What Is a Hammock Ridgeline? Do I Need To Use One?


Setting up a hammock with a ridgeline has many benefits over setting up a hammock without one, though the need to use one is optional. 

Hammock with ridgeline

What is a Hammock Ridgeline? Do I really need to use one? A hammock ridgeline is used for gathered-in hammocks, such as the hammocks made out of parachute-like material that are often used for camping. A hammock ridgeline is a cord that is tied between two ends of a hammock, and is necessary if you want the ideal hammock sag. 

If you are interested in hammocks and ridgelines, continue reading below for some basic information about hammocks and ridgelines, an easier way to use a ridgeline with your hammock, the necessity of a ridgeline, as well as a couple of alternatives to a ridgeline cord.

A Hammock and a Ridgeline

A hammock is an amazing addition to your camping supplies, and can be used in addition to your tent as a place to “hang out” while camping, or it can also be used in place of tent altogether! If you are planning to sleep in your hammock instead of a tent, a hammock requires significantly more tweaking and setup than a tent, but the comfortable sleep payoff is worth it for many!

  • A hammock is a piece of material that can be hung between two supportive objects (trees, poles, etc.) that allows it’s user to hang or sleep in while in suspension.   
  • A hammock ridgeline is a cord that is tied up to the ends of a hammock parallel to the ground. You can purchase a ridgeline separately, make your own, or purchase a hammock that comes with a ridgeline, although a ridgeline is not necessary to hang a hammock. 

Although when you imagine camping you immediately think of a tent and a sleeping bag, a hammock is another option that, from my own experience is amazingly comfortable. Hammocks have their own quirks that you have to deal with, but if you get the hang just right, you’ll sleep amazingly well.

Even if you aren’t planning to sleep in your hammock, a hammock can also be used to hang out and relax around your campground! In fact, we always take a hammock with us when we go camping just for that purpose. Besides that, you can use a hammock in your backyard or in your house! They’re great investments any way you look at it. 🙂

While setting up a hammock may seem self-explanatory (tying one end to one tree and the other end to another tree), there are different methods to assembly—adding a ridgeline is one of many of these options.

What Do I Need to Know About a Ridgeline?

A hammock ridgeline concept is fairly simple. It’s just a cord that’s tied tightly between two ends of a hammock.

However, if you’ve never used a ridgeline to hang a hammock, there are a few things that I learned about setting up a ridgeline.

  1. A ridgeline can be tied once to your hammock, and then you don’t have to tie it again.
  2. A ridgeline that adjusts the hang of your hammock is typically attached to the suspensions of your hammock.
  3. A ridgeline requires some knots to create and adjust them to the length you prefer.
  4. A ridgeline is recommended to be around 83% of the length of your hammock.

Also, many experienced campers use different types of knots on a ridgeline.  Attached are some videos on how to do some simple knots (All links go to YouTube):

To see how these knots are used to tie up a ridgeline, check out Shug’s video here:

How Do I Set Up a Ridgeline?

There are different interpretations of the term ridgeline, and it all has to do with the context of how it’s being used. You can use a ridgeline to hang a tarp across, or in the context of hammocks, you can tie a ridgeline directly across the top end of the hammock.

The hammock ridgeline cord is tied between the top ends of the hammock. The tension of this ridgeline completely depends on how you prefer your sag for your hammock. This is completely up to your personal preference, but a rule of thumb is about a 30 degree hang, which conveniently is the about the same angle as your thumb and forefinger made into a right angle.

To set up a hammock ridgeline between two sides of a gathered in hammock:

  1. Set up your hammock as you would, normally, whether you are using webbing, hammock straps, or ropes it shouldn’t matter.
  2. Get a piece of cord about 83-85% of your hammock (you can start with a cord longer than your hammock, and you can adjust it to your preference and cut it later)
  3. Tie using a lashing (the lashing linked to above works great) or a knot (constrictor knot will work if you don’t want it to come untied) to the suspension on one side of the hammock. To lash, wrap your cord around one side of your suspension, then wrap around your ridgeline cord, and then wrap around your suspension and on the other side of your ridgeline. Repeat this around 4 times. Tie off with two half hitches.
  4. Wrap the ridgeline around the other side of the suspension, and then pull the ridgeline to adjust the tension and sag for your hammock that you want. Repeat the lashing process in step 3.

What About a Ridgeline Between Two Trees?

There are other reasons why you would want to use a ridgeline tied between two trees–one major reason is if you want to suspend a tarp over your hammock, or if you’re creating a tarp shelter. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to do that.

To set up a ridgeline cord to two trees, you:

1st: Use a long ridgeline cord and make a bowline knot at each end of the cord.

2nd: Wrap one end of the cord to one tree and pull the cord within the bowline knot.

3rd: Wrap the other end of the cord to the second tree and secure it with a hitch knot.

4th: Attach a bank line to make a loop and use a prusik loop (a hitch or knot formed into a loop) onto the ridgeline. Prusik loops are great for hanging gear.

