Hammock Suspension with Descender Rings and Garda Hitch

I recently came across a YouTube video (thanks Eric H.!) that shows how to use descender rings and an easy wrap that makes a quick and secure adjustment without any complicated knots.

Known to climbers as the Garda Hitch, this technique is used to haul gear upward, as it only slides in one direction. This hitch works by pinching the cord tightly as the wraps compress the rings together. I should note that some folks who have used this technique with rope have noted some wear on the rope with repeated use. Like any suspension system, it is always a good idea to inspect your suspension before every hang. This is just one technique in the ever growing hammock suspension tool box.

(UPDATE: I was recently made aware that Amsteel (or other dyneema-based cord) is not recommended with the Garda Hitch because the single braided fibers get separated under compression and lose their structure. This effectively lowers the working load strength and can weaken the suspension. If you use this method, be sure to use the right cordage, such as a sheathed spectra or Titan cord, such as is used on the Hennessy Hammock models.)

I was surprised at how quick it was to create and adjust and how secure it held. The only modification I recommend to this method is to move the descender rings closer to the hammock so the rings double as a drip line. The other benefit is a lower overall weight since you can use less hardware.

hammock-suspension-descender-rings

Materials

Use the following for each side of the hammock.

  • 2 – Aluminum descender rings
  • 1 – continuous loop (for the end of the hammock)
  • 1 – 1.5 in × 4 ft (4 × 123 cm) webbing strap (for around the tree)
  • 1 – 4 ft (123 cm) line (4mm+ rope; length to your choosing)

Sew or tie eye loops on both ends of the webbing strap. On the line (amsteel), splice or tie an eye loop on one end, and leave the other end open. The continuous loop attaches to the end of the hammock (either through the end channel or around a whipped end). The descender rings are attached to the continuous loop.

By having the descender rings near the end of the hammock, and therefor covered by the tarp, the rings act as a water break in case of water flowing down the suspension line.

The rope is fed through the two loops and wrapped twice around both loops. A third wrap is made only around one loop. This allows you to easily tighten and adjust the suspension.

hammock-suspension-descender-rings-loosen

To release the tension, slide the rings apart, and the rope will come loose.

 

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28 comments

  • jaydub

    This looks 100x easier than whoopie slings.

    Reply to jaydub
    • Post authorDerek

      Yes! It uses less rope/line as well, so it could have a net loss in weight and bulk. However, be warned that this hitch can crush the fibers in Amsteel to where it can fail. At least this is what my friends have told me. I haven’t seen any data or heard of any formal tests, but I trust them. Please stay safe!

      Reply to Derek
      • jaydub

        You may have touched on this in the video but I didn’t see it (space cadet). But do you recommend any of the rings over the others? Do any work better? Or is it simply a matter of weight/preference? Further, how small can you go with the rings?

        I have whoopie slings on my eno doublenest, and they are fine but honestly I find them ever so slightly difficult to tighten satisfactorily. I don’t think that would be a problem with this system. Also it looks simpler. I like simple.

        Reply to jaydub
        • Post authorDerek

          I purposely didn’t recommend any one ring style over another, but was just showing the difference in weight. The other factor to consider is safety load strength. So long as the rings are rated to a satisfactory load limit, they should be fine.

          I’m with you on simple. The Garda Hitch is pretty cool, but it does pose a problem with certain cordage because of how tightly it compresses the rope. My friends (who are much smarter than I am) recommend avoiding Amsteel with the Garda Hitch because it could drastically weaken the fibers. Using different rope should be less of an issue, but as always, inspect your suspension lines and don’t hang any higher than you care to fall 🙂

          Reply to Derek
      • Lenny Griggs

        Lately I have been using a single SMC Decender ring hanging on the knot of the Marlin Spike Hitch. Adjustability would be easier with the Garth Hitch though, but, not by much time or effort. Beauty of both is able to adjust if trees are a shorter distance. Another great idea, need to buy 2 more SMC’s!!

        Reply to Lenny Griggs
  • sirrka

    Just tried this with 1 in webbing. The garda hitch worked wonderfully well and was really easy to do. I have an ENO and took off the ‘biners and replaced them with the descender rings so I could adjust height and evenness easier. They held tight with the hitch and I was swinging and bouncing. Thank you!

    Reply to sirrka
    • Post authorDerek

      Thanks! I’m glad it is working! Straps should be just perfect with this hitch method.

