Portable Hammock Stands for Camping by Derek Hansen

author-on-hammock-stand

No trees for that hammock? No problem.

This is irony: I’m a hammock camping fanatic, surrounded by the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in North America, yet I moved into a neighborhood devoid of trees. My entire 2-acre lot is barren, and while I’ve planted a few trees, it will be years before I’ll be able to hang anything more than a bird feeder. To make matters worse, I live in the American Southwest, a region known more for red rocks and sand dunes than forests and trees.

elcos_hammock

So for the past few years I’ve collected and even built a variety of hammock stands out of necessity. Like any good recreationist, I know the value of testing gear in the backyard before proving it in the field. But these hammock stands serve a more practical purpose beyond the casual backyard test. I’ve often found myself in areas where pitching a hammock was a challenge, and where having a portable hammock stand would have been ideal. Here are a few examples:

  • Improved campgrounds where camping is restricted to specific “plots” and trees are not reachable
  • Hanging hammocks on trees is not allowed (in certain national and state parks, for example)
  • At group camping events (e.g., bicycle touring; local or national scouting camporees or jamborees) where you must camp in large fields
  • On river trips where camping is restricted to sandy riverbanks
  • At locations where there is no vegetation–no trees, no nothing (e.g., much of the American Southwest: Arches, Escalante, Grand Canyon, etc.)
  • Above the tree line

I’ve learned many (often expensive and even painful) lessons during this “collection” process. First, most traditional backyard spreader bar hammock stands are not designed for most camping hammocks, nor are they engineered to accommodate a tarp. Some portable hammock stands are simply too heavy and bulky for anything but car camping, and some stands are too complicated or require unique handling to work correctly. Other portable stands require significant anchoring (and more real estate) to work properly, while others are free-standing.

hammock-stand-airfield

Good or bad, some of the best stands for camping hammocks are do-it-yourself projects, some more complicated to construct than others. If you’re comfortable with do-it-yourself projects and have the necessary tools and know-how, these stands can be a fun to make. But don’t let the “DIY” label scare you — some of these stands can be assembled without any tools in just a few minutes.

After spending a lot of time buying and building stands, I’ve gravitated to the following criteria when evaluating them for hammock camping:

  1. Is it truly portable (e.g., it can break down and fit in my sedan)?
  2. Is it easy to assemble in the field (especially with just one person)?
  3. Is it affordable?
  4. Can it accommodate a tarp without flexing?
  5. Is it structurally sound and sturdy?
  6. Can it hold more than one hammock?

Items one through three are arguably very subjective. What you can afford in terms of cost, assembly time, and transportation are as variable as the user. I’ll argue that items four and five are mandatory, as you don’t want to compromise your health or safety with a stand that fails or cannot hold a tarp taut in severe weather. Number six is a bonus item, and not often applicable, but it’s handy if, like me, you often camp with friends or family.

The following list of stands isn’t meant to be exhaustive and is not ordered by any means, but it illustrates some of the options that fit my criteria, within reason.

Do you have a hammock stand that you prefer that’s not on this list? Let me know in the comments.

  • Portable Pipe Stand (DIY)
  • Byer of Maine Vario Hammock Stand
  • TurtleDog/Tripod Hammock Stand (DIY)
  • 2×4 Hammock Stand (DIY)
  • Handy Hammock Stand
  • 3-Person Hammock Stand (DIY)
  • Anchored Pole Stand (DIY)
  • 3-Pole, 3-Person Tensegrity Stand (DIY)

Pipe-Stand-with-a-Ticket-to-the-Moon-Double-hammock

Portable Pipe Stand (DIY)

Portable: Breaks down into six pieces that can fit into a trunk with the back seat down. Six ft (1.8 m) pipe lengths. Packs down flat.

Field Assembly: 1 person. Moderately easy. Steel components are heavy. I leave the “feet” assembled for easier assembly.

Affordable: $180 depending on pipe size, etc.

Fits a tarp: Yes. This stand is just over 12 ft (3.7 m) long and fits most hammock tarps.

Flex: No flex.

Sturdy: Very sturdy. All-steel construction. Make sure all fittings are tight.

