Benefits of Hammock Ridgeline and How to Use it

hammock ridgeline

For a gathered end camping hammock, you might often hear the words “hammock ridgeline”, or see a thin cord attached to each end of the hammock, that is this article’s topic: hammock ridgeline, or more specific, structural hammock ridgeline.

What is a hammock ridgeline?

There are two types of hammock ridgeline used in camping hammocks:

1. Structural hammock ridgeline

Structural hammock ridgeline, abbreviated to “SRL”, is a thin cord tied to both ends of the hammock to create a consistent sag, it is tight, strong and not-stretchy, allows you to hang a hammock at a shallower angle – less than optimal 30 degrees, where the trees are too far apart, but still get a comfortable flat lay. For a certain length of structural hammock ridgeline, the amount of the hammock sag is the same.

Structural hammock ridgeline
Structural hammock ridgeline

2. Non-structural hammock ridgeline

Non-structural hammock ridgeline is not bound to the hammock, so does not change the sag of the hammock. It connects to the tress a little bit above the hammock and is used for support a separated bugnet and hang other stuff, so it can be made of some elastic or stretchy material. Some hammocks come with an integrated bugnet, like Hennessy, the bugnet is designed to be kept on the structural ridgeline, which also plays a role of preventing tearing the bugnet when pulling the hammock too long; for a non-structural ridgeline, you can move the position of the bugnet, that’s the difference between these two kinds of hammock ridgelines.

Non-structural hammock ridgeline
Non-structural hammock ridgeline

What is a tarp ridgeline?

Tarp ridgeline is different from the hammock ridgeline, it is strung tight above the hammock by being wrapped around trees, only used for setting a rain tarp. Tarp ridgeline has two types: split ridgeline and continuous ridgeline (known as “CRL”), each type has its own advantages, anyway, do not confuse trap ridgeline with hammock ridgeline.

Tarp ridgeline
Tarp ridgeline

What are the benefits of using a structural hammock ridgeline?

1. Ensures a minimum sag of the hammock, no matter how tight your hammock suspension is.

As we know, 30 degree is the most optimal hanging angle for a hammock, it creates a comfortable sag for a diagonal lay. But if the trees are far apart, you have to hang the hammock in a smaller degree, using a structural ridgeline, you will always get the same level sag and comfortable sleeping experience.

2. Protects your hammock from tearing when hanging in a shallow angle.

For a 30 degree hanging angle, the hammock gets the same stress as your body weight, without doubt, all hammocks can stand that force. However, when the hanging degree starts to decrease, the hammock will gradually receive more and more strength until to endless if the angle is 0. Using a structural hammock ridgeline, most pressure will put on the ridgeline which the breaking strength is much higher than the hammock, helping the hammock reduce the pressure and prevent it from being stretched out.

3. You can hang an organizer, bugnet and other stuff on it.

With an organizer, you can put your smartphone, keys, books, glasses and other little stuff in hand, no hassling to fetch around, and avoid poking through the hammock. Some emergency kits, like a whistle and lamp, can be also hung on it. In summer camping, you can put your clothes on it, like a convenient shelf.

Ridgeline organizer
Ridgeline organizer

If you can accept the bugnet setup close to your face, and your bugnet is loose enough to put over the ridgeline and stands the pulling stress, that is good to go and no need to use an extra non-structural ridgeline.

How many types do structural ridgelines have?

Although the structural hammock ridgeline has a simple looking, it actually has fixed and adjustable two types in several forms:

  1. Fixed length ridgeline

Fixed length SRL is simple, has two spliced loops at each end of the cord, you can buy or make it in your ideal length.

Fixed length ridgeline
Fixed length ridgeline
  1. Adjustable ridgeline

Adjustable length SRL has two forms: whoopie sling style and UCR (Utility Constrictor Rope) style, they both have loops at each end and can be used for hammock suspension system and ridgeline. UCR is made of two pieces of separate cords, the most distinguished feature is having a prusik knot to keep tension, while whoopie sling is made of a continuous piece of cord.

Whoopie sling & UCR ridgeline
Whoopie sling & UCR ridgeline

For recommendation, it depends on your taste, both types are easy to add to the hammock and widely used by hammock hangers. An adjustable ridgeline is suitable for a new hammock and unknown or complicated camping places, you can fiddle with its length to find your sweet sagging spot. Once you’ve found the perfect length, you can switch to the fixed ridgeline, which can also save on weight and bulk for your whole hammock system.

How long should the structural hammock ridgeline be?

