I need to lie down for a long while, in a hammock
May 31, 2017 8:18 AM   Subscribe

Which of these hammocks should I buy? Should I buy a hammock? Specs and unfocused aspirations inside.

Here they are, and here is the inspiration.

Actual main focus: what I would really like is to be zipped up and read outside and listen to birds and hear the wind in the trees without being eaten by mosquitos and just lie there and slip away from the world for a while.

What do I want? Which do I want? *Is* this what I want? Do I suspend them between trees? How far apart do the trees have to be? (we live in a wooded area, surely somewhere in there is a suitable pair of trees).

Should I buy two, one for my husband? Kind of seems unlikely we'd both go hammock at the same moment. Is there such a thing as a two person hammock? Are they hard to put up? Would I leave it up all summer? Could I leave it up in the winter and wrap myself in six wool blankets?

I am assuming a wine glass holder is out of the question but let me put it out there.

Would I be better off with a hammock with a stand? Those seem challenging because they'd have to be moved to mow....but....I could put one in a stand of ferns where we don't mow, if I could not be eaten by mosquitos. Maybe surrounded by ferns while lying in a hammock is what I want?

Or should I buy something else? Suggestions?

We do have a mosquito tent type thing but I really like the idea of lying down outside and reading and not being eaten by mosquitos. Lawn chairs are unlikely to hit the level of comfy I aspire to.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
My partner and I, between the two of us, currently own four hammocks (two nylon "camping" hammocks and two cotton "yard" hammocks), two hammock stands, and two sets of tree-suspension systems. The second yard hammock and stand are a recent purchase, because we actually do like to hammock simultaneously.

I like the stands for our yard - we don't have particularly conveniently-placed trees, and it's easy enough to drag the stand out of the way when the yard gets mowed. The stands are not particularly heavy, and some styles have wheels at one end. If you decide to attach to trees, be careful the trees are strong enough and that you don't hurt the trees - there are lots of strap systems available that won't damage trees, but just thin rope around the tree can girdle it and kill it.

We do not leave the hammocks set up all the time; cotton ones will get moldy from being wet and nylon ones will fade and eventually disintegrate from sun exposure. We keep our cotton hammocks in the back hallway, hanging on hooks. It takes about 30 seconds to sling them onto the stand. You might be able to get one made from Sunbrella fabric or something that will last outside long-term, but it will get wet and dirty.

You can add a mosquito net to pretty much any hammock, so don't feel like you have to limit yourself to the camping-style ones with integrated net.

I cannot reliably drink from a traditional wine glass while relaxing in a hammock, but a cup with a cover or a bottle with a straw is very doable.

Basically I would say get something cheap first and see how you like it! You will like it a lot because hammocks are great! But that first hammock will help you realize whether you want a breathable cotton hammock or a larger size or a higher-up mosquito net or whatever.
posted by mskyle at 8:36 AM on May 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

My hammocks that are on stands get much more use than my hammock that has to be strung from trees because I am lazy, but I also have porch space for the stands where they're not in the way.

If you can set it up close enough that you have power, a fan will help keep mosquitoes away at the cost of some of the quiet.

Would I leave it up all summer?

You don't want to leave them out in the rain as a general rule and will need to wash/clean them to keep mildew from growing on them. If you get a pretty one and leave it in the sun, they'll fade from the light.

Could I leave it up in the winter and wrap myself in six wool blankets?

Yes, but you have to put blankets at the bottom too, because your heat will escape that way as well. If it's actually cold where you are, it's like to not be terribly comfortable, as you won't be generating heat from movement and your face will get cold, but I've spent pleasant time in mine when it's in the 50s during the winter.

Is there such a thing as a two person hammock?

Yes, as long as you're willing to be cuddled up next to each other. Check the weight maximums for whatever you buy. Some of the REI/serious outdoorsperson type ones may be too narrow for two people. If you're careful, adult activities are possible in hammocks.

I am assuming a wine glass holder is out of the question but let me put it out there.

If you're not wrapped up in mosquito netting, you can have a stand next to you and reach out for it. If you are all bundled up, putting beverages in something that won't spill if it tips and just nestling it between your legs works.
posted by Candleman at 8:38 AM on May 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

They do make two-person hammocks but it's like sleeping in a waterbed. Every time the other person moves, you move with them. You also tend to gravitate towards the center. When one person gets out you fall off the other side. I would recommend getting separate hammocks for the two of you. I'm gonna put in a vote for the over/under Gilligan and Skipper mounting style.

