Introduction: DIY Cheap, Quick and Easy, Compact Travel Hammock With Tree Straps

About: Trying to make hobbying my profession

Half litre big, half hour to make (debateable/speculative), half a minute to hang

This hammocks main features are:

  • Extremely light weight
  • Compact - if you make a small bag for it, it'll compress to a very small size. As small as half a litre for the hammock on it's own and no bigger than 750ml including tree straps
  • Cheap (under $7 if you use lightweight nylon and 1" webbing with cam buckles)
  • Easy to make
  • Quick and easy to hang (under 30 seconds I reckon)

This hammock can be put together in a half hour or so by someone who knows their way around the sewing machine. It took me about 2 hours, with taking pictures and being a little unnecessarily dilligent. It also cost's almost nothing and is the most compact travel hammock design I've seen.

This is a half litre jug (2 cups) filled with the 3m long hammock, including the buckles etc, and the roll of webbing above it is two 4.5m long tree straps. All this luxury in just over 0.5 litrese?! Yep.

I've owned my share of hammocks in the past, but I got tired of buying new ones - and as popularity for hammocks increased, so did the price. My first hammock was a Ticket to the Moon, that I received as a birthday present from my parents. I loved it - to death; one day it got a small tear from brushing against a rock and a couple days later I woke up to find myself on the floor after falling through the now much larger tear. I got one or two cheaper ones after that, but they were terrible quality. I knew I could do better.

About 1 year ago I made my own hammock. A simple one, but with a mixture of features/design elements that made it better than any I had previously owned. Mainly the treestraps and buckle system is more compact, versatile and quick to hang. This guide is created as I made my friend one for an upcoming festival.

NB: When stitching on a machine it's imperative to do a few backwards stiches at the beginning and end line of each lest it all unravels.

I'm an amateur when it comes to sewing, and you don't need much expertise to do this. I did it after reading the sewing machines instruction manual. If you want more on sewing, or don't feel like reading your manual, or this is your first project on a sewing machine, check out this class Machine Sewing Class by MikaelaHolmes


Tools and equipment

Sewing machine


300cm x 150cm Nylon fabric (Ripstop if you can find it) - It's lightweight, compresses well into a very small form factor and is quite strong. Get a little more if you want to make your bag from the same fabric or are exceptionally tall.

A spool of thread

6-10m/7-10 yards of 1"/2.5cm wide webbing - For tree straps and/or a compact rope substitute. Tree straps of 4m is very long. I wouldn't make them shorter than 3m each though as it would be irritating if you just couldn't hang your hammock.

Webbing clamps (also 1"/2.5cm) - I'm using cam buckles because I couldn't find these fancy Dutch Cinch Buckles

3m Draw string - I used 2m. Would have been nice to have had 3m rather so it can sling over head and shoulder more comfortably.

Draw string toggle

*Fabric for bag - Optionally different from hammock material, or just use some from your hammock nylon.

Step 1: Selecting and Sizing Material for Hammock Body

Lightweight nylon is great stuff and cheap.

Ripstop is even better, but I've had no luck sourcing any lightweight ripstop nylon in South Africa. Not without buying enough to open a hammock factory. I'd recommend making your hammock about 3m (128") in length and the standard width (150cm/60") wide that you purchase it as.

If you are exceptionally tall, you could make it a little longer, and if you are short you could make it shorter.

I bought some standard lightweight nylon for just R16 per meter - that's about $1 per meter. So for 3 meters it was just $3.

Crazy right?

Step 2: Sewing the Body

This image represents where you are going to sew after folding and ironing flat:

In short - Hem all edges to prevent fraying and to look neat. Then create a channel of about 4cm (1.5") along the short sides sealed with three straight long stiches for strength.

If you want more detailed instructions read on

The edge of the fabric is a little ugly.

So you could choose to cut that off or hide it in the hem. I cut it off before hemming

Hemming the long edges

Iron a fold flat along the long sides edges of no more than 1.25cm (0.5") and then fold it once more, this time trying to keep it as straight as possible, to about 1.25cm (0.5") and iron it flat. If necessary with your material pin it down before sewing to keep it as straight as possible and to keep it managable when sewing.

I use this fancy stitch (the one on the right) because I think it has a neat look.

This was on a practice piece.

