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No Trees, No Problem - Hammock support solutions


Sep 17, 2012
The era of needing trees to use a hammock is over. There are three state-o-art solutions. I'll skip the $800 carbon fiber solution because with a kayak you don't need (or want) the very lightest stand on the market.

1. Turtle Dog stand. There are many DIY variations of this on HammockForums.net (HF). The stand consists of two three-legged supports (for example three 2x2's lashed together) with a horizontal "pole" suspended between them. The hammock hangs off the horizontal pole - putting a compression force on the pole. The legs of the two supports can be made of two sections, 3.5 ft or less each, and the 12 ft pole can be made with two or three sections. Granted, that's a lot of material and though skinny driftwood pieces (I've seen bamboo solutions - youtube) might work, it could be difficult to find the required pieces on the beach.

2. Solo TensaOutdoor poles. These are sturdy telescoping poles that are relatively light and compact. One pole takes the place of one tree. That's pretty neat because you don't need two trees of the proper desired distance apart (and no intermediate tree that would interfere with the tarp). Essentially, you just extend the pole and anchor it at about a 60-degree angle. The Gotcha is it has to be a sturdy anchor. There are numerous screws, stakes, and "deadman" buries you can use. The extended pole is held by two lines that anchor about six feet apart, making a triangle with the pole. If needed, you could use a pole at each end of the hammock instead of 1 pole and 1 tree or post. These cost about $100 and the downside is those two anchors need to be really secure. Maybe that's not so hard to achieve on island sand or soil. Where I live, we have lava rock about 6 inches under landscaper sod. But anchoring in parks and forests might work.

You could easily make a "natural" variation of this with a long piece of driftwood and some lines to an anchor point. Note - do NOT use paracord for those lines. Paracord streeeeches like crazy. Nylon webbing also stretches. You could use polyester webbing or Amsteel. Amsteel is small cord that is strong as steel; the 7/64 inch diameter size is rated at 1600 lbs. It is braided so eye loops and such are woven in rather than using knots. But that's another topic.

3. The current darling is the Tensa4 stand. Googling and visits to HF will show plenty of examples. Just imagine two inverted V's with the wide ends facing each other and the legs crossing a few inches from their ends. The hammock hangs from the apex of the two V's. The weight distribution, when you are in the hammock, is such that the foot end needs to be anchored but not as secure as the two anchors for the Solo. It only needs a single line and around 50 - 70 lbs holding force. Though this design commercially sells for about $300, there are many, many examples of DIY projects costing about $100 and using collapsable components that would easily fit in your kayak. Unfortunately, this is not 100% free standing because you do need that foot end anchor. But that anchor point doesn't have to be a tree. It could be the base of a sturdy bush, a pile of rocks, or a bag buried in the sand.

In full disclosure - I have a commercial turtle dog stand and used it at SunSet Bay State Park last week. The commercial version collapses to a bundle near 5 ft long. It is not meant for portable work. But it will work great when car camping the night before a launch. No more hunting for trees or flat ground. And yes, a folding cot would work but you'll still want a bug net and tarp and the hammock setup has that already.

I have the solo stand but haven't tried it yet. it would easily fit in the kayak but would be a Plan-B, the second choice over finding two trees. I'm sure, with more experience, I'll come to trust that I can find sufficient anchoring solutions. It takes the pressure off finding those Two Great Trees and perhaps allows me to nest closer to camp with the tent-dwelling adventure partners. Whether that's an advantage (for me or for them) is yet to be seen.

Later this summer I may get a Tensa4 stand. That's trading the independence of a fully self-supporting tent with the need of a minimum anchor and no concern about tree roots and level ground.

Here's a photo of my "site" in the Broughtons. Worry about tree roots? We don't need no stinking worry about tree roots:


Turtle Dog stand on someone's deck:

Solo pole collapsed:

Pole Extended:
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Cool ideas . . . some more:

I guess with the double tripod idea, if there was one tree or relatively fixed hanging location one could use just an X-ed bipod at the other end and the kayak as the horizontal compression member.