Comments: This is the stand I use when I do hammock demonstrations. It’s car portable, easy to assemble, and doesn’t flex. I was able to buy the parts from a local hardware store and build it without any special tools within a few minutes.


byer-of-maine-vario-stand

Byer of Maine Vario Hammock Stand

Portable: Breaks down into five pieces that can fit into a trunk with the back seat down. The legs are the most cumbersome as they don’t lay flat.

Field Assembly: 1 person. Easy. Steel components are heavy.

Affordable: $180

Fits a tarp: Yes. This stand is adjustable and you can even buy an extension adapter to go really long (up to 180 in/457 cm).

Flex: It does flex, although less than most backyard stands.

Sturdy: The Vario is steel and very solid. The only weak points are where the screw knobs connect, but when properly fitted, there is no worry over construction.

Comments: The best commercial backyard hammock stand I’ve tested that works with camping hammocks (with deep sags). It’s adjustable and has worked with even my longest hammocks. This was the stand I used to take on demonstrations, but the poles flex when you get in, making the tarp sag. Other commercial stands aren’t high enough for Brazilian-style hammocks


turtle-dog-stand-1

TurtleDog/Tripod Hammock Stand (DIY)

lashed-hammock-stand

Portable: Breaks down to as few as three pieces that can fit into a trunk with the back seat down. The tripods can be built in a variety of ways for easier storage, but most use long struts.

Field Assembly: 1 person. Easy.

Affordable: $0 to $100s+

Fits a tarp: Possible. Depending on how you build this stand. The top rail is the limiting factor on whether a tarp will fit over the hammock.

Flex: No flex.

Sturdy: To improve the structural integrity, some folks recommend adding a rope around the base of the tripods to prevent them from flaying outward.

Comments: This is one of the more popular do-it-yourself hammock camping stands, probably because it can be built in the field if materials are readily available. The rigid top rail prevents the stand from flexing, making it possible to hang a taut tarp above the hammock. This stand can be constructed a variety of ways, including using wood/bamboo struts with a tripod lashing and a top rail, or using hinges, bolts, and steel beams.

Hennessy Hammock patented a variation of this stand that they’ve used at multiple Boy Scout World Jamborees. The beauty of this tripod-based stand is that it can grow to accommodate multiple hammocks, creating a hammock village.

hennessy-stand-jamboree2

2x4-stand-aboyd

2×4 Hammock Stand (DIY)

2x4-stand-folded

Portable: Requires tools to unfasten bolts, but can be disassembled into as few as 3 pieces. Some can fold into just one piece.

Field Assembly: 1 person. Easy.

Affordable: $100+

Fits a tarp: Possible. Depending on how you build this stand. Longer stands will support tarps better.

Flex: No flex.

Sturdy: Sturdy construction, depending on materials used.

Comments: A lot of people have gotten very creative with fencing pipe, poles, and wood struts, creating hammock stands to suit their own needs. This is one of the more popular examples using construction materials to assemble the stand. The 2×4 stand can be built to fold down and then carried in the bed of a truck. It’s not as portable than other stands due to its pack size and weight.


handy-hammock-kilimanjaro

Handy Hammock Stand

handy-hammock-one-strut

Portable: Folds up and is backpacker-friendly.

Field Assembly: 1 person. Moderately easy.

Affordable: $99

Fits a tarp: Possible. The struts can be pulled apart to accommodate a tarp.

Flex: No flex.

Sturdy: Very sturdy. Uses tensegrity to maintain structure. Requires good staking.

Comments: This is the only backpacker-friendly stand on the market. At approximately 1 kg, this stand can be easily portaged, carried, and packed to nearly any destination. For beaches, Handy Hammock sells longer “beach stakes” that keep the stand sturdy in soft sand.

For more photos and modifications, check out my Handy Hammock review.


3-person-hammock-stand-2

3-Person Hammock Stand (DIY)

Portable: Breaks down to three struts, rope, and stakes. Hard to fit in a sedan trunk.

Field Assembly: 1-2 person. Moderately easy.

Affordable: $40

Fits a tarp: Yes.

Flex: Slight flex, depending on rope used.

Sturdy: The design is based on tensegrity, which channels compressive forces through the struts. It is remarkably sturdy.

