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Continuous Ridgeline for Hammock Tarp – or Tarp Camping

Updated: 4 days ago

Gain more adjustment AND a better pitch on your tarp by using a continuous ridgeline.

In a recent article, I suggested that there are many advantages to switching to a continuous ridgeline when suspending a tarp over your hammock. A continuous ridgeline is a rope that you tie between your hammock support trees. You tie this ridgeline rope FIRST, then attach the tarp to the tight ridgeline.

Here are the ADVANTAGES of a continuous tarp ridgeline:

1. It is STRONGER than guy lines tied to tarp loops or grommets.

2. It is MORE adjustable and allows PRECISE placement over the hammock.

3. It is FASTER to erect than lines tied to the tarp.

4. It is BETTER for your tarp!

Let’s look at these points and compare them to the common method of running lines from the grommets in the tarp fabric or loops attached to the edges of the tarp.

99-percent of the time, hammock tarps (and tarp shelters, in general) are shown suspended from guy ropes. These tarps are usually sold with six light ropes to be used at the ridge and four corners. As you can see from the photo below, the shape of the tarp is totally dependent on the tension of the fabric.

Tarps have become specialized and expensive pieces of camping gear. Particularly for hammock campers, your comfort is dependent on the pitch and durability of your tarp. If it should fail, your adventure is jeopardized.

Step 1: Tie the ridgeline between two trees.

The first reason that I use a continuous ridgeline is that this rope is stronger than the tarp fabric. The generic 550 paracord derives its name from 550-pounds of tensile strength. In this article we are not going to discuss any of the 100 ways to attach your ridgeline to the support trees. But, regardless of your preferred method to attach your ridgeline, you can put tremendous tension on this rope – FAR more tension than you should ever subject your precious tarp to!

Step 2: Drape the tarp over the ridgeline.

Next, by draping your tarp over the ridgeline, you have infinite adjustment from side to side. At the same time, your tarp isn’t laying on the ground where it can be punctured or dragged in the mud.

Step 3: Attach the tarp to the ridgeline with Prusik loops, then add tension to extend the tarp.

I use Prusik loops to connect the ridgeline to the hammock tarp. These non-slip loops are created from short loops of paracord or lighter line – like the guy lines supplied with the tarp. The Prusik loops are easy to tie and can remain attached to the ridgeline between camps. Simply wrap the loop around the ridgeline three times.

The Prusik loop cinches down on the ridgeline because it is pulled 90-degrees to the wraps. For the best tension, the Prusik loop should be tied from one size smaller rope than the ridgeline. Either use a 550 paracord ridgeline and lighter cord for the Prusik loops, or 550 paracord Prusik loops on one size larger rope.

I connect the Prusik loops to the tarp with thumb-sized sticks that I pick up onsite. Some campers prefer to use small carabiners. Here is a photo of Endurance Room using prusik loops with hand carved toggles. Watch his quick-deploy ridgeline video HERE. In any case, your tarp never touches the ground.

hammock camping

Note: if you want to get “fancy”, position the knot in the Prusik loop off-center before making your wraps around the ridgeline. This will be helpful if you are passing the loop through small grommets on the tarp.

I always erect the tarp BEFORE my hammock. It’s been my habit for 50 years and ensures that I will have a dry place to pile my gear, get out of the wind, and cook my supper before I am ready for bed. I usually tie the ridgeline to the trees at about eye level. This gives me adequate headroom while still bringing the sides of the tarp low enough to shield my hammock from cooling breezes.

Step 4: Erect the hammock.

Next, I attach the hammock suspension ABOVE the tarp ridgeline. The tarp is attached to a horizontal ridgeline, while the hammock suspension slopes downward. By attaching the hammock to the tree above the tarp ridgeline, I still have plenty of space above the hammock and the mosquito netting. Most people suspend their tarps too high and then complain about wind and rain blowing in on them!

At this point, once the hammock is positioned between the supports, it is simple to move the Prusik loops and readjust the tarp to completely cover the ends. You don’t need to tie and retie the tarp ridgeline to reposition the tarp over your hammock.

99-percent of the time, the hammock is shown being strung before the tarp. Obviously, this isn’t an issue on a sunny day. But I recommend getting in the habit of quickly and efficiently setting up your tarp first. It is a comfort to know that you can string the ridgeline, then attach the tarp in two minutes! When you are eventually faced with setting up in a driving rain, you will appreciate the times you practiced stringing your hammock under the tarp.

Finally, using a continuous ridgeline will add to the lifespan of your tarp. In a strong wind, the ridgeline bears the stress of the trees moving, not the tarp fabric. The Prusik loop will give before the fabric tears. Likewise, attaching the tarp to the ridgeline versus putting direct tension on the grommets or loops will also reduce the twisting and stretching of the tarp, helping the waterproof coatings to last longer.

The following clips show how to tie the Prusik loop and connect the tarp. The first is a clip of Xander Budnick tying Prusik loops. Watch Xander’s full video with more camping knot instruction here:

The second clip is by Simon, a Bloke in the Woods tying his version of the Prusik. Watch the full video with more knot tying instruction here:

The third clip is by Blackhat Bushcraft and shows his continuous hammock tarp ridgeline. See his full video here:

Xander and Simon show their tarps hanging from loops BELOW the ridgeline. I like the added “lift” provided by running the ridgeline UNDER the tarp. It’s your choice. The biggest advantage of running the ridgeline under your “A-frame” tarp is the option to add one or more Prusik loops to hang a lantern or other accessory. If your hammock has a high bug net that requires guy lines, you might also be able to connect these to Prusik loops off the tarp ridgeline.

Once you have the ridgeline tensioned, then you can stake out the four corners of the tarp. You can add more stakes in the center or add tie outs to loft the tarp out from the hammock.

Would you like a Done-for-You continuous ridgeline? This model features 40' of HMWPE guy line cord on a reel for fast deployment and knot-free storage. It includes three Prusik loops on the ridgeline. There is also a carabiner on one end to attach to the tree, and a no-knot connector for a fast connection to the opposite support tree. A quick and easy solution for less than $25.00! – CLICK HERE.

I hope this was helpful in making your tarp set-up faster and more secure. Please leave your comments and any wrinkles you have picked up that add to the security and efficiency of your camp!

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