Hammock: Wikis


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Garden hammock
A couple in a hammock on the beach

The hammock is a fabric sling suspended between two points, used for swinging, sleeping, or resting. It normally consists of one or more cloth panels, or a woven network of twine or thin rope stretched with ropes between two firm anchor points such as trees or posts. Hammocks were developed by native inhabitants of tropical regions for sleeping. Later, they were used aboard ships by sailors to enable comfort and maximize available space, and by explorers or soldiers traveling in wooded regions. Today they are popular around the world for relaxation; they are also used as a lightweight bed on camping trips. The hammock is often seen as symbol of summer, leisure, relaxation and simple, easy living.



The hammock as an icon of America herself: engraving by Theodor Galle after Stradanus, ca 1630

Spanish colonists noted the use of the hammock by Native Americans, particularly in the West Indies, at the time of the Spanish conquest.[1] The word comes from a Taíno culture Arawakan word (Haiti) meaning "fish net".[2][3] Early hammocks were woven out of bark from a hamack tree, and later this material was replaced by sisal fibers because it was more abundant. One of the reasons that hammocks became popular in Central and South America was their ability to provide safety from disease transmission, insect stings, or animal bites. By suspending their beds above ground, inhabitants were better protected from snakes, biting ants, and other harmful creatures.[4] Hammocks were introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus when he brought several of them back to Spain from islands in the present day Bahamas.

The Native American origin of the modern hammock and its name is often obscured in English-language sources from the late 18th century onward. Samuel Johnson claimed that the word was of Saxon origin.[5] This etymology was soon debunked,[6] and later 19th-century sources attributed the invention to the Athenian politician Alcibiades.[7] This was inferred from Plutarch, who wrote that Alcibiades had his galley bed hung from ropes, but did not specifically describe it as a net or sling.[8] A few European sources mention the historical use of cloth slings as carriage seats, but not as regular beds.[9]

United States Navy sailors relaxing and sleeping in hammocks, date unknown (before 1923).
East German school ship crew in their hammocks, 1951.

Naval hammocks

Around 1590, hammocks were adopted for use in sailing ships; the Royal Navy formally adopted the canvas sling hammock in 1597. Aboard ship, hammocks were regularly employed for sailors sleeping on the gun decks of warships, where limited space prevented the installation of permanent bunks. Since a slung hammock moves in concert with the motion of the vessel, the occupant is not at a risk of being thrown onto the floor during swells or rough seas. Likewise, a hammock provides more comfortable sleep than a bunk or a berth while at sea since the sleeper always stays well balanced, irrespective on the motion of the vessel. Prior to the adoption of naval hammocks, sailors would often be injured or even killed as they fell off their berths or rolled on the decks on heavy seas. The sides of traditional canvas naval hammocks wrap around the sleeper like a cocoon, making an inadvertent fall virtually impossible. In addition a naval hammock could be stowed in an out of the way place, or indeed, used as a primitive form of armour, by being placed along the gunwale during battle (as was the case during the age of sail). Many sailors became so accustomed to this way of sleeping that they brought their hammocks ashore with them on leave. The naval use of hammocks continued into the 20th century. During World War II, troopships sometimes employed hammocks for both naval ratings and private soldiers in order to increase available space and troop carrying capacity. Many leisure sailors even today prefer hammocks over bunks because of better comfort in sleep while at high seas.

Hammocks have also been employed on spacecraft in order to utilize available space when not sleeping or resting. During the Apollo program, the Lunar Module was equipped with hammocks for the commander and lunar module pilot to sleep in between moonwalks.

Mexican and Mayan hammocks

In Mexico, hammocks are made in villages surrounding the capital city of the Yucatán, Mérida, and are sold throughout the world as well as locally. They were not part of Classic era Maya civilization; they were said to have arrived in the Yucatán from the Caribbean fewer than two centuries before the Spanish conquest. In addition to bark and sisal, hammocks were constructed from various materials, including palm fronds in western Amazonia. Quality of native and modern hammocks depends greatly on the quality of the material, thread, and the number of threads used. Mayan hammocks are made on a loom and are hand woven by men, women and children. Hammocks are so symbolically and culturally important for the Yucatecans that even the most humble of homes have hammock hooks in the walls; in rural El Salvador, a family home may have multiple hammocks strung across the main room, for use as seating, as beds, or as sleep-swings for infants.