Comments: I used the instructions from bweebweebwee.com and found the design to be rock-solid, even with cheap rope. This stand takes up a good amount of real estate, but it is a great center piece at a camporee and can double as a group kitchen area and lounge. This is the only stand that can easily accommodate more than one hammock by design.


anchored-pole-stand

Anchored Pole Stand (DIY)

anchored-pole-stand-Blackbird-and-tarp

Portable: Breaks down to two struts/pipes, rope, and stakes. Can be hard to fit in a sedan trunk if the struts are too long (put the seats down!).

Field Assembly: 1-2 person. Moderately easy.

Affordable: $40+

Fits a tarp: Yes.

Flex: Slight flex, depending on rope used.

Sturdy: The design is similar to the Handy Hammock design but the force distribution varies depending on construction.

Comments: This is a fairly simple design, but solid anchoring is very important. If the design is tweaked so the struts are at a 60-degree angle, more compressive forces are placed on the struts instead of pulling directly up on the stakes.

This anchored pole design can be used when you only have one tree or support to anchor your hammock. A commercial variation of this is the Byer of Maine Madera stand (below). It uses two struts and one tendon/anchor, but it works much in the same way.

byer-of-maine-madera-stand

Let me reiterate the importance of good anchoring with these stands. Depending on the angle of the strut/pole, you can exert more load on the anchors than they are designed for. I recommend getting 2 ft (61 cm) or longer rebar as stakes and pounding them in at a 60-degree angle away from the struts for maximum support.


new-tensegrity-6

3-Pole, 3-Person Tensegrity Stand (DIY)

tensegrity-stand-camporee-001

Portable: Breaks down to three (or more) strut/pipe sections, rope, and stakes. Can be hard to fit in a sedan trunk if the struts are too long.

Field Assembly: 2 person. Moderately challenging.

Affordable: $100+

Fits a tarp: Yes.

Flex: Slight flex, depending on rope/”tendons” used.

Sturdy: Tensegrity can be very strong and sturdy, but this stand is not exactly “free-standing” in every respect and requires stake-outs, especially if only one person is hanging.

Comments: This is one of those physics-defying stands that doesn’t look like it should work. When I first saw it, I had to try it. I will say that this stand is complicated to build. There are much easier stands to construct and assemble in the field. However, this one gets a lot of “oh-my-gosh-this-is-cool” points, even if it takes 30+ minutes to finally assemble.

When this design was first attempted, a lot of people wondered if it would be free-standing. In practice, it isn’t. The stand requires some good anchoring to prevent tipping, especially with one occupant. I tried making this stand using sections of fence pipe. The fence coupling I used wasn’t strong enough and eventually bent, collapsing this stand on top of me. If you use pole sections, be sure the sections have strong couplings and do not bend.

Derek Hansen

Derek Hansen

About Derek Hansen

Derek Hansen is a lightweight backpacker, Scoutmaster, and “hammock enthusiast” who enjoyed his first hammock hang at age 14 at a Boy Scout High Adventure base. Derek rediscovered the wonders hammock camping 16 years later in Virginia, and has been avoiding the ground ever since. Derek maintains a blog on hammock camping and lightweight backpacking at TheUltimateHang.com, and is the author/illustrator of The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping.

This article was sponsored by RailRiders Adventure Clothing, The Toughest Clothes on the Planet. Hikers, backpackers, and professional guides swear by their adventure apparel because it is lightweight, super-tough, fast-drying and ventilated. For more information or to sign up for a free catalog, visit RailRiders.com.

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30 Responses to Portable Hammock Stands for Camping by Derek Hansen

  1. Marco May 23, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Good MYOG article. Thanks!

  2. M.Pearl May 23, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Great info, I really enjoy DIY! I recently completed a DIY tarp and hammock that awaits its maiden voyage.

  3. Alissa May 23, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    Wow. You’ve really done your research. Good work!

  4. Derek Hansen May 23, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Thanks all! Do-it-yourself projects can be very rewarding, even if it “costs” more in time.

  5. Tim May 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    That’s quite a variety of options. I agree that DIY projects are more rewarding. I’d probably go with the anchored pole setup because it looks like the lightest DIY configuration. Thanks for the ideas, Derek.