And the ultimate member usage would be bipods at either end, horizontal kayak compression member and diagonal line bracing from halfway down the bipods to perimeter line fittings. With both bipods diagonally braced, it's a stable-ish structure. Maybe just have un-clipped non-stretch kayak perimeter lines that have double usage as diagonal bracing . . . clip clip yr done!

or here's a good one: unipod uprights but guyed over with the kayak and diagonals between. A lean structure. Unfortunately anchor points or holes or rock jamming would be needed for the unipods.

Or if tree and rock jamming or similar present, just need a unipod and a line or 2.

heh heh.
Dang Cougar you need to get that Solo out and working! Get away from your lava rocks and use some sand stakes in the soft stuff.
One of my tricks is that if the ground feels like it's not going to hold as well I angle the pole at lower angle. I've had it down to maybe 40°(?) Just enough that the hammock doesn't rub on it and I make sure the foot has a good set since I'm moving almost all of my pressure on it to one of compression. At that point the ground stakes have so little pull on them it's almost like they are only holding it from tipping over sideways.
The down fall is that it makes the height from the ground less. I've had to skip using their shackle w/ the toggle on it several times and gone w/ a soft shackle wrapped around the pole (to shorten it) and straight to the CL on the hammock just to keep myself from dragging the ground.
I suspect that I could lark's head the CL straight to the pole if the CL is long enough.

Here's one w/ a different pole but w/ that kind of angle. W/ the Solo I would skip the tree strap and connect direct since it's shorter. Just giving myself enough clearance by setting the angle so that I don't rub on the pole.


I do like that the Solo fits perfectly behind my skeg box.
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Hey Low Tech! Thanks for jumping over.

Folks, Low Tech has wandered over from HammockForums.net and has a lot of practical experience finding hammock solutions in treeless areas. If I recall, he has two kayaks and mostly paddles in the desert. Or rather, many of his photos show sparse surroundings. But can you imagine that sky at night!
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The SW desert and most of Florida's inland rivers, now working on more of it's coastal areas.
Treeless hammocking is a bit of a norm for where I spend most of my time and I do it to excess, over 400 nights in a hammock outside in the last year and a half.
Wow! . . . I would love to see a wider shot of your setup to see/understand how and where you lined and braced out to achieve minimalist setups like that.
Most interesting because trees aren't always where one wants them to be and other options for lousy/rocky/sloped ground [but cool or useful/welcome stops] would really be useful.

. . . the sky at night? we get to see the northern lights once in a while . . .
I'll see if I can dig up some better ones from one of my endless stream of treeless hangs. This is the one that is in my handheld at the moment.

I do have a basic setup that is,
once I've attached my tarp to the pole I'm using (I need to do that because the tarp requires more space than the hammock and it keeps the pole up when the hammock is empty) and I find where the foot of it is going to be w/ the angle I want,
I then lay down the pole, tarp still attached, the opposite direction. Meaning that the top of the pole is where I marked the foot placement on the ground and the pole runs straight out inline w/ the tarp.
At the end of the pole I imagine a line perpendicular to my tarp line that is between 6'-8' w/ half of it on either side of the pole.
That's where my stakes go in.

Hopefully that all makes sense.
The end result looks like this,


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Here is an example of the Solo Pole used as a tree:

You are looking at a WarBonnet MiniFly - most people think of a rain fly as just something to keep the rain off. Note that more things fall from the sky besides rain. Also, especially in high desert country, lying in a hammock often means looking up at the sun. The MiniFly is my smallest tarp; very compact, very light, and always ready.

