When camping out, there’s nothing quite like sleeping in a hammock. You get to fall asleep under the stars while gently swaying to the relaxing sounds of nature. Being up off the ground means no creepy crawlers and when you wake up, your back isn’t sore from sleeping on rocks. Additionally, if you’re backpacking, hammock camping lowers your overall trail weight.
Really, nothing beats it—except maybe a biblical swarm of insects or the unexpected rainy night.
That’s why you need a solid hammock ridgeline. With it, you can put up a tarp to block out the wind and rain and attach a bug net to prevent mosquitos from turning you into a midnight snack.
There are a thousand ways to make a ridgeline, but this version is dependable, simple and only uses three knots: bowline, taut-line hitch, and prusik. On top of that, the only gear you need is some 550 paracord and something to cut it.
Step 1: Measure and Cut
First, measure out enough paracord to reach between two trees and then add some length. Approximately 25 feet is an excellent length that will work in multiple settings. Remember, it’s better to have too much length than too little. Cut it and set aside. This will be your hammock ridgeline.
Next, cut two pieces of cord approximately 18-24 inches each and set aside. You’ll use these to tie prusik knots on your ridgeline, which can be used to secure your tarp shelter.
Step 2: Getting Knotty
On one end of your 25-foot cord, tie a bowline knot. Then, wrap your cord around the first tree and thread the non-knotted end through the loop of the bowline knot and pull it tight.
Next, walk the non-knotted end to the second tree and tie a taut-line hitch (also known as a midshipman’s hitch) around that second tree. Make it as tight as possible. This is very important because the tighter it is, the better it’ll withhold strong winds and heavy rain.
Now you have a hammock ridgeline. But we’re not done yet. You still need a way to fasten your tarp to your ridgeline.
Grab those two pieces of 18-inch paracord and use them to tie two prusik knots at both ends of your ridgeline. After this, you should have two strands of paracord for each prusik knot. When you put up your tarp, use these to tie your tarp to your ridgeline.
Bonus knot: To tie down your tarp, use the simplest knot in the book: a square knot.
Step 3: Practice
Before going out into the wild, always practice setting up your ridgeline at your house or a park nearby. This way, you’ll have confidence in your hammock shelter and your skills setting it up. It can be a real pain when you’re miles away from the closest internet connection and can’t remember how to tie a taut-line hitch.
A Few Extra Tips
After practicing setting up your hammock ridgeline, you can leave most of it in tact when taking it down. Just untie the square knots (if you’ve attached a tarp) and the taut-line hitch. There’s no point in untying the bowline and the prusik knots.
After cutting paracord, melt the ends with a lighter. This will prevent the ends of the paracord from fraying and falling apart.
When setting up your hammock and accompanying ridgeline, it’s best to set up the ridgeline first. Sometimes your hammock and hammock straps can get in the way of setting up your ridgeline.
You can also tie extra prusik knots to hang things like lanterns from your ridgeline. This can come in handy if you don’t want to get clotheslined by your own ridgeline when stumbling around in the dark.
Do you have any other tips or additional ways to make use of a ridgeline? Please share your ideas in the comments below.
Happy hammock camping!
Written by John Krause
John Krause is a writer who has spent countless hours camping and hiking around the deserts, canyons and forests in the Southwest. He has received awards for his writing including a Grand Award from APEX and a Platinum award from MarCom. John currently lives in Austin, TX where you can find him rock climbing and spending time with his family.
If you have something you are passionate about, you can write for us too. Check out our guest blogger section here.