I love the simplicity of knots. One maxim my Scoutmaster taught me was that “a good knot is easy to tie and easy to untie.” I’ve tied my share of “bad” knots when I was a Boy Scout, but there are two knots that have stuck with me that I seem to use all the time: two half-hitches and the taut-line hitch. These knots are so versatile and easy to tie, it’s no wonder they are two of the foundation knots taught to all Boy Scouts.

Using only these two knots, I can easily and quickly tie up a tarp for a hammock. One tip I learned was to create a “V” with the line so that the hammock suspension wouldn’t bang into the tarp. In this illustration, I show a continuous ridge line, but you can also use end-only tie-outs.

Using a continuous ridge line to hang a tarp for a hammock.

TIP: For Hennessy Hammock users, disconnect the tarp from the hammock and tie it directly to the tree. You’ll see an immediate improvement in how tight the tarp is pitched.

There are a few advantages of using a continuous ridge line.

  1. For tarps with a catenary-cut ridge line. you can get a much tighter pitch if the tarp is hung below the line.
  2. Tarps pitched OVER the ridge line benefit from additional structure and support during heavy downpours or snow falls.
  3. Once attached, the tarp can be easily and quickly centered between the anchors without requiring untying or unclipping hardware.
  4. Continuous ridge lines can make it easier to attach a tarp without having it touch the ground (hardware clips help in this case).

Materials Needed

  1. About 30 ft (9 m) of line. I prefer braided mason line because it knots easily, has high visibility, is inexpensive, light, and has low bulk. As an added benefit, it doesn’t tangle easily when wound. Some people pack as much as 50 ft (15 m), but I find that 30 ft (9 m) is enough to span the distance between the anchor points (less than 14 feet, typically), plus the line to go around the tree and tie the knots. I could get away with less in most cases. (Zing-it and Lash-it are popular with hammock campers, but they don’t knot easily, so I don’t recommend them in this example).
  2. Tarp of choice.

Simply tie one end of the line to Side A of the tarp ridge line tie-out using two half-hitches. Wrap the standing end around the tree and back to Side A and through the tie-out. Continue threading the line either OVER or UNDER the tarp to Side B of the tarp. Thread the standing end through Side B tie-out and around the other tree. Finish by tying a taut-line hitch to Side B.

At this point you can adjust the tarp and center it left-to-right BEFORE YOU TIGHTEN THE LINE COMPLELY. This is an important step. Trying to slide the tarp back and forth with the line taut may saw into the bark of the tree.

Enjoy!