You can totally use a standard straight stitch (the left stitch in the above picture). In fact, after some research I discovered that this is recommended as it's stronger. The stitching length ways, however, needn't be strong. It serves purely to finish the edge neatly and prevent fraying.

Hemming the short sides

The short sides get a little half inch fold and iron.

You could stitch along here if you wish to make it easier to keep in place - I did.

Now we need a channel along each of the short edges, through which the webbing that attaches our webbing buckles to the hammock will go.

I fold a largish channel at about 4cm (1.5") and iron it flat.

Then I sew in the channel with 3 straight stitches (with long stitch length) down them.

The long stitch length is recommended as it's stronger in this context. Short stitch lengths "perforate" the material, which could cause it to tear easily.

Step 3: Attatching Webbing Buckles

I send a length of webbing through the channel and bunch up the hammock channel.

I then fold my webbing over itself twice, threading the buckle onto the webbing as seen in the images.

Leave enough of an overlap to sew a couple of "X in boxes". These seem to be standard when sewing webbing. Cut the webbing to the appropriate or desired length, remembering to apply heat to the cut edges so the nylon melts and sticking it to itself. This prevents fraying.

I could have pinned them down, but since I don't have pins, I just send 3 lines of stitching down the webbing to create 2 spaces in which I'll do my X's in boxes.

Then put in thos X's in boxes.

This video goes over how to sew the X in boxes, but it's basically as simple as you think it is.

The only thing you might not know as an amatuer sewer is how to do
corners - needle down, foot up, turn material, foot down, continue sewing.

At the end of it all, I do a triple zig-zag stitch between the boxes for some extra strength.

Step 4: Creating Tree Straps

For the tree straps, I recommend making them at least 3m long. Sometimes the circumference of a tree is deceptively large. The tree straps I made here are over 4m long each - as I purchased 10m, and used some for the hammock buckle solution.

The sewing process is much like putting on the buckles.

Cut and finish the ends with a lighter so it doesn't fray and fold them over (I folded 18cm/7"), leaving a generous loop (my loops are around 12cm/5") so that the tail end can be thread through itself, with ease, after being put around the tree.

Again, sew some X's in boxes to create the loop on one end of each tree strap, and some tripple stich zig zags for extra strength

When putting them on the tree you just throw the tail around the tree and thread it through the loop.

A gif for the hell of it:

Put around tree:

And put tail through loop:

Step 5: Bag It Up - Making the Bag

Just for fun, I taught my friend how to use the sewing machine by letting him create the bag. It was to be his hammock after all.

You can use whatever fabric you like. We used this from a nice cushion that a bad dog chewed.

You create a simple bag by folding over some fabric and sewing the two sides up - leaving a gap at the top of one side so you can fold it over to make a channel - as seen in the folowing image

Make it big enough to fit your hammock and straps (This particular bag is about 30cm/12" square after folding - which means the original fabric was 30cmx60cm/12"x24"). If you want, you can make it a little smaller to have a super compact finished product (like how you stuff like a sleeping bag into it's bag), or a little bigger to have something that is easier to put your hammock in. This one was a roomy bag. My previous hammocks bag was half the size and just a little smaller than I would have liked.

Fold a channel along the opening, iron it down and sew it into place - removing the base part of your machine so you can put the bag around it and sew the channel in one go.

On my original hammock I attached the bag to the hammock, but with this one, we left the bag seperate so it was a seperate usable little bag once your hammock is hung. Sewing your bag to your hammock has it's perks too though - you won't lose the bag and it is handy for putting your sunglasses or kindle in while you lie in the hammock.

Send some draw string through the channel and thread it through your toggle.

Leave the drawsting short or long as you wish. Just remember to burn seal the edges so it doesn't fray, as with the webbing.

This one is long and sewn to the other side of the opening so the bag can be put over ones shoulder - like a handbag.

Step 6: Hanging and Enjoying Your Hammock

Hanging your hammock is super simple and takes seconds:

  1. Send tree straps around two trees (spaced adequatly apart) and through their loops so you have a tail coming from each tree.
  2. Pull the tails of each tree strap through the hammocks' respective buckles and make it somewhat tight.
  3. Lie in hammock.

NB: I'd recommend you do a little stress testing before fully trusting your hammock. Hang it low to the ground and/or over a soft landing, climb inside and bounce around a little. You don't have to be excessive, just test nothing is tearing or whatever.

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