How to Hang a Tree Swing

A boy swinging from a tree swing with a girl.

Tree swings are generally relegated to the yards and parks here in civilization and not so frequently found in the backcountry. This makes sense because installing a tree swing is just slightly too much trouble to be worthwhile if you’re out camping or hiking for a day or two. However, if there are particular campsites or swimming holes that you and your friends or family seem to find yourselves returning to again and again, a tree swing could completely change the way you enjoy that favorite backcountry spot.

There aren’t that many steps and, depending on how you intend to secure your tree swing, you may not even need to bring any extra tools along in your rucksack. With a self-securing loop knot or a bowline knot, you can likely secure a tree swing with just a knot. For tree swings at a higher elevation, you can use eye bolts and carabiners to get a tree swing hung up for a longer span of time. 

Whether you’re looking for something for kids to do when you’re at a campsite or you want to add a new activity to a beloved campsite, a tree swing will be a huge hit for campers of all ages. If you have a preferred swimming hole that’s short on good diving points, a tree swing lets you swing out over the water and let go, plunging in a free fall. It’s great fun, but make sure you know how far from the bank you get, how deep the water is, and whether there is anything you could possibly strike and injure yourself on. It’s also really important to size up the tree you want to hang your tree swing from. Tree health and tree size are both critical elements to take into account when you’re hanging a tree swing. Especially in cases where you want to leave the tree swing in place for a while, maintaining the tree’s health is important.

 

A person swinging from a rope swing over a lake.

A tree swing can add a new dimension to a favorite swimming hole.

 

There are several tree swing hanging kits available on Amazon and in brick and mortar shops. They come with all the tools you need to hang a tree swing, but you should be careful to know exactly what kind of tree swing you’re hanging and for what purpose to make sure you’re buying a tree swing hanging kit with the right tools included. There are many shapes, sizes, and styles of tree swings.

The classic rope swing features no attachments at all while more advanced models remind one of a porch swing. In the middle of both is the longtime favorite, the tire swing, that can be put to any purpose regardless of whether it’s for water activities or just a peaceful place to sit. As far as DIY projects go, hanging a tree swing is great fun for everyone and they’ll all be excited to finish the job so they can put the swing to use. It’s a simple enough process that even children can help in some small ways. 

A tree swing is good, clean fun that can add a new level of enjoyment to a campsite or swimming hole. Knowing how to hang a tree swing can also be useful if you want to hang something like a hammock or a hanging storage compartment to keep camping gear up off the ground. Read on to learn two good knots and the whole step-by-step process. You’ll have great fun on your next camping trip once you know how to hang a tree swing. 

 

Selecting the right tree for a tree swing

Feel free to consult an arborist for this if you don’t know that much about trees and don’t want to risk a broken branch and potentially injurious fall. In general, it’s pretty easy to tell a suitable tree from a bad one, though. If you’re installing a tree swing that you intend to be permanent and don’t want to risk placing it in a bad tree, then the arborist might be worthwhile, but for most simple tree swings, you may find no use for the arborist. What you should make sure of is that the tree you want to hang a tree swing from is healthy and alive.

You can tell this from the presence of leaves and the flexibility of the branches. Keep an eye out for a bug infestation as well, as that can threaten the integrity of the tree limb all on its own. There shouldn’t be any peeling or cracking on a tree branch for use with a tree swing or rope swing. Fruit trees may be suitable, but the best trees of all are generally hardwood trees. 

Choosing the right tree branch is as important as choosing the right tree. A long tree branch parallel to the ground and curving toward the earth the further it grows from the tree is ideal for hanging a tree swing. It should be at least 6 feet long from the trunk of the tree. It shouldn’t be more than 20 feet from the ground or else you could face some trouble getting the rope around the branch to secure it in the first place.

You don’t want to hang the tree swing near the end of the branch where it’s weakest, but rather somewhere near the center that’s far enough away from the trunk that the swing will not inadvertently send people crashing into the tree as they swing. Give a good 4 to 5 feet of distance between the trunk and the tree swing. The tree branch should also be about 8 inches in diameter and hold close to that diameter along its entire length. 

 

A boy sitting on a swing near a river.

Adding a tree swing to your favorite campsite is sure to please campers of all ages.

 

Bolting a DIY tree swing or tying a knot?

There are two ways to secure a tree swing, tire swing, or rope swing to a tree branch. The difference will be fairly negligible if the swing is not very high off the ground and the tree branch is healthy enough. The bolts are obviously going to give your tree swing way more staying power, but they might be overkill if you just want a simple rope swing to leap into a swimming hole or just sway a bit near the campsite.

It also depends on how secure the users of the swing want it to feel. The choice is less to do with any functional aspect in most cases and more to do with how comfortable everyone is with the security of the tree swing. If you’re putting in a tree swing for lots of people to use at a popular campsite, you may as well use bolts to avoid liability issues. If it’s a quick single-use tree swing, you can probably get away with just a loop knot that won’t loosen as you swing. 

The bolts you’ll find in tree swing hanging kits and the ones best suited to keeping a tree swing in place are called eye bolts because they look like eyes. They have a loop on one end through which you can pass a carabiner, and then you’ll be tying the rope to the carabiner with a knot either way. It’s a great way to guarantee the security of the swing set and also a necessity if you’re hanging a two-person, porch swing style swing set. Heavy-duty eye rings will hold a tree swing in place for a long, long time if they’re inserted into the tree branch correctly when you first set up the tree swing. If you are going to use eye bolts, get them with a ⅝ inch diameter. They can be larger than that but not smaller. Thicker tree branches merit thicker eye bolts.