The hammocks you linked to are more for camping for short periods of time. If left up long-term they would probably break down in UV and deteriorate. I think you could also do better, comfort-wise.

I have a portable nylon hammock for camping (for relaxing, not for overnight sleeping) and I don't really like it. When you lie in it the sides close up around you and it's just not very comfortable. It's also not very breathable. The ones you linked to are designed to be used with sleeping bags.

I would suggest a rope hammock for comfort and long-term durability and confort. I recommend ones from Pawley's Island Hammocks. Super soft and comfy and they last forever.

My favorite hammock is this Mayan hammock, available at Lee Valley though I don't like lying in it crosswise, as they recommend. It works perfectly fine lying in it lengthwise. YMMV. The only issue with this one is buttons on the back of pants can snag the rope. This can result in you a) getting stuck in the hammock and b) pulling the rope apart. My recommendation would be to either hammock in button-less shorts or to just go sans-pants.

If you have a couple of trees the ideal distance apart and in a good location for hammocking, I would suggest you use them. Hammock stands need to be strong and are thus heavy. I have one in my yard and, yes, you do have to move it every time you mow. It's kind of a pain.

If bugs are a concern you could get some mosquito netting or a bug bivvy to climb into.

For less prone hammocking I suggest the Cobble Mountain Hammock Chair. So comfy. Made in Vermont. Get the footrest.

Not to brag, but hammocking is one of the skills I excel at. In fact, I know more about hammocking than you can possibly imagine. I am an expert at the hammock. While the others were going on dates or studying the blade, I was lying in my hammock.
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on May 31, 2017 [17 favorites]

I bought a collapsible frame hammock about a year ago since I'm an apartment dweller with no outdoor space of my own. It's awesome!

I bought a similar, though slightly different, model than this one. The frame pops out and I hook up the hammock and I'm set and ready to chill in one minute flat. The portability makes it really easy for me to set it up wherever I feel like it and the one I bought has a little attachable shade deal-y and a little mesh beverage holder.

I believe the one I have can hold up to 300 pounds, so depending on your size it's probably best for single person use.

I've also used super easy to set up hammocks like this one and found that they were pretty great too. Very easy to set up and take down.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Looks like you are a prime candidate for the hammock life. Whatever you get, make sure you aren't accidentally using it ALL WRONG. It's tempting to think "I want to lay flat so I should hang it pretty snug". But that will mess you up; classic rookie error.

The way to get a good comfortable position and avoid feeling like you're squozen in a tight canoe is to give the hammock plenty of slack, and lay in it at an angle. See here for more info and illustrations, also here.

Finally, experts disagree on how to best drink wine while en hammock. Some say the best is to drink from the bottle, others recommend taking the plastic bladder out of boxed wine and pretending you're in olden times, using a wineskin. Other options are actual purpose-built wineskins, or a classic hip flask of liquor.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:13 AM on May 31, 2017 [8 favorites]

I made sure my hammock and system could tolerate all of our weights combined if necessary (when making this calculation, you must consider the weakest component, not merely what the hammock itself can hold) but practically speaking it's usually just me +/- the toddler. The hammock I have is big enough to wrap around my body like cacoon, though it doesn't zip shut. I use Permethrin to keep the insects down and it helps a lot, plus I have one of those Tiki torches planted nearby, so I don't actually use a net but it'd be easy enough to add.

If you have trees that will work, that's by far my favorite arrangement for the sake of watching the branches sway. If you have straps, it also means you can take the hammock to the park or camping. At home, I leave the straps up during the summer (they're shaded nicely) and just give them a once-over inspection every couple of weeks, so hanging the hammock is simply a matter of clipping on two big carabiners.
posted by teremala at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2017

I have a rope hammock and I use it on a stand, but I made a topper for it. I used a double artificial down feather bed topper and I made a duvet cover for it out of chenille. I tie it at the ends and sides to the ropes of the hammock, and it so comfortable I never want to get out.

