How to Set Up a Camping Hammock

Why hammocks?

What is the big deal about hammocks you say? Is this just a gimmick that those people that just have to stand out are into, or are there real advantages?

Comfort – Hammocks can be great, once you learn what hang works for you. It is an art not a science, and some people never find a hang that they can get a good night’s rest in. Consider borrowing a hammock before you invest in one to make sure it is a purchase you won’t regret. 

Lighter – Hammocks, even when adding in the mosquito netting, rainfly and straps you will need to make it into a viable shelter, are usually a little lighter than most tents. However, contrary to some popular opinions, not by much. Once you start comparing them to tents that will be shared by two or more people, the weight difference quickly gives tents the advantage. 

Faster – Some folks just assume setting up a hammock is faster than a tent, but it is not necessarily the case. Both take some time and practice to master. In the end, they are roughly equivalent on this level.  

That all being taken into account, many campers are getting on the hammock bandwagon, and this includes plenty of seasoned trail junkies. So, if you are new to hammocks, I hope this article on how to set up a camping hammock will help you get started. 

Before hitting the trail with your hammock…

It probably goes without saying, but it is wise to go ahead and practice setting up your hammock with whatever gear you plan to take on your next trip before you set foot on a trail. 

Not only will a little practice go a long way towards working out the bugs of the right hang, you will have a chance to get a sense for the set up that makes for the most comfortable experience for you. 

Set your tree straps

If you are new to the hammock scene, you probably bought a hammock kit which includes tree straps. However, they will eventually wear out, and you will want to know how to make your own to save money. 

All you need are two 6’ lengths of 1” wide Polyester (not Nylon!) webbing. Nylon is stretchy which is definitely not going to work unless you want to sink down for a nap in the dirt – defeating the purpose of a hammock. 

Sew a loop into each end of the webbing by folding over the tip about 3” and then sewing a one-inch square with an x across it where the tip meets the strap. Several single lines of sewing will also work, just make sure you do them in both directions. 

To secure your webbing to a tree, all you have to do is run the end of the webbing through the loop you made and pull it through and tighten it down. It will tighten with more weight on the hammock. 

Below where the strap attaches to the tree, about 8”, you can make a loop in the webbing to attach a carabineer hook. You can use a Marlinspike Hitch

If you don’t know what that is, just make a loop around your hand, then reach through ABOVE the loop to pull a section webbing through. This creates another loop that you can attach to your hook. Crochet anyone?

Adjust your whoopie slings

Since hammocks are so amazing and fun, it only makes sense that one of the primary components that makes a hammock work is called a whoopie sling. 

These special straps are a must for one reason: They have a special section where you can adjust the line when loose, but that locks down tight when force is applied. This makes adjusting the hammock for the right hang much easier. 

Woopie slings have a little trick to operation. Once you “get it” you will do it automatically when you go to adjust them. 

Take one hand and grab the side of the coiled part of the sling at the point where the rope you want to tighten (or slacken) connects, and then pull the rope and the coil in opposite directions. This will compress the coil, opening it so the rope can slide through. 

Most people like the “head” end of the hammock to be a little higher than the “foot” end. Play around with it some to find out what works best for your height, weight and shape. 

In addition, you want to try to get to a 30° ideal angle of incline on the strap to the tree when you are in the hammock. If your hammock hang is too horizontal then it places extra tension on the woopie sling, too vertical and it risks sliding down the trunk. 

Setting your under-quilt and top-quilt

If you are just setting up a day hammock for hanging out at camp during pleasant weather, then you are finished with your set up. However, many outdoorsy folks actually spend the night in a hammock, even in pretty cold conditions. 

To protect your body from the cold, you will need an under-quilt for insulation under your hammock. These specially designed quilts have a head and foot end as well. Usually they just clip on with a simple loop that gets attached to the whoopee sling at the top and bottom of the hammock itself. 

Once you have the under-quilt centered top to bottom on the hammock, just pull it under the hammock. You want it to be loose but fitting to the bottom of the hammock. The under-quilt should not be so taught that its cords are weight bearing. 

The top quilt will go on in a very similar fashion, again keeping in mind that there is a top and a bottom that should correspond to the head and foot end of your hammock. 

Setting your tarp or rain fly

Buying a rain fly for your hammock is the easiest way to go in terms of setting up for precipitation. Different styles have different kinds of connection points, so refer to the instructions that came with your rain fly for the best results. 

Here are some tips on choosing the right rain fly for you and the conditions you are going to be camping in:

  • Make sure it is at least a foot longer than your hammock for full coverage. 
  • Rectangle tarps are usually the cheapest, but they will cost you in terms of ventilation and extra weight. 
  • For higher wind conditions, you may want a full coverage tarp, but keep in mind the extra weight and time of set up you will have to endure. 
  • If lightweight backpacking is your gig, then you may want to invest in the top of the line Silnylon fabric tarps for exceptional wind and water proof with superior lightweight and space saving qualities. 
  • Water break – When you set up your tarp, notice the line from the tree to the tarp and imagine rain running down that line right into your hammock. Tying a piece of rope around the line ahead of your hammock will create a water break so the flowing water will drop to the ground at that point.
  • Pitch – The pitch of your tarp roof can be adjusted for weather conditions: More open for pleasant or warm days and more air circulation, steeper for better wind or cold insulation. 

I hope you have found this guide to how to set up a camping hammock to be helpful. Please leave a comment if you have some additional tips that would be helpful for other readers!


Leave a Comment