Is there anything more relaxing or idyllic than the thought of laying in a hammock on a breezy summer night, dozing off to the gentle swishing sound of rustling leaves and chirping birds? Perhaps that nostalgic imagery brings back happy memories of childhood summers, or if you've never experienced one of those dreamy outdoor naps, it makes you even more excited to get your first hammock. It may seem like there's not much to buying a hammock, but there are several factors to consider and types of hammocks to look at before making a decision. Read on to find out more about this fun piece of outdoor furniture and what style is best suited for your needs.
What Is a Hammock?
A hammock is a sling that is made from fabric or netting secured by and suspended from two sturdy, fixed points such as trees or a free-standing metal stand with two posts. It is used for leisure and relaxation and is often set up in a backyard or taken on beach vacations and camping trips.
Buying Considerations for a Hammock
First, think about where you're planning to place the hammock and how much space you have. A hammock can be up to 14 feet long, although the most common length tends to be 10 feet. If you want a free-standing hammock, make sure you have a flat surface such as concrete or wood for it to stand on, so that it's level and doesn't tilt in one direction which could be both dangerous and uncomfortable.
If you want a hammock that requires trees or poles for support, you'll need two decent sized trees that are up to 14—15 feet apart. Consider the particular spot where you want to place the hammock — is there enough privacy? Is the area shaded?
Hammocks come in a variety of styles and materials but are most commonly made from cotton, lightweight nylon, waterproof polyester, or canvas. Most can be easily cleaner in your washer, hand-washed, or gently spot-cleaned. Hammock spreader bars are usually made of polished wood that is weather-resistant so you don't have to worry about them rotting or disintegrating after repeatedly being rained on. Hammocks that are free-standing have a metal stand that has rubber padding on the bottom to prevent slippage and damage of the surface that it sits on.
A hammock is approximately 10 feet long (but can be anywhere from 9 to 14 feet long) and four to five feet wide. The general rule of thumb is that you want it to be at least two feet longer than your height. As for weight, a single hammock usually holds up to 400 lbs. A double hammock is larger in width, usually measuring up to six feet wide, and holds up to 500 lbs.
When it comes to various features, think about for what and where the hammock will primarily be used. If you're planning on taking it on trips to the mountains where you know you'll be hiking and weather may be an issue, you'll want a hammock that's ultra lightweight to carry and waterproof so that it dries quickly. If you're looking to spruce up your patio, going for a more decorative hammock, perhaps an intricately woven macrame-style one with fun tassels, may be a good choice. And if you live in an apartment and there isn't a tree in sight that could hold your hammock, one with a stand is the way to go!
Types of Hammocks
Hammock with a Stand
If you've been dreaming of lazy afternoon naps in a hammock but aren't sure how you could set one up because there aren't any trees in your backyard, or perhaps you don't even have a backyard, a hammock with a stand is the perfect solution. It's free-standing and consists of a sturdy metal stand and a sling that's suspended from either end of the stand. One of the biggest advantages of this particular hammock is that it can easily be moved around and set up wherever you choose, whether that's a backyard, a patio or a balcony.
Rope Hammock with a Spreader Bar
Perhaps the most classic example of a hammock, a woven rope hammock is incredibly durable and weather-resistant and can be set up between two trees. The spreader bar, which is usually made of wood, is what helps the roping keep its shape and stay flat when someone lays in the hammock. It's easy to store and doesn't take up much room since all you need to do is roll it up and it'll easily fit into a closet or storage cabinet.
Fabric Hammock with a Spreader Bar
Just like the rope hammock, a fabric hammock with a spreader bar is attached to and suspended from two trees or poles and maintains its shape thanks to the wooden bar at either end that keeps the fabric from bunching up and ensures maximum comfort. A hammock with a fabric sling that is waterproof is the best option since you won't have to worry about it being damaged if it is accidentally left out overnight during a torrential downpour. It's easy to roll up whenever hammock season is over and you need to store it away (and that's always a sad day!) or you want to pack it up to take with you on vacation.
Non-Spreader Bar Hammock
A hammock without a spreader bar is usually made from fabric such as cotton or polyester, and has two loops at either end of the sling that hang off of a hammock stand or screws in trees or poles. It's the easiest type of hammock to store, as all you need to do is fold it flat like a sheet or blanket, and since the fabric can usually be washed on the cold setting in your washing machine, it's easy to keep clean as well.
