Sew What Hammock

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Introduction: Sew What Hammock

Hammocks are great fun. When out hiking or backpacking, it's a great feeling to take a quick nap suspended in air above the sharp rocks, on a steep slope, or even over a stream (yes, I've done all these). Plus, they're an excellent way to relax on a lazy summer day in your backyard.

But hammocks either cost money or take time and effort to make. There are a number of solutions to this problem – here's one possible method. This design can be done in an hour for around $10. This would make a great scouting project. If you want a compact, easy-to-build, cheap design, then read on.

And don't forget to vote for me in the paracord contest!


Step 1: Materials

The following materials should be readily available in your local community.

1 piece of fabric, 9 feet in length. You can either buy it at your local Wally-World (look at the bargain material at $1.50 a yard) or you can use a bedsheet. Fabric strength is not really an issue, so pick whatever material you like best, provided it's at least 48” in width (60” pieces are more comfortable).  I prefer non-stretchy fabric, but feel free to experiment.

2 carabiners. I found these at my local Home Depot at a dollar apiece. They say they are rated for 150 lbs. While I wouldn't trust them with my life, they hold up just fine for suspending me a few feet off the ground. If you'd prefer something beefier, try stainless steel quick links. They weigh more, but are rated to much higher safe working loads.

35-45 feet of paracord. I know I'm going to get some flak for this one, but in my experience this stuff is strong enough for the way I use it. If you don't feel comfortable trusting your weight to 550 cord, climbing rope can be substituted.

Additionally, you'll need a pair of scissors or knife, and a lighter (optional).

Step 2: Cut the Paracord

From your paracord, cut two 30-inch sections, and divide the rest in half. You should have two pieces 30 inches each, and two that are around 15-20 feet each. If you live in an area with big trees, go for the longer lengths. If you're around small trees (like I am), 15 foot sections will be fine. Seal the ends of all pieces with a lighter or candle. Sealing the ends isn't absolutely necessary, but it will keep the ends from fraying and make things more tidy.

Step 3: Tie the Loops

Tie the four cords into loops. Use a Double Fisherman's bend for a nice strong design (see pictures).

When you're done, you should have two short loops and two long loops.

Step 4: Attach the Cord to the Hammock

Gather one end of your material, and tie a Hammock bend with one of your short loops. The Hammock bend is just an upside-down Hedden knot, which is a relative to the Prussik knot. The climbing guides say to never tie this knot upside down, as it will seize the rope (or in this case, the material), but that's exactly what we're hoping it will do. Clip the carabiner through the loop. Repeat this on the other end of the material with the other short loop.

Step 5: Tie Your Tree Huggers

Starting with the knot end of one of the long cords, tie a figure 8 knot about 9 inches from the end. Tie another one 9 inches from that, and keep going with the entire cord. Repeat with the other cord. My 15 foot length of cord ended up 6 feet after looping it and tying the knots.

Step 6: Setup

This is the easy part. Find two trees between 10 and 15 feet apart. Wrap one of the long cords around the tree, and pull the cord through the end loop (you can start from the knotted end or the other end). Do the same with the other tree. Then simply clip the biners above any figure 8 knot on both cords, and you're done!

Step 7: Getting In

Get in carefully the first time to allow the knots to settle. The hammock bend should should cinch down tight and seize the material, and the figure 8 knots should tighten into their final form. There may be some jolting as everything settles for the first time, but nothing to be alarmed about. Once you feel secure, lay back and relax and have a nice time hanging!

Step 8: About Paracord

This isn't really a step; more like a justification of my methods. I've read a lot of forums where people say that paracord should NOT be used in this fashion. While I understand the concern, I also know that I've been using paracord on my hammocks for 2+ years now and I've never had a cord break on me yet. It's an acceptable risk to me, as falling may result in a bruise and nothing more.

*Edit -- If you look at the comments, I had an engineer explain the actual physics behind line tension (thanks, dchall8!), so this section isn't exactly right.  I still stand by my design because I know it works for me, but my math doesn't quite add up (I majored in Humanities in college).*

Let's do a little math about paracord. I'm an English teacher, not an engineer, so my calculations may be flawed, but here are my methods. The breaking strength of 550 cord is 550 lbs. The common wisdom is that the safe working load is 1/3 to 1/5 of the break strength, which brings the more conservative estimate to 110 lbs safe working load.

