The approach of summer brings with it an anticipation of all things cheerful, relaxing and rejuvenating. The smell of campfire, the adventure sports, the trips to the beach, roasting marshmallows over a fire while sharing ghost stories and trekking through warm forests with little woodland creatures flitting beside you are just some of the summery childhood memories we all carry throughout our lives. As the year progresses, the air will start to warm up and take on a more vibrant color to it. As the snow starts to melt and the final snowfall falls from the last tree branch as a drop of water, leaves will start to grow on trees and flowers will start blooming as most of nature will come out of its hibernation period. There is pleasantness to the air, it does not seem to bite your skin the minute you step out of your house. As a result, the onset of spring and summer usually means more and more people will begin to spend their leisure time in outdoor activities.
As summer comes closer, you will see most people spending their time outside doing a wide variety of different activities, children selling lemonade and tending to lawns for an allowance, men and women getting into all kinds of sports and activities like tennis, camping, baseball and so on.
No matter how many years of summer you may have seen in your life, this is a fundamental experience that everybody can relate to. However, no matter how many different things you might have experienced in summer, there is one item that you can find only in the heat of summer, an item that is almost synonymous with relaxation and afternoon naps. This item is the topic of this essay: Hammocks.
Come summer, there is a mushrooming of the blog posts and articles on the internet about the hammock. In spite of being such a simple household invention, it is so ubiquitous and important to our culture that many a writer has written about this item more than any. The hammock is the ultimate sign of relaxation: a swinging sling made of fabric, rope netting or any other material that can hold your body weight for long periods of time, so you can slip into one with a good book, your laptop or just with your thoughts and stare up at the sky. It is the ultimate stargazing companion to carry if you are interested in learning about astronomy. It doesn’t matter if you live near the mountains or near the beach, the hammock is a universally useful relaxation item in your inventory no matter where you go.
Medical research says that the gentle rocking movement of the hammock can cause you to fall into a deeper sleep and fall asleep faster as it imitates the motion of a prenatal baby being rocked to sleep in the womb, as compared to a stationary mattress.
Medical research also suggests that the most optimal way to sleep is on your back, with your head elevated at a slight angle (10-30%). Lying in a hammock puts your body into this optimal position, which leads to better, deeper sleep. Deep sleep comes with its own set of benefits, including but not limited to better memory consolidation, heightened mental and physical performance, and lower chances of depression and anxiety.
In addition to this, the stationary mattresses we all use to sleep cause pressure points along our bodies that can cause aches and pains that turn chronic over time as we age. People spend a ton of money trying to buy memory-foam mattresses that can help alleviate this issue. However, hammocks are suspended and hence don’t create these pressure points.
For all these reasons, hammocks have been considered for a long time to cure insomnia, and help people fall asleep better. They are also used to lull infants to sleep in many parts of the world.
The writer Paul Howard Clark’s wrote an ode to his hammock, and it is a great read:
“There is a rightness in hammocks, rightness with calm and balance. There is a natural melding, needless of any artificial effort. I lay in my hammock, allowing the rightness and harmony to claim my soul. The rolling sound of waves, the chirps of birds, the muted conversations of other vacationers, all combine into a complete existence, and the rightness of being here, the significance of now. This is not escapism, this is acceptance.”
There are few other kinds of equipment invite such reckless abandon to relaxation and rejuvenation as the hammock. Everyone has dreamed of slipping into the clip-art like an image of a white canvas hammock hung between two palm trees, overlooking a bright sea-blue ocean, with your only companions being the relaxing sounds of seagulls chirping in the distance and the waves splashing on the off-white sands. Even just imagining it calms your mind down, doesn’t it?
Whether you’re planning your next camping trip or you just want one for your kids to relax in the backyard after playing, hammocks are a great long-term investment if you are looking for strength and reliability. There are several different advantages of having one in your home, and when not in use, it is extremely easy to just fold it up and store it compactly.
The word “hammock” comes from its Spanish equivalent “hamaca,” which in turn comes from the Taino and Arawakan hamaka. It can be used for swinging, sleeping or relaxing. This derivation comes because the hammock was first witnessed by Spanish colonialists who traveled to the Americas to invade the lands there, especially in the West Indies archipelagos. The earliest hammocks were woven from the bark of the Hamak tree, which is where it gets its name from. Later on, the Sisal tree replaced the Hamak tree as it was more universally available and it was more fibrous to use and hence perfect for creating a hammock.