A double hammock, sometimes called a two-person hammock, is wider than a regular one and is designed to hold more than one person and usually between 270 and 500 lbs. The slings come in fabric and rope versions with or without spreader bars and are available with and without stands.
As the name suggests, a camping hammock is easily portable and designed to take with you on camping and other trips. They are usually made from a light and weather-resistant material such as nylon or polyester, which means they're easy to wash and dry quickly whether you're away or at home.
Perhaps the least familiar of all the hammock styles, the hammock chair is sometimes also referred to as an egg chair or a swing chair. It is either a free-standing, egg-shaped chair with a comfy cushion that hangs off a metal stand, or a round woven chair that you can hang off a sturdy tree branch or secure screw in the ceiling (in a sunroom or below a deck, for example).
When it comes to cost, prices range from $30 for a basic hammock to hundreds of dollars for more sophisticated, high-end versions. If you are on a tight budget, don't want to spend too much on this item, may only use it for a couple of months out of the year, or live in a rental that you know you won't be in for very long, you may choose to go with a more budget-friendly option that will still give you all the benefits of a hammock, but for a lower cost.
If, however, you know the hammock will get plenty of use for years to come, or you plan on taking it on your travels with you regularly, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality piece that will last you for years to come and won't need to be replaced anytime soon.
How to Choose a Hammock
With so many different hammocks to choose from, there is definitely a style for everyone. Once you know how much space you're working with, figure out the type of hammock that will best fit your needs, taste and budget. A good way to narrow down your decision is by asking yourself some of the following:
How Will You Use It?
The frequency of use as well as its purpose will affect what type of hammock is right for you. If you plan on taking it on trips, consider options that are lightweight, easy to pack and made from durable, weather-resistant materials. If it'll only be taken out occasionally, you may want to go with a budget-friendly option, but if it'll get a lot of use for a good portion of the year, you may consider investing in a higher quality hammock that will be more durable and last you for years to come.
What Does the Rest of Your Space Look Like?
The type of property you live in will determine whether you need a free-standing hammock or not, and if it's going to be a permanent (or semi-permanent) fixture in your backyard, patio or balcony, you'll want to make sure that it fits in with the rest of the space. Think about the look you're trying to create and whether you want to go for a serene, relaxed vibe with a delicately woven or neutral-colored hammock, or if you want to create a more vibrant, fun and kid-friendly set-up with a more colorful, patterned hammock that will add a pop of color and comfort to your space.
Who Will Use It Most?
Next, you want to figure out who will use it most frequently; whether it will only be one person at a time or more than one, whether it'll be kids or adults. This will determine the hammock size and whether you need a single size that can hold up to 300 lbs, or a wider double hammock that can hold more than one person and up to 500 lbs at a time.
Where to Shop
With a huge range of hammocks available on the market, the places where you can buy them are just as numerous. Unlike an item like a sofa or a mattress, you don't necessarily need to test out a hammock in store (although you certainly can!), so shopping online is a fast and easy option.
Shopping for a hammock online will give you the largest number of options; from budget-friendly hammocks with two-day shipping and high-end versions made from quality materials and featuring sleek designs, to standard big box retailer hammocks and more unique, handmade ones on sites that sell handmade products. Read the product reviews and check the return policy and delivery options and charges to make sure you are fully informed.
Buying in Store
If you're looking to invest a little more in a hammock and want to use it for a specific purpose, say camping, purchasing it in store can be a good idea. That way, you can see it fully set up, feel the materials for yourself and compare various versions. Any large outdoor or sporting goods retailer is a good place to check out and will likely have multiple hammock options for you to consider and even try out.
How much does a hammock cost?
Hammocks range anywhere from well under $100 for a budget option to $1,000 for a high-end version.
How do you clean a hammock?
Check the instructions, but most hammocks can go in the washing machine, be hand-washed by submerging them in warm water, or be gently spot-cleaned.
How long does a hammock last?
If it is properly cleaned and taken care of, and not left outside in bad weather repeatedly and for long periods of time, a hammock can last you for decades.