  6. BMW May 23, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Ah… Doney parks winds. We still hammock ourselves despite the lack of trees.

    • Derek Hansen May 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      You recognize my hood? :) Yes, we still hang without trees (although, you don’t have to walk far to get back into the forest).

  7. Jolly Green Giant May 23, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Top notch article. If hammockers are one thing, they are inventive. I’ve got a MYOG stand made of piping. It was a bit pricier than I hoped, but it’s fun to have an indoor option without ripping down the walls. Great book too Derek.

    • Derek Hansen May 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      Thanks! Great to hear from you again. I do a lot of indoor hangs on my stands as well, especially when I’m testing gear. It’s just so convenient.

  8. Larry May 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    On your DIY pipe stand you keep in your house, how do you suspend your hammock. I’m completely new, have your book and get the gyst of the stand but can’t wrap my head around how your hammock is tied up without sliding down the poles. I’ve had an eno singlenest for a couple years and sadly haven’t had the time to hang it up due to my very urban environment…..and kids.

    • Derek Hansen May 24, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      I can relate! I also drilled eye bolts into the walls in my kids’ room so we can do bunk bed hammocks indoors. It’s always a lot of fun.

      For the pipe stand, I just use webbing straps. I haven’t had any slipping problems. I first wrap the strap a few times around the pipe and then through the sewn eye loop. I wrap above and below the strap and it really binds well.

      The straps I prefer to use in demos are either the ENO Atlas straps or the KAMMOK Python straps. They are functionally similar in providing several daisy chain loops along the webbing so I can attach different hammocks quickly and easily with just a climbing carabiner.

  9. Gail Storey May 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Your magnificent post on hammocks, exhaustive but not exhausting! opens a whole new world for me, after years of sleeping at bug-and-snake level while camping. Thank you!

    • Derek Hansen May 24, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      You’re welcome, and thanks. I can be a windbag when it comes to hammocks and I work hard at being concise, although it doesn’t always work. I appreciate your kindness!

      When I re-discovered hammock camping, the idea of sleeping off the ground had great appeal. I had grown tired of the post camp clean-up, which involved sweeping out the tent, scraping the slugs and wet leaves off the floor, and then drying everything out. It was mind-numbing and took the fun out of camping. You could say that hammock camping appealed to my inner laziness, but I like to think of it as simplifying. Of course, hammock camping can get as complex as any tent, but I still gravitate to simple setups, and getting off the bugs, snakes, and wet leaves is also appealing.

  10. Sue May 24, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Great article! Thank you for this info! The Byer of Maine Madera stand seems very portable. Can two stands be used together to create a treeless hammock hang? Thanks again.

  11. Derek Hanse May 24, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    Yes, you could use two stands, but a lot of force is being held by a single stake. If you are looking for a stand you can easily carry, I’d go with the Handy Hammock. A tripod stand doesn’t require any stakes.

  12. John June 25, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Would the Portable Pipe Stand still work if the 6′ sections were replaced by two 3′ sections and a connector? If so it would then pack down smaller and fit in a car trunk without folding the seat down. (I have a difficult time figuring out where the stresses are on these structures.)

    I appreciate your knowledge and your skill and generosity in sharing it. I love your blog and your book.

  13. Derek Hansen June 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    John, the smaller sections might work. I’ve never tried it and I’m not a pipe expert. If I were to use smaller pipe I’d probably go with thicker pipe (1.5 to 2 inch thick) to compensate. You’re introducing multiple weak points in the structure so I would be cautious.

    If trunk portability is more important, you might consider an anchored stand. You can use surplus military mast sections which come in 4 ft sections. They work great, but it’s not free standing.

  14. Kerri June 26, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Hi Derek, I’m loving my pipe stand although it weighs a ton. Can you tell me what is the stand in the picture with the aircraft please? That looks very interesting. The problem I’ve had with most portable stands is that I’m pretty heavy and any pegs in the ground just pull out – even those fancy ones from Hammock Forums (can’t remember the name). I love the idea of the Handy Hammock, but I’m too heavy for it. I tried the single pole and pegs – the pegs came out. So far, the pipe stand has proved perfect but it’s just heavy and bulky. Thoughts on the stand in the aircraft pic?