The hammock was estimated to be invented by South Americans and Central Americans as an easy place to sleep. As these areas tended to be inhabited by pests and snakes, this would be an effective way to keep these creatures out of reach for a sound sleep. However, it is also said that the origins of hammocks began about 1000 years ago, in the Mayan civilization. The Mayan culture was one of the most advanced for its time, and it invented the well-known Mayan calendar. While they invented and discovered many things in science, mathematics, and astronomy, their most popular invention seems to be the hammock.
Before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, there were a lot of trade routes between Native Americans from North America and the Mayans, who were in Central America. Therefore, the hammock quickly became a part of the culture of most of the Americas, who made it their own and started manufacturing hammocks from different indigenous plant fibers. This has resulted in a wide variety of styles, patterns, textures, and techniques in the hammock, all of which has stood the test of time.
After Christopher Columbus arrived in America hoping that he had found India in the 15th century, he found a bunch of native Americans in the island of Exuma (what we now call The Bahamas) relaxing in their hammocks and taking long afternoon naps, instead of the gemstones, gold, expensive silks and spices that he had hoped to find! Columbus was fascinated by the concept of the hammocks and decided to carry some back to Europe with him, as a sort of substitute for not bringing home the treasures of gold and gemstones that he had promised he would.
When he did, the European sailors and soldiers of the British Royal Navy found that it was an extremely convenient way to set up a bed at sea, and especially on ships. The British Royal Navy officially adopted the use of hammocks in 1597, for their soldiers. This would later become a sort of trend, as army soldiers would be given hammocks to sleep in instead of other more expensive and space-consuming accommodations to sleep. The Europeans began to utilize hammocks for all their soldiers over time, however, those hammocks were not the relaxing sight at all! They were extremely tiny and cramped up, and most soldiers were not allowed enough space to move around at all. During the day, however, it was extremely easy to simply wrap up these hammocks and carry them with oneself on their backpack. During battle engagements, these hammocks would end up being used to shield the soldiers from being attacked from the enemies side. As a result, they would end up with bullet holes in them.
In addition, at sea, hammocks were also used as a sort of make-shift coffin for soldiers who were killed at war. When their last rites were recited and prayers were said, the hammock would be lowered into the sea with respect.
Modern-day hammocks are far more convenient and easy to use, and much more luxurious. Depending upon the kind of money you are willing to pay, you can get hammocks with all sorts of amenities provided so you can have the most relaxing time possible.
There are different types of hammocks available in the market today. You will need to first understand your requirement and then go about purchasing the hammock that is right for you. Different hammock styles and patterns are a matter of subjective choice, but you will also have to choose the hammock that suits your needs. Each of these styles is distinctive and they all come with their own sets of pros and cons. Given below are the different types of hammocks available to you:
This is the classic style of the hammock that we have all grown up with. This hammock is made from a netting constructed from cotton or polyester rope knotted together to create the whole hammock. Usually, these hammocks come with a wooden spreader bar on both sides so that the hammock doesn’t fold over on itself. However, try to not buy a hammock without a spreader bar as it’s not fun trying to climb into a scrunched up hammock whenever you need it.
Cotton and polyester ropes both feel fine for the skin, and developing an irritating against either is highly unlikely. However, cotton ropes tend to accumulate mold and mildew and start to stink. These fungal spores can be dangerous for you, and hence it is better to use polyester for your hammocks. Polyester also used to be considered to be more durable, however, these days you can get hammocks made from mercerized cotton, which is just as durable.
This is a type of Venezuelan model of the hammock, that has been slightly modified for rough use. These types of hammocks were extremely useful for the armies of several countries. When the US and Allied Forces came to Burma in the Second World War, they used a version of this hammock complete with rainproof fly and sandfly netting. These types of hammocks can be used alongside insect repellants, which can be sprayed on the sides of the hammocks to prevent insects from crawling onto the hammock and biting the person sleeping inside it.
This type of hammock is considered one of the most comfortable types to rest in. Quilted hammocks are made from joining two different fabrics together, with some soft filling in it. However, this kind of hammock isn’t good for use in the outdoors as the quilted material may get wet and the soft filling inside may clump together. In addition, these hammocks tend to not be very flexible and durable.
In my personal opinion, adding a layer of a soft quilt on top of any other kind of more durable hammock will give you the same effect of softness, without the hassle of having to maintain a quilted hammock. Another option is to use a sleeping bag inside the hammock or an underquilt.
