In previous posts I gave an overview of camping hammocks and a very high level look at making your own DIY hammock.
Here is an example of what a reasonably unskilled, but persistent person can do with some common materials and a very basic Thread Injector (aka “sewing machine”).
Why go through all this trouble when I could just order one pre-made?
A few reasons:
- To get features that aren’t readily available “off the shelf”
- To get the color-scheme I wanted
- For fun
This mosquito net camping hammock is a loose copy of the Warbonnet Outdoors Blackbird design. I created it having never actually seen a real Blackbird in person, so there are more than a handful of things that differ from the original. At the end of this post I’ll link a discussion thread that has a pretty good plan for making this hammock. I wish I had found the plan prior to starting this project.
Features of this hammock:
- I am 6’4″ tall, so I needed a long hammock. This one is slightly longer than a real BlackBird
- Extra large shelf. A brilliant feature of the Blackbird hammock is a large flap that hang off of the non-entry side of the hammock. The mosquito netting covers this flap, making a shelf that can be used to store books, clothes, etc. I made this shelf HUGE since I get cold easy and wanted room to stash extra warm clothes in case I need them during the night.
- Lots of pockets and storage options. I added a ridgeline organizer that holds my phone, a water bottle, flashlight, glasses, various weaponry, etc. Also included side pockets near the head end of the hammock, and small pockets at the top of the shelf.
- Adjustable ridgeline. Most hammocks with mosquito nets have a fixed length ridgeline. I wanted to be able to shorten my ridgeline, so I made it adjustable via a buried constriction adjustment at one end.
- Extra wide! Since most folks that camp in gathered end hammocks lay diagonally across the hammock to sleep (which can provide for a nearly flat sleeping surface), and I am taller than most, I made the hammock an extra 10″ wide to give me more room to get diagonal.
- Custom bottom insulation. Hammocks lose heat through the bottom, so additional insulation is needed under the hammock in cooler seasons. I added a nylon and fleece “underquilt” (UQ)… which is not quilted at all… and a custom suspension system to hold it in place. This one is differential cut (based on the dimensions of the Kick Ass Quilt design… link below), so that it conforms to the diagonal that I lay on while sleeping. It is a single layer of camo nylon on each side, with a single layer of fleece on the inside. The head end was left open so I can insert additional layers of insulating material, as the single layer of fleece only provides so much warmth. I can only get down to about 45 degrees with this UQ below and a mummy sleeping bag on top of me in the hammock. Many folks use down, which does require actual quilting. I’ve also heard of using the down from cat tail heads, but have yet to find any to experiment with.
- Custom top insulation. Sleeping in a sleeping bag in a hammock causes the bottom of the bag to compress and lose insulating efficiency. Many folks use a “top quilt” (TQ) as an alternative to a sleeping bag, to keep their top side warm… while the UQ keeps the bottom side warm. I made a single layer fleece TQ/bag liner that is about 9 feet long by 5 feet wide. From my waist down I have rolled it into a cylinder and boxed the end (the foot box). This is good for temps down to maybe 65 degrees. Below that and I will pull my mummy sleeping bag over me at an additional TQ. A more robust and form fitted TQ is in my future, at some point.
- Custom “skins” to roll up the hammock and store it for easy deploying. I made mine of a ripstop-type mesh that is very light, but breathable, and added little pockets to hold the suspension lines.
- Custom “woopie sling” suspension lines on each end. I made one orange and one yellow so I can tell which is the head end (orange) when hanging. They are incredibly easy to adjust to get the hammock just right. Made from Amsteel Blue 7/64″ rope rated at 1200#.
- Custom tree straps. Mine are white, so I can find them easily if I drop them, and are 2″ wide to protect the trees from being damaged by the hammock suspension. I made looks on one end of each strap, but not on the other. To hang the hammock, I wrap each strap around a tree and thread the bare end through the loop on the other end. Then I tie a marlin spike hitch with a nail inserted. I use the nail as the point to hang the loop of the woopie sling suspension.
- Full length zipper on the entry/exit side. Used a #3 coil zipper with two bi-directional zipper pulls. Can be opened from the middle, or either end.
- Custom UQ suspension using triangles with bungee or shock cord attached to keep the UQ tight and in the right position. Triangles are attached to the hammock suspension line with soft shackels made of 7/64″ amsteel blue.
- Shockcord tie out lines with barrel lock adjusters. Shockcord absorbs much of the force of my clumsiness when I trip on the tie out lines. Also allows for easy lifting of the side entry, which unzips below the side tie outs.
- A “foot box” on the non-entry/exit side of the hammock to give more room for my feet when sleeping on diagonal.
Should you make your own camping hammock?
That is really a personal question that you’ll have to answer yourself.
For me, making my own hammock was a challenge. I’ve always liked making things, but never really sewn much. Part of me just wanted to see if I could pull it off… and I did!
I also wanted to save some money. Warbonnet charges about $180. I’ve probably got $60 worth of materials in this project. However, I have lost track of how many HOURS of my time. Easily over 40 hours. I could make one far faster now, as there is a big learning curve on this type of project and I spent lots of time ripping out seams and re-doing things that I screwed up. Even if I place very little value on my time, I think I clearly lost money by making instead of buying.
If you like making your own stuff, have lots of time on your hands, are really into design and want to customize your color scheme, and are up for a big challenge, GO FOR IT! If not, Warbonnet’s prices are more than fair, given the intense labor involved in making something this complex.
Please let me know if you find this useful or have questions. I’d love to hear from you if you make a hammock.
You’ll notice that most of the links below are to HammockForums.net
I’ve never participated in such an open and supportive forum. You should check it out.