Note About Sag
Sag describes how tightly the hammock is strung between the trees. If the hammock is very loose between the trees and adopts a "U" shape, it has a lot of sag. This makes it easier to lay on the diagonal. If the hammock is strung tightly, laying on the diagonal will be more difficult and may cause shoulder squeeze.

Structural ridgelines set a constant amount of sag for the hammock. Hammocks without a structural ridgeline can have a slightly different sag with each hang.

Scroll back to where you were reading before or click here to go to the top of the page.

Lots of Sag

Not Much Sag

Back to Hammock Camping

Back to Homemade Gear

Top of Page | © 2006 | Email Me