These types of hammocks are quite similar to the Mayan hammocks. They are constructed on a loom using multiple fibers woven together. This makes them very strong and durable and long-lasting. In addition to this, they usually don’t need a spreader bar, although you can definitely add one if you wish to in order to make it easier to use.
There is also the Nicaraguan one which uses a slightly different type of weave that makes it even more durable. Since these types of hammocks are again made of cloth, it will be useful to keep them inside to prevent damage.
The traditional Mayan hammocks are the last but not the least. These are the oldest styles of hammocks that have existed for centuries. These are quite heavy on the budget and hold a very high value in the market. They allow a large amount of weight to be supported, and they are able to conform to your contours when you sleep in them. Because of this property, they are extremely comfortable to use. Without a spreader bar, they are also very easy to roll up and carry on your camping trips. They can also be used in any kind of weather, which makes them a great addition to your camping gear.
Naval hammocks tend to be constructed from canvas or mercerized cotton. They are intended to be extremely durable for rough use at sea, on a ship. Hence, they are extremely robust. They can be inline hammocks, where the person will sleep parallel to the direction in which the hammock has been hung up. These are waterproof, insect-proof and can act as great protection against rough weather such as rough winds, as they will not easily tip over.
There is also the travel hammock or the classic camping hammock. These are useful amongst the environmentally friendly crowd, and the leave no trace campers, ultra light campers and trekkers, and hikers. These types of hammocks are less harsh on the environment and also light. As compared to tents, they are easy to set up and don’t cause too much impact on the environment.
For example, when setting up tents, a lot of the rods that go into the ground, and the tent itself can affect the proper growth of vegetation underneath it. But if you ask which acts like a tent to sleep in, it will not affect the vegetation or underground creatures in any way. These are typically made of very sturdy nylon parachute fabric that is extremely durable. Some hammocks have a mosquito net built in, that you can crawl into and zip up for total bug protection. They can also have storage options that can hold your bags and backpacks, as this can be a very important advantage if your backpack contains all your food.
Some types also offer a ridgeline so that you can easily set it up, and they may also offer unique but useful options for convenient entry and exit. Try to explore all the features to make your decision while buying special kinds of hammocks.
Now, while we have talked about the advantages of the spreader bar, there are also a lot of disadvantages to it. Because of the weight of the spreader bar itself, the hammock becomes a bit more unsteady when someone is sleeping in it. The center of gravity is shifted from the person sleeping inside to the weight of the spreader bars itself. Therefore, this lends less stability to the hammock and can make it very easy for the hammock to simply tip over upside down, causing the person inside to fall off.
To combat this issue, some varieties of hammocks come with a single spreader bar. This means that the spreader bar is attached only on one side, allowing for the hammock to not get scrunched up altogether, but at the same time, making it difficult to tip over and hence slightly more stable. In addition, newer versions of the single-spreader hammocks also come with three attachments points instead of just two, lending it far more stability and making it near impossible to tip over. Just imagine the kind of stability that a bicycle would get if you attached a third wheel on the side. This hammock is similar to that.
For non-spreader bars, it is important to pay close attention to the way they are set up in order to prevent them from scrunching or making them difficult for continuous usage. There are specific rules that you can look into for being able to hang up the perfect hammock. For example, a higher attachment point is preferred so that the hammock doesn’t hit the ground. Also, it is important that there is plenty of length between the two points at which the hammock is hung up, to prevent the hammock from scrunching up and making it difficult to climb into, or folding over your body as you are sleeping in it. The proper hang is the most important thing about hanging up a hammock. If it is too taut, it won’t conform to your body the way it should, making it stiff and uncomfortable for a good siesta. Make sure there’s a bit of natural curve to the hammock when it’s empty. Consider too, the optimal angle at which you should hang up your hammock by attaching it to the tree or other support is at 30 degrees.
Another thing to remember when using a hammock is that the best most comfortable way to sleep in it remains diagonal. Although you can sleep in a hammock sideways or lengthwise, a lot of people report that sleeping diagonally is the best way to sleep in it and can help cure back pain or joint pain as well. Also, a lot of hammocks are designed to provide as much airflow as possible, especially the ones made from cloth such as the South American types. Therefore, it will keep you from getting too hot in the hammock, but at the same time, colder temperatures can make you feel quite uncomfortable as well. If you are anticipating a colder temperature while sleeping in your hammock as compared to what you are used to, consider carrying a sleeping bag or warm inner wear to allow yourself a comfortable sleep. Slipping into a sleeping bag can also automatically help protect you against bugs or insects that may want to bite you.