  15. Derek Hansen June 27, 2013 at 12:08 am #

    Kerri, the plane stand is a little more complex to construct and also requires staking, so it may not work for you. I would recommend the turtle dog stand, which is fairly easy to build, free-standing, and much lighter than the pipe stand. The 2×4 stand is also lighter and breaks down well, but there is more to construct.

  16. Seth McAlister June 27, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Hey Derek,

    I’ve been considering the pipe stand for a bit. I finally picked a hammock up for my wife and oldest daughter – haven’t decided what we’ll do for our 1 year old yet. What I had been thinking in my head was attaching another section of pipe at the top junction and into another pipe stand so there would be 2 parallel to each other. I figured this would allow two hammocks side by side…if only one needed to hang, i could run it on the diagonal. In addition, since the pipes are good for upwards of 300 lbs. or so, I can suspend one or two in bunk bed fashion for the kids.

    What are your thoughts?

  17. John June 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    Derek – thank you for your reply. I asked my architect friend about replacing the 72″ sections with 2 x 36″ and here is his reply:

    “That piece is operating in a structural state called “bending” (or, more hopefully, the absence thereof).

    Bending is the hardest nut to crack. Bending forces are greatest at, you guessed it, the middle – right at the weakest point of your proposed seam.

    You might could design some sort of overlap splice or “scab/gusset’ to overcome this flaw but a simple connection will cause problems there.”

    I don’t know which 72″ section he is referring to but either way I don’t think this stand is the solution to my problem. I think I will go with the antenna mast poles stand even though the footprint is larger than I would like it to be.

    • Joel Dare March 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

      I wonder if you could overcome the “bending” problem by splitting the poles into three equal pieces instead of 2. That way, the majority of the force is still in the center of the center pole. Your splits would be both above and below that point. As a bonus, three sections would be even more portable than two.

      ——–===——–===——–

  18. Randy July 3, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    Newbe 63 to hammock camping and looking at ideas and how to. I do not know anything about these spiral stakes, but might be something to test? thanks, Randy Petco Spiral Tie-Out Stake with Cable
    Super strong, solid steel shaft spiral stake with vinyl-coated cable tie-out. Just screw the spiral stake into the ground, attach the tie-out, and you’re ready to give your dog room to roam. Quick-and-easy-to-install spiral stake with arrowhead design screws into ground and stays firmly anchored. Super strong, solid steel shaft. Double welded. Features 360 degree swivel ring to attach tie-out cable. Strong galvanized steel aircraft cable with 920 lb. break strength. Crack-resistant UV-protected vinyl coating stops rust and corrosion. Smooth vinyl coating won’t scratch furniture or damage lawns. Safer and stronger than chain or rope tie-outs. Steel lock-snaps at both ends.

  19. CampingMaxx July 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I stumbled upon here in a hunt for some DIY hammock solutions, and I’ll be darned this is ALL the info I was looking for. Thank you so much Derek! And btw, the familyroom hammock pic is classic!

  20. David July 20, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    What is the stand in the third picture with the planes?

  21. Derek Hansen July 21, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    David, the stand with the planes is a pipe-style stand I would call a rocking horse stand. It requires staking. Looks cool but more involved to make.

  22. Sherri August 4, 2013 at 8:07 am #

    I’ve been brainstorming hammock stands for several years now. Just recently had this idea for making a stationary stand: bury 2, maybe 3-4′ long, sleeves of pipe in the ground angling away from the hammock, then using longer pieces of pipe, maybe 9-10′ in length and with eye bolts, slid down inside the buried sleeves to hang the hammock on.

  23. koolaidguzzler September 1, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Terrific article.

  24. Ken Lane January 9, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    I just picked this hammock stand up off Amazon and am currently using it for my full-time sleeper inside my house. It seems to work great, sets up and breaks down in about 5 minutes, and will fit in the trunk of a car: Universal hammock Stand.

  25. alvan March 1, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    There are so many ways to use a camp hammock I’m always impressed to see new ways they can be set up. It’s such a versatile outdoor item it’s no surprise they’re catching on with more campers.

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