Paracord has now become a general-purpose utility cord. Though it is easily available it is not too robust. Many hammocker’s are in a dilemma if this paracord can be used to hold a hammock. Also, people who have just started using hammocks or are going to set up a hammock for the first time often consider paracord as the easiest option for a hammock.
But will Paracord hold a hammock? Well, Paracord is not a good choice when it comes to holding or tying down a hammock. It is not recommended for holding or for any other part of your hammock set up.
There are several reasons to tell, why paracord is not suitable for hammocks. But before going ahead, let’s discuss, What is it?
What is a Paracord?
Paracord is a lightweight nylon or polyester rope braided together. 550 cord is usually known as paracord that can hold a static 550 lbs. Paracord is a amazing rope, and have a million uses. But it’s not a good choice for hammocks. It has relatively low strength, and is specifically designed to stretch under load.
Paracord – Unsuitable for Hammocks
Some of the properties of paracord make it incompatible when it comes to a hammock.
As mentioned before, paracord is made up of nylon fiber. Hence it can stretch. Any rope or fabric that is stretchy will cause the hammock to sink when loaded. So practically, if you are using a paracord as the suspension system, it will not stay in its place for a longer time. Plus with time and the load, it tends to droop down, which can be dangerous.
This is also because paracord is high memory stretch, i.e it stretches continuously every time you put a load on it.
Paracord is usually 550 cord, hence it is said to have the ability to hold a weight of around 550 pounds, but as you will be moving in your hammock and hanging in from two suspension points. It will create pressure to increase its stretching ability.
Note: I have thus not recommended paracord for ridgeline as it won’t hold the tension off the suspension. As it is not rigid, it will not help in creating the same sag every time.
Paracord is made up of three nylon strands per inner core. The thickness of the paracord thus depends on the number of cores that are used in the braided sheath. Paracord normally has a thickness of 4mm (7 or 8 Inner cores), which is too thin for holding a hammock. So to put it exactly, Type III paracord (550 cord) is about 3/16″ thick when relaxed, 1/8″ thick or less when stretched tight.
However, for holding a hammock, a thickness of around 1 inch is recommended.
Some people double the paracord and use it for a hammock. This can sustain for some time, but please check your hammock suspension for any wear and tear before using it twice.
Also as hammocks are heavy and you are going to put all your weight on the hammock, you will not be able to relax, if you keep wondering about its balance.
Paracord is made into different types. There are even paracords with specifications of 750 lbs and as mentioned before can hold the same weight relatively. But there is always a ‘can’. Paracord is not too strong considering the dynamic load for motion. This means, any type of bouncing, swinging can lower a ropes strength to 60-65 %. Even sharp angles or knots weaken the paracord. According to this the safe working load of a 550 paracord is much lesser than 550 lbs.
So if you have to access the adequacy of the safe load, never dangle your life from the end of 550 cord. It can only take a load (considering the factors) of about 100- 160 lbs.
Other factors affect strength – State (wet or dry); Angle between the ropes and distance between the trees.
Tip: If you want to use a paracord for hanging your hammock, you can use the ones with a working load of 1000 lbs. So there is some protection comparing to the 550 cord.
As the paracord is thin, it scratches the bark of the tree. The nylon fibers will snag on tree bark and wear over time. I have even stated in my previous article “Do Hammocks Hurt Trees?” that a thick rope will do less damage to the tree bark than a thin one.
When paracord is used to tie a hammock, it stretches with the load and injures the bark continuously. This harms the shaft cambium. In most places hanging the hammock in the parks are banned because of this.
Tip: You can use small sticks to place in-between the tree and the rope to keep the rope from stifling and cutting the tree.
Choosing the right thing to hold a hammock.
Why are we hanging ourselves to the paracord, when there are so many reliable sources that can be used to hold a hammock? Though paracord is the most ancient and easily available rope, it’s risky. Manufacturers have now come up with multiple options to be used to hang and hold the hammock.
Straps & Tubular Webbings: These are the best options for hanging a hammock. These are easily available. Also, ecofriendly straps are now manufactured and are strong enough to support your hammock. Another pro is that these are compact, lightweight and portable. Tubular webbings, however, may not be too ecofriendly, but these do not harm the trees.
Ropes & chains: These are not the first choice, but a good alternative for a paracord. Ropes are being used as suspension systems for a hammock for a long time. But make sure to use a thick or braided rope. Also, Ropes can always be avoided as they can harm trees. As far as chains are considered, they are not much harmful to the trees, if used along with eyebolts.
Whoopie Sling: It is made out of Amsteel and is an adjustable, non-stretchy material. These are recently used for hanging a hammock because its ecofriendly.
Hammock Hanging Hardware: These are used for hanging a permanent hammock using j-hooks, s- hooks and chains & carabiners.
Besides these, using a hammock stand is one of the best suspension methods.
What are the uses of Paracord?
Dont get me wrong. If its not useful for hanging a hammock its doesn’t mean that its useless. I’m not against Paracords. Infact, Paracords are fabulous. These are lightweight, good with the knots and durable. If you are going camping, I would recommend keeping paracord bracelets handy. This is like one magic rope that can be used in a lot of places.
Let me a list down few uses of a paracords:
- Paracords can be used to tie tarps or guy lines.
- Paracords are often used as gear line, or for hanging other camping stuff.
- For emergencies, paracord can be used to tie your shoelace, or hanging your hunting knife, or as a fishing stringer.
Just remember, it is not good to rely on paracord to support human weight. Although people use it, I will just tell them to calculate your parameters and be safe.
All in all!!
Paracord is magnificent for many things. Hammocking and climbing aren’t two of them. I would recommend you to use other options for your hammock that are more reliable and which do not damage the trees.
Using the paracord to support the weight of your hammock will be of no use. Paracord being stretchy will stretch overnight and is thus unsafe.