Hand woven in Yucatán, Mexico

Venezuelan or jungle hammock

In Venezuela entire villages raised their families in hammocks. During the first part of the 20th century, many scientists, adventurers, geologists and other non-native visitors to Central and South American jungles soon adopted the Venezuelan hammock design, which gave protection against scorpions and venomous snakes such as the fer de lance. The difficult jungle environments of South America encountered by Western explorers soon stimulated further development of the Venezuelan hammock for use in other tropical environments.

The Venezuelan hammock's panels were always made of breathable material, necessary to prevent the onset of fungal infections caused by constant rain and high humidity.[10] Fine-woven sandfly netting was eventually added to provide more complete protection from mosquitoes, flies, and crawling insects, especially in regions notorious for malaria or screwworm infestations. A waterproof top sheet or rainfly could be added to protect the occupant from drenching by heavy nighttime rains, along with drip strings - short pieces of string tied to suspension lines — to prevent rainwater running from the tree trunk down the hammock cords to the hammock itself. A breathable false cotton (later nylon) bottom panel was frequently added to these jungle hammocks, allowing air to pass through while still preventing mosquito stings to the occupant.[10] The Venezuelan hammock, as modified, eventually became known as a jungle hammock. Simply by wetting the hammock suspension ropes with insecticides or insect repellent, the jungle hammock even gave protection against crawling insects with mandibles that could bite holes through the insect netting.

The United States Army eventually adopted their own version of the jungle hammock, complete with rain proof fly and sandfly netting for use by U.S. and Allied forces in tropical jungle regions such as Burma during World War II.[10] While at first reluctant to accept the idea of its men sleeping in hammocks, the United States Marine Corps later employed jungle hammocks in New Britain[11] and later Pacific island campaigns where heavy rain and insects were prevalent; concerns over injuries from machine gun and artillery fire were overcome by first digging a slit trench, then staking the hammock's support lines to suspend the hammock beneath ground level.[12]

Later U.S. Army hammocks issued during the Vietnam conflict, such as the M1966 Jungle Hammock, were mistakenly fitted with waterproof bottom panels, which often became filled with water overnight.[13] On the other side, North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) forces regularly employed jungle hammocks fabricated from scavenged or captured US parachute cloth and shroud lines. Hung well off jungle trails, the hammocks kept down the incidence of disease and illness, which NVA commanders generally regarded as a greater threat than shrapnel injuries caused by sleeping above ground.[14]

Hammock Brands

Choosing a suitable hammock can often prove to be a difficult task. There are several hammock brands available on the market ranging from traditional styles, in frames, hammock chairs and hammock swings. [15] The following lists some of the more popular hammock brands.

Hatteras Hammocks - The first Hatteras Hammock was made in 1973 and the Hatteras Furniture line has since then been known for its exciting line of hammocks. Hatteras hammocks can be used in your outdoor garden or indoor sunrooms, Hatteras hammocks are durable and crafted of the highest quality rope and wood. Just like the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Hatteras Hammocks have proven to be a symbol of quality and longevity. From its beginning over 30 years ago, Hatteras Hammocks have grown to be popular hammocks which are made for comfort. The hallmark of a Hatteras Hammock is meticulously detailed workmanship. Hatteras Hammocks are designed to last by using the all weather wicker roman arc. The Arc spans 15 feet in length, and can support up to 450 pounds. These stands are used to support hammocks when trees are not convenient or mobility is paramount. They are quite pricy but their beautiful and elegant soft contour design makes them desirable furniture for outdoor living. [16]

Pawleys Island Hammocks - The Original Pawleys Island Hammock came to life over a century ago and this century old rope weave design is still in use today. In fact, Pawleys Island Hammocks was the first ever hammock manufacturing company in the U.S. Cool, comfortable and sturdy, the cotton hammock was originally designed by riverboat Captain Joshua John Ward. Pawleys Island Hammock is trademarked for hand-woven quality. Although it was created nearly 100 years ago, the Pawleys Island rope hammock is still completely handcrafted in Pawleys Island today exactly as it has always been: more than 1,000 feet of rope is knitted by hand, then pulled between oak stretcher bars and tied with bowline knots to the body. Today, Pawleys Island provides a variety of cotton rope hammocks and synthetic rope hammocks (soft-spun polyester and DuraCord) that feels as soft as cotton. They are suitable for outdoor use but provide the same comfort as indoor hammocks. [17]

