I read on a website that you need a special needle and thread for your sewing machine to sew ripstop nylon. Is this true? Also, are there any stitches that work better. I'm just sewing the hem along the edges for a hammock, nothing special.
Nope. Either a universal or microtex (sharp) works fine. Just don't use the ball-point type, those are for knits. For light ripstop, like you'd use for a sleeping bag or wind jacket, a small-ish needle would be better, like and 80/12 or 70/10. If you're using Tex 40 thread and/or a heavier material, you may find a 90/14 will work better.
The Schmetz brand is considered the best by many, myself included.
Loc: On top of the North Downs, UK
I agree completely with billk. I usually sew very light weight rip-stop (making kites with kids), and for that an ordinary size 60 or 70 Universal is excellent.
The only problem you might encounter is the stuff slipping or sticking to the machine/foot . Which is does depends on the coating and the side of the fabric you are working on. I find that a roller foot* or Teflon** foot and slightly increased foot pressure helps. I also use as long a stitch as I can: fewer holes to seal and a reduced chance of the stitches ripping the fabric (and yes, along a seam with too small stitches, even rip-stop will rip!).
I stitched up a hammock last night and it's hanging in the back yard now. The lady at the fabric store said I might use tissue paper on either side when I hemed the ripstop, but I had no problems and I did keep a little tension on the seam as I ran it trough the machine. My stitch wasn't perfect but I didn't pin anything either. I made a couple of stuff sacks for my heine cook set while I was at it. Practice makes perfect or at least better.