I like the stand, I have a big back yard and I drag it all over, sun sometimes and shade sometimes. I read and sleep in it. Heaven.
posted by chocolatetiara at 9:30 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

God I love my hammock. The presence of two giant hammocking trees in the backyard was a significant factor in choosing this house.
posted by teremala at 9:30 AM on May 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not a hammock person, but a family member got a cotton one and left it here for the next visit. 1st winter I brought it in. Last 2 winters, I didn't. It's between 2 trees; I had to use a bit of chain because the trees are just a tiny bit too far apart. It's in mixed shade, and so far, no mildew. It's the kind that has wooden bars to keep it spread out. Maybe I would love it more if it had mosquito netting, as they will *always* find me if there's shade. hmmmmm..
posted by theora55 at 9:46 AM on May 31, 2017

I was just looking at hammocks online this morning, preparing to buy another Mayan hammock. Yucatan Hammocks has them in various sizes & they are awesome to deal with.

As often noted, a little breeze goes a long way to keeping mosquitoes at bay....

Happy hanging!
posted by 6thsense at 9:49 AM on May 31, 2017

My favorite hammock is made by the lovely people at Twin Oaks, a longstanding intentional community in rural Virginia
posted by attentionplease at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2017

We have a very tiny yard, but you betcha half of it is dedicated to our hammock.

If you're looking for something to have at home, I don't think you'll be very happy with a camping hammock. Those are excellent, but they're intended to be used intermittently, not left in position for long periods. As a consequence, they can be thin and slick in comparison to the more robust yard model. Ours is huge--it easily handles two adults--and made of a padded outdoor-friendly sunbrella-type material. It's very comfy (and the padding keeps wind from blowing through it). It's on a large fixed steel frame that never moves. We unhitch the hammock during much of the wet season, but otherwise it's up every day the rest of the year. I absolutely love taking out a sleeping bag and zipping up into it when it's sunny but cold. We keep a small metal table next to it to hold books and drinks. We've grown a bower over it, too, with pink jasmine vining all over it. It's lovely.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:16 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah also when in a hammock it's totally fair game to drink wine from a flask, bike bottle, or sippy cup. Hammocks and stemware don't mix.
posted by bondcliff at 10:23 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel very honored to be the source of inspiration for this Ask. You may want to do something simpler and cheaper than a tent hammock to start, but there are benefits to going for a tent.

Here's my rundown on Hennessy hammocks (I don't work for them or anything, I'm just a fan), apologies if this gets long:

I own two, the regular Asym Classic and the ultralight backpacker Asym Zip. The major difference between the "classic" style and the "zip" style is the method of entry. In the classic, the bug netting is permanently sewn to the hammock and you enter via a bottom velcro enclosure. In the side zip style, the bug netting is opened on one side by a zipper, and you get in as you would normally get into a hammock. (The backpacker may not come with a rainfly standard, so if you order a Hennessy, make sure of what all is coming.) If you order directly from Hennessy's site, all hammocks come with webbing straps and snakeskins, which I recommend, and I think they also come with the rain collectors, which are pretty dang cool if you're camping in the rain.

Which method of entry you want is largely a matter of preference. The side zips are way more configurable in that you can leave the bug netting open if you like, sit in them like a chair, etc., and they're easier to get your stuff into. The traditional "classic" style is easier to get in and out of. For what you're listing as use cases, I'd say get a side zip.

Hennessies can and should be strung up tightly, and this plus the asymmetrical shape of the hammock means you don't get ensconced as much. You lie in them diagonally and you don't get that whole I AM A BANANA thing happening. You can sleep on your side quite comfortably. Rainflies are great to keep the rain or dew or sun off of you. I seriously recommend taking a book out in one during a light-to-moderate rain and having a read.

Forget doubling up. If you get a bigger model, the weight limit could maybe hold the weight of two, but you'll be bunched up in there. And, as was said above, two people in a hammock is not as good in practice as it is in your head. I'd recommend getting one and see if you wind up fighting over whose turn it is before you buy a second. I camp with my 18-pound dog in it and that's as crowded as I'm willing to get.

On the subject of price, they do at least one big sale every year. I missed one a year or two back that was buy a full sized hammock and get a kids' model free. This year I caught a deal that got me the ultralight plus the "monsoon" rainfly for like 40% off. If you sign up for email alerts, you'll be notified of sales. And they are hella pricer than ENOs, but ENOs can't be hung as comfortably and aren't actually that much cheaper once you start adding on things like bug netting and rainflies. Also it's impossible to flip over in a Hennessy.