The usual length of ridgeline is 83% of the hammock body length (one end to the other, without continuous loops and biners), that’s the most choice for hammock hangers. For an 11′ long hammock, the length of the SRL should be 110″; a 10″ long hammock, the length of the SRL should be 100″.

Hammock length (feet)Hammock length (inches)83% SRL (inches)
89679.68
910889.64
1012099.6
11132109.56
12144119.52

One thing to notice, there is no fixed 83% rule for the ridgeline, you should adjust the ridgeline’s length back and forth to find your sweet spot. That’s why I recommend you at least have one adjustable ridgeline for your new hammock, once you find the length for the perfect sag, you can change the adjustable one to the fixed one.

Is your hammock ridgeline too taut or loose?

If you use an 83% rule for your ridgeline length, depending on your suspension length, the ridgeline will be somehow taut or loose, the optimal situation is that the ridgeline is tight enough and can be triggered with two fingers.

If the ridgeline is too taut, just release some length of the suspension system, and the hanging angle will become greater. However, if the angle is much higher than 30 degrees, the ridgeline will start loosing, and the ridgeline will become useless for a consistent sag.

On the other hand, if the ridgeline is too loose, just shorten some length of the suspension system.

What’s the material of structural hammock ridgeline?

There are 3 most used materitals for structural ridgeline: Zing-It or Lash-It, dynaglide, and amsteel.

7/64″ amsteel has a 1600 lbs breaking strength, absolutely safe for hammock ridgeline and even a little bit overkill, it’s most used for hammock suspension, like continuous loops.

Zing-It and Lash-It are made of the same material: Dyneema fiber. Zing-It is yellow or red, Lash-It is grey, otherwise, no difference between them. 1.75 mm Zing-it/Lash-it has a 500 lbs breaking strength, it’s more thin and lightweight than amsteel.

Dynaglide is another option for ridgeline, the breaking strength and weight are between amsteel and zing-it/lash-it, 1.8mm dynaglide has an 850 lbs breaking strength.

Amsteel and Zing-it
Amsteel and Zing-it

These three materials are all ideal for structural ridgeline, the most recommended one is amsteel, although it’s the heaviest one among all, the extra weight has far more value than the other lighter ones provide. If you don’t know the distribution of the trees at your hammocking spot, you might hang the hammock in a shallow angle when the trees are too far apart, accordingly the stress on the ridgeline will become much higher, and you will risk breaking the ridgeline when using zing-it/lash-it.

On the other hand, if you know the camping spot, can control the hanging angle in a reasonable range, and don’t rely on the structural ridgeline to support the pressure on the hammock, it should be fine to choose zing-it/lash-it, it can reduce the weight of your whole hammock system, especially if you’re a weight weenie.

Can I use a paracord for structural ridgeline?

No, paracord is not suitable for structural hammock ridgeline, because of its stretch factor, especially when getting wet. Materials for SRL should be non-stretchy, the above three materials – amsteel, dynaglide, and zing-it all have none or minimum stretch, that’s why are used for structural ridgeline.

How to tie a structural ridgeline to the hammock?

For a gathered end camping hammock, there are whipped end and sewn channel two forms. Each form has continuous loops or other ropes bound to the hammock body, then connected to the suspension system, and these ropes are the place to tie the ridgeline.

Whipped end & Sewn channel hammocks
Whipped end & Sewn channel hammocks

For a sewn channel hammock, first untie the knot of continuous loop or whoopie sling (if you use this) which lark’s headed on the hammock, slip the ridgeline’s loop (fixed or adjustable) over the continuous loop or whoopie sling, repeat the process on the other end, then tie the continuous loop or whoopie sling.

Add ridgeline to sewn channel hammock

For a whipped end hammock, you can tie the ridgeline to the continuous loop, suspension ring/buckle, or just loop around the whipping end, not limited to a specific place, try out several attachment points and find the better one.

Lark's head ridgeline on the continuous loop
Lark’s head ridgeline on the continuous loop

If you don’t like knots or want to remove the ridgeline off the hammocks quickly, you can try a small biner, like DutchWare Ridgeline Biners, to connect the continuous loop and structural ridgeline.

Dutchware ridgeline biner

Do I really need a structural hammock ridgeline?

From the above introduction of the structural ridgeline, I think you should easily get a conclusion, the answer is: YES.

It’s just a piece of rope attached to your hammock, won’t add too much weight and bulk, and can make a consistent sag and be functioned as a shelf for hanging stuff, absolutely creates much more value than you expected for its “little role”.

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