There are some wonderful custom hammock rigs available for hammock camping and we’ll come to these in other reviews. For people on a tight budget, you can make up your own, and it really needn’t be expensive.
You need three things:
- the hammock;
- a tarpaulin to keep you dry;
- something to tie the hammock and tarp to a tree.
We managed this set up for an impressive £42.98 which includes £9.78 spent on decent marine rope. Go with the short rope which comes with the hammock as standard and you’re looking at under £35.
Custom hammocks often come with pre-attached and sewn in mosquito netting, and while you can make do without this, if you’re in midge country then a decent mosquito net (and one chemically treated) becomes a necessity. You can’t relax in a hammock if you’re being eaten to death. The mosquito net cost an additional £22. You can however make your own.
You’ll need bedding too. a decent three season sleeping bag, optional fleece blanket, and a sleeping mat to tuck under you. As you’re suspended in the air, your back will get cold in the night unless you have something insulating you. I have self inflating mats bought from Aldi a couple of years ago for a tenner. Foam mats will also do.
Chinese made hammocks
Don’t worry that cheap means poor quality. I have a couple of these hammocks and love them. They’re extremely comfortable to sleep in and can bear up to 18 stone in weight. They include decent carabiners. For adult campers, I recommend replacing the ropes they come with (which are nylon and will stretch). They claim to be two person hammocks, but really they’re only suitable for one. That said, you can fit a rather large person in one! How much can you expect to pay? You can buy these on Amazon for under than £15.
What you get? The hammock which folds up into its own small bag (about the size of a small bag of frozen peas) – the bag is attached to the hammock and doubles as a convenient pocket, two metal carabiners, one short length of nylon rope. An absolute bargain.
Custom tarpaulins designed to cover hammocks (kite shaped) can be quite expensive. The more expensive tarps tend to be lightweight and pack very small, intended for walkers and people on expeditions who carry all their equipment in their rucksack. If you’re on a static camp not too far from your car, weight and the tarp being a little more bulky really isn’t a problem. Anything waterproof and large enough will do where weight isn’t an issue.
Bearing this in mind, the cost of your tarp can come down from £35-£90, to a lowly £10.03 for one which is 2.7m x 3.5m. Cheap doesn’t mean they look bad… just they’re bulkier than a custom hammock tarp.
It will do the job, will keep you dry and is quite robust. Ours hasn’t taken any damage so far and we’ve survived the torrential rains in August 2015 which saw floods in the south of England.
Suspension Systems – Tarpaulin
Suspension system? OK, we’re being a bit grandiose here… all you need to string up a tarpaulin is string (or a suitable outdoor variant). We use paracord which is ideal. Paracord contains 7 or 9 nylon strands inside a sheath, and is incredibly strong. Various sellers will say they supply what’s called ‘550 Paracord’ (meaning it can bear 550lbs in weight), but the Chinese versions are lower quality. For hanging tarpaulins, the cheap Chinese paracord is fine for both the ridge line (what the tarpaulin sits on) and guy lines (which you use to tie the hanging tarp to the ground (attached to tent pegs). Just don’t use it to scale cliffs!
How much should you pay? You can buy black paracord from Amazon for as little as £2.40 per 100ft.
While we wouldn’t recommend it for stringing up a hammock (and bearing an adult’s weight), for hanging a tarpaulin it’s fine. Paracord will stretch when under weight but is ideal for guy lines.
Suspension Systems – Hammocks
To protect the bark around a tree, you need hammock straps since rope or cord (with your weight pulling on it) puts too much force on a single point. Hammock straps are simply webbing. We bought a pair off Amazon for under £8.00.
With the hammock straps attached to the tree, you now need something to attach your hammock to the straps. You have a number of choices, but we opted for using marine rope. Again, there are more expensive alternatives which are far slimmer and pack very small.
The rope I chose was marine quality braid polyester, pre-stretched and 6mm thick. The key word here is pre-stretched. You don’t want your bottom scraping the ground in the morning. The rope cost £9.73 for a 10 metre length, cut into two pieces (one for each end of the hammock).
Next you need to attach your rope your hammock. The hammocks have a small piece of rope which runs through the material and ties off to a carabiner. We removed this, slid the end of our suspension ropes through the holes, and then tied this off at the hammock end. One thing less to break or go wrong! For the other end which you need to affix to the hammock strap, you can now use the spare carabiner! No extra cost!
DD Hammocks sell custom mosquito nets for a little under £35. These have draw strings round the bottom so once you’re inside you can pull the drawstring and the netting is pulled tight around the bottom of your hammock. To me they look a little claustrophobic.
Cheaper alternatives are available, and conscious of price and wanting to see how cheaply we could build a system, we opted for the £22 Trekmates Tour Treated Mosquito Net which hangs down loose. It’s possible to sew shock cord into the bottom of this hanging net (to enable you to draw the hammock closed, as is the case with the DD hammock to keep more of the midges out). Something I may do over the winter.
Although you get more head room with the Trekmate net this isn’t specifically designed for a hammock (we hang ours from the tarpaulin ridge line). It does however have suspension points. The DD Hammock mosquito net draws closed underneath the hammock with built in shock cord. There are pros and cons with both. I got two bites on a very midgy night using the Trekmates one.
If you’re really tight for money, consider sewn net curtains.
We set up in a Cumbrian woodland at the height of midge season. We did get a couple of ‘bites’ in the night, and no doubt the DD net would have been better. As for the rest of the set up, we stayed warm and dry despite torrential rain on two nights.
Look at the picture, and honestly… do I look uncomfortable?
The second day into the holiday, I was accosted by an elderly Yorkshire couple where the wife wanted to see how comfortable the hammock was. I couldn’t get her out until I told her husband that “it looks like I’m sleeping with you tonight then”. She then pestered him into lying in it, and after is initial reluctance and saying it wasn’t “his thing”, he told me he’d be buying them for himself, his wife and his grandchildren as he had woodland at home. When I said I liked swinging in woodland, I never intended a Yorkshire couple to leap into my bed!
Job done, and tested in all weather. I didn’t wake up until after 11am one morning.