Then we need to factor in the knots. Knots can weaken a rope by 50% (although the figure 8 and double fisherman both are generally considered stronger than this), so let's put the 110 lbs down to 55 lbs. But then, there are 4 strands, so we multiply the 55 lbs by 4 to get 220 lbs. So according to my calculations, my hammock should be able to hold a static 220 lbs without fear of breaking. If you weigh more than this, expect to do a lot of jumping while inside, or plan on putting 2 people in your hammock, you may want to use stronger climbing rope. But this system works fine for me.

Step 9: About Possible Tree Damage

One more disclaimer: I don't usually use these cords by themselves, as they can cause damage to the bark on the trees as they cinch down. You can either use some extra material to pad the trees, or use Tree Huggers. When tying to posts or other nonliving anchors, this isn't necessary.

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    41 Discussions

    so I actually made this but couldn't take pics. it works wonderfully!

    Paco why did u stop YouTube videos I live them

    What material is best because I used a sheet and it tore and used a tarp and it almost tore so I jumped out.

    Weaving three smaller rated cords together would give a stronger "cord", but with a slight increase in cost.

    For a lightweight hammock for backpacking order a very cheap nylon tablecloth form Tableclothsfactory.com. The edges are finished and they come in various sizes and bright colors

    I love the ninja flip. For sure going to make this. Thanks

    hey man GREAT ible great idea and great video. (taught me some knots aswell )
    one question though. how small does it fold/roll up into ? (just roughly because i know material thickness etc will be a factor)
    depending on that will be whether i make it. definatley a great thing for a camping bed and easy to untie for a makeshift shelter aswell !

    Love this!

    And I think I have all the materials already! =)

    To avoid marking or damaging the bark of the tree you should use tree hugger slings. A separate about 40mm wide sling to wrap around the tree and then tie your cords into these slings.

    Great idea! I have been wanting a hammock for camping, but I don't want to spend the $50+ for it. The information was simple and very easy to understand. I will be making this very soon.

    Hey paco, really great 'ible. I decided to double the paracord and use climbing carabiners to make myself feel even more comfortable. Also, instead of using a bed sheet, I used black ripstop nylon. This unfortunately called for a small amount of sewing to clean up the edges, but no more than what a 17 yr old guy could handle. I did use a slightly different knot to tie the ends of the hammock up, as it looked a bit tidier (forget what it was called). Thanks for the great idea again!!

    p.s. here is a picture of my hammock. I was too lazy to find trees in the woods and deal with bugs, so I simply hung it on our swing set for now.

    photo.JPG

    I am an engineer so I can help you a little with your tension calculation.  Assuming the weight of the rope and hammock are negligible compared to your weight, then you have to divide your weight by the cosine of the angle of the ropes make with vertical.  The tighter the hammock is between the trees, the more tension will be on the rope.  At 170 pounds you would have 85 pounds each on the ropes if you hung vertically from the branch.  85/1.00 (the cosine of 0 degrees) = 85 pounds.  When you stretch them out to 45 degrees you have 85/0.707 = 120 pounds.  If you stretched it to 60 degrees (more comfortable to me), you have 85/0.50 = 170.  If you could tighten it to 85 degrees, the tension in each rope goes way up to 975 pounds.  Your little aluminum "keychain" carabiners would be wide openb at that point. 

    7 replies

    So this is why slackropes have to be extremely strong.  They are trying to get the rope as close to horizontal as possible, thus increasing the tension exponentially.

    Thank you!  I've been trying to understand this aspect of hammock physics for years, and you finally explained it in a method I can understand!  So my design is already pushing the safe working limits of the carabiners.  Oh well -- I haven't had one fail in 3 years of using them, so I'm not worried yet.

     The safe working load is VERY different from the breaking load. I would guess that each of those carabiners could easily hold 300+ lbs.

    Yeah, you're probably right. There's a reason that they call it the "safe" working load, but then again, we're talking a hammock, not rock climbing equipment.  The very worst case scenario for catastrophic failure of one of the components is a broken arm.

    Some people hang hammocks high in the trees, some hang them across rocky areas where tent/ground camping is impossible. I've even seen one hung across a creek. For these applications you would want rock climbing rope and hardware. For the average backyard hammock, you can get away with a lot lower quality materials.

    I had a friend put 600 pounds on one of those aluminum carabiners once! It was bent at that point, sure, but it never broke!