Hammock Buyer's Guide
The appeal of Hammocks is clear—who doesn’t relish the thought of relaxing outdoors in a gently rocking hammock on a warm summer day? They have come a long way from the old rickety things that threatened to tip you out if you made a wrong move, and now there are countless options in regard to size, style, brand and price.
Before you buy, it’s important to have a good understanding of the elements of a hammock and the available options so you will be able to make the choice that best fits your needs.
Rope hammocks are the quintessence of hammocks themselves. Modern, innovative materials are used to create soft, breathable rope that is woven into an unbelievably comfortable body-cradling net.
Polyester or Cotton?
The rope is most often made of cotton or polyester, and both have their benefits. Cotton is generally thought to be the more comfortable of the two, but polyester has the edge of durability—its synthetic fibers are resistant to weather and mold, so you will have a longer time to enjoy your hammock.
Cotton, though, is the traditional hammock material; the natural fibers are breathable and will not irritate skin. Cotton's classic good looks are another plus, although those may begin to fade after a few years in the great outdoors.
It comes down to personal preference—are you more concerned about comfort and aesthetic or durability? If your hammock will be outdoors, but under a cover, cotton rope will serve you well. If it will be continually exposed to the elements, polyester rope will stand up to it and come out just as it was before.
Fabric hammocks are a step above rope hammocks in price, but more than pay for themselves in comfort and peace of mind.
For those who have difficulty finding a comfortable position on a grid of rope, fabric hammocks provide an easy solution. They also eliminate the possibility of skin irritation that can come from contact with rope.
Small arms and legs have the propensity to get stuck in small places such as the holes created by woven rope; for this reason, many parents with young children prefer fabric hammocks simply for the peace of mind they provide.
As their name implies fabric hammocks are indeed created with fabric; this means that there is a much wider variety of colors and designs available to choose from. If you are looking for a hammock to fit a certain style or color scheme, you are sure to find something to your liking in the realm of fabric hammocks.
As mentioned above, fabric hammocks are often slightly pricier than those made of rope. If you do find a cheaper one, make sure you know that it is durable and weather-resistant, otherwise you will be left with a bedraggled piece of fabric after a single outdoor season.
The hallmark of Mayan hammocks is the absence of spreader bars at each end. Instead, this centuries-old style resembles a sling, and is a perfect choice for those who worry about falling out of a hammock. Mayan hammocks are easy to get in and out of and have a low center of gravity, so you are cradled and supported on each side. This support makes them ideal for multi-person use, and they come in a variety of sizes for exactly this purpose. Mayan hammocks are known for the bright colors and flexible, supportive weave. They are well-suited to camping and backpacking use.
When the weather starts cooling off, the rope hammock that was so breathable and airy in the dog days of summer may make you feel a bit too exposed to the chilly air. Quilted hammocks have two layers and stuffing that fold around your body and keep you warm, while still allowing you to enjoy the beauty of nature. With all the cushioning, quilted hammocks are really more like swinging mattresses than anything else. Many quilted hammocks also come with a different pattern on both sides, so you can reverse it.
Hammock camping is an excellent way to travel lightly and leave minimal effects on the environment. Camping hammocks are simple, quick and easy to set up and take down, and can be used in many more places than traditional tents. They eliminate the worry about wet, rocky, or bug-infested ground, and hammock campers promise you will get the best sleep of your life. Camping hammocks are lightweight, waterproof and tear-resistant. Many also come with Velcro entrance slits in the middle of the hammock and zip on covers to keep you protected from any nocturnal precipitation.
Hammock swings are easy alternatives to the traditional hammock style if you are interested in taking a break to relax, but still being a part of what’s going on around you. Hammock swings allow you to sit up, making it more convenient to keep an eye on the kids, read a book or take in the scenery. Some of the options entail one or two person swings, rope or fabric, number of support rods, etc. The traditional rocking movement is replaced with the action of a swing, but still with the perfect-for-relaxing hammock feel. They are perfect for hanging on the front or back porch of your house.
Hammock chairs are quite similar to swings, but they have the traditional hammock sway. Again, there are all of the same options as traditional hammocks, from size, color, style, etc. Some are even available with footrests to complete your relaxation experience!
Not everyone is lucky enough to have two perfectly spaced trees in their yard, and if you do, chances are they are not in the spot you would prefer to have your hammock. This is where hammock stands come in. These simple constructions of wood or metal simplify hammock use and let you place your hammock wherever you would like. There are all different shapes and configurations of hammock stands to ensure that whatever style of hammock you have, you will not be stuck without somewhere to hang it.
Hammocks are obviously great on their own, but to really take it up a notch there a few accessories that can make them even more enjoyable.
Hammock pillows and pads
No more wriggling around trying to find that one comfortable position—with a hammock pillow and pad every position will be more comfortable than the last.
For protection while the hammock is not being used, there are waterproof sleeves that slide easily over your hammock, whether it is hanging from trees or on a stand. Hammock covers protect your hammock from the elements and ensure that it will still be in top condition after a storm.
These provide protection for both you and the hammock while you are using it. Waterproof canopies will keep you dry from any unexpected rainfall, and are especially recommended for hammock campers. Mosquito net canopies are also available to keep you safe from nature’s little mouths while still allowing you to enjoy the outdoors.
As hammocks and hammock camping becomes increasingly popular, hammock manufacturers seem to pop up everywhere. Following are two of the most reliable brands, and I would not hesitate to recommend either of them.
Hatteras Hammocks are all about relaxation and finding better ways to help you do so. Over 40 years ago, Hatteras Hammocks founder Walter J. Perkins, Jr. took apart a rope hammock not to see how it worked, but to see how he could make it better. This emphasis on improvement is the backbone of Hatteras Hammocks, and makes certain that your experience will be a good one. Their innovative rope design is a hallmark of Hatteras Hammocks. They decided their rope needed to be stronger, and when they couldn’t find a quality alternative on the market, they made their own! Though they loved the comfort of traditional cotton rope, they knew they needed to make something that would be more durable and long-lasting; thus, they came up with DuraCord, a unique synthetic cord that provides both comfort and longevity.
Hennessy Hammocks is one of the best and most trusted suppliers of camping hammocks. Tom Hennessy grew up with a love of camping, and after a one night experiment with a hammock from an army surplus store, realized that he had hit on something big. He has used Hennessy Hammocks on hikes in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and even China. He understands the need for light, sturdy equipment and has made his hammocks to match. His initial prototype was an imitation of his army hammock, but with significant improvements such as wider space to eliminate a sense of claustrophobia, netting to improve air circulation, and an adjustable weather fly to take advantage of good weather and keep out the bad. More than 50 designs later, Hennessy Hammocks has arrived at a wide selection of hammocks to fit your every need and whim. The camping hammocks even fold into sling chairs so you have less stuff to haul and more ways to use what you have while on the trail. Hennessy Hammocks are popular with scouts and campers the world over who swear by the increased comfort and ease of replacing a traditional tent with a hammock.
Hammock care is quite simple; any quality hammock will be sturdy enough to stand up to everyday wear and tear appropriate to its style. To ensure the longevity of a hammock, a hammock tube is an inexpensive solution. These simple tubes can be made of fabric, nylon, polyester, or other materials, and simply slide over the hammock to protect it when not in use.
- Spreader Bars: Bars of wood, metal or plastic that are placed at one or both ends of the hammock in order to keep it spread open
- Tree Straps: Polyester straps to wrap around trees to support a hammock without a hammock stand
- Hardware Kit: Collection of the chains, hooks and bolts required for secure hammock set up, whether with trees or a hammock stand