Hammock camping can be a liberating experience. Any avid camper knows that there’s nothing better than packing up camp and continuing to your next destination with your home on your back. But with hammock camping, it gets even easier. With the tiny size of hammocks when they fold up, and no need to carry around heavy tent stakes and poles, backpacking just got even more convenient. Especially considering that you can put up camp literally anywhere, as long as there are some trees or a pole to tie your hammock to. But to fully embrace your hammock camping experience, you’re going to need to know the best hammock knots. That’s why we’re here to help.
We’re so excited by this new trend in camping that we’ve thought of some benefits, to try and convince you to give it a go!
- Sleeping in a hammock is eminently more comfortable than sleeping in a tent. Being off the ground means you miss rolling onto a rock that you might have forgotten to clear from your campsite. The suspension provides you with support after a long day hiking.
- Unlike with tents, you can pitch your hammock anywhere you choose – so long as there are some strong trees, preferably about 5m apart. This opens up a world of possibilities for minimalist hikers and adventure seekers, meaning that you can rest in even more rocky or thrilling terrains.
- In a hammock, you’re also more protected from the elements – despite how it might look! Because you’re suspended above the ground, you avoid the rainwater or snow which could potentially seep into the bottom of your tent from the ground.
- Hammocks are also often far cheaper than tents
- Hammocks are lightweight, and portable, meaning you can reserve your energy for the things that really matter in your outdoor adventure
- Hammock camping is even more eco-friendly, you leave no mark or trace once you have packed up your camping hammock, as opposed to damaged grass or peg holes left after tent camping.
- They’re easier to waterproof than waterproofing your tent
- It’s easy to set up… or is it?
Camping hammocks certainly look very easy to set up. But when we take into consideration the safety risks involved, we might have to be a bit more vigilant when learning the “ropes”. There is an obvious safety risk involved with hammock camping, that for some reason – maybe a shoddy knot – a person could fall from their camping hammock, especially if it is at a great height.
Learning how to set up your camping hammock safely and securely is of utmost importance, so we’ve compiled some of our top tips for you, including how to tie the best knot for your hammock.
Where should I set up my hammock?
Unlike tents, hammocks can really be set up anywhere, providing that there are anchor points, like poles or trees. The supporting structures have to be very sturdy and spaced at about 5m apart. To check that trees are sturdy enough to support your night of beauty sleep, make sure to check that the tree is still alive and healthy before setting up your hammock. You definitely don’t want to be waking to a creaking and swaying tree in the middle of a windy knight – and wonder whether it could fall on you!
Usually, the ropes for tying your hammock are in the package – so set up your tent in your preferred location at a height to allow you to be perfectly suspended above the ground – but not too high up. And, unless you’re an experienced hammock camper, we would recommend that you don’t hang your hammock above any sharp or hard surface, just in case. Once you’ve got your site, ropes, and height sorted, the next step is to fasten your ropes. And this is where the debate begins…
How can I securely fasten my camping hammock?
One option for securing your hammock is by using hardware. We would recommend you using some hardware to secure your hammock, especially if you are new to hammock camping. The hardware for a camping hammock is what is used in the place of a knot. This can take the form of a carabineer, toggle, clip or a whole range of other solutions.
Hardware is often easier than tying knots and can be a lot faster. Also if you’re new to tying the exact right knot for your hammock, it could give you some peace of mind to take a piece of hardware with you. We would recommend a carabineer, a ring, which is sometimes D shaped, often used by rock climbers.
With a small latch that opens inwards, the carabineer can be used as an important part of your suspension. Alternately, you can opt for the DIY solution for hardware: the toggle. This is usually a stick, that loops through a hole and can be used to attach the webbing to the hammock cord.
Despite the useful camping hack of the toggle or carabineer, we can’t discount the need for the trusty knot. It’s possible that while you’re camping, or hiking, your hardware could break – or maybe you could leave it somewhere and forget it. Also, as you get more practiced at hammock camping, you might want to go totally DIY, and do hammock camping the old school way. So, to help you on your travels, we’ve compiled instructions for making our favorite hammock knots.
How do I tie the best hammock knots?
Before we take you to the step-by-step guide for different knots, we have one word for you: friction. The safest way to hang your hammock is to allow friction to do most of the work for you, to put less pressure on your knot. When you’re setting up your hammock, you should start by tying your rope as many times as possible around the tree or pole. If you wrap and tie the rope as tightly as possible, this step should stop the rope from slipping. If you’re setting up your hammock on a tree, try tying it just above a fork, or branch, for extra security. That way, there’s always something in the way to stop your rope, even if it does slip a little.
You should also consider the type of rope you’re using. There are lots of ropes out there, and your hammock will probably come with some, but check its material before you buy. One option you should look for is a cotton rope, which is resistant to UV rays, so it won’t wear out over time. Cotton also isn’t affected by getting wet, and it’s strong enough to hold you in your hammock.
Remember to seal the ends of your cotton rope so they don’t fray: if you treat your cotton ropes well, they will repay you, as they hold knots very well so are likely to keep you safe while you sleep! Your hammock may have come with a paracord rope. These ropes are durable, and can hold a lot of weight, but are very thin. So consider doubling them up for more strength in your knot tying.