While choosing a hammock, there are certain most important criteria that you will need to look into. Judging your requirements and then making the decision that is right for you will help you select the best hammock for your needs. Some of these criteria are:
This is the primary criteria that most people seeking to buy a hammock will look into. The main two options available to you are single and double. Even if you are going to be resting in the hammock all by yourself, it will be a wise investment to go for the double option here as it will provide you the most amount of space and comfort, while not actually adding that much in terms of cost. It will give you plenty of space to lounge about and stretch your body, which can help keep backaches or joint pains at bay. Doubles can also have a higher capacity for weight, which means you can bring your bag in with you if you’ve gone backpacking, without worrying about the stability of the hammock. Doubles are also a great option for couples, who may find it unnecessary to pitch two different hammocks.
However, that’s not to say that single hammocks don’t have their own set of advantages. Single hammocks have a shorter width, between 4 to 5 feet. This can save weight and storage space. So if you don’t have a need for more than 4 to 5 feet of width while sleeping, consider buying a single hammock to save on costs and space.
This is another important factor to take into consideration. Are you going to be buying a hammock for your bedroom as a comfortable reading nook on the weekends? Or are you planning to rough-house it with your hammock by taking it into the wilderness and staying in it for days on end, through rough weather? If this is for your bedroom, attic or porch, an aesthetic appeal will be your important factor to consider when buying a hammock. If you are going to be carrying the hammock with you while on a trekking expedition, it will be useful to buy one without spreader bars so it can be folded neatly and stored. It will also be useful to buy one that weighs less. However, if you are going camping every year with your family, or you intend heavy outdoor use without having to physically carry the hammock everywhere you go, then durability will be your topmost priority as you will need your hammock to last many years to be able to do so.
As we talked about in the previous segment, the type of fabric will affect the utility of the hammock. Heavy-duty fabrics can last longer through rough weather and rough use, and over many years of your hammock experience. However, if you simply need to decorate your bedroom with a reading nook or porch with a nice, comfortable hammock, you can buy fabrics that look prettier and add to the aesthetic appeal of the living space, while also providing more comfort while laying in it.
Now that we looked into how you can find the best hammock, let us explore how you can improve your hammock experience by adding in accessories. Like anything else, adding in accessories will improve your general experience, while not set you back by much financially. Hammocks are fairly ordinary types of equipment, but they have evolved to match the growing world of technology. Therefore, there isn’t much point in buying and setting up a bareback no-frills cobbled-together sort of product, when you have so much to choose from in the market. This will take your hammock from just being a product you use once for a novelty and then stash somewhere in your garage, to a must-have item you carry with you everywhere during the summers.
Given below are a few must-have accessories to enhance your hammock experience:
This is an important accessory if you are anticipating anything other than a bright, sunny day. Which you can never really expect, let’s face it. A good quality tarp will help keep you dry. There are several options for you to choose from:
You will definitely need these, as you will find it impossible to hang up your hammock onto a tree without these. Look for strength, durability, and weight when buying tree straps and clips. There are a lot of options available in these as well. Dutch holders can offer easy setup and removal, which can be useful if you want to clear out quickly.
In addition to clips to hang up the hammock itself, consider carrying extra clips to hang other items and belongings, such as bags and backpacks or tarps.
If you want to preserve your hammock and make it last for long, you will need to buy effective protection for storage. Mosquito netting, rain-proof tarps and storage bags for the hammock itself will put a dent in your budget, but they will all be a worthwhile investment if you want your hammock to last as long as possible without needing replacement. These accessories can help prevent wear and tear and general damage from making your hammock unusable in a few short uses. If you really want to save money on the cover itself, buying a handy tote can be good enough if you can store your hammock indoors.
Do you need a pillow when you sleep on a mattress? Then you will need one when you sleep in a hammock as well. Do remember to bring your own pillow when you’re going to sleep in your hammock, along with a sleeping bag, blankets, quilts. Maybe even a sleeping pad.
Don’t forget to bring your nighttime routine into the hammock if you are going to sleep overnight, such as a good book before bed. Make it your own, and truly prioritize your comfort, the way our ancestors from Native or Central America would have wanted us to
Sleeping in a hammock can be a wonderful treat. Being born in a time where technology has advanced to the point where even a simple cloth hammock has been transformed into a sleep unit with everything you could possibly need to enhance your sleeping experience is something else. Take advantage of this and carefully research the hammock of your dreams, in order to make the best possible investment of your money and time.