When you first start hammock camping getting your suspension set right seems impossible. Once you start to understand some of the “physics” of hammock suspensions, it will become easier, and hopefully start to make more sense. Below are some terms you need to know
Sag is how your hammock hangs from your suspension. Looked at simply, it is the curve in your hammock.
A structural ridgeline is a cordage line on your hammock that allows you a consistent starting point to set your hammock’s sag. They come in both adjustable and non-adjustable. The consensus rule of thumb for a ridgeline is 83% of your hammock’s length.
30 Degree hang is the angle at which your suspension hangs from the tree you are using. 30 degrees is the “sweet spot” because at that angle, the stress you are applying to your suspension and ultimately the tree is about equal to your body weight.
How does the distance between your trees and strap height correlate. This is simple but has a profound impact. The further apart your trees are, the higher you will need to place your straps to achieve a 30 degree angle. For example, if your trees are 15ft apart your strap height would be 70 inches, or almost 6 ft. Now if the trees you use are 20ft apart, the strap height changes to 87 inches or over 7ft up the tree.
When you hang your hammock, you will find it feels a bit like Goldilocks, but it will be too flat/tight, too steep/saggy, or just right.
A suspension that is too flat has a hang angle of less than 30 degrees. This will be apparent in the ridgeline because when you are sitting in the hammock, the ridgeline is tight and hard to flex. Also, when you lay in your hammock, it will have a noticeable ridge running down the center of the hammock. To fix, either lower the sit height of your hammock, lengthen your suspension or raise your straps on the tree.
A suspension that is too steep has a hang angle of greater than 30 degrees. This will be apparent by the ridgeline sagging when your weight is in the hammock; it will either flex excessively easy or just be a limp noodle hanging over your head. When you lay in this hammock, it will feel “floppy” and will be like hanging as a banana. To fix, either raise your hammock sit height , shorten your suspension or lower the straps on the tree.
When your suspension is just right, sleeping in your hammock will be a true pleasure. Your ridgeline will be tight, but you will be able to easily flex it with your hand. There shouldn’t be a ridge in the hammock when you lay in it.
Here is how I hang my hammock:
- I look for a set of trees about 15 feet apart. I have found this to be ideal for me as it allows me to get a good sag without having to place the straps too far up the tree. For trees 15ft apart, I place the straps at about 6ft high up the tree.
- I connect my straps to the tree and my hammock to the straps
- I pull the suspension tight and center the hammock between the trees.
- I drop the head end of the suspension 6-12 inches.
- I now start lengthening the suspension, this in turn lowers the sit height and increases the hammock sag.
- When the hammock angle looks right, i place my weight in the hammock and test the ridgeline to check if it is tight or loose. If too tight, I generally lengthen the head end suspension or lower that end, depending on the sit height of the hammock. If too loose, I generally shorten the foot end suspension or raise that end, once again depending on the sit height.
- I then proceed to sleep, after hanging my tarp of course…
- I try to always carry one 15ft tree strap. This allows me to use it to easily measure three spacing.
- place your hand in a “shooting an imaginary gun” shape. the angle from the tip of your index finger to the top of your thumb is roughly 30 degrees. Use this placed along your strap to roughly measure your hang angle.
- having your foot end higher than your head end keeps you from sliding feet first into the end of your hammock