Nags Head Hammocks - Nags Head Hammocks was founded nearly 30 years ago. The Nags Head Hammock has a heritage of premium craftsmanship. Nags Head is a quiet, sandy promontory in North Carolina. Its past is riddled with interesting stories of pirate attacks. Nags head is famous for the hammock it manufactures in town: The Nags Head Hammock. A Nags Head hammock is made out of fabric, similar to traditional hammocks. Unlike other hammocks, Nags Head hammocks are made out of soft cotton blends, rather than synthetic acrylics. They are soft and connote a beach towel and pleasant environment. Nags Head hammock will also have some type of symbol on it. Since it is often a tourist purchase, Nag Head hammock will probably has a printed or embroidered private on them or a skull-and-cross bones symbol. This helps the tourists to remember their special vacation time at Nags Head. [18]

Kelsyus Portable Hammocks - Kelsyus hammocks are designed for relaxation on the go. No trees? … No problem! The Kelsyus hammock comes with a collapsible stand crafted from light-weight steel for added durability. The Kelsyus hammock is a self contained free standing hammock and stand combo that comes in a backpack for easy carrying. While Kelsyus hammocks are great for use by the patio, poolside, or RV, their ease and portability makes them perfect for camping, beach trips, and other adventures! [19]

Eagles Nest Hammocks - Eagles Nest Outfitters camping hammocks and swings are proof that great things do indeed come in small packages. ENO hammocks pack full sized comfort into a storage bag the size of a grapefruit. Perfect for camping or hiking, these products are some of the smallest and lightest available. The ENO hammock comes in single or double capacity and can be coupled with slap straps attachment system to make finding a good sleeping support very simple. Eagle’s Nest also supplies rain-flies and bug nets to make your wilderness trip or backyard adventure all the more comfortable. [20]

Hennessy Hammocks – Hennessy Hammock is a totally new design for camping hammocks with patents in the US, Canada, and internationally. It has been used and tested in Canada, the U.S., Central and South America. It is ideal for hiking in the local hills as an emergency shelter or for a light weight camping hammock for bicycle trips across the continent. While sleeping in tropical and sub-tropical areas, it provides protection from malaria carrying mosquitoes and sand flies. It provides instant comfort over rocky, wet or sloping terrain. Last but not least, a Hennessy hammock increases protection from the sun, poisonous insects and reptiles. A Hennessy Hammock is a more comfortable sleep system which provides infinite possibilities for campsites that leave no trace. Each hammock comes with mosquito netting, detachable rain tarp, support ropes, tree huggers, and a carrying bag with set up instructions printed on the back. Not only is a Hennessy Hammock easier to set up than a traditional tent, but the asymmetrical design is great for campers with back or knee problems both on and off the trails. Ditch the tent and redefine camping with a Hennessy Hammock. [21]

Mayan Hammocks - The Mayan people considered the hammock to be a gift from the gods. Mayan hammocks are sometimes called hamacas, hamock, a mexican hammock or even a hamac. The advantages of Mayan hammocks are that they follow and support the body very well and are therefore very safe. They are also easy to store and features beautiful bold colors. Mayan hammocks are hand made by local artisans and are much better than nylon hammocks because they don't entangled themselves or stretch with use. [22]

Current use

There are currently a wide variety of hammocks available. There are hammocks that are designed specifically for backpacking and include mosquito netting along with pockets for nighttime storage. There are hammocks made out of thin and lightweight material which makes them ideal for taking on daytrips. Other hammocks include self-standing metal or wood structures that support the hammock. Although they are usually bought premade, it is also possible to make your own hammock.

Hammocks are very popular in the Brazilian northeast region, but not only as sleeping devices: in the poorest areas of the sertão, if there is not a cemetery in a settlement, hammocks may be used to carry the dead to a locale where there is one; also, they frequently serve as a low-cost alternative to coffins. This custom inspired Candido Portinari's 1944 painting Enterro na Rede ("burial in the hammock")[23]. Traditionally the sailors who have died at sea were buried at sea in their hammocks.


Current popular hammock styles include the Spreader-bar, Mayan, Brazilian, naval, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan (Jungle), and travel hammocks. Each styles is distinctive and has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Many hammocks come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes ranging from a one person (250 - 350 lbs) to two or three person (400 lbs - 600lbs). Common dimensions for unslung hammocks fall in a range between 3' to 14' across and 6' to 11' long.

The spreader-bar hammock is easily recognized by wooden or metal bars at the head and foot of the hammock, spreading its width and allowing for easy access for casual use, such as in a backyard. Unfortunately, the spreader bars also make the hammock unsteady since the metacenter of the hammock when sleeping is very high. This style is generally considered less stable and less comfortable for sleeping than other styles.

