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 repeatable[1. I know, I know, everyone believes their way is the best, and I agree with you.]. 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.