Hammock Suspension Kit for New Hangers

eno-atlas-straps-deployed

A new hanger with a simple hammock set-up.

I love hammocks (that may or may not yet be obvious) and I try my best to be even-handed about which hammocks and related gear I promote because I’ve learned that what works best for me isn’t necessarily the best for everyone, or even a majority; I’m happy if people simply choose hammocks. However, I am often asked to recommend gear, particularly for those just starting out, and I find myself stuck in the paradox of choice: wanting to help but offering too many options to be helpful.

By and far, the majority of folks I talk with who are new to hammocks and hammock camping aren’t looking for anything technical, or overly expensive, nor are they worried too much about ultralight backpacking, although they don’t want to lug around an anvil—they just want something simple, safe, and repeatable1. I’ve come to a point where I need to divert from my usual course and make a simple recommendation, particularly when it comes to hammock suspension and new hangers.

For better or worse, hammock suspension is one of the most overly complicated parts of hanging an otherwise simple shelter system. Ropes, straps, knots, lashings, buckles, cinches, rings, carabiners, toggles—you name it, you can probably use it to hang a hammock.

Years ago, I thought my Whoopie sling, keychain carabiner toggle, webbing strap, and Marlinspike Hitch suspension was the best, simpliest system, and I taught it to my family and Boy Scout troop as if it were the only way. However, after seeing my mom nearly fall to the ground after a simple mistake, and my scouts resort to what-the-heck knots to get the job done, I began to look for a better way, particularly for this new audience.

As fun as it was to teach knots and the like, I simply couldn’t be available every time someone needed help. I needed to provide a method for new users that really didn’t need much explaining and did the job simply, safely, and correctly.

hammock-rope-Hanging-Kit

One simple suspension system that has been around for years (and is still used by some manufacturers) is a length of rope, doubled over, and a series of overhand knots tied creating a daisy chain of loops where the hammock can be clipped. While this system is simple, it has the potential of digging into the bark of some trees and promotes bad hanging practice. Another negative with knots is that they significantly reduce the working load strength of rope. An over hand knot can reduce the strength by 60%!

Of particular importance to a simple suspension system, especially for a new audience—but really for all hangers—is the essential use of a webbing strap around a tree. However, not all hammock manufacturers sell straps or indicate their importance or necessity.

The strap-as-suspension is one option that provides a dual solution: an anchor point using a webbing strap and an adjustable suspension system all in one. However, I’ve found that—as simple as they are—some strap-as-suspension kits that use “thread-able” hardware such as cinch buckles, descender rings, or tri-glides, often leave new users tangled up as they try to remember how to “thread” the webbing the right way so they will hold correctly.

The best system I’ve found (hey, I’m finally coming to it!) that I currently recommend to new users is the merging of the rope daisy chain idea and strap-as-suspension method:

ENTER, CENTER STAGE: Daisy Chain Webbing Straps

There. I’ve said it.

eno-atlas-carabiner

Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) has been selling daisy chain webbing straps suspension kits for years. Unfortunately, their original Slap Strap series is nylon-based, and many hangers have reported stretching issues that slowly lowered them to the ground. In the past year, however, ENO has introduced an upgraded daisy chain strap called the Atlas Strap ($30, 11 oz (312 g), 108 × 1 in (274 × 2.5 cm), 200 lbs (91 kg) safe working load) that uses low-stretching polyester.

kammok-python-strap

KAMMOK, a relatively new entrant in hammock manufacturing, came out of the gate swinging with their Python Strap ($29, 11.8 oz (334.5 g), 118 × 0.75 in (300 × 2 cm), 250 lbs (113 kg) safe working load). The Python Strap also features daisy chain loops, but uses tubular UV-treated polyester climbing webbing and flat stitching.

Both of these options are comparable in nearly every way and I highly recommend either for new hangers.

Honorable mention goes to Grand Trunk Goods and Ticket to the Moon, who also sell a similar product to each other. They took the idea of merging the daisy chain rope and some webbing strap literally by threading the rope through some tubular webbing. These rope+strap combos are a great step up from just the rope, but since the rope is threaded through the webbing, the forces are not distributed as equally across the webbing, but it is a much better solution than rope alone. The only real difference here is the TreeSlings from Grand Trunk Goods are quite a bit longer than what Ticket to the Moon offers for the same MSRP.

grand-trunk-treesling

Image courtesy Grand Trunk Goods

Grand Trunk Goods — TreeSlings: $20, 20 ft (6 m), 200 lbs (91 kg) safe working load.

Ticket to the MoonTree Friendly Straps: $20, 8 ft (2.5 m), 200 lbs (91 kg) safe working load.

