Last Updated on 11/01/2022
What is the purpose of a hammock ridgeline? A hammock ridgeline is a cord that ties between the two ends of your hammock to achieve the ideal hammock sag. They can also be tied between two trees to attach a waterproof rainfly or bug netting over your hammock or to hang torches and to dry clothes.
Adding a ridgeline to your hammock setup can not only make your night more comfortable but will completely streamline your setup. If you’ve never used a ridgeline, read on to find out why this simple addition to your setup is a must for hammock campers. This article will look at what a ridgeline is, why they’re useful and how to attach them to your hammock.
What is a Hammock Ridgeline?
A hammock ridgeline is a length of cord or rope strung up above your hammock. The purpose of this is to either structurally support your hammock or to hang a rain fly over and support a bug net. An average hammock ridgeline length will be around 18 – 24+ feet long and should be made from
What are Hammock Ridgelines Used for?
Why might you want to attach a hammock ridgeline to your setup? Here are some of the most common reasons:
Consistent Angle and Sag
If your hammock is too tight you can’t sleep diagonally across it and end up in a banana-shaped sleeping position. A ridgeline, set to the right length, holds the hammock at the perfect sag for you to sleep comfortably. The ridgeline also allows your setup to be the right level of tautness to prevent excess strain on your hammock.
Hanging a Rainfly/Tarp Over
A ridgeline attached to the trees at either end of your hammock is used to support a rainfly, or a tarp. Once your ridgeline is up, you can drape your rainfly over it and peg out either side. The ridgeline allows you to lift either side of your tarp, or to get creative, so you can stay dry but enjoy the view.
Attaching Bug Netting
If your hammock comes with bug netting attached, you usually need a ridgeline to lift it away from your face. With a ridgeline, you can also retrospectively attach a bug net to your setup. Again, these often work best with a ridgeline strung between two trees but can be achieved with an end-to-end setup.
Hanging a Hammock (Structural Ridgeline)
If you’re limited on options, you can always use a continuous ridgeline to hang your hammock itself. To achieve this, your ridgeline will need to be strung as tight as possible between two strong trees. There are several knots you can use for this setup and we will explore these further down.
Ideal for Hanging a Headlamp on a Night
Hammock ridgeline organizers are a great addition to your camping gear and give you a place to store valuables and keep things close to hand at night. Storing your head torch in a hammock is far from easy. Hanging your head torch from your ridgeline overnight means you always know where it is. Turning it on while attached can give you a good overhead light, too.
What Cord do I Need for a Hammock Ridgeline?
The cord you use for your hammock ridgeline will depend on your desired pack size, but also what you want to use your ridgeline for. Mostly, your cord choices will be synthetic, either nylon or polyester. These withstand weather more effectively than natural rope but are more prone to wearing through if they’re not tied correctly.
Here are some of the different types of cord and rope you can use for a hammock ridgeline:
Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyester Webbing (UHMWPE)
Also known by brand names such as Dyneema or Spectra, UHMWPE is some of the strongest cord available on the market. UHMWPE webbing straps are very low stretch and incredibly strong, making them perfect for your hammock ridgeline. UHMWPE cord can be used from 0.8 mm upwards for your hammock ridgeline because it is often 1 – 2 inches wide.
Even thin UHMWPE can be strong enough for your hammock structural ridgeline and it is very kind to trees as the pressure is spread across the width instead of a single point.
Paracord is a go-to cord for most campers, especially bushcrafters. It is lightweight and packs away into a pocket or can be left on your hammock. Paracord comes in a whole range of thicknesses, each with different strengths and number of internal strands.
The strands inside Paracord are often woven from thinner strands themselves, so the actual strand count can be deceiving. We recommend that you don’t use any cord thinner than 1/8 inch for your ridgeline. 550 cord is our recommendation, as the 550 lbs. tensile strength makes it far more reliable.
Paracord is not recommended for any type of structural ridgeline. A 550 lbs. ridgeline strength sounds perfect, but this is a vertical, static strength. Any angle in the knots or any dynamic motion, like bouncing, weakens the paracord significantly and it can easily snap.
When using a paracord for a tarp line, a thinner cord may not withstand the pressure put on it by wind and rain. Rain can shrink paracord, especially the first time out, and put too much strain on it. Wind can put too much dynamic pressure on a taut cord and cause it to snap.
Your ridgeline doesn’t have to be technical. Any type of rope that is 8 mm thick and above should be strong enough to create a durable ridgeline. Standard rope from a hardware shop is cheap and easy to get hold of, but rarely strong enough to support weight and is often heavier and bulkier.
The tensile strength of climbing rope can be up to around 5500 lbs, making it more than strong enough to be used as a ridgeline. A climbing rope ridgeline can be used to support a hammock in an emergency.
