By Bob Vila
Laying in a hammock is the epitome of summertime relaxation. Getting the hammock set up, on the other hand, can be a frustrating endeavor. Consult the tips below to make quick and easy work of the process so that soon, you will have gone from hanging the hammock to hanging out in its comfy, swaying embrace.
Choosing a location for your hammock is perhaps the most difficult part. While you probably don’t have the perfect pair (and ideally spaced) palm trees on your property, you might very well have two healthy oak, maple or beech trees that are strong enough to support your weight. Ideally, those hardwoods would be as far apart as the total length of your hammock, fully stretched out.
If the trees are too close together, the underside of the hammock is going to scrape along the ground. If the trees are too far apart, you’ll need to extend the reach of the hammock by means of an added-on rope or chain. While there’s a simple remedy for the latter problem, there’s unfortunately no fix for the former (other than to buy another, smaller hammock). Note, however, that it can be a mistake to extend a hammock any more than 18 inches at each end. Doing so leaves it vulnerable to ripping. So if you fully anticipate having to add extensions, only consider buying a hammock outfitted with a spreader bar to inhibit rips.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to establish a secure connection at each end of the hammock. One option is to use tree-fastening straps (which may or may not be included with your purchase). These straps feature a loop on one end and a metal ring on the other. Simply wrap the strap around the tree, pass the loop through the metal ring, then attach the hammock to the ring with S-hook hardware. One virtue of tree-fastening straps is that while effective, they cause no harm to the trees involved.
Though there are countless hammocks on the market, most fall into one or two design categories. First, you have traditional hammocks, and then you have hammocks with spreader bars. Traditional hammocks are meant to hang loosely between two trees, with the center dipping down. Since they get attached to points that are 6 to 8-feet high on nearby trees, you can, in a pinch, consider using tree branches, not tree trunks — so long as the branches offer sufficient heft.
The other type of hammock involves spreader bars, which force the hammock to remain open, so the occupant never becomes wrapped up in a hammock burrito. Unlike the traditional design, hammocks with spreaders hang only 4 or 5 feet from the ground. Also, whereas a traditional hammock hangs loosely, these hammocks hang taut; when unoccupied, they are virtually parallel with the ground.
Remember that the wonderful thing about hanging a hammock is that once you’ve finished the job, your reward is right there in front you. Collapse into your new favorite spot — hey, you’ve earned a break!