As to drinks etc, the Hennessy has a ridge line that holds up the bug netting, and on this hangs a pretty handy mesh pouch for what's in your pockets. You will note that you can hang anything you want on this line, like for instance a carabiner for your shoes or a rig for holding a glass. Maybe dangle a can coozie from it, put a small glass or mason jar with your wine in the coozie. But really, unless you hang this thing super high, you won't be that far off the ground. If you have a side zip, you could reach out and get a glass off the ground or a short stool.

There are YouTube videos on making a tent-hanging rig using carabiners and rappelling rings. Highly recommended, you get your hammock up and adjusted in minutes. I can send you links if you need. They will claim you don't need to tie the rope off if you do this, but they are wrong. Put a couple of half hitches on it after you're strung up. If you have good trees for hanging, don't waste money on a stand, and don't leave it up permanently. They take minutes to hang, once you know what you're doing.

Finally, if you decide to backyard camp overnight in it, which you should, your enemy is cold butt syndrome. You get serious compression of insulation under your weight, and that means that even on a comfy night your butt can get cold. So I'd recommend putting a pad under you. Hennessy sells a reflector pad cheap that works great, but even a cheapo foam pad for ground camping will work. I know people who have used those giant fold-up reflector sun shades for truck windshields.

You are me two years ago, and I am excited for your journey. I am now in a place where I have semi-permanently screwed orange metal ground anchors into my yard to stake down the side lines. This weekend, weather permitting, I'm taking my little girl and our two hammocks to Pinnacle Mountain for a little daddy-daughter campout. Gonna teach her how to use a pocket knife.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm new to hammocks. Researched a lot before diving in. There's so much to know!

Some of what I've picked up from extensive reading in HammockForums: Spreader bars make hammocks a lot less stable. The most comfortable hammocks, for non-camping use, are Brazilian or Mayan. Mayan hammocks are all handmade and generally quite delicate, as they are single continuous strand. One snag on a zipper, and you could be on the ground. Brazilian-style hammocks are much less delicate, and rarely made in Brazil. I bought this one, as it had the largest fabric area, because larger is better for Brazilian if you intend to sleep in one. I also didn't want to spend a fortune on a hammock only to find I didn't like it. Both these styles are hung at a steeper angle than is usual for camping hammocks, around 45 degrees instead of 30. The benefit here is that you can lay across almost or even fully perpendicular and get fairly flat and cozy.

The Ultimate Hang has a great calculator if you are trying to figure out how high or far apart you need to hang a hammock. I recommend reading around at that website and watching some of his videos.

Most of my research was about hanging indoors, so I'm afraid I don't know much about bugnets and ridgelines and other outdoor suspension. I'm now learning more about rope and webbing. And how to make underquilts.

Most attention is paid to different variations on Gathered End hammocks. These are the most common nylon camping hammocks. Very simple to DIY. Really, most of the ones on Amazon are Chinese copies of the ENO Singlenest or Doublenest. Though often made a little longer than ENO hammocks. I did buy a cheap double, just to get an idea of what they're like, but I haven't hung it yet.
posted by monopas at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not sure where you live but in the summer in Alabama a hammock with mosquito netting is intolerably hot.
posted by gregr at 12:07 PM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

That hang calculator is pretty neat. I camped in the rain two weeks ago and did not factor in that the trees were much farther apart than usual, and what looked like the right height wound up with me on the ground and then scrambling to get it adjusted before the storm ramped up. I learned a valuable lesson: The farther the trees are, the higher you need to hang.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:16 PM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some of what I've picked up from extensive reading in HammockForums

Oh, internet. I love you so.

I think I am most concerned about the mosquitos--it's not a matter of swatting one or two mosquitos. Sometimes they steal our beer and take over the Adirondack chairs and laugh.

Mosquito repellent is an okay solution but only if I'm prepared to take a shower when I go inside and probably squirt it in my ears if I were to suspend a hammock over a wet, ferny area. OR I could spray mosquito repellent on the thing itself, or tiki lamps, suggested upthread (which has the added value of looking cool) but does anyone have a real mosquito physical barrier that works with hammocks that they like?
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2017

(Well, I'm not most concerned about the mosquitos--more the hammock--but I don't think I can enjoy the hammock with a mosquito in my ear.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:33 PM on May 31, 2017

If it's that bad, then you either need one with a built-in netting or one that can be attached, yeah. If you're doing the latter, I'd suggest getting one made for that model hammock to make sure it keeps the bugs out. ENO makes one that goes with their hammock, but with that plus the hammock cost you're most of the way to a Hennessy.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:47 PM on May 31, 2017

And for the winter, I have no idea if this is a good idea or not, but a heated mattress pad would be awesome! (I use them in my car when I car camp)
posted by Vaike at 1:18 PM on May 31, 2017

How did we get this far without mentioning....
Just Jeff's Hammock Camping, complete with DIY ripstop nylon hammock.