Climbing rope is extremely heavy and is expensive. This is only really an option if you already own a climbing rope and have a reason to carry it.
How Long Should a Ridgeline be for a Hammock?
The length of your ridgeline will depend on your intended use. Remember that a longer ridgeline can be shortened with knots, but a short ridgeline can’t be lengthened.
A ridgeline used to generate the perfect hang should be measured at 83% of the length of your hammock. Cutting this longer gives you the scope to find your perfect setup.
If you want to set up a ridgeline around trees, you will need a ridgeline that is at least a foot longer than your tarp at either end. Ridgelines longer than this give you the ability to use larger trees and a wider scope of setups.
How Tight Should a Hammock Ridgeline be?
Your ridgeline should be as tight as possible and this is one of the many reasons you need strong rope.
A structural ridgeline should be taking up the slack from your setup and keeping your hammock at the perfect hang. A slack ridgeline in this setup is less effective. More importantly, it means that every time you climb into your hammock, you will put dynamic pressure through your ridgeline and can risk snapping it.
For hanging tarps or rain sheets from your ridgeline, it needs to be tight enough to stand up to wind and rain. A slack tarp flaps in the wind and will drip onto you overnight. Similarly, a slackline won’t hold a flysheet as effectively. Check out these tips for camping in strong wind.
How do you Hang a Hammock Ridgeline?
There are two main styles of hammock ridgeline. These are either tied between two trees or the two ends of the hammock.
There are a hundred and one different ways to attach your ridgeline between two trees, but this is the simplest and quickest way that we have found.
- Take your long ridgeline and check that it reaches comfortably between the two trees.
- Attach one end with either a bowline knot or similar.
- Run the far end towards tree number two and tie another bowline knot, this time about a foot before the tree. Leave a small loop.
- Take the clean end of the cord and loop it around the tree before slipping it back through the loop on your second bowline.
- Pull the cord tight towards the tree until your ridgeline is taut.
- Grip the knot with your thumb and forefinger or one hand to prevent the cord from slipping. With the other, secure the cord with a couple of half hitches.
Two trees are the ideal setup, but other structures can work too. Buildings, trucks, and even rocks can work to support your ridgeline.
End-to-End Structural Ridgeline
Attaching your cord to either end of your hammock will depend on how you hang your hammock. This can be done either with a fixed ridgeline that you pre-cut to fit your needs or with an adjustable ridgeline.
If you suspend your hammock without carabiners, you should attach your cord directly to your hammock suspension points. If you do use carabiners, you can use a similar system. Alternatively, tying a clove hitch to either carabiner gives you a secure and easy-to-adjust system.
You can also use a prusik loop or prusik knot in place of a bowline knot.
How Do you Attach a Hammock to a Ridgeline?
We’ll preface this section by saying that it’s not common practice for you to attach your hammock directly to your ridgeline. If you do choose to attach your hammock to your ridgeline, you should be sure that your rope is strong enough to support you.
Climbing rope is one of the few styles of rope strong enough to support the extra weight. As we mentioned earlier, any lateral pull on a rope adds a large force. This can be enough to snap even strong ropes.
When attaching your hammock to a ridgeline, you should aim to use knots that can easily be undone even after force has been applied. Your knot should also be suited to be three-way loaded, as there will be a force from either end of the ridgeline, as well as down to the hammock. For this reason, the alpine butterfly is widely regarded as the most suitable knot.
Once your alpine butterfly is tied, you can attach your suspension system directly to the knots. Alternatively, you can use a prusik knot. The advantage to a prusik system is that you can easily adjust the tension in your hammock and you are not putting any knots in your structural ridgeline system.
Is a Hammock Ridgeline Necessary?
Ridgelines are a necessary addition to a hammock setup if you want to get the perfect sag. An angle of around 30 degrees is recommended so that you can sleep diagonally in your hammock. Without the ridgeline, you may either pull your hammock too tight or risk putting undue strain on your securing system.
Hammock ridgelines are a necessity if you want to pitch a rain fly or bug net over your hammock. A rain fly is essential if you want to avoid a damp night in your hammock, but they can also be used to keep in some warmth and keep out bugs. If you want to prevent bugs fully, a bug net can be strung to your ridgeline.
Can you Hang Stuff on a Hammock Ridgeline?
Your ridgeline can be used to hang equipment while you’re in camp, but you will need a strong ridgeline.
On wet nights, you may want to keep all of your equipment, such as your backpack and boots, off the ground. Other times it can be helpful to hang your head torch so you can find it in the night, or clothes if you need them to dry or air out.
If you are going to hang wet equipment, you will benefit from a longer ridgeline that keeps it well-clear of your sleeping area.