If you have used the right type of rope and secured it tightly (many times) around your tree or pole, then even a simple knot should keep your hammock safe from moving. However, there’s no harm in knowing the best hammock knots, especially if it can mean that extra level of safety to help you sleep tight at night under the stars. So here they are:
The Bowline Knot
The Bowline knot is the most popular knot used amongst hammock campers, and it’s one that we would personally recommend to tighten your hammock to your tree rope. It’s so strong that it’s even the one used by sailors to attach their sails. We would recommend it due to it’s tied and tested strength, and because it’s versatile and can be adjusted to any size. It does not jam and is easy to tie and untie. It can easily be secured on a tree, and the strength of the knot is not phased by tension, so this is the classic bet to keep your hammock – and you – safe.
- Lay the rope on your left hand, with the free end hanging down on your palm. Make a small loop in the middle of the rope in your hand, pass the long end up and around your tent rope, and through the loop
- Pass the end to the left, under the rope above the loop,
- Then pass the end under the rope furthest from you, and bring it down through the loop
- Tighten the knot by pulling on the free end while holding the standing line.
The Two Half Hitch (or three!)
The two half hitch, though less popular, is also another useful knot for securing your hammock to the anchor point. It’s sturdy, doesn’t jam and moves easily so you can adjust the length and distance from the tree. Here’s how you make a two half-hitch knot:
- Pass the running end of the rope behind and around the post or tree
- Bring the end over and around the long end of the rope, and back through the loop that is formed
- Repeat the first two steps, adding another half hitch knot next to the first
- Add another half hitch knot if you have the extra rope, for added security
The Becket Hitch
The becket hitch is another knot with a story: it’s been around for a long time, since before Columbia, and in South America, it’s just referred to as the “hammock knot”. But this doesn’t mean that the becket hitch is out of date or old fashioned. It’s stood the test of time, and can still be used in the modern-day as a safe, durable knot for hammock hanging. We would recommend using the becket hitch with webbing or sheathed rope, as thinner ropes – even if you double or triple wrap them – can slip, making them harder to tie and untie thus rendering the hitch useless. To protect the great outdoors while you are adventuring in it, we would also recommend webbing due to it protecting the tree from damage while your hammock is attached to it. It also acts as a nifty suspension line.
Tying the becket hitch:
- Pass the webbing or suspension rope through the loop at the top of your hammock.
- Leave a loop to the right, and pass the rope back under the hammock loop
- Create a loop out of the end of the rope, and pass the folded piece of rope through the loop you have left on the right.
- To tighten the rope and seal the knot, pull the folded rope on the right simultaneously with the attached piece of webbing or suspension rope
- When you want to loosen the becket hitch knot, just push down on your hammock rope loop to the left, away from the loop of the knot.
The Tautline Hitch
This hitch is popular amongst campers and is even the knot that the Boy Scouts of America recommend for an adjustable sliding knot. This is a multipurpose camping knot that is also very useful for setting up your camping hammock: it can be easily slipped and adjusted to tighten or loosen a line but holds fast under a load.
Tying the Tautline Hitch:
- Pass the end of your rope through the loop, and pack under the taut rope.
- Bring the end of the rope up, and down through the loop
- Pass the end of the rope up again, and back down through the loop, creating two consecutive loops along the taut rope
- Through the loop, pass the end of the rope to the right of the first two loops.
- Take it behind the taut rope, and bring it back down through the small loop underneath which was created by the last step.
- Pull the end of the rope, holding the taut rope taught, to tighten the knot.
- Slide the knot on the standing line to adjust the tension.
Mastering these knots is a vital step towards becoming a safer camper, and harnessing more of what the great outdoors has to offer. Although you can start with some hardware, it’s important to know these knots just in case your hardware breaks or is lost. It will also bring you one step further to the DIY Bear Grylls camping adventure.
There are a few other things you can do to hammock camp more safely, other than tying the best hammock knots. Firstly you should think about the color of your hammock. If you’re going to be camping in the woods or forests or remote locations, it’s important to think about the potential safety risks. For example, in some situations, you should camouflage your tent so that it’s unseen by wildlife as you sleep. This is especially important if you’re going on a hunting trip – it’s better to maintain low visibility while you camp, to avoid scaring the wildlife off. If you’re going for a more low-key camping experience, or you’re staying in a large campsite or even using a camping hammock at a festival, it might be best to get a bright color so you can spot your hammock at a distance. Also, you should look into getting brightly colored ropes that are visible, so people don’t walk into them in the middle of the night.
The gathered end hammock is the most popular type, and it’s what we’d recommend for you to try first. Some of the other options of hammocks have bars or heavier components. The gathered end hammock is easy to store, and to set up, you’ll only have to use one set of knots rather than dealing with multiple ropes. Some of the other benefits of a gathered end hammock is that it’s easy to get in and out of, and you can easily lie at an angle on it, meaning you can sleep a little flatter and easier at night. They also don’t take up much space, so you won’t need to use a huge piece of tarp, which makes it eminently easier to transport.
So, we’ve run you through the benefits of hammock camping, where to set up your hammock, how to securely fasten your hammock to the anchors (the two trees, posts or points where your hammock hangs from), and how to tie the best hammock knots.
What works best for us is using the simple gathered end hammock, and the becket hitch knot. We’ve found that this approach to camping has opened up a whole new world of adventures. Instead of having to drive out to a campsite with a bunch of kit, it’s now so much easier to just throw your hammock in your backpack, set off and be impulsive. We can now camp anywhere we like, so when a beautiful moment like a sunset happens we don’t have to rush away to get back to camp: we can set it up right there and then. The Becket Hitch is also the best option for us as far as knots go for backpackers, it’s never done us wrong. It’s light, requires no extra hardware, is simple and easy to remember, it’s easily adjustable, doesn’t bind, has a quick release, and unties quickly. All you need from a knot to keep your hikes light, spontaneous, and hassle-free.