Sleeping in a hammock when you’re camping keeps you off the ground. You’re away from crawling insects. As you’re off the damp earth, you stay drier. Other benefits delve deeper into your personal comfort and health. You sleep in a natural position without pressure points, and that eases neck, back, and hip pain. You also snore less and feel cradled, so you get a better night’s sleep.
A tent hammock is also lightweight. If you’re hiking into your campsite, you avoid carrying a sleeping bag, tent, and possibly an air mattress if you want to be off the ground. With just one tarp hammock, you have less to carry so that you can hike longer without this excess weight. A tent hammock is an intelligent way to go camping.
Stop and look at the average cost of a tent hammock. If you get one with waterproof or water-resistant materials, you’re likely spending between $100 to $200. There are less expensive hammocks, but they may not offer the same protection from mosquitoes and rain.
Have you considered building your own tent hammock? With the right tarp, you’ll have a quality hammock that keeps water and mosquitoes away and allows you to sleep in peace when you’re camping. Learn more about making your camping hammock using a tarp.
Start By Deciding the Weight
The tarp you choose needs to be strong enough to support your weight. Tensile strength is the measurement of the force a material can withstand before it rips or tears. A blue tarp (3 ounces per square yard) tends to do poorly in tensile strength tests. It’s not long before these tarps rip when they’re under pressure. Instead, you’d want a tarp that resists rips and tears. A heavy-duty poly tarp (6 ounces per square yard) will withstand your body weight better.
A thicker tarp is going to be more durable, but you have other considerations. You want a waterproof tarp. Water-resistant material is another option, but in heavy rain, water may start to seep through, leaving you wet and miserable as you try to sleep. Water-resistant canvas tarps are treated in a wax and oil coating. That coating stains materials, so it’s not a good choice. A vinyl or poly tarp will have a chemical odor that’s also unpleasant. It helps if you considered all of this, plus the tensile strength, when choosing the best hammock tarp.
The Best Tarps for Hammocks
What is our first choice for tarps for tent hammocks? We prefer Iron Horse tarps over any of the others. Iron Horse tarps are one of the strongest tarps on the market. At 15 ounces per square yard, these tarps are twice as strong as a canvas tarp, plus they’re breathable, so condensation from your body heat isn’t likely. Finally, they’re waterproof. Purchase them in one of seven colors and get a custom size or choose a size ranging from 5 x 7 feet to 30 x 30 feet.
A waterproof vinyl tarp is also strong at 18 ounces per square yard. They resist rips and tears, plus they withstand abrasion, which is great for repeat use. The other benefit is the UV treatment that prevents damage over time when the hammock is exposed to the sun. This can be another good choice, but it has a plastic odor, which can make it unappealing for your needs if you’re sensitive to chemical smells. You’d need to let it air out for some time before using it. If you prefer a vinyl tarp for the lower price, you’ll find them in nine colors and sizes starting at 5 x 7 feet. Custom sizes are also available.
There’s one more thing to consider. Iron Horse tarps are currently on sale (July 2021). Purchase our first choice for hammock tarps for almost the same price as a vinyl tarp. You have the best tarp for the job and save money at the same time.
Don’t Forget the Mosquito Netting
You want a protective fabric to keep mosquitoes off. A mesh tarp is one way to do this. On nights that it isn’t raining, you’ll have the mesh covering you, keeping mosquitoes off your face and exposed skin.
Chicago Canvas & Supply has vinyl-coated mesh tarps in two colors (multi-color or black) and 11 sizes starting at 8 x 10 feet. If you need a smaller mesh tarp, custom sizes are available.
Building Your Tent Hammock
You’ve chosen your materials. How do you put a tent hammock together? Take the tarp you’ve purchased and fold it into half lengthwise. Once that’s done, fold each side back to the center. The tarp is now folded into quarters. If you know how to sew, a heavy-duty nylon thread can help you create a hem that feeds the tie cord through the end. This tie cord is then connected to a carabiner or other system that you use to connect the hammock to the trees.
Whipping a gathered-end hammock is an alternative to sewing. This diagram on whipping shows the basic steps. Slowly gather the material or do an accordion fold to create the end of the tarp that you will now use this whip knot to secure it. To do a whiplock on each edge of the tarp, you’re setting the loop and then circling the tie cord around that loop.
You can use the grommets to secure the hammock, but you run the risk of having the grommets not withstand your weight. You should consider doing the whiplock method and then using 2-inch thick cords to secure the hammock to trees or sewing an edge and loop that you can use to hang your hammock.
Neatness doesn’t matter when creating the end loops that you’ll use to hang your hammock from trees. What’s most important is that the ends are tight and not going to unravel as you sleep. Chicago Canvas & Supply sells water-resistant braided poly cord that has a 300-pound break strength and is UV resistant. It’s durable and perfect for tent hammocks.
Setting Up the Hammock for Camping
To set up the hammock for camping, you want sturdy trees. Make sure they’re at least six inches in diameter. Straps need to be wide enough to handle your weight. Ideally, you’d want them to be a couple of inches wide. Aim for the center of the hammock to be around 16 to 18 inches off the ground and have the straps creating about a 30-degree angle to the tree.
Once you’ve positioned your hammock, you want a few more components to finish the job. Run a piece of rope or cord to create a ridgeline above the center of the hammock. You’re going to install a rain fly over the hammock to stop rain from hitting you. The ridgeline provides the highest point for the rain fly so that it can’t collapse on you while you sleep. You also want the mesh tarp to keep mosquitoes and biting flies away from you.
You’ll find plenty of videos and guides online to help you turn your tarp into a durable tent hammock. The experts at Chicago Canvas & Supply help you find the best tarp for the job and offer many of the other supplies you need to get started. From tarps for your hammock or rain fly to mesh tarp for mosquito netting, we have it all and are happy to work with you on custom sizes. Call or email us for more information.