Last week I was camping in Taman Negara National Park and playing around with some new hammock suspension ideas. The aim was to get a system that was 1) quick and convenient to use, 2) as lightweight as possible and 3) that incorporated tree protectors.

I had recently bought ‘The Ultimate Hang’ by Derek Hansen (a great book and one every ‘hanger’ should own) and was intrigued by the whoopie slings that seem so popular in the states. So, I made some up (and should you wish to do the same there is an excellent Youtube video by Mat from UKHammocks showing exactly how to make them) and took them along…

I did not get along with whoopie slings and have since removed them. To me whoopie slings are a neat, but over complicated solution: they are both bulkier and heavier than using a single line with a knot and, if the trees are too close together, they can create problems as you are restricted by how short you can make them.

However, the exercise was not a complete waste of time as it introduced me to toggles and the use of a Marlin Spike Hitch (basically a slip knot) which work well with the tree protectors.

In this video I cover some of the main ways to hang a hammock (but by no means all of them) and give some tips that might help you reduce the weight and bulk of the ropes you carry along. Sometimes this can be as simple as doubling up the use of a piece of equipment – thus my rope bag doubles up as a storage bag that I can hang from the ridgeline, my rucksack rain cover doubles up as a large, waterproof cargo pocket for kit kept outside the rain protection of the tarp.

I think the waterproof cover for the rucksack is a good item to carry along. Why? Because a sodden rucksack weighs a lot more than a dry one. My Karrimor Sabre weights in at about 1.7kg dry but, when dripping wet, the weight increases to 2.7kg! The cover also increases visibility (making it easy to find your camp) and can be used as a mat to sit on.

My advice for hammock suspension systems is to ‘keep it simple’ and ‘keep it light’ – you only need to learn a couple of hitches and you’re done and, frankly speaking, it is easier to learn the knots than learning how to make things like whoopie slings. Similarly rap rings (or descender rings) are an unnecessary extra weight to carry and can slip if the set up isn’t exactly right.

The other item I was testing out was the ‘soft shackle’ and, in the video below, I show you how to make one. I like soft shackles as they are both light and compact but, of course, they don’t have the durability of the metal shackle.

One last thing to mention when setting up a hammock in the jungle is make sure that you don’t leave any sharp points on the undergrowth that you clear below the hammock as, should something go wrong, you don’t want to get speared by sharp, pointed sticks beneath you! I simply bash any pointed ends with the side of my parang to blunt them off. Also, don’t forget to look up to check there aren’t any dead branches (widow makers) above you.

On the last night in Taman Negara I was in my hammock which was strung alongside a wide jungle river, with a 15 foot drop on one side where the embankment sloped down to the water. It had been a long day and, as night fell I retreated happily to my hammock. A thunderstorm began and the sky lit up every 30 secs or so, as if there were some massive flourscent tube high up in the clouds that was on the blink, and I could make out the details of the river below me…. it felt like I was floating above the jungle, completely warm, completely dry and utterly comfortable…

I love hammock camping!