Introduction: How to Make a Cot Style Hammock

Picture of How to Make a Cot Style Hammock

After spending a night in a bunched end hammock and feeling a little cramped I decided to create a flatter hammock. This Instructable is the result of my efforts. The hammock was designed with my sleeping bag system (not yet published) in mind. When used in conjunction with my sleeping bag system it will have an attached under-quilt and a channel for a sleeping pad. The hammock can be used on its own as well. Feel free to simplify the design if you will not need the attachment points on the sides. Having the rope exposed only at the center point of each side should meet most people's purposes.

This project can be completed in one weekend.

This hammock can be set up using 2, 3, or 4 tension lines. Using 2 tension lines (between 2 trees)  will generally require at least 2 tie downs for stability while 3 or more tension lines will not. Attaching one end to a tree that is wider than the hammock width will also create a stable configuration (it's almost like tying at 3 points.). By using the rope access points on the sides, the hammock could be attached to a frame and used as a cot. 

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

1.5oz or stronger ripstop nylon.
    I purchased the nylon in a fabric store. The width of the roll from the fabric store was 59 inches. You will need to order your material based on the length of your hammock. I bought 2.5 yards (90 inches) for a hammock that is 78 inches long.

2 pieces of 7/8 inch rigid copper tube slightly shorter than the width of the hammock.
     The length of the tube will be slightly less than the final width of the hammock. You will need to get a length of tube about twice the length of the hammock. Initially I searched for aluminum tubing but did not find any so I settled upon copper. I like the copper now, It looks awesome and was easy to work with. Feel free to substitute aluminum or anything else you think may work.
2 pieces of 1 1/4 inch PVCslightly shorter than the width of the hammock.

Rope for frame:
    You need something that will not stretch. (Paracord is NOT a good choice.)  I used hollow braid polypropoylene rope that is rated for 215 lbs. A rating of around 115 lbs would probably work fine since the weight is distributed among the 2 ropes and 4 tie offs.

Cord for tie downs
    I used a 40lb nylon and polypropylene cord as optional tie down straps.

    Heavy duty polyester thread. This is often called outdoor thread.

Note: The size and strength of the rope and rods I used is based on a person near 150lbs. You may need stronger tubes on the end if you are a larger person. I have not tested it with a larger load than my own weight. I suspect it can hold a lot more but experimentation is recommended. If you place a piece of material that is the width of the hammock between two points and it can support more than half your body weight it should be fine to use.

stick glue
sewing machine
hack saw
ball peen hammer (for copper)
hammer (for copper)
knife (for pvc tube)
emery cloth

Step 2: Sizing and Cutting Your Material

Picture of Sizing and Cutting Your Material

The first step is to determine where to cut the ripstop nylon. I wanted my hammock a certain size so it would work with my sleeping bag system. Prior to cutting I came up with the following formula to get an idea of where to cut the material. I did not calculate where the material comes off the tube at a tangent or its exact length there but instead added an extra diameter. There should be excess material using the formula below. Excess material can be compensated for by making the overlap larger. If you are uncertain give yourself a little extra material to work with.

Desired length = 78 inches
Size of the edge hem = 1/4 inch
Diameter of tube = 7/8 inch
Overlap = 1 inch

desired length + (((size of edge hem * 2) + circumference of tube + diameter of tube + overlap ) *2)
78 + (((0.25 * 2) + 2.75 + 0.875 + 1) *2)
78 + (0.5 + 2.75 + 0.875 + 1) *2)
78 + 10.25
88.25 inches
88 1/4 inches
My material size was near 89.5 inches when I trimmed it. I just used this length and added a longer overlap on the ends.

Desired width = 26 inches
Size of the edge hem = 1/4 inch
Diameter of rope = 3/8  inch
Overlap = 1/2 inch
desired width + (((size of edge hem * 2) + circumference of rope + diameter of rope + overlap ) *2)
26 + (((1/4 * 2) + 1.18 + 3/8 + 1/2 )*2
26 + (0.5 + 1.18 + 0.375 + 0.5) *2
26 + 5.11
~31.11 inches

To calculate the circumference of the tube or rope, use the following formula.
    Circumference = pi * diameter

If you get material in a store the cuts may not be exact. The cuts could be on a slight angle or you may get slightly less or more material. I bought 2.5 yards of material which is 90 inches. After straightening the edges I had just enough material to make the hammock. If you are as close as I was to the cut point you may wish to get a little extra material. 

