When the dog days of summer hit, there is literally nothing that sounds better to me than lying in a shaded hammock, reading a magazine and sipping iced tea in a perfect summer breeze. Take a moment and picture it. Yep, it’s that good. Trust me… your midsummer naps will never be the same.
It’s not nearly as unattainable as it sounds. This is the modern age! No more are hammocks limited to those of us with plantation-style backyards, or two perfectly-spaced mature trees. Even the smallest of outdoor spaces, and virtually any budget, will set you up for total hammock nirvana.
The easiest, of course, is the stand hammock. You’ll need a 15×8 area to set one up, and to allow room for swaying blissfully in the breeze (though 20×10 would be more comfortable). But if you have the space, the rest is child’s play. Get creative – use a side yard, ditch a dilapidated patio set, or repurpose a long front deck to house your hammock. The least expensive stands are metal, while wood is a pricier (but prettier) option. Metal also wins on durability, though; a wood version is more vulnerable to the elements. Be sure to check the assembled dimensions before you buy. And also check weight restrictions…if you want a two-person hammock, be sure your stand can handle it. Last, buy the stand separately from the hammock, and you’ll likely get a better quality version of both.
If you happen to have those two perfectly-spaced trees, of course, all you’ll need are a pair of hammock straps – webbed straps with carabiner attachments. You’ll see chain kits out there, but chains are very damaging to trees. The flat webbing is a much kinder option. You can also go with screw-in hooks, just make sure you’re using a hardwood tree like an oak or pine. Softer woods may not hold the screws over time, and being dropped on your backside does not make for good naps.
The actual hammock is the next piece of the puzzle. Decide whether you want a two-seater or a single (I say, the more room, the merrier). Next, you’ll have a bevy of materials to choose from. Rope is the classic, of course. It’s also the least expensive and easiest to keep clean (since dirt and water can’t stick). It’s also the least comfortable. Cotton rope will yield more comfort, while polyester rope yields greater durability – it’s a toss-up. For my money, I prefer the quilted canvas versions. The colors do fade in the sun (though you can find versions in Sunbrella fabric that would reduce that considerably), and they have to be hosed off a few times a summer, but the comfy factor is unparalleled. Do yourself a favor and spring for the matching pillow.
If neither of those options work for you, don’t fear – no one goes hammock-less on my watch! Consider a hammock swing. Sure, it’s not the sexiest thing on the block, but there’s an excellent case to be made for function over form in this case. And you can hang them using either a stand or an eye hook drilled into your roof eaves or the ceiling on your porch. Enlist someone handy for an aerial installation – you want the hook installed into a stud so you don’t go flying! Again, I love the upholstered versions, and they happen to be much easier on the eyes than their rope counterparts. But they’re pricier as well – you can score a rope version for under $100. There are nylon versions out there too, but they’re so unfortunate-looking, I can’t even bring myself to show them to you.
A few final tips from a hammock old-timer: I recommend buying a couple of carabiners to attach your hammock to its stand or hooks – it makes it so much easier to attach and detach for shaking off and for storage. You can even install a large eye-hook in the ceiling of your garage or under your roof eaves and store the hammock there during the winter months, leaving the stand assembled and pushed out of the way. Also, be sure to double check length measurements of both the hammock and stand before you buy. Most are a standard size, but it’s always good to double-check.
And last, grab that magazine and iced tea before you settle in…once you’re in the hammock, you’ll be amazed at how quickly being anywhere else in the world sounds like too much work. — Becki S.