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Making gear--Whoopie Slings!

Have you ever made any of your own equipment? For me, it goes back to fly-fishing--I can be content to catch fish all day long on store-bought flies, but it is so much more satisfying to do it on flies you tied yourself. This was true for me when I lived in Michigan where I could cast a fly on just about any open water and have a chance to hook something. The same concept applies to my camping and backpacking gear.

I have a basic hammock setup for camping and have been looking to refine the suspension system in order to allow for some fine tuning on length adjustment. (Up to now, length adjustment for me has been strictly the loops on the tree straps which are about every 8 inches.) In the process of learning how whoopie slings work to see if this is what I need, it didn’t take long for me to ask “Why can’t I make these myself?” Of course, the answer to that question was “I can!” It won’t save you a whole lot of money (it may cost more if you don’t carefully check prices on the line), but you will have a thorough understanding of how they work and the satisfaction of using gear you crafted yourself.

Here’s how I went about making whoopie slings (two sets--one for Lovely Wife and one for myself) using the methods demonstrated by Ian Young on his YouTube channel (find the video here→ . Be sure to check out his other videos, too!). Here’s what I used for each set:

25’ of Amsteel 1/8“

2 Beads (I used nylon spacers found in the specialty item drawers at Lowe’s)

A very sharp knife (a rotary cutting mat comes in handy, too)

Measuring tape

A Sharpie

A fish tool (made from smooth wire--I used precut wire for hanging a suspended ceiling)

A fid (I used a mechanical pencil--it comes to a point but is blunt and smooth. A smooth large nail will work, as well)

The first step is to cut the line in half so you have two 12½’ lengths and taper all four ends. This material is made using Dyneema, an extremely strong and tough material. Do your scissors a favor and don't even try them.

To taper each end, measure back 1” from the end and use the fid (in my case, the pencil) to pull strands out of the short portion of rope. Dynaglide and most Amsteel lines are 12 strands so I pulled 6 strands out at that point--select strands evenly spaced around the line so the taper will be even. (7/64” Amsteel is 8 strands.) Once you have them pulled out, use the knife to remove the pulled strands very close to the line and smooth down the end for your taper.

Next we need to build the static loop on one end. At this point, I recommend (as Mr. Young does in the video) working on only one line section at a time to avoid the mistake of inadvertently putting a static loop at each end of the same line. The static loop is made by burying four inches of the line inside itself and leaving a 3” loop. Note that you will do this for both lines.

Use the measuring tape to mark the line with the Sharpie. The taper is the first inch--do not count that as part of the bury because you’ve made it small enough that the line won’t reliably grasp it. Add the four inches after the taper for the bury and mark the line at 5” point. The 3” loop will require 6” of line, so add that to the 5” and place another mark at the 11” point.

At the 11” mark, work the weave of the line loose and insert the fish tool straight through the middle, making sure you have the same number of strands on each side of the tool. (The fish tool is just a piece of narrow, smooth wire folded in half with a blunt nose formed at the bend.) Open a gap between the legs of the tool and insert the tapered in into the tip of the fish tool. Remove the tapered end from the fish tool. Pull the end of the line back through the line, forming a loop (do not close the loop) until the mark at 5” has been pulled through.

Work the weave of the line at the 5” mark and push the fish tool through at this point (again, make sure you have an equal number of strands on each side). Insert the tapered end from the long end of the line (not the one you just finished pulling through) and bring that through the line. Pull the line through until the two junctions form what looks like a short daisy-chain. Pull the line tight so the two junctions come together to form a Brummel hitch. The loop that is formed will be the 3” static loop once the tail is buried into the main line.

Pull the tail end (short part) along the main line and then select a point 1½” to 2” further down. Work the weave loose at that point and insert the fish tool into the hollow of the line back toward the loop. Carefully work the fish tool through the line (without exiting it) back to the Brummel hitch. Bring the end of the fish tool out as close to the hitch as possible and insert the taper of the tail into the fish tool. Pull the tail through and remove the taper from the fish tool. Work the gathered weave of the main line down the taper until it disappears into the main line. Smooth the weave down from the hitch along the rope. The static loop is now in place. Repeat on the second line.

Now that you have static loops on both of your lines, it is time to mark where you’ll be doing the buries for the slings. Since you’re making these as a set, mark them at the same time so they will be identical. Pull out the tape measure and line the static loops to the end. The buries for the static loops end at about the 8” mark (feel the lines, you can feel where the tapers end). Leave at least 4” of undisturbed line between the ends of the tapers and the end of the long bury that will form the whoopie sling by putting your first mark at 12”. According to Mr. Young’s video, the sling will work with as little as 6” of bury and as much as 12”--I tend to over-engineer things, so I went with 11” and put my second mark at 23”.

Starting at the mark closest to the static loop, insert the fish tool into the hollow of the line and work it through to the further mark (from the 12” mark to the 23” mark). If you loosen the weave slightly and gather the line on the fish tool, this will go easier. Regardless of that advice, this is likely the most difficult part of the whole process--my fish tool kept wanting to exit the line before I wanted it to do so. Bring the tip of the fish tool out at the other mark.

The next step is one that I ALMOST missed--Don’t forget to add the bead to the line. The bead (or, as I used for this project, the nylon spacers) prevents the adjustable loop from being pulled into (or through) the bury and ruining the sling. Just slip this onto the line over the taper.

Once the bead is on the line, insert the taper into the fish tool and pull the line through the long bury. By having the weave of the bury section loosened and gathered on the fish tool, this should not be too difficult. Remove the taper from the fish tool and pull the line through and smooth the weave of the bury down over the line. This leaves an adjustable loop with the bead on it.

The last step is to finish the end of the long line. Fold over the end of the line about three inches (1” of taper and 2” of line). From the end of the taper, measure a couple inches further down the line and open the weave for the fish tool. Insert the fish tool and run it up the hollow of the line to the fold and exit the rope. Insert the taper into the fish tool and pull it back into the line. Carefully pull the end through until the tail reaches the point where you brought the taper into the hollow of the line--you do not want to go beyond that point because it will turn the line inside out and damage it. Gather the line onto the tail until you can remove the fish tool and smooth the weave down while gently pulling the end to pull the taper inside. This gives the whoopie sling a finished loop and makes the end of the line bigger so it is not likely to be pulled into the long bury.

Your whoopie sling is now complete! Repeat the finishing steps on the other one and you have a matched pair of whoopie slings for your camping hammock!

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