Since the width of the material I bought was 59 inches I decided to make the width of the hammock slightly shorter so that I could get two hammocks out of the material. I cut the material directly in half at 29.5 inches and use slighty smaller edge folds and overlaps.

Step 3: Hem the Edges

Picture of Hem the Edges

For this section I am assuming a 1/4 inch hem. Replace the measurements as needed.

Glue edges
Using a weak glue to secure the hem in place will make sewing easier.
Place glue on the outer 1/2 inch of material.
Fold 1/4 inch of material over.
Repeat this process.

Sew hem.
Using outdoor thread, Sew a line close to the open end of the hem. This will be a little less than 1/4 inch from the edge of the material.

Follow this procedure for all four edges of the material.

Step 4: Mark the Fold and Cut Lines on the Ends.

Picture of Mark the Fold and Cut Lines on the Ends.

Making the fold lines.
Each end of the hammock will need to be folded over the tube and attached. If you have a desired length for your hammock then you will need to measure the length of the hammock and subtract your desired length. For example.

88-78 =10 inches
Mark a line with chalk at 5 inches on each end.
If you are not concerned with measurements, just fold the material over your tube and mark the material with chalk.
Leave a little extra material so there isn't a lot of stress on the last sew line and so the tube can slide in and out easily.

Follow the same procedure as above but use the rope instead of the tube.

Making the cut lines:
To create a stronger hammock we will need to hem the places where the tube and the rope are pulled through. Ideally we want to do this so there are no exposed cut edges. If you have an inch of overlap (the part you will sew together to attach the end) then the cut line should be less than an inch away from the fold line. Refer to the pictures. The next step will help to clarify why this cut is being made where it is being made.

Step 5: Hem the Tube and Rope Entry Points

Picture of Hem the Tube and Rope Entry Points

Using the 2 flaps of material cut loose in the previous step create two hems as shown in the first picture. Create two or three parallel sew lines on these hems.

We are trying to achieve something that looks like the second picture. The material is just folded over in the second picture for demonstration and has not yet been attached.

Step 6: Create the Rope Attachment Points

Picture of Create the Rope Attachment Points

I designed the hammock so that I can attach an under-quilt or other sleeping gear to it. There are 7 points on either side where the rope is exposed. The length of the hammock is divided into 8th to determine the points. If you don't need that many connection points I would recommend to at least expose the rope at the halfway point. Stabilizing tie downs can be used there when the hammock is only connected to two tension lines.

Mark an 'I' at each of the locations you have determined to place a hole. See the first picture. The width of the holes I made were 2 inches. Do not cut too close to the edge of the fabric. The distance from the edge of the fabric should be minimally larger than the size of the overlap you planned. 

Cut along the 'I' pattern.

Using the flaps of material, fold them over twice to create a hem. Use the stick glue then sew like was shown previously. Create two or three parallel sew lines on this hem.

The third picture shows what your material should look like after the holes are cut and hemmed.

Step 7: Create the Rope Channel on the Sides.

Picture of Create the Rope Channel on the Sides.

Fold the sides of the hammock material over to meet your attachment line (drawn in an earlier step).

Place your rope or one slightly thicker in the rope channel. This will serve as a stop guide for your sewing machine foot. It will prevent you from making the channel too narrow.

Create the first line of stitches closest to the rope

Once the first line of stitches is done you can then remove the rope and create two or more parallel stitches. More is not necessarily better unless you have a large overlap. Too many stitches close together can weaken the fabric.

Step 8: Add Reinforcement Strips

Picture of Add Reinforcement Strips

When we made the holes to expose the rope a cut fabric end was exposed. We want to cover that end and reinforce the material so a rip can not form.

I am using a piece of leather in the picture but this is because I did not have any excess ripstop nylon. After doing this I think the leather may actually be a better choice since I did not have to worry about the cut edges.

You will need a piece of material twice the width of the overlap and an inch longer than the length.
The width of the overlap is 1/2 inch and my strip is an inch wide.
The hole length is 2 inches and the length of my strip is 3 inches.

With the back of the material facing up, center the material under the hole.
Mark where the edges of the hole are.
Fold the material in half and cut to the point where you marked.
Fold the material over the exposed nylon edge as shown.
Sew the material to the nylon. Be careful not to narrow your rope channel. Use the previous sew line as a guide.

Your project should look similar to the last picture now.
Time to get a break from sewing and head off to the shop.

Step 9: Create Copper End Bars

Picture of Create Copper End Bars

I used 7/8 inch rigid copper tube to form the end bars. I chose copper because the PVC from a previous trial bent under my weight. I also could not find aluminum poles to use.

Measure and mark the pipe an inch shorter than the width of your hammock. For a 26 inch wide hammock cut two 25 inch pieces of pipe.

The ends of the pipe need to be rounded off to prevent them from digging into the rope. This can be done using a ball peen hammer or even a steel ball. I performed this step on an old carpet on a concrete floor. I placed the end of the pipe on the carpet and held the pipe in place between my knees. Next I held the ball peen hammer in place as shown in the picture. Using another hammer I pounded down on the ball peen hammer until the edges began to flange out. I would flip the pipe over occasionally to work both ends. The downward force on the concrete also helped to flange out the ends.

 After the edges were flanged out I used the hammer to bend the edges back towards the pipe. This created a lip on the end of the pipe.

When I was done hammering the lip I filed off any sharp spots and then sanded everything with emory cloth.

Warning: If in the process of flanging, the end of the copper tube splits even slightly than the tube can not be used in the project. Any flaw or split in the tube will result in failure. This happened to one of my tubes, I thought "I can replace it later" but it didn't take long for it to fail. See the last picture.

Step 10: Create PVC Ends

Picture of Create PVC Ends

This step is an alternative to the copper ends. Using PVC will require a thinker diameter tube to support the same weight as a copper tube. I used a 1 1/4 inch tube. My hammock currently has one copper end and one PVC end.

Note: The pictures are from a smaller diameter tube but the methodology is the same for preparing the tube.

Measure and mark the tube an inch shorter than the width of your hammock.

With a sharp knife, cut away the sharp edge on the inside and outside of the circle.

Round off the end of the tube with sandpaper. The end should be as close to a half toroid as possible.

Step 11: Attach the Ends

Picture of Attach the Ends

Ok, Back to sewing. You're almost done!

Fold over the end of the hammock to meet the line you calculated prior to cutting the end. Attach the overlap with multiple lines of stitching. If you don't have a lot of material you may put your pipe in the fold to keep the channel from being sewn too narrow.


Step 12: Thread the Rope

Picture of Thread the Rope

Install the prepared pipes in the ends of the hammock and thread the rope as shown in one of the diagrams.

Sometimes rope will come with a rope threading needle. I have shown this in the picture but found it wasn't really necessary to use.

There are two methods shown to thread the rope.  The first method could make it more difficult to hang the hammock if you do not have the ends lined up parallel when you set it up. The second method of threading the hammock will require you to thread the hammock under tension so you can measure exactly how much rope you will need in the centre loop.

To thread the hammock with 3 segments of rope.
1) Thread the end tubes first.
2) Set up the hammock so it is very taunt.
3) Thread the inner ring of rope.
4) Put two marks on where the ends of the inner rope cross so you know where to tie it.
5) loosen the ends slightly.
6) Tie the inner rope so it is slightly shorter than the points you marked. This will enable the rope to create greater tension on the hammock making it flatter when you use it.

Step 13: Make Loops at the End of the Ropes

Picture of Make Loops at the End of the Ropes

Creating a loop at the end of the ropes will give us a quick way to attach tree straps.

Use a bowline knot to do this.

Step 14: Time to Use the Hammock.

Picture of Time to Use the Hammock.

Job well done. Now It's time to go camping.

The diagram shows various ways to set up the hammock.

The best configurations are to attached the hammock to 3 or 4 points. Using four points effectively creates a stable platform.
Two point configurations will require stabilizer ropes attached to the ground. I selected 40 lb test ropes for this.

I did not have anyone available to take a picture of me in the hammock but I've included a picture of my feet and some rocks for your amusement.

The trees in the images were a little too close together which limited how much tension I could put on the hammock.
I am happy with the results of this project so far. I will be doing more testing of this design and if I come up with any changes or improvements I will add them to this Instructable. If you attempt this project please share your results with me.

Step 15: Additional Photos

Picture of Additional Photos

Here are some pictures of my sleeping set up.
I have a sheet, fleece/poncho and quilt (not shown) that can be tied together.
The hammock can slide into the sleeping gear. There are attachment points on the sheet, fleece and quilt that line up with the hammock attachment points. This gives the option to tie all the gear together.
A channel is formed between the sheet and hammock so a reflective pad can be inserted.
I will be uploading instructions for the sleeping gear eventually.


Scotty Von Porkchop (author)2014-01-13

The tube of PVC would be better suited to forcing the two sides apart rather than having the rope running through it. As the rope exits it will cut into the tube possibly causing failure.

Interesting, I had actually thought the tight corner on the rope would be more of a failure point than the PVC. I'll keep an eye on the ends. If there is a problem I'll have to come up with a solution and post it. If all goes well I will do the A.T. this summer but will probably not be using this hammock. Might get more long term testing after that.

ChrissyBop (author)Todd Gehris2016-01-27

That would be easy enough to curb with some nylon or poly flexible tubing (I would run it through the inside of the pipes with the ropes inside of it about 6"-1' beyond the pipes). Would help reduce fray too.


theguywitheyebrows (author)2016-04-12

Join hammock forums if you arent already!!! We ARE the forefront of design, creativity, and production!!!

JoeF4 (author)2015-09-28

To prevent the copper tubing from splitting, heat it red hot with a torch and allow it to cool slowly. This will anneal the copper and may need to be done several times as you work the tube to flare the end.

Nicely done! Going to have to make one of these myself.

dizzle976 (author)2014-09-13

you can actually weave that type of rope into itself to make loops instead of tying knots. a knot takes away about 1/4 of the strength rating. i use the same rope and i weigh over 200 pounds. weaves always hold

Todd Gehris (author)dizzle9762014-09-13

That's one of those things on my list that I haven't got around to trying yet. :)

ortho (author)2014-02-22

Great instructable. A coupling without the stop could reinforce the tube on the ends . Just leave enough sticking out to flare and roll over.

jahand (author)2014-01-14

This is a very interesting project, it should work fine. Jack

Todd Gehris (author)jahand2014-01-15

Thanks Jack.

Todd Gehris (author)2014-01-14

A big thanks to everyone who voted for this Instructable.

chokapi (author)2013-12-14

Nice. I don't think I'd mind a bit of sag in the hang -- looks comfy for a back sleeper. I have a simple channel-end hammock and have been considering spreader bars. There's a company that makes 'furniture-grade' PVC tubing with smooth connectors and end caps. It's a bit heavier, but stronger, and UV protected. See here:

Todd Gehris (author)chokapi2013-12-18

I think I saw furniture with that stuff already. Thanks for the info, it may prove useful sometime.

byronmota (author)2013-11-25

The "Banana Syndrome". That is how I call the feeling after spending the night in a bad hamock without being able to lie diagonally and thus be able to keep the dorsal spine more or less flat. Clever instructable, anyways.

Todd Gehris (author)byronmota2013-11-29

How flat this hammock is depends upon the tension on it. I made note of this in the picture in step 14. I don't claim it is for everyone. The design can also be attached to a frame to make a cot so it is multi-functional. What type of hammocks have you tried and what design have you settled upon to use?

Try the woven (polyester?) sacking material used by builder's merchants etc free from dumpsters! I have found (nylon?) pallet strapping for loads of jobs. soften with CIG lighter to prevent knots undoing or in emergency just bite. Good for emergency dog collars/leads.

I'm not sure what you are talking about? Do you mean for tree straps?

Jean-Valéry Thoraval (author)2013-11-23

to sleep well in an hammock, your shoulders should be near one side (left or right), while your feet should ben on the opposite side.

That really depends on the size and type of hammock. Not all of them are good for sleeping diagonally. Asymmetrical hammocks are better for laying diagonally than symmetrical hammocks. Bridge hammocks and narrow symmetrical hammocks you would lay along their axis. The hammock I felt cramped in was a fairly narrow symmetrical hammock. It packed up in a little sack to about the size of a softball. Great for chilling out for an hour or two but not so great for overnight.

you know more than i do on the subject...;)
the truth is i just made me a hammock, and even though i'm starting to get used to it, i've got to admit it's sometimes hard to spend a whole night straigth without waking up during the night or havin cramps.
the worst, is that, my first thought was to make me a hammock much like yours...

but didn't, tell that me your way of doing it is better, i might just make me a new one for next year... ;)

I don't know if it is better, It is just a different type of hammock. It has advantages and drawbacks. It does lay flatter but If it's tied to more than two spots you can't set up your tarp like a tent easily because the ropes would be in the way. A lot of people like bridge hammocks for backpacking. I think its just a matter of trying a few and finding what you like. It only took two days for me to make this and it didn't cost much. Couldn't hurt to try it.

hell i wish we could edit our messages after having posted them :(

hdmotorc (author)2013-11-22

How much does it weigh and how small does it pack up? I use a DIY hammock tent. Packs real small.

