A few months ago I bought a tie-dyed hammock chair from Trippy Gear, a cottage vendor on Facebook. It worked very well on its first hiking trip, but I felt it could use a few improvements in its weight and packed bulk. First of all was the bulk of the straps. The suspension system included 2 15 foot tree straps and cinch buckles. The webbing straps worked pretty good, but rolled up in the sack they took up a good bit of space, and seemed very heavy for what they were. The entire chair with straps weighs 439 grams, or .97 pounds, with the current strap and suspension system. The straps attach to two cinch buckles, which were aluminum, and unless the strap was aligned correctly, they would slip a little when you sat in the chair.
The chair itself was perfect, the suspension was just a little bulky for my taste. So, I endeavored to improve it. A side note: The suspension sold with the chair only adds $15 to the price of the chair, making the total price $60. Once you start talking whoopie slings and dutch hooks, the price of the suspension at least doubles, and that’s still making your own, not paying for someone to do it for you.
Sold as is, the suspension is a good compromise between weight and price. But backpackers are never satisfied, and a lot of us just like to tinker with anything we can. The first step was to draw out what I wanted. I knew I wanted to keep some tree straps to protect the trees, and I wanted a lighter, more secure method of hanging the chair, which was also less bulky. First to go was the cinch buckles, opting instead for something called a “dutch hook”, a little hook made by a hammock enthusiast called “dutch”. I ordered a set of Amsteel ropes and some hooks. The cinch buckles were pretty easy to remove. I untied the Lark’s Head knot, slipped the whole assembly out of the hammock chair, unwrapped the cinch buckle, then put the Amsteel loops back through before redoing the Lark’s Head. These Amsteel continuous loops are pretty awesome. They are basically a piece of rope threaded into itself; it’s a circle of rope with no knot and no apparent beginning or end. Its also stiff enough in the doubled-up section, that I could easily slip it back into the hammock chair without finding a tool to help me do it. My next step was to modify the tree straps. From my experience, 4 or 5 feet is usually plenty to protect a tree, and even if the tree is HUGE, its enough to provide protection around the back of the tree, the part that takes most of the load. So I chose one of the 15 foot straps, and cut it down to two sections just a little over 5 feet long. I then sewed another loop in one end of the piece without a loop.
Now I had to start making my whoopie slings. Amsteel is a bit larger in diameter than the dynaglide I worked with last time, but just as finicky with trying to pass it back through itself. It took me a few tries to get the right tool to do it. I straightened one of my daughter’s hair pins, and used the pink tape in the picture below to tape the end of the line to the hair pin. Hair pins (or “bobby pins”) have a little plastic bulb on the end that slips right through the middle of the Amsteel without snagging.
I just bunched the line up on one end of the pin, and spread it out on the back side, inchworming my way through the middle and popping out where needed. It was tough to get right at first, but finally I was able to make a decent loop in the end, with the right length bury. I sewed down the length of the bury with the sewing machine to help lock the loop into place. This rope is capable of holding up about 1500 pounds or so, pretty incredible for such a tiny rope. Now I had to repeat the process, and hook the rope to the tree straps. Instead of using toggles or metal hardware or something else heavy and bulky, I decided to just permanently attach one end of the whoopies to the tree straps. I took the loop I had made, put it against the flat end of the strap, and folded and sewed another loop into the end of the tree strap. Repeat, and two tree straps are ready to go. The strongest thread I had happened to be a bright silver, so thats what I used, creating the same double-boxes with X’s in the middle, as were on the original strap. Everything was double-stitched for safety. So, now I just loop the strap around the tree, pull the free end of the whoopie sling through the other tree strap loop, and clip the end to the hammock chair.
The bad part is I ordered the wrong hooks from Dutch, and now I’m waiting on the right ones to come before I can complete the whoopie slings. I’m still debating whether to use true whoopies or the UCR method. I want to cut out some rope (and weight), but at the same time have a system I can count on to not fail on me when I’m relaxing in my hammock chair. From my previous experience, fifteen feet of straps was way longer than what I really needed. I had lots of strap material left over. In the interest of cutting down on some of the bulk of the whoopie slings, I cut the total length of the straps and whoopies to 12 feet.
That’s 5 feet of tree strap and seven feet of whoopie sling. I wound up choosing the traditional slings instead of the single piece UCR rope, because the UCR rope can slip loose easier, not something you want to happen when you’re relaxing in the hammock chair. This means a little more weight and rope bulk as part of the sling.
Not having my dutch hooks yet, I still wanted to check my new weight, and took it to work to weigh. Modifications so far have removed almost a third of a pound, and a lot of stiff bulk. I was pretty impressed with the difference. Down to .67 from .97 was a big difference, a third of the TOTAL weight was in the straps I removed! Even though the ropes don’t pack as neatly as the straps, they stuff in the bag a lot better, and have some give. The dutch hooks will only add a few grams, as they are very tiny and made of titanium. I’m looking forward to finishing the chair and putting it to some use.
I found the easiest way to use the hammock chair on the trail was not to even pack it back up. I would string it up to the trees, get a snack, and take a rest. When it was time to go, I would unhook it, roll it up into a bundle commonly called a “wad”, and then just jam it into the top of the pack. That made it much easier to get out at the next rest stop. My hammock chair was cut “wrong” – it was cut at 6’x6′ instead of 5’x6′. The manufacturer asked me if that was fine and I said yes. Your chair may be slightly lighter. I like the big size, and I’m glad he asked me. You can see above that I could curl up in it, and even turn sideways and take a nap.
I like supporting cottage vendors, and even more when everything is made in ‘Murica!
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