Rigging A Tarp For A Hammock – No Hardware

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.


  25 comments for “Rigging A Tarp For A Hammock – No Hardware

  1. J.Andersons
    June 7, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    I’m not so strong at the knotology,but taken some ideas of this illustration to rig my new MacCat Ultra tarp for first time and this worked great!
    Creating V at the tarp ends avoided hammock suspension interference nicely. My first real wilderness hang in Latvia gone great!

    • Derek
      June 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      I’m glad this worked out for you! There have been a few times when I didn’t have enough cordage to create a “V”, but for the most part, it is the best way I’ve found to rig a hammock and tarp together. Thanks for visiting the site!

  2. Silverpalm2x on Hammock Forums
    June 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    thanks for this I am thinking I am going to have to replace the rope on my ENO Profly. All the inner rope is coming outside the inner rope. Will the mason line do the same? Is it easy to get knots out of it?

    • Derek
      June 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      Mason line is hollow core. In other words, there is no core to unravel. For heavy tarps, I would use something other than mason line for the ridge line. A lot of cottage retailers use Zing-it or Lash-it line made from Dyneema. I also use the mason line for side tie-outs on the tarp. The knots I often use with mason line include the taut-line hitch, two half hitches, bowline, and a single or double sheet bend. All of these tie well. The sheet bend is the most difficult to untie, but I also use this the least.

  3. JW
    July 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I used a modified version of this last weekend when I accompanied a group of scouts on a 14 mile backpacking trip. The scoutmaster picked the site–and there were no trees I could have used successfully for my hammock.

    Forced to go to ground, I used the principles here to conveniently rig one end to a tree; the other end used a trekking pole to support and I was able to move it (unlike a tree!) to position it optimally. Using just step 1 in the illustration really simplified the process. Thanks for the tip!

    • Derek
      July 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Fantastic! I’m glad it worked out. Although forced to the ground, the hammock is still versatile as a bivvy (just not as comfortable). Great job!

  4. Alex Mason
    August 14, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Hey Derek, just discovered your blog and it’s looking great. Getting lots of ideas for me to use once I finally get all my hammock camping gear together.

    One thing I wanted to mention is I think your taught line hitch is actually a rolling hitch. A taught line hitch has two turns below and two above I believe. It’s possible that as with most knots, there’s lots of names that are used for all sorts of things though.


    • Derek
      August 15, 2012 at 7:18 am

      Alex, welcome to the Ultimate Hang! I checked out the Rolling Hitch and it does have some visual similarities, but it ties more like a Clove Hitch than a Taut-line Hitch. What I have illustrated is the Taut-line Hitch: two wraps on the inside, one on the outside. Sometimes I’ll throw an extra wrap on the inside for better grip.

  5. November 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Have you thought about using 550 paracord, it is strong, light and readily available, easily packed and stored #paraacord

    • Derek
      November 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

      Yes. Paracord is a true workhorse and a lot of people swear by it. However, 550 cord has two drawbacks: it stretches, and it holds water. There are lighter, less bulky, stronger options out there that don’t stretch or hold water, which are growing in popularity. A lot of people prefer the dyneema cord (Zing-it/Lash-it) for side tie-outs and ridge lines.

  6. Caleb
    February 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Do you favor the taught line hitch over the trucker’s
    hitch? The trucker’s hitch is the number one tool in my arsenal
    followed closely by the bowline: both fit your mantra of “easy to
    tie, easy to untie”. I’m am just curious as to your thoughts. Btw,
    BZ on the book/blog. Well done.

    • Derek
      February 20, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      Thanks Caleb! I love and use both the bowline and truckers hitch in the field. My guy lines are tied using bowlines. I think both are very viable and I think they are great. The truckers hitch is a better choice in many ways because you can get a tighter pitch.

  7. V A Petty
    July 28, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I see that you are often using braided mason line. Is this particular line a suitable for ridgeline and guy outs?

    • Derek
      July 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      I use mason line for guy outs, primarily. One drawback of mason’s line is that it is typically made from nylon, which stretches about 15-20% when wet. I also use guy line tarp tensioners that take up the slack in the night. Having it on a ridge line is harder to tension in this way, so I use a more durable line like Dyneema (1.75 mm Lash-it). What you’ve selected looks great! It’s higher quality than I’ve used and I don’t have any experience with it. The core may make it less stretchy. I’d give it a try, for sure. Let me know what you find out.

      • Don McNaughton
        November 9, 2014 at 8:16 am

        Derek, I’m new to hanging, and trying to get the right materials. I love your recommendation on hanging a tarp. I’m about to buy a Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker with the larger Hex fly. I’m a bit confused about your ridge line material recommendation.. I thought you said braided mason line is good for the ridge line….but here I think you say Dyneema is better(?)

        Am I reading it wrongly?

        • Derek
          November 9, 2014 at 8:20 am

          I use the mason line on the guy lines. This is because guy lines tend to get beat up and the mason line is cheap and high visibility. The ridgeline has much more strain on it so I recommend a higher tensile stength line. The 1.75 or 2 mm zing it line is great.

  8. Doug
    May 13, 2014 at 6:18 am

    I really like this style of rigging a tarp. The knots are easy, you still get a “nice V”, and there’s no added weight. I might suggest using the “slippery” versions of these knots to ease untying.

    • Derek
      May 13, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Thanks Doug. Great idea.

  9. October 30, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Hi Derek. Great site, and great book as well. I’m curious – could it be an advantage to add ridgeline tensioners even when using dynema, to account for the sag of a wet silnylon tarp? Best regards

    • Derek
      October 30, 2014 at 5:59 am

      Thanks Frode. There are a few ridgeline tension devices on the market that do just what you’re talking about. I find that corner tie outs with shock cord tensioners do a great job in picking up the slack.

      • October 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

        Oh, I was just thinking about if adding shock cord to the ridgeline tie outs had any merits? Thanks for your reply, maybe I should just get out in the fall, trying it out ;)
        best regards.

      • Vernon
        January 13, 2015 at 7:06 am

        I use the Hennessey Hammock funnels and small plastic water bottles attached to keep the tension reasonable on my tarp and have water if it drizzles even a little.

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