Why is my hammock suspension too tight/too loose?

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. I connect my straps to the tree and my hammock to the straps
  3. I pull the suspension tight and center the hammock between the trees.
  4. I drop the head end of the suspension 6-12 inches.
  5. I now start lengthening the suspension, this in turn lowers the sit height and increases the hammock sag.
  6. 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.
  7. I then proceed to sleep, after hanging my tarp of course…

 

Pro-tips:

  • 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

Previous

Hiking with guns

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    gmcpcs

    Good information! Trivial knowledge: “Rule of thumb” has a medieval reference to the size of the rod that can be used to beat your wife. It can’t be thicker than the man’s thumb, or it becomes too abusive.

    Perhaps hammock hangers need a “Rule of the Gun Hand”.

    On a more serious note, I haven’t personally had the experience of hanging in a bridge hammock; does this change the hanging factors?

    Thanks Scuba,

    Take it easy,
    GMCPCS

  2. Avatar

    Scuba

    Good information! Trivial knowledge: “Rule of thumb” has a medieval reference to the size of the rod that can be used to beat your wife. It can’t be thicker than the man’s thumb, or it becomes too abusive.

    Perhaps hammock hangers need a “Rule of the Gun Hand”.

    On a more serious note, I haven’t personally had the experience of hanging in a bridge hammock; does this change the hanging factors?

    Thanks Scuba,

    Take it easy,
    GMCPCS

    Bridge hammock is a totally different animal. Trees spaced further apart are GOOD, and a flatter suspension is often used.

  3. Avatar

    BillyBob66

    I must have picked up some skills related to hanging a hammock over the years, as just today I pulled off something that I gave up on way back in 2006-07. What I gave up on is hanging a hammock from any trees in my yard. The only time I have really done this in the past is when I used two 2X4s in an X formation, but crossing very near the top, and then running the straps or rope over the X and down to attach to the tree down near the bottom. But that must have been too much hassle since I ended up with a a home built hammock stand and later a purchased portable stand. And that last is mostly what I have have used over these last 6 or 7 years. (I got tired of hearing my wife’s complaints about the appearance of my big old home built stand, gave in and tok it down after a couple of years. But I did some of my best cold weather testing using that stand! )

    So anyway, out of the blue an urge struck today and I took my WB bridge out to those way far apart trees. I attached the straps way up high and hung with comfort and the greatest of ease! Previously, I never could stay off the ground. Maybe it is not all just skill: I vaguely remember back then that when I would be trying to attach way up high, I was worried about the size of the branches I was attaching to. But maybe the tree has grown a lot in thickness as well as height since 2006, and I am now able to find branches up high that look thick enough? Maybe that is the difference more than skills. I still remember being on the phone with Tom Hennessy, with him trying to talk me through it. And I remember him saying that, if I could not stay off the ground, I was just going to get those tree huggers up higher, rather than trying to pull tighter.

    But for whatever reason, today was no problem. When I took my WBRR down and tried to hang my Claytor No Net, the original thin nylon cordage that came on it(which I still have on the foot end) was not quite long enough, though I had plenty of length on the head end where I have a Harbor Freight yellow strap and a cinch buckle. Because of the relatively short cordage on the foot end, and hooking up high, I was no where near centered between the trees. It mattered not, I just made a few adjustments, and the foot end on this hammock needs to be higher anyway, so still worked good. I was only about a foot off the ground, since I could not get that foot end as high in the tree as i needed to do- not enough cord- but did not matter. I felt about as comfy as I always have in that hammock, and between shade, a breeze and a 10+ cooler(maybe 12 or 13 cooler) August day than back in late August 2006, I could easily have passed out and almost did.

    I’ll never forget that scorching(easily 100F + heat index) late August day 11 years ago, with a Rocky Mountain trip coming up 1st week of September(turned out 1st night had 22F lows), and me, my wife and grand-kids in the backyard, trying to figure out how to hang that Hennessy Hammock UL Explorer and how it’s Super Shelter worked, having been convinced to try a hammock by my buddy from NC who was meeting me in the Rockies. Sweat pouring off of me, and I could not even keep my butt from hitting the ground, using my only two not all that thick trees about 21 feet apart. I gave up and just hoped my more experienced at hanging buddy could help me figure it out on the trail! LOL! I’m still amazed that I actually tried it, but I was prepared- and experienced- to go to ground with a tarp if needed(and had to on one other night than the 1st above timberline about 11,000ft)- thankfully I took my pads. It led to a truly miserable 1st night, ending with me abandoning the hammock for the ground under the stars. But by the 2nd night I had it figured out more or less, and was warm and uber comfy on all of the following nights. And I was converted from dog cussing hammocks and my buddy who convinced me to try them, to the only guy who was way comfy and warm on the last windy, cold night of the trip. Never looked back after that. But I would have had a much better 1st night- and been more confident on all of the following nights- if I could have practiced in my back yard. Using these same trees like I did today with no problems. I just hanged them high. The hammock straps that is. Even with far apart trees, worked good! Hang em high, Bros and Sis!(when needed)


Log in to leave a Comment

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén