One-Tree Hammock System, Ultralight

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Introduction: One-Tree Hammock System, Ultralight

About: Build, modify, create, adapt!

Anyone that loves swinging in a Hammock has been there. That moment when you find the perfect spot by the lake or overlooking an incredible mountain vista, and there is only one tree to use as an anchor. I found myself facing this very predicament on a deserted Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and I decided to do something about it. Behold the ultra light, super portable, one tree hammock suspension system.

I had seen other improvised versions of the one tree system, using other anchors such as sticks and rocks. The problem is, that those things aren't always available, and they are not easy to bring along while traveling. The solution? Bring your anchor with you!

Whether you found that perfect spot on your hike, or just need to get out of the van for a while, the ultralight one tree hammock system solves the problem by adding just a pound to your pack and being a compact solution to the age old problem.

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Step 1: The Kit

  1. 30 ft length of STATIC (non stretch) rope
  2. Lightweight camping/backpacking hammock
  3. 2 carabiners
  4. Ground screw (orange screw: http://www.orangescrew.com/ )
  5. Webbing or hammock suspension system
  6. Prusik loop
  7. One tree

Step 2: Set Up the Anchor Rope

  1. Tie a figure eight on a bight on one end of the rope. Knot diagram image courtesy of: http://www.101knots.com/figure-8-on-a-bight.html
  2. Throw the loop over a branch that hangs out over the direction you want your hammock to point. If the tree doesn't have a good branch, it just requires a little climbing. You can use this same cinch knot on the trunk of tree, but you'll need to tie it up about 10 ft. Ideally when you anchor the other end, you want the rope to be at a greater angle than about 30 degrees. The greater the angle the better the anchor. ( Don't go more than about 60 degrees or the tension will pull up on the anchor and may pull it out.)
  1. Pull the loop down to eye level and pull the other end of the rope through until the knot cinches back against the branch. Pull it tight.

Step 3: Set Up the Hammock

  1. Use your suspension system or webbing and wrap a loop around the tree at about eye level or a little higher.
  2. Clip on your hammock, using one of the carabiners. The end of the hammock should be as close to the tree as possible. Pull it tight.

Step 4: Build the Second Anchor

The ground screw takes the place of the second tree (second anchor point) in this system. It's important to make sure the ground is level. If the ground slopes down, or away from the tree, it will give the system a lower angle to work with, and make it so your hammock sags really low, or even hits the ground.

  1. Pace off 20 feet from the tree and screw in the ground anchor. Put it as deep into the ground as you can. It's ok if the top is almost in the ground.
  2. Pull the rope tight and hold it over the anchor in the ground. measure about 2 feet up from where the anchor and rope meet, and tie an alpine butterfly knot. Knot diagram image courtesy of: http://www.101knots.com/butterfly-knot.html
  3. Take the free end of the rope and loop it through the anchor.
  4. Pass the end back toward the loop in the rope, and through it. This will make a crude 3:1 mechanical advantage that will allow you to pull the rope very tight. This combination of knots and loops is also called a trucker's hitch.
  5. Pull on the free end of the rope as hard as you can, and take up as much slack in the rope as possible. If it is going to support your weight, it has to be really tight!
  6. While keeping the tension on the rope, tie a half hitch around the rope and cinch it up to the loop. this will lock the knot. Put another half hitch in for good measure.

Step 5: Attach the Prusik

Now that you have both anchors set up, all you have to do is attach the other end of the hammock to the rope. In order to get the hammock attached without slipping, you will use a prusik loop. (it's just a loop of paracord, or rope)

  1. Grab the prusik, and stretch the hammock out so it's level and taught. Drape the loop over the rope where the end of the hammock touches the angled rope.
  2. Loop one end of the prusik through the other, and around the rope. do this three times and pull it tight. The triple wrap will add friction to the rope when your weight pulls on it, and it will grab the rope and will not slide.
  3. Attach the hammock and you are all set!

Step 6: Hang Out or Take a Nap!

Bask in your versatility! There is nothing standing in your way of swinging in your 'mock, overlooking that beautiful view, no matter how remote the spot.

For road trips, van life, and campsites, try the trailer hitch version of the anchor.

Notes: This setup will hold up to 150 pounds. If you are heavier than that, the system will work, but you'll need to add another orange screw into the system or a deeper ground anchor such as a large dog tie out as seen above.

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    46 Comments

    just one question comes to mind. If you are not a climber, how will you get the rope out of the tree? In the picture it seems pretty high up.

    Love it because it is doable and practical by many.

    If using a second screw in anchor, where or how would you position it?

    Which Orange Screw did you use, the 9" or the 12"?

    Thanks.

    6 replies

    Thanks. One last question. In the Instructable, you state that this will hold 150#. On the Orange Screw website, it claims that one 12" screw will hold 60# when pulled at a 45 degree angle. I'm just trying to understand where the difference is (although I did order two screws yesterday).

    OK, I just played with the numbers for fun. The load on the braided hanger line with the 150# person in it will be about 580# given some reasonable assumptions. I cannot find a rated strength for the screw on their website (don't know where the 60# that was mentioned came from) but I checked into polycarbonate strength (good for 8500psi) and the central 1/2" shaft of the screw should be strong enough for even a 250# person. I think you are more likely to pull the screw out of the ground than break it.

    Interestingly, I found a similar description in an old-time outdoor manual and they recommended driving a 16" piece of 1" sapling in the ground at an angle for the anchor point. Just understand that the loads on it will be considerable and for a 250# load may reach about 1000# static and even more dynamically as you bounce or otherwise move about!

    Sorry, I said 60# but I meant 650#. It's on the Orange Screw website and the video with the car pulling at the stake showed over 600#.

    From the website when you click on the big screw to buy:

    The LARGE Orange Screw weighs
    only 3.6 ounces and is just over one foot long. It is the workhorse of
    our product line and will secure the most difficult loads in windy and
    unpredictable conditions. It has been tested to hold up to 650 pounds
    when used as designed.

    I'm not a great at math or physics, but I believe it was able to hold that weight because of a couple factors. The load on each point of the system is divided by the three anchor points. The screw, the tree and the branch. I think this splits the load so that each part of the system is taking one third of the load. Also, depending on the type of soils the screw is in it will hold more or less. The soil it was in for the instructable, was pretty rigid, so it supported the screw more. If i were going to use this for myself (185 lbs), I would add another 12" screw to the system. If I didn't need it to be super light and portable, I would use a 15 inch dog steel dog tie out. The orange screw is nice and light, but it does have some flex to it, which isn't ideal for this system. But it does work for lighter loads!

    As a Scout, I absolutely love all the good knots you have in this instructable... amazing job!

    8 replies

    The right knot is so important. I'm a former firefighter and knot enthusiast, so I appreciate the knot love! Thanks!

    Awesome instructable! Thanks so much for sharing. One suggestion I have, though, is to replace the butterfly knot with an inline figure 8 (I have also heard it referred to as a running figure 8) since the direction of pull on the knot is known and unidirectional. Given the potential for a heavy load, it might be somewhat easier to untie afterwards.

    Thanks KeithD2. I originally did a figure 8, but found the butterfly knot to a little less bulky and pretty easy to loosen. Either one works!

    It's a great system and I hope to try it out before too long. The knot at your anchor is essentially a trucker's hitch but with a butterfly knot is there a reason for using the butterfly knot rather than the bite through a loop that is used in the trucker's hitch? If not I'd be tempted to do that.

    The butterfly is also easy to tie one-handed, which is why it's taught to rescue personnel.

    Gotcha. I usually find that an inline figure 8 is pretty compact (mind you, it uses much less rope than a figure 8 on a bight), but you are right, either works. :)

    I had been rappelling/climbing/etc for maybe 20 years before I was taught the butterfly knot during training I got as a volunteer fireman/EMT. Apparently there's always something new to learn or discover!

    where there is one tree, there will be two, and with this 'kit', it can be nearly thirty feet away. but kind of cool