How-to: Set Up a Hammock

"One Scout Troop in Pennsylvania has competitions to see who can set up their hammock the fastest. Their troop holds the hammock setup record at 38 seconds."

Above: Tom demonstrates setting up the hammock on a sunny day.

hang diagram


  • Center
  • Level
  • Chair Height


There are many ways to tie up a sleeping hammock. The way that I recommend does not require any expertise with fancy knots, In fact, it's not a knot at all, it's a lashing. A lashing is a wrapping of rope in a simple repeat pattern. The beauty of the lashing is that it will never jam as a knot often will. Even after a night of tightening from your weight, you can untie it easily in the dark, in the rain, with one hand with your eyes closed. Once you take a few minutes to learn this lashing, you will never have a problem setting up or taking down your shelter.

Distance between trees.

The recommended distance between trees is 12' to 25' feet / 3.5 to 7.5 meter for the Expedition Asym and Ultralight Backpacker Asym models and 13'-26' / 4 - 8 meters for the Explorer and Safari models.

Height for tying up the hammock.

Your sleeping hammock should be tied at a height that allows the hammock entrance to be at chair height when you sit down. The farther apart the trees, the higher up on the tree you'll have to attach your webbing straps.

Recommended Lashing to Secure Webbing Straps.

Above: Tom's recommended lashing technique. Easy, quick, it never jams, and it protects the rope.

Watch us tie the lashing by viewing the video above! If you learn this lashing you'll never have a jammed knot, your ropes will last a long time, and you'll save time. Wrap webbing straps one or more times around the tree and bring loops together in line with the opposite tree. Pass rope ends through webbing loops. Adjust the hammock until it is centered and the ridge line is level and under light tension. Wrap the loose rope end completely around the tensioned support rope and then drop rope end down into the space between the webbing loops and the tree.

Tighten any slack in the lashing. Repeat lashing at least three more times in this "figure 8" pattern and tie it off with two half hitches leaving at least 6"/15 cm of rope. Entrance should be at chair height under tension of your weight.

For foul weather, adjust your rainproof hammock width by changing the angle of side elastics.

Other Methods of Tying Up the Hammock May Cause Damage to Suspending Ropes

Tom has been following with interest all the cool new ideas on the forums like the rap rings.

He has sailed a big sailboat for 40 years and knows what makes ropes wear out and break. When he designed the Hennessy suspension system, he had to consider many factors such as long term life of the ropes and the safety of HH customers. The HH system avoids any metal parts.  This reduces weight and cost, and eliminates corrosion. Any system which point loads the rope creates a point of failure. Tom prefers to spread the load with multiple wraps in a figure eight pattern. Attachment of the ropes directly to the soft webbing straps also eliminates abrasion to the ropes. One HH customer hiked the Appalachian Trail twice with his little dog Pumpkin and slept in his hammock at home every night for eight years. The ropes were still OK!! Tom  traded him for a new one and put the old hammock in the HH museum.

As a designer, Tom is always looking for the simplest, cheapest, lightest, fastest, and safest way to do anything. He expects to improve the HH whenever possible but the present lashing system allows for some error and still works. The last thing he wants is for one of his customers to fall. Some of the new systems are great for the DIY guys and Tom wants to encourage them to keep on innovating — especially when it comes to finding ways to make their systems a little more foolproof.

Tom is also fascinated with the idea of clam cleats which he had used on his boat. He rejected them because of their tendency to point load and weaken the rope. Some people are looking for an adjustable attachment so that they don't have to untie the lashing and retie it. Tom has played around with double or triple taut line hitches — two seems to be enough.

If you look at the website set-up videos you will see a video showing the lashing that Tom recommends to attach the rope to the webbing straps. The beauty of this system is that the rope is tied to the soft webbing which prevents wear because it allows multiple wraps against the smooth surface of the webbing straps.

Tom also likes the idea of carabiners and wanted to sell them as hammock accessories; however, when he inquired about purchasing them for sale on the HH site, he was told by the manufacturers that they would only guarantee them for climbing purposes and they wouldn't sell them for any other purpose because their insurance wouldn't cover them. Inexperienced people using carabiners can use them in the wrong way which would be unsafe. If the carabiner is set up sideways instead of pulling in the correct direction, the gate could rip out and the hammock could fall.

Canopy Set Up

Tom's directions: Align asymmetrical fly to match hammock shape. Clip the plastic "O" rings at each end of the canopy to the stronger plastic hooks on the sliding knot tensioner tied to the main support ropes — making sure to leave this adjustment untensioned until last. Next, clip the lighter plastic hook attached to each end of the canopy onto the main support rope. Center the canopy width-wise by attaching the side adjustment cords equally tight to nearby tree branches or ground anchors at whatever angle seems right for the conditions. Lastly, push each sliding knot tensioner along the main support ropes until the canopy is centered lengthwise and fairly tight. In wet, windy conditions, attach a weight or elastic to side corners of fly to maintain tension.

Tips for getting the fly tension right 

New tip: Tie the fly separately to each tree first so you can set up the sleeping hammock in rainy conditions without getting the hammock wet. This means that when the weight goes on the hammock it does not lower the rainfly and consequently slack the fly tension.  Another new tip is to tie the cord at one end of the fly,  take it around the tree and back through the same ring all the way along the underside of the fly, through the ring at the opposite end of the fly and then all the way around the tree and back through the ring at that end. This does three things — it keeps the fly taut, removes wrinkles in the top of the fly, and helps to prevent any water collection in the wrinkles of the fly. Another really good tip is to tie the side tie outs for the rainfly as far as out as possible, either to the ground or to bushes or branches and hang a weight right at each side corner.

When the fly gets wet and stretches, instead of getting loose and saggy, the weight will automatically lower the fly for storm conditions and maintain the same rainfly tension as when it was dry.

Care and Maintenance

Dry and repack damp gear to avoid mildew, mold, or color bleeding. To clean, hand wash using mild detergent, warm water rinse, and air dry. Inspect for damage after each use. Children under 12 years must be supervised. Do not smoke, cook, or light fires inside the camping hammock. 

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