      Reply to Derek
  • Josh

    I will say it for Derek…hehe. Get the ones he is using, SMC Descender rings, couple bucks each. They don’t have a logo. SMC makes another ring that is fatter but smaller and those do not work. Omega ones dont work either.

    I have used Amsteel in this setup, and yah it compresses the fibers too much….it works, but not the same lifespan. You can just substitute 1 inch poly webbing for the Amsteel….it won’t be a Garda Hitch, just a simpler hitch that you can secure with a safety knot if you wish.

    Reply to Josh
    • sirrka

      Yes, the Omega rings do not work. I woke up almost touching the ground. I will now go and purchase the SMC Descender rings. Thanks for the clarification. 🙂

      Reply to sirrka
      • Remy

        Nearly a year later with my reply, but anyways… You can very easily secure the Garda Hitch with a simple slipknot (slippery half hitch)…

        Reply to Remy
  • David Spratt

    What is the size of the smallest rings in the video-8 grams? Will they work on the Garda Hitch? What is the weight limit of these and where can I get them if they do work?

    Reply to David Spratt
    • Post authorDerek

      The smallest were 1-inch steel rings from Handy Hammock in the UK. I believe they are rated over 400 lbs. I found similar rings at my local hardware store, but if you want these, I would contact Jason at Handy Hammock.

      Reply to Derek
      • David Spratt

        Thanks. Might as well use less weight instead of more.

        Reply to David Spratt
  • David Spratt

    Will Dynaglide work with the Garda Hitch or will it crush the fiber as with the Amsteel?

    Reply to David Spratt
    • Post authorDerek

      I can’t say definitively. I’m actually going to do some strength testing on these and see what the failure point is, particularly on Amsteel.

      Reply to Derek
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  • Micah

    Welded 316 stainless steel o rings (4mm x 25mm) have a break strength of just over 1600lbs. go to a 5mm ring and you double the strength. You can buy these on ebay for about $1.50 each including shipping in lots of 5 or ten, or from any number of specialty shops. They are marine grade used in sailboats all the time for high tension dynamic loads. They stand up to serious abuse, don’t rust or pit, and are way lighter than SMC decenders. Mind you I wouldn’t repel using them, but perfect for hammocks.

    Reply to Micah
  • eb

    How about removing/loosening the rings? I pull my line to max tension/tightness. It looks like it would be tough to undo without having any slack to give back, yes?

    • Post authorDerek

      All you have to do is slide the rings in opposite directions. But now I must ask, why are you making your suspension so tight? What hammock are you using?

      Reply to Derek
    • Tenshi

      Not only from a comfort standpoint, but from a safety standpoint, having your lines tight multiplies the weight and stress on them exponentially.

      Reply to Tenshi
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  • John

    Hey Derek I just ordered my first hammock and have been told the same thing as u about the double descending ring crush problem until I was told about the “single ring suspension” and use it like a truckers hitch kinda way. Any thoughts?

    Reply to John
    • Post authorDerek

      Every suspension system is prone to wear. You just need to keep tabs on it as you inspect your gear. Single ring suspension works but I find it a hassle compared with other systems. Light and simple? Try the becket hitch. No hardware.

      Reply to Derek
  • John

    I wasn’t thinking the Becket hitch would be enough to hold me but it sure did, and if I get worried I’ll double sheep’s bend it….thanks a lot this helps a lot

    Reply to John
  • Neil Jones

    I bought a pack of 5 gm climbing aluminum rappel rings on Amazon… Before I saw the note about SMC .. Hope they work

    Reply to Neil Jones
    • Tim Osborne

      I don’t know if you’ve tried them yet but I used my GM rings last night and they worked great. Hope this helps.

      Reply to Tim Osborne
  • Rusty Perez

    I just got my SMC rings from whoopieslings.com great place to get them and I can’t wait to try them out!

    Reply to Rusty Perez
  • John Ellis

    I noticed some wear on my Amsteel so I just bought some titan cord. It seems they recommend using a triple fishermans knot for making a loop which seems odd to me. My tree strap has a fixed loop which I larks headed the amsteel on. For the titan would it be reasonable to just use a double sheet bend or becket hitch to the tree strap loop then use the descender rings on the hammock side cl? Seems that would keep things clean and seems it would keep me off the ground.

    Reply to John Ellis

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