Under the tarp, there are two hammocks. The blue one is called a bridge hammock - it uses spreader bars on the ends that give it more of a shallow bathtub lay. Joy prefers that one but volunteered to lie in the gathered end because it needed an occupant for the Solo Pole lines to be taut. The Black hammock is a gathered end - what many people think of when they imagine a hammock. Joy has yet to embrace the "diagonal lay" style that puts you in a flat lie - which is probably why she prefers the bridge.

Both hammocks are attached to the same tree at the foot end.

Now if the trees were a bit wider, and we had two gathered end (GE) hammocks, I could hang each off a different side of the same two trees and they'd be side-by-side. But the Bridge Hammock (a DIY kit from RSBTR.com [ripstop by the roll] for $50 [not including poles]) with those spreader bars requires a wider area.

But there wasn't a second tree that was close enough for the other end of my GE. I was counting on that because I wanted to try out the Solo Pole. ... by the way, I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of the boats. This was taken at the southern end of Sparks Lake (Bend Oregon).

As this was my first deployment, the setup was a little rough. First I tried to just use one strap to support the pole - attaching it to a tree further back. But it really wants two lines (as per the instructions) for side-to-side stability. So I ended up attaching two adjustable straps, about 8 ft long, and about 8 ft apart, forming a triangle with the pole at the apex between the two lines. It worked great.

Now why would I want a pole when there are so many trees ... When first started with hammocks I thought, "How hard can it be; there are trees everywhere." But you want those trees about 12 ft apart (most hammock tarps are 11 ft long). A bridge hammock likes trees about 15 ft apart. And you don't want a tree off to the side between them that will interfere with the tarp. And you don't want to fight a lot of underbrush. So just as a tent dweller has to find flat ground, so the hammock camper needs a good pair of trees.

But with the Solo Pole - I just need one tree. I can set the distance and direction from that tree. It does assume I'll have a solid anchor for those straps and my kit has a variety of choices - different length "screws", and BoomStakes. The BoomStake is an aluminum tube that is held to the ground with what looks like a long nail. The strap attaches in such a way that any stress forces that nail more into the ground.

I'm sorry the photo doesn't feature the pole itself. And though Joy might not look completely relaxed (oh ye of little faith), the setup easily held almost double her weight.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there are solutions, like the Tensa4 Stand. It is nearly self-standing, requiring one anchor point.

As a head bow to Alex, where is my poor excuse for the route:
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On my latest circumnavigation of Orcas - via Pelican Beach, Clark, Matia, Patos, Jones, Spencer Spit, James, I had to use the Tensa Solo Pole on Pelican Beach, Clark, and Spencer Spit. Below are the photos in that order:




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Thank you for giving updates! I am pondering trying hammocks for camping, and the information about your experience is very helpful. I also peruse the hammock forums from time to time, but find your writing the most helpful.
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You may get a location with no trees - there are hammock solutions for that too - but I always have some go-to-ground option available. On this trip I wanted to commit to using just the hammock and brought my Solo pole - actually thinking I wouldn't need to use it. At Pelican Beach, if I really, really needed to, I could have used trees on the trail above the compost toilet. But after one "trial" at Sparks Lake in Bend, I needed to try the Solo for real.

In the first photo, the (8/9/22 1-2 AM) 8ft high tide came up to the larger log. As such, sometimes my "anchor" log - the smaller log to the left of the larger one - would float just a bit, adding a little slack to my system. After I peeked out and saw the dynamics, I could fall back to sleep.

The sites at Clark and the WWTA site at Spencer absolutely required the pole.

The pole collapses to about 20 inches and weighs a little under 2 lbs. Alone it costs about $65 USD and the added amounts you see ($95 - $129) are for components that make a full kit - straps and anchors.

TensaOutdoor.com site has other options - their lightly anchored Tensa4 and their convertible carbon fiber hiking poles.

For me, real trees, and a single pole, will cover all I need. In those rarer situations, I can always go-to-ground with a ground sheet, pad, and tarp.

Just to show it wasn't all suffering, here's a shot of my campsite on James, looking east to Mt Baker.

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