Although there are many video tutorials about tying tarps to a ridgeline, the easiest tutorial video that helped me learn how to secure a ridgeline cord to a tree can be viewed here

How Do You Set Up a Hammock With a Ridgeline?

If you are new to using a hammock and have never used a ridgeline, the process of setting it up might seem complicated, unless you are familiar with the terminology. 

However, the easiest way to do this is to set up your hammock first, using tree straps and suspensions, and then attach a ridgeline cord to the suspensions of the hammock.

Some simple steps to set up a hammock are:

1st: Tie a tree strap to each tree you will be using, putting the strap through the rings

2nd: Tie the end of the hammock to rings that are on the tree strap

*The rings used to attach to the tree straps and the hammock can be carabiners or an s-hook.

Also, once you have set up your hammock, make any necessary adjustments to the height.  When you sit on the hammock, ideally your feet should be able to touch the ground lightly.

The shorter the distance between the trees, the lower the tree straps need to be because the hammock will not be that close to the ground.

If the distance between the trees is longer, the tree straps will need to be set up at a higher point.

After you have set up your hammock, you can attach the ridgeline cord at each of the suspension points and adjust the sag.  I’ve included a quick video I found helpful that shows a quick way to tie a ridgeline cord to a hammock.

After you’ve set up your hammock with a ridgeline, the tension between the hammock and the trees will decrease and the ridgeline will hold up the hammock creating sag.  

Do You Need a Hammock Ridgeline to go Camping?

You do not need to use a ridgeline to go camping.  However, if you want to get better sag on your hammock, then you need a ridgeline.

In the following two images, this is the same length of rope at the same tightness, but the first has a ridgeline, and the second does not. Notice the huge difference in sag between the two.

Hammock with Ridgeline
Hammock without a ridgeline

Hammock sag is important, because too tight means that you will not be able to lie across the hammock diagonally (you don’t want your back along the curve of the hammock, unless you enjoy a canoe-shaped spine). Too loose is also not as comfortable–but everyone has a different preference to the exact sag they want out of a hammock.

Also, without using a ridgeline, your hammock is attached and pulling directly from the trees.  And, when you lay in the hammock, it causes added tension to the line, the hammock and the trees.

Therefore, when you use a ridgeline, the hammock no longer pulls directly from the tree and hangs from the ridgeline.

Additionally, using a ridgeline and knowing the correct knot to make will make your line stronger and your hammock secure.  Using a ridgeline on your hammock will release that tension off the trees and onto the ridgeline.

Not only will a ridgeline cord make your line stronger and secure, but knowing where to put the knot on the ridgeline will help you get better sag on your hammock.  

Also, though you do not need a ridgeline to go camping, here are more reasons why you might want to use a ridgeline cord:

  • It will make the set up of your hammock much simpler. 
  • It is light to pack, which means you have more space for anything else you want to pack.
  • If you go car camping, packing a ridgeline cord and a hammock will not take up much space in your car.
  • Use a ridgeline if you do not want your hammock to tear.
  • You can also hang a tarp from a ridgeline to keep the bugs out.
  • You can also hang other accessories from the ridgeline.

What If I Do Not Use a Ridgeline?

While hammocks do not require to be set up with a ridgeline, without one could cause damage to the hammock.  If you choose not to use a ridgeline, your hammock can rip.

  • Because of the stress and tension that a hammock can have, it can also cause damage to the trees, or whatever structure your straps are attached to (such as a car).
  • Without the support of a ridgeline, the sag of the hammock will be less and uncomfortable.  
  • Also, if you go car camping and use your car to attach one end of the line, you can also cause damage to your car.  Using a ridgeline cord will release that tension off of your car.

How Would You Use a Ridgeline to go Car Camping?

Even though car camping sounds like an obvious way of camping, it doesn’t literally mean to camp out and sleep in your car (although, technically you can sleep in your car).

Car camping means that you can drive somewhere and camp out next to your parked car, rather than walking or hiking to a camping site.

  • Car camping can be done at a local or state park.
  • You can also drive to an RV site and find somewhere to park.
  • You don’t need to hike to a camp site from your car.
  • You don’t need to worry about carrying a lot of heavy gear.
  • Just pack what you can in your car and drive.

To use a ridgeline when you go car camping, you can use your car as one side to attach your hammock while the other end will be attached to a tree. 

Since you use your car to attach your hammock, using a ridgeline cord will also release that tension added to your car. 

Also, taking a ridgeline for car camping is good to pack to assemble your hammock with ease. 

Can I Use Something Other than an Official Ridgeline?

There are cords specifically made to be a ridgeline for a hammock, and other cords that are specifically made for hammocking (such as the whoopie sling, a rope with adjustable loops ideal for hammocking, see price on Amazon), but you can easily make a ridgeline

While using a ridgeline cord gives your hammock better support and swag, hammocks don’t always come with ridgelines so there are other ways that you can do to suspend a hammock. 

Other options you can use as a ridgeline cord for your hammock are:

  • A utility cord
  • A paracord

However, it’s best to use a strong and sturdy cord as opposed to a stretchy cord such as paracord.

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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