The Best Knots for Hammock Camping

Learn these three knots to improve the pace and ease of setup on your hammock camping trips.
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Learn these three knots to improve the pace and ease of setup on your hammock camping trips.

So, you've decided to end your days of sleeping on the ground. Welcome to hammock camping! You are now part of one of the more fervent subcultures in all of backpacking (second only to ultralighters, although there is some overlap). So once you have the gear, you'll want to make you know where and how to hang your hammock.

Hammock Camping: Where to set up your hammock

Best to start this with where NOT to hang your hammock, and that is a simple answer: NEVER HOOK UP YOUR HAMMOCK TO A DEAD, DISEASED, OR IFFY-LOOKING TREE. If you do and a powerful gust of wind comes through (or, you know, if it's just the tree's time), the tree could fall in the middle of the night. And, yes, it will fall toward you. This happened to a buddy of mine. He wasn't crushed, but said it was easily the scariest 10 seconds of his outdoorsy life.

Beyond that, follow all the usual advice related to Leave No Trace, widowmakers (you aren't tied to), and lightning and bear safety.

Got it? Good. Now, what you came here for.

Hammock Camping: How to hang your hammock

In the interest of simplicity (fun fact: there's an even more fervent, even more sub- subculture within hammock hangers of people who are nuts for knots), here are the two or three you need to know.

You need two types of things: static knots that can handle heavy loads (like you) and adjustable knots that can't handle heavy loads (your ridgeline and tarp guyouts, if you're using them).

Hang your hammock

The first one, which we'll call the Backpacker Hitch, anyone can tie. Simply wrap your hammock rope around a tree several times and tie it in place. Friction will hold you up. Observe:

The second one is a little higher tech, a little harder to tie, and a lot more secure. It's called the Bowline, king of knots. To adapt this to hammocking, wrap the working end around the tree at least twice to keep your rope from sliding down the trunk. The Bowline:

Tie your hammock ridgeline

Finally, you'll want to tie your ridgeline and guyouts. You could tie a static, junk knot for your ridgeline, but we're always wanting to adjust the tension on that thing. Solution: Tie a Backpacker Hitch or Bowline to one end, and the Taut Line Hitch to the other. As so:

As you gain experience, experiment with the Trucker's Hitch, or any other number of knots that work in this application. Just make sure you have these basics dialed first.