Since nearly all gathered-end hammocks on the market come with clips, hooks, or carabiners, purchasing a daisy chain webbing strap is the only piece missing for a dead-simple, safe, and easily repeatable system. Showing someone once is almost more instruction than they need. The loops and clipping hardware are self-explanatory, and looping the strap around the tree is nearly self-evident.

I want hammock camping, or just hammocking in general, to have a low learning curve. My book is one example of my attempts to try and make hanging a hammock a simple ordeal. All too often people have bad experiences with hammocks because they have a hard time mastering the basic hang. My hope is that by recommending simple daisy chain webbing straps to new users that it will build confidence and mastery of hammock hanging.

Now, if you’re looking for something more technical, or lightweight, or just want to experiment with the latest-and-greatest hammock suspension, then send me an email and let’s chat; I’ve got a whole chapter in my book just waiting to be explored.


FULL DISCLOSURE: Both ENO and KAMMOK have sent me their strap systems to test and review in the past, but my opinion and recommendation are from my own experience. I am not sponsored by either of these manufacturers nor do I receive any royalty should you purchase either of these two systems. They are listed alphabetically, but otherwise are not ordered by importance. I recommend them both equally and unequivocally.
  1. I know, I know, everyone believes their way is the best, and I agree with you.

  27 comments for “Hammock Suspension Kit for New Hangers

  1. September 27, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Could you include more pictures or drawings as to how these new items work?

    • Derek
      September 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Tim, funny you should ask. This week I published reviews on both these strap systems. Let me know if the reviews provide enough info.

  2. September 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Awesome info!, my Friends always mock me for having too many Hammocks, but one can never have enough hammocks!!

  3. jotm
    September 29, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Great line-up, but are you sure mixing up load/weight and mass didn’t cause glitches in the specifications mentioned in the article?

    For example: the Ticket to the Moon website states “Each cord can hold the maximum hammock weight of 440lbs/200kg”, whereas you state “200 lbs (91 kg) safe working load”.

    (based on a suspension angle of 30°, a certain hammock weight will cause the same load on each suspension, as you pointed out on the page about the hammock calculator – I would expect that the manufacturers of hammock suspensions do not mean them to be loaded vertically only and that they know a 440 lbm / 200 kg mass (440 lbf weight) in the hammock will cause approx 440 lbf / 1.96 kN load on each suspension)

    It’s the same for the other suspensions.

    By the way, SWL (safe working load) is a deprecated designation in the world of lifting equipment and has predominantly been replaced by WLL (working load limit) [http://www.irata.org/uploads/healthandsafety/WLLSWL.pdf].

    • Derek
      September 29, 2013 at 9:34 am

      I may need to update my word choice. I did use the weight recommendations from the manufacturers but these numbers are not the breaking strength, they are the “working load limit” per strap.

      • Andy
        November 3, 2013 at 11:16 am

        So if straps are rated at 200lbs does that mean the load is divided between the two straps equally-ish whch means the limit is really 400lbs (depending on how central the hammock is hung and where in the hammock the load is placed)?

        • Derek
          November 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm

          Andy, you’re pretty close. There are two basic forces at work: gravity and tensile force from the trees/anchor points. Mass can be divided equally between points but you also need to add the tensile forces, which change depending on the angle of the hang. Let’s take a 200 lbs base weight in a hammock with a 30-degree angle. The weight is 100 lbs per side plus 100 lbs tensile force per side. This equals 200 lbs per side. It sounds remarkable but it is true. I’m going to post a video soon where I show real life examples using scales on each side of the hammock. It’s remarkable. For more info, check out my hang calculator http://theultimatehang.com/hammock-hang-calculator/ or my silly video preview where I show the scales http://theultimatehang.com/2013/10/super-secret-hammock-lab/

        • Derek
          November 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

          The rating is working load limit. The breaking point is much higher.

          • Andy
            November 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

            Ok so the short question is; I weigh 220lbs and my Hennessy is rated for 300lbs will 200lb straps handle the job or not?

          • Derek
            November 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

            I would use 1.5-inch to 2-inch wide straps. The breaking strength for those straps is much higher, in the neighborhood of 2,000 lbs. If the straps are the stock straps from Hennessy, than they should be fine (they usually pair the straps with the hammock; thinner straps with lower-rated hammocks).

            The 1.5 inch polyester straps from StrapWorks are rated at 1,600 lbs working load and 4,800 breaking strength. Plenty good.

