Outdoor & Indoor Hammock Style Guide

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If you're considering buying your own hammock, you'll be amazed to discover how many different types, styles and sizes you have to choose from.

Hammock Styles: String vs. Rope vs. Fabric

Although hammocks are available in countless styles, all of them generally fall into one of three basic construction types:

  • String: String hammocks have been around for more than a thousand years. They conform easily to body shape for easy comfort and still offer great ventilation. These hammocks are imported from Mexico where trained artisans carefully craft them.
  • Rope: Crafted from thick rope, these hammocks are still comfortable although they don't conform to body shape. They are among the most durable hammocks and offer a classic island look.
  • Fabric: Fabric hammocks have been around for thousands of years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the canvas fabric hammocks used by the Navy became popular with the general public as well. Today's fabric hammocks are comfortable, durable and easy to maintain, often with soft, colorful padding. Keep in mind, however, that ventilation may be an issue. Modern synthetic fabrics that wick away moisture help keep users cool and comfortable.

Hammock Styles

Hammocks are available in styles to suit just about any decorative taste. Here are just a few:

  • Brazilian: These hammocks are tightly woven with a closed weave for comfort, strength and low maintenance. Made from ecological cotton, Brazilian hammocks are comfortable enough for sleeping and just right for cool summer nights.
  • Nicaraguan: A double weave technique creates a surface that cradles the body in Central American style. Nicaraguan hammocks are of the string style and many come with macramé or crochet edging for a decorative effect. These hammocks are perfect for backyard family relaxation.
  • Mayan: Even though Mayan hammocks are woven from thin strings, they can hold a surprising weight load! Unlike many other styles of hammock, you can lie across the width of a Mayan hammock and be cradled as if you were hanging in a soft cocoon.
  • Spreader: Many styles of hammocks can be set up as spreader hammocks, which use spreader bars to keep the material of the hammock spread flat. These hammocks have a nice, neat appearance, but you'll have to be careful to lie right in the center or you could easily slip off one of the sides.
  • Travel: Also known as camping or jungle hammocks, travel hammocks are easily put up, taken down and transported. Some even come with mosquito nets. Since they're usually made of nylon, travel hammocks are also very lightweight. These hammocks are perfect for family camping trips.
  • Chair: If you're short on space, a hammock chair offers the exotic feel of a hammock in a compact area.
outdoor indoor hammocks outdoor indoor hammocks

The Different Ways To Hang A Hammock

You can enjoy the easy comfort of a hammock almost anywhere you live! Hang them indoors or outside in your yard with a variety of methods:

  • Hammock stands: These are basic, freestanding frames designed to support your hammock, indoors or out.
  • Trees: Get that island vacation look by suspending your hammock between two trees, or between a tree and a post.
  • Ceiling: Suspend your hammock from an indoor ceiling or porch overhang.
  • Support beams: Use the strong beams on your porch or in your basement to support your hammock.
  • Walls: You can even hang a hammock between two walls for a strong design statement.

For your safety, always use the hanging hardware recommended by your manufacturer when putting up your hammock.

Hammock Maintenance

Proper care and storage of your hammock will keep it looking great for many years to come. If you've got a hammock without spreader bars, fold and tie it, according to your manufacturer's instructions, place in a pillowcase, tie the pillowcase closed securely and hand or machine wash in mild detergent without bleach. Untie, spread out and hang to dry.

Hammocks with spreader bars need to be hand washed. Lay your hammock out on a flat, clean surface and clean it with a soft bristle brush. Then flip it over and repeat on the other side. Hang it to dry, making sure it dries thoroughly.

If you won't be using your hammock for a while, make sure it's absolutely clean and dry before storing. Hammocks are best stored in hammock bags designed to keep out moisture, insects and animals. If you don't have a proper storage bag, be sure to put your hammock away in a clean, dry space.

Choosing the Perfect Hammock

Understanding the strengths and drawbacks of different hammock styles will help you pick just the right one:

  • Comfort: Quilted fabric, Mayan and Nicaraguan hammocks lead in comfort. Be aware though, that quilted fabric is often the most expensive option.
  • Budget: Your most affordable options will probably be found in rope, Mayan or camping hammocks.
  • Durability: Rope, poolside and camping are your most durable options.
  • Weight capacity: Mayan hammocks take the lead here, supporting around 600 pounds.
  • Kids: Quilted fabric is the most kid-friendly choice.
  • Family size: You'll find rope, Mayan and Brazilian hammocks that can hold up to four people at a time.

With a little time invested to do your hammock homework, you'll be on vacation without leaving home, just swaying with the breeze in your new comfy hammock.

Last Updated: May 6, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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