Get ripstop nylon at Joanns, Hobby Lobby, etc. Your height plus two feet. Seam cut ends, ignore long selvedge edges (sewing will break when stretched). Don't bother washing it. Fold the ripstop nylon in a W-shape (already folded down length), make an overhand knot on each end, and done! The whipping cord eventually slips off, so this is dead easy.

You sleep in the hammock "Brazilian style," at a 45-degree angle, so the W-shape keeps your head and feet from slipping back to the center in a banana curve.

I've thought about adding an extra piece to the middle to hold a windshield cover, both to keep the pad in place and as a second barrier against mosquitoes. I'd use a zigzag stitch in a few places along the selvedge edge, to prevent fabric breakage.

Trees -- you need 'em. Six to ten feet apart, as wide as your palm at waist height (about five inches), alive.
Look up -- no "widow makers" or dead branches. No leaves? At odd angles? It doesn't take much to bring one down, pointed end first.
Look down -- nothing you can fall on that would make an unhappy memory. Good news! You can hang over very steep terrain! But people who hang over cliff faces and rushing water are idiots -- just sayin'.
Look around -- no wasp nests or other unsavory problems. Good! Ready to hang the hammock!

The simple no-knot four-way wrap with 1-inch nylon suspension. Not seeing it on Jeff's, they've gone gaga for whoopie slings and tree huggers.
Get 1-inch webbing at the fabric store (cheaper at Wal-Mart, the same stuff on your backpack). Get 15 feet per side, use a flame to melt the cut ends (Watch it! It's hot!) Either sew a 5-inch loop or make an overhand loop on one end, and fasten it around hammock end at knot.
Attach to tree by wrapping strap clockwise around trunk at about waist level. Bring tag end over strap (first wrap) and wrap counter-clockwise back around trunk over first wrap. Bring tag end over strap (second wrap) and continue wrapping back and forth until four wraps are made. Tuck a loop of excess strap into any wrap at back of tree trunk to secure. Once you are in hammock, straps are pulled taut by your weight. No knots to untie, moisture will not make the wraps hard to break loose. Webbing is gentle to most tree bark.

Shug Emery's extensive hammock hanging videos.

The Fronkey DIY bugnet, latest edition. Also, Fronkey's original design. Some people use sheer black window curtains instead of fancier bug net, but consider whether it will be snagged by vegetation or pets.

Permethrin. That stuff that you either wash in or spray on which repels insects (but does nothing on your skin). Does not ruin stuff like DEET does (so I understand). Available in the camping section at Wal-Mart, Academy, Bass Pros, etc.

A low table -- or just setting books, drinks, etc on the ground while enjoying a low hang from my pecan trees.
posted by TrishaU at 1:00 AM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

You can also soak your hammock & mosquito netting in permethrin, if you don't mind lying in a poison-soaked anti-insect sling. (N.b.: I hate bugs, so this is A-OK with me!)

Once dry, the treatment should remain effective for several washings.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2017

I think there are two good options that haven't been mentioned yet.

Eagles Nest Outfitters has a hammock that comes pre-treated with permethrin. I have used permethrin on hiking clothes for 10+ years and love its ability to repel both mosquitoes and ticks. Doublenest Insect Shield $90

Grand Trunk Outfitters has a hammock with an integrated bug net. I own one myself and have used it both in backyard and backcountry settings. Skeeter Beeter Pro Mosquito Proof Hammock $85
posted by andythebean at 9:13 AM on June 6, 2017

I can confirm that what @bondcliff wrote, the Cobble Mountain hammock chair is really comfy and beautiful. I got one last year and I don’t think I could have made a better choice!
The chair also comes with a stowaway footrest and soft, durable pillow which make them even more luxurious.
posted by laylah at 3:09 PM on October 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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