  4. jotm
    September 29, 2013 at 8:24 am

    PS looking at a peculiar invention from the UK I was wondering: would a sling dig into the bark of a tree, when 5-tonne ratchets are used to bring a group hammock on tension? [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqImIChxJ-E / http://www.tentsile.com/ ] NB I have no connection whatsoever to this company, I am just a puzzled bystander :-/

    • Derek
      September 29, 2013 at 9:32 am

      I’d love to try one if these tentsile tents. It uses very wide straps (which is good) and is more like slack lining than the hammock suspension we typically deal with. Large, strong anchors are a must as is a large hang area. Not ideal for some places. If it were me, I would recommend adding a foam pad behind/under the strap for additional tree protection. This is what slack liners do.

  5. Brad Camp
    October 30, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Great review. I am still fairly new to ham mocking but I have been reading up on it for about a year now. I see the plethora of ways to hang a hammock and I’m excited but sometimes, I just want it to hang up. I have found that the webbing straps (Atlas straps in particular) have been the easiest to deal with as a newbie. I think you hit this nail on the head. I will continue to try out other hanging systems for fun, but until I get the hang of those, the chain web strap is the way to go!
    Thanks

    • Derek
      October 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks Brad. There are always trade-offs, and as you get more experience you may find that one method suits you better than another, or some factor is more important (weight, speed, bulk, etc.).

  6. Ash aka Tom
    January 31, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    Good post, I went with the Python Strap as I’ve seen some of my coworkers butts sag to the ground in the heat. A tip for any MIL hammockers – pick up an extra 3″ adjustable cobra belt, pretty cheap on base or online. You can use it as a wrap on a slick tree (I have no idea what it is but it is but the bark is slippery) and it works great on trailers, MRAPs or whatever luggable is around.

    I know a certain loadmaster (Karl, this is for you brother) who has two on his bag as compression straps so he can hang in his C117 – and if you read this Karl, which is likely because you emailed me the link, I want my ipod mini back and God help you if you’ve put any Bieber songs on it. Yes, Robert told me what you did to his (our older brother) and I’m fairly sure that was against the Geneva Conventions. Mom will kick your ass once she stops laughing.

  7. Womble
    March 5, 2014 at 8:18 am

    The Exped Ergo Hammock uses a daisy chain suspension, together with tree straps. The suspension can be obtained individually.

    http://www.exped.com/usa/en/product-category/hammocks/hammock-suspension-kit-2×35.

    • Derek
      March 5, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Womble.

  8. May 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    I just ordered a set of the Phython Straps. I was really excited to see they are B-Corp certified! Wow! Certainly I want them to be strong and reliable, but being B-Corp is impressive.

  9. John Malcolm
    May 24, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Still a bit confused about working load strength, breaking point, etc. I am a big honker. I weigh 355 lbs. I have a Trek Lite double rated at 400lbs. I am not convinced the ropes that come with it are as bad for trees as reported but in is small thing error on the side of the trees and get a strap suspension system. As a beginner I am inclined to follow Derek’s above advice and get a daisy chain type arrangement. I was thinking of the Python. It has a safe working load of 250 lbs. while understand there multiple variables I am wondering Python is heavy duty enough for me.

    Two other questions: When measuring sit height – do I measure from the edge of the hammock when sitting ( where my knees are) or from the belly of the hammock, which is lower where my butt is)?

    The ridge line measurement for the calculator: is this info added only if we use an actual physical ridge line or should we enter the distance even if we are not using a ridge line?
    Thanks,

    • Derek
      May 24, 2014 at 9:01 pm

      Sit height is the lowest point in the hammock.

      The ridge line can be virtual. It is the distance between the end points of the hammock and is calculated based on how long the hammock is and the angle of the hang. Adding a ridge line helps “lock in” that angle for the hammock.

      Breaking point is the fail point when the strap actually rips apart. Safe working load is a calculation–a percentage–to account for dynamic forces and strains on the system. A strap that has a 2,000 lbs breaking point will be rated lower to have a “safe working load.” Some companies rate their products lower than others because of their own risk factors or legal concerns. I know several hammock manufacturers that use similar fabrics but list different safe load limits.

      The Python or Atlas strap have a much higher breakpoint point

  10. Carl
    June 2, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Hello Derek,

    I am new to hammocking, having just acquired one (GT SBP for those good with initals) plus your book, which I really enjoyed and continue to reference (along with internet forums) as I try to wrap my head around various issues before I head out and hang. One issue I’ve not seen addressed much – and would like your take on it:

    suppose I am quite prepared/eager to replace my hammock’s 5mm nylon rope supsension with polyester straps. I learned the Marlinespike hitch and like the simple idea of hooking the hammock end carabiner right to it. But I’ve noticed that my hammock uses the SAME type of 5mm rope/cord through the end channels. So if nylon cord is less than ideal due to stretch for the suspension line (as well as tree protection), shouldn’t the cord through the end channels be replaced as well? Or is it too short to matter? If end channel cord should be replaced, what options are there, with respect to both materials and connections? I know the whoopie sling is one, but I’m not sure about others.

