How Do I Make My Own Hammock?
- 1.1 - Pick the Material
The most important consideration for hammock material is strength. As long as it's strong enough, everything else is just details. Some folks who don't weigh much (like my kids) can get away with 1.1 oz material, but most people with homemade hammocks recommend at least 1.9 oz ripstop nylon for the main body. Some 1.1 oz materials can be suitable for the main body...just make sure you know that material's characteristics so it's strong enough. If you're getting material from the Walmart $1/yd bin, I'd stick with 1.9 oz ripstop. But really, any material that's strong enough will work, and Walmart often has a few kinds of non-ripstop material that would be suitable for a homemade hammock. Many of them are heavier than the ripstop nylon, so weight may be a consideration.
Besides strength, you may also want to consider breathability, stretch characteristics, color or prints, etc. Most hammocks are made from breathable material, but if you're insulating with a non-breathable pad it's not as important. If you use a non-breathable waterproof material like silnylon, just make sure it doesn't fill up with water if it rains! Sometimes stretch can affect comfort as well. I used a light ripstop that was stretchier than my other materials, and it gave me shoulder squeeze no matter how much sag I had.
- 1.2 - Pick the Size
Size matters. In general, the bigger the hammock, the flatter you'll be able to lay in it. And the heavier it is...so for a backpacking hammock, it's a trade-off. Ed Speer recommends making the finished hammock have a distance between the knots of the user's height plus two feet. I'm 70" tall, so my hammock should be 94" between the knots...so I should cut my material 94" + hem allowance + allowance for whipping. Rather than trying to be exact, though, I usually just pick a length and not worry about exact lengths. I've found that 9.5' (114") is a good starting length for me. Then I hem it, use about 6" on each end for whipping, then have more than the recommended 2' left over. I like that extra length...it makes the hammock more comfortable so I'm willing to trade it for the weight. (Just make sure your tarp is long enough to cover the hammock.)
The width is easy...just hem the fabric along the roll width without making any cuts. Many fabrics come in roll widths of ~60", which is perfect for a hammock. Sometimes you'll find materials in a 48" roll width, which is a bit narrow, but you can compensate by making a longer hammock and still get pretty flat. Anywhere between 48" and ~64" is fine...some double hammocks are even wider.
So what are some common dimensions? I like to start with a piece of material that's 114"x62" (or whatever the roll width is), then hem it and whip it. I also have one that's 54" wide...that saves about 2 oz compared to 64" wide if I use 1.9 oz ripstop nylon, but it's really not as comfortable as the wider one. It does give a better view while I'm inside the hammock, though. I tried a 48" wide one and it was too narrow for me...works fine for my kids, though.
If you're gonna tie the ends instead of whipping them, you might add 18-24" to the length depending on what kind of knots you're using.
- 1.3 - Hem the Body
If you're just using the hammock once or twice to see if you like it, just cut the material to size, don't worry about hemming, and go to step two. (This is what Risk advises in his TestHammock). This is good enough for a few uses just to see if you can get comfortable in a hammock, but getting in and out of a hammock puts quite a bit of stress on the unfinished long edges, and over time it'll fail. Putting a simple rolled hem around the hammock reinforces these edges and prevents fraying.
It's really easy - just roll the fabric over to hide the raw edge and use a straight stitch all the way down. I do all four sides, but as long as the two long sides are hemmed the hammock will be safe. I also like to roll the hem to the outside on all four edges, but this just makes it look neater and doesn't affect the function at all.