Use a power drill to drill two holes a good distance away from the trunk so you can put the eye holes in. The holes you’re drilling should be slightly larger than the eye holes you’re going to use. The distance between the two holes you’re drilling for the tree swing should be slightly larger than the width of the tree swing itself to help preserve balance. Rope swings and disc swings may only require one hole to be drilled in the tree branch.

Screw the eye-bolts on the underside of the tree branch with the “eye” ring facing down. The end of the eye bolt should pierce through to the other side of the tree branch. Once the eye bolts are in, they should be secure for a while. But check on them every now and again. Cracks in the tree branch near the eye-bolts or rust on the eye bolts will indicate that you need to replace them.

 

Carabiners for hanging a tree swing

Stainless steel carabiners or s-curves will both work just as effectively for this part of the tree swing. The important thing is that whichever you use should be durable enough to connect the eye bolts and the rest of the tree swing without issue. Make sure the carabiner doesn’t have an easily opened latch. Once the rope is tied on this will matter less, but it is always a really important safety concern to choose the right carabiners.

These stainless steel carabiners and s-loops should have weight ratings when you buy them. Get the highest weight rating you possibly can. That number indicates it can support lots of weight, which is obviously what you want. If you’re buying a tree swing hanging kit, see what kind of carabiners or s-curves are included with the kit. That could be a dealbreaker. 

 

A tire swing in the grass.

A tree swing and an old tire are all you need to make a complete swing set.

 

Choosing the right rope for a tree swing

The rope should also have a high weight rating. A polyester rope or nylon rope will both do fine for this part of the process. Make sure the rope won’t fray if it’s left out in the elements for a few seasons without changing it. Always check the condition of the carabiner and the ropes as well. Tie it to the stainless steel carabiner with a bowline knot. If you want to tie a bowline knot, follow these simple steps: 

 

  • Hold the end of the rope in your left hand. This end of the rope will not move.
  • Form an overhand loop with the right hand.
  • Draw the end of the string in your right hand through the loop now held in your left hand. 
  • Loop the loose end of the string underneath it. 
  • Taking the loose string in your left hand and the loop in your right, you can pull from both directions and complete the knot.

 

Follow these simple instructions to get the rope tied to the eye bolt and you’re nearly finished hanging your DIY tree swing. 

 

Tying a rope swing to a tree

This is perhaps one of the easiest parts about a DIY tree swing. Now that the rope is knotted to the stainless steel carabiner and the carabiner is connected snugly to the eye bolts that are now pierced through the tree branch, there should be a length of rope hanging from the tree branch. All you need to do is pass this free end of the rope through a hole in the bottom of the swing and then tie another knot that won’t give out.

If you have a tire swing or a rope swing and only had to put one bolt through the tree branch then you only need to tie one knot through the bottom of a disc swing or one tied around the tire in a tire swing. If there are two then make sure you’ve given yourself enough space before you tie the free ends of the rope through the bottom of the swing. 

 

A person on a tree swing near the water.

The knots used to secure a tree swing are very similar to those used to secure a hammock.

 

Final Verdict:

Tree swings are amazing fun and very versatile. They can be thrilling and blow your hair into a mess, or they can be calm places to do some personal reflection. It’s way easier than it looks to hang a tree swing whether you use a tree swing hanging kit or go completely DIY with it. If you do decide to attach the tree swing with bolts, make sure you have access to an electrical drill with enough drill bits to accommodate various sizes of eye holes. This can be a huge hassle if you’re trying to hang a tree swing in a place where you don’t have easy access to electricity. 

Entire groups of people will love to have a tree swing to jump into a swimming hole or just take turns pushing one another or jumping off. The site selection of a tree swing is important not only for the view it offers but also to make sure the people using it aren’t going to go crashing into the trunk. An arborist can help with the age of the tree, its health, and whether or not there are any bug infestations.

If you don’t want to bother with an arborist or you quite fairly enough don’t know how to find an arborist, then you can tell a healthy branch from a dead one because the dead one will be very dry and have tears and crumbling bark, while a healthy branch will have none of those things. If over time you check the eye hooks and see that they are either rusted or causing cracks in the tree limb, then the tree swing will have to be reinstalled from the eye hooks onwards. 

Picking the right equipment is really important to avoid any embarrassing situations where someone is using the tree swing you put in and if falls and the person using it strikes the ground. The stainless steel carabiner, the rope, and the tree itself all have to be high-quality to avoid any accidents on the tree swing. For a quicker version, consider weighing down the end of a rope with a clip or weight and then throwing that end of the rope over the top of the tree limb. 

From that point, you can tie a simple loop knot and the rope is effectively attached to the tree branch and ready to be tied off at the other end to the tree swing. If you’ve ever put up a hammock before, then all this probably already makes good sense to you. Both a hammock and a tree swing are knotted in similar ways. If not, then we hope this guide gave you a good idea of what’s involved and what kind of tools you need in a DIY project like a tree swing. Enjoy a newfound thrill and some peaceful relaxation on your next camping trip now that you know how to hang a tree swing.

 

Bonus tip: Watch this man hang a tree swing using two metal clips!

 

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.