    Would love to hear what you and others have to say. Thanks!

    • Derek
      June 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Thanks Carl, and welcome! The end loops are too short to matter. The stretch is more cumulative over long distances. Other advantages of using different cordage for the end loops include lighter weight and less bulk for packing, or making accommodation for a specific type of hardware (e.g., Whoopie Hooks or Dutch Biners that require smaller diameter cord). In your case, if you are happy with the Marlinspike Hitch and end loops, you’ll be fine with what you have. I would only recommend smaller rope if you have other goals in mind.

      When I swap out my end loops, I almost always use 7/64″ Amsteel. This is because the smaller diameter rope works with more hardware options and still works fine with other methods such as the Marlinspike Hitch.

      The Marlinspike Hitch is a unique and more advanced hammock suspension style that is predominantly used with long webbing straps and small rope loops on the hammock. Using a Whoopie Sling on the hammock AND a long webbing strap with a Marlinspike Hitch is redundant, in my mind. Why use two types of adjustability? The long strap provides unlimited points of adjustability so adding a Whoopie Sling is superfluous. Just a simple loop on the end of the hammock is sufficient.

      I know that a lot of folks use both Whoopie Slings and a long webbing strap with a Marlinspike Hitch, but I don’t see the logic in it.

  11. June 13, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for this. I’ve been wondering about “tree protection” for a while now since getting into slacklining. Completely different outside of using trees as anchors, but it’s a deadly sin to use a tree without some form of protection, which has made me wonder how that translates into hammocking. The main concern with temporary slackline setups is abrasion to the bark from the slings movement. Hammocking won’t see nearly as much force, friction, or movement. I agree that webbing is far more protecting that rope, but would a lightweight tree padding be necessary or helpful to earn good favor from those we come into contact with? The lightest setup I’ve seen is some synthetic felt with Velcro.

    • Carl
      June 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Not sure what sort of tree padding you mean, but it seems reasonable to me to believe that some closed cell foam between the line and the bark would help, perhaps not so much in terms of distributing the force (which I think really necessitates a wider strap, not merely a wide pad underneath a thin strap), but in terms of it being a sacrificial layer w/r/t abrasion due to movement. The CCF would have some “give” to aid in muting the effects of movement in the support line. Nothing is perfect, though.

      I should state my bias here: I think that logically, “leave no trace” is an impossible standard; to literally uphold it, you would need to never set foot in the woods, erect a tent, or hang a hammock. It seems more reasonable and realistic to be as light in one’s impact as practically possible (and perhaps also support positive impacts like reforestation, conservation, etc). By doing so, you’ll be on a higher ground than many bears, beetles, and, perhaps, some park commissioners:

      http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/jun/07/zipping-through-forest-aerial-adventure-new-way-ex/

      (So much for LNT! I do note in the video the wooden blocks mounted to protect the bark against cable lines; however, note how little of the bark is left exposed in these areas, and consider the bolts needed to mount these wooden blocks. Are they harmless? What about covering up 60% or so of a 1 foot band of bark around a tree? Is that LNT? Perhaps this is naive, but I have to question the endorsement of activities like this in light of the recent kerfuffle over hammock tree strap width. If they can do this, then perhaps mounting some stainless eye bolts in trees for hammockers should be no problem at all, right?).

      • Derek
        June 14, 2014 at 8:57 am

        I hear you. Leave no trace is really more like your second observation: being responsible while in the outdoors. LNT is all about encouraging folks to go outdoors. All too often people go into the woods and expect to treat it carelessly and expect someone else to pick up after them, as if the woods was like a big Disneyland. Rangers have become accustomed to tent damage and have been working for years on containing it and mitigating the impact. Now they need to adapt to hammocks. In the same token, we need support from vendors and the public to adopt safe and responsible practice and techniques so we can all enjoy the sport.

  12. Mary Woods
    July 18, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I use 2 pieces of foam left over from when I made a sleeping pad from Gossamer Gear ccf. I also have an extra piece of pad I sit on on logs and such. I have since then, ordered and use a HG under quilt that I dearly love. The pad will be passed on to one of my tent dwelling friends!

  13. Mary Woods
    July 18, 2014 at 7:19 am

    I use the foam behind my webbing straps. I also have used foam behind my Zing it ridge line on trees with vulnerable (layered or “loose”) looking bark.

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