While the various styles of hammocks available today are similar in form, they differ significantly in materials, purpose, and construction.

Mayan and Nicaraguan hammocks are made from either cotton or nylon string that are woven to form a supportive net. Mayan Hammocks have a looser weave than Nicaraguan hammocks, and the supportiveness of the hammock “bed” depends on the number of strings and quality of the weave.

Brazilian hammocks are made from cotton fabric and usually more durable than the string varieties. While Mayan and Nicaraguan hammocks are considered by some to have the potential to be more comfortable, the Brazilian hammock’s comfort is less dependent on its construction and therefore less likely to vary as highly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Naval hammocks are usually made from canvas or strong cotton. They are intended to be durable and stand well the hardships of the shipboard use. They usually are simple and undecorated but robust.

Venezuelan or Jungle hammocks made today are generally of breathable nylon or polyester, and use dacron or similar non-stretch suspension lines. They are 'inline' hammocks; like the canvas naval hammocks of old, the occupant sleeps along the length of the hammock, rather than across it. With their breathable false bottoms, drip strings, sandfly netting, and optional rainfly, they are one of the most secure hammocks against not only water entry, but also insect stings or bites.

Relaxing on a yacht in a nylon hammock

Travel or camping hammocks are popular among Leave No Trace and Ultra Light campers, hikers, and sailing enthusiasts for their reduced impact on the environment and their lightness and lack of bulk compared to tents. They are made of sturdy nylon fabric, some feature a mosquito net and storage pockets. Some types offer a ridgeline to make set up easier, and may also include a slit for entry through the bottom of the hammock. Special webbing straps (called "treehuggers") are used to loop around trees in order to create attachment points for the hammock.

Set-up and use

For non spreader-bar styles, the way in which they are hung is critical for comfort. Generally, a higher attachment point is preferred as well as sufficient length between points, though these two dimensions can be adjusted to compensate for a lack in one or the other. The optimal angle of the attaching lines to the post / wall / tree is usually about 30 degrees.

Though one can lie in a hammock lengthwise or across its width, most hammocks are best used with a diagonal position, as it provides the most room and support. Users with back and joint pains often report some relief from these problems when sleeping in a hammock in this manner.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Bartolomé de las Casas (1542) The Destruction of the Indies
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001). Hammock - Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 23, 2006.
  3. ^ The several contributors (2001). Manfred Görlach. ed. A Dictionary of European Anglicisms: A Usage Dictionary of Anglicisms in Sixteen European Languages. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 143. ISBN 0-19-928306-0. 
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (1823)
  5. ^ Samuel Johnson (1785) A Dictionary of the English Language
  6. ^ Arthur Broughton (1797) The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies
  7. ^ Thomas Dudley Fosbroke (1825) Encyclopædia of Antiquities
  8. ^ Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades
  9. ^ Fosbroke, ibid.
  10. ^ a b c Kearny, Cresson H. (Major), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 240-248
  11. ^ Leckie, Robert, Helmet For My Pillow, Bantam (1979), pp. 230, 237-238
  12. ^ Kearny, Cresson H. (Major), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 244-254, 261
  13. ^ Kearny, Cresson H. (Major), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 256-257
  14. ^ Kearny, Cresson H. (Major), Jungle Snafus...And Remedies, Oregon Institute (1996), pp. 252-253
  15. ^ “The Hammock Source” “Hammock”
  16. ^ “Hatteras-hammocks” “Hatteras Hammocks”
  17. ^ “Pawleys Island Rope Hammocks” “Pawleys Island Hammocks”
  18. ^ “Nags Head Hammocks” “All about Nags Head Hammocks”
  19. ^ “Kelsyus Portable Hammocks” “Kelsyus Portable Hammocks”
  20. ^ “Eagles Nest Hammocks” “Eagles Nest Hammocks”
  21. ^ “Hennessy Hammock” “Hennessy Hammock”
  22. ^ “Mayan Hammock” “Mayan Hammock”
  23. ^ Museu de Arte de São Paulo

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HAMMOCK, a bed or couch slung from each end. The word is said to have been derived from the hamack tree, the bark of which was used by the aboriginal natives of Brazil to form the nets, suspended from trees, in which they slept. The hammock may be of matting, skin or textiles, lined with cushions or filled with bedding. It is much used in hot climates.

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