Todd Gehris (author)hdmotorc2013-11-22

It was a little under two pounds with copper ends and the 215lb test rope. I roll it up. Imagine rolling up two 25 inch long tubes with a little material and rope wrapped around it and you can get an idea of how it packs. I'm sure there are lighter options. I am trying to strike a balance between how flat and comfortable I can get it and lightness.

Jobar007 (author)2013-11-22

The failure of the copper tube is that it work hardens really easy. If it gets over worked, you get a fracture which in turn becomes a tear.

An alternative might be to make a plastic insert into the copper tube ends? It would allow you to have "meat" to grind smooth to allow the rope to pass through without the possibility of compromising your tube.

Where did you get your copper? If it was the hardware store, you might be able to find some thick walled (0.125") aluminum square tube. It would be sufficient to support the ends, but it would be noticeable if it rolled in the end while setting the hammock up. The corners might provide abrasion points though...

Well done. I like this idea a lot and I think that I'll run with it.

Todd Gehris (author)Jobar0072013-11-22

Thanks Jobar. Maybe I'll have to try heating the copper next time. It was my first time trying to do anything with copper besides regular plumbing.

I went through the exact same thought processes about an end caps and the square tubes. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to cap the end with that would still be smooth enough for the rope to slide on. I even thought of encasing a steel rod with hoops on the end in pipe insulation. Unfortunately I lack welding skills. It's on my to learn list.

I would love to see what you do with it. Especially if you come up with improvements.
Just a thought if you are planning on making this. I sized the hammock to fit inside of a square sleeping bag. You'd really only need to put one hole in the bottom of your bag for a rope since the second rope should fit where the zipper starts. Then find a way to attach it at the head and you have a hammock with an under quilt. Slide a reflective pad on the hammock and maybe a fleece sleeping bag in there and it should be a warm setup.

rblee (author)2013-11-22

I think that the PVC pipe option may prove to be more practical as it's more difficult to put a bend in it - Normally it should rebound to straight. Copper will be OK until it get's bent, and then you're stuck with it until you return to civilisation.

Have you thought about using two lengths of wood, and either tie the rope to it using a clove hitch or similar, or just drill a couple of suitably sized holes in either end and either tie off the rope, or just let it lie along the wood? Chances are that there'll be a suitable piece of wood handy, if your photographs are anything to go by.

Nice Instructable - Looks comfortable :)

Todd Gehris (author)rblee2013-11-22

You are probably right about the PVC. Haven't had any long term trials to know if the copper would fail. So far it held up. I think the copper weighed slightly less so I figured I'd try that option.

I have tried a few configurations with wood. Most of the ideas I tried so far were difficult to set up. If I didn't get the tension exact on each side I would end up with rhomboids or parallelograms (meaning the ends would be skewed). Running the rope through the end of the hammock solved this problem because I could slide the hammock to a place that compensates for the vectors pulling on it. The one idea I hadn't tried was to screw an eyelet into each end of the wooden dowel so the eyelet was sticking out towards the long end of the hammock and then threading the rope that attaches to the trees through that. I think that would work as well as a tube.

rblee (author)2013-11-22

Sorry for double posting, but...

One of my sons is quite taken by this, but his suggestion is to use two wider diameter, but different PVC pipes, with one pipe being able to fit inside the other, and the other components able to fit inside the narrower pipe. Two end-caps and it's waterproof, tough, you won't lose anything, and it can be strapped to the outside of your pack without a care. The extra diameter should also prevent bending.

Of course, I don't know whether it's possible to get two sufficiently similar diameters of pipe to allow this, but maybe you could use the inner to store the ropes and guys inside, roll the hammock fabric around the outside, then put the whole thing inside the outer pipe, if you see what I mean. If you were lucky enough to find pipe with matching clamps you could put attachments on the outside to mount it on your pack, since PVC is smooth and slippery.

Just a thought...

Todd Gehris (author)rblee2013-11-22

That's not a problem. That is an interesting idea. If he has ideas he definitely should experiment with making things. The way it is set up now, I do not take anything apart, I fold it in half so the pipes meet, fold the rope in then it rolls up easily. I wouldn't use two size tubes because it would make the setup heavier and would require you to assemble and disassemble the hammock each time you set it up and take it down. A silnylon bag with a few loops on it would be lightweight, waterproof and be able to attach to the pack. I have been using a duffel bag so I just put it right in the duffel bag.

About This Instructable




Bio: I yam what I yam.
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