When a friend described research showing that gentle rocking can help heal nervous system, emotional and cognitive imbalances (among others), I decided to install a hammock in my NYC space and test rocking on myself. There’s a reason that babies are rocked to sleep, and rocking chairs were in every home: rocking is relaxing and can change the brain’s wiring.
I dove headlong into hammock investigations and learned essential information from the hammock-obsessed and knowledgable. Here’s what you need to know to hang a hammock inside or out.
I wrongly imagined that the most comfortable hammocks for sleeping would be wide summer house hammocks with a spreader bar that made them appear flat and bed-like. Seth Haber of Trek Gear Light refutes that notion, citing as evidence widespread use of the loose, arched hammock as a fully functional bed by hundreds of people for centuries. . In fact, on my 1500 mile chug up the Amazon many years ago, most travelers slept in hammocks.
According to Haber, if you hang a hammock properly and learn the essential principles of lying in one, you can sleep comfortably, more comfortably than in one with a spreader bar. (Which was great for me, because they take up a lot of space.)
The keys to sleeping in a classic arched hammocks are:
a) not to string it too tightly so that it will cocoon and trap you. Hanging it loosely allows its width to expand so you can lie flat
b) to lie almost flat with your head slightly elevated, lie on an angle in the hammock, spreading it out with your legs, head and arms.
With these principles in mind I scoured Trek Light Gears site and Amazon for the right size hammock. I decided to test out two to get my bearings: a nine-foot 55-inch wide hammock for $25, and a nearly 10-foot long double hammock for $20.
Given my flimsy sheet rock walls, I planned to buy an inexpensive stand to try see if I even liked having a hammock. The most feasible stand was an easy to dis(assemble) 9-foot 4-inch powder-coated steel stand for $65. What had I got to lose? If it was a bust, I could always return it, OR use it as a sometime thing that could be stowed away. That said, there are a variety of stand designs and sizes, from metal to wood.
Since I wasn’t crazy about the black powder coating, I sanded a patch with my trusty superfine sanding sponge to see how hard it would be to gray it or even strip it completely (or simply have it sand-blasted).
Trek Gear Light gives specific info and a calculator for hanging your hammock. If you want to hang it from a wall, the amount of force the hammock is exerting is a particular important consideration and a serious safety issue. (Attaching a hammock to a sheet rock wall is a difficult and messy undertaking. When I was a teenager, I blithely screwed thick hammock hooks into the thick wood studs of my brownstone bedroom, and swung happily. ) The Hammock Hang Calculator will show you how high to set your suspension points (rope, straps, eye bolt, etc. And their FAQ gives great info about strapping your hammock to a tree)
I swapped out both hammocks several times, adjusting the hang each time to see which one would be most comfortable.
Although the blue one looked snappy in photos, the extra foot of fabric added to each side to make it wider proved cumbersome and hot (something like the one directly below). The fabric kept falling on my face (possibly because the hammock was a bit too long for the stand)…
The gray one felt almost perfect. I’m thinking the five or six additional inches that Trek Light Gear’s 9-foot Compact Ultralight Hammock ($59) might be just the thing. The takeaway is that you kind of have to monkey around to get a feel for hanging the hammock and what works best for you.
I enlisted my neighbor to lie in my newly rigged hammock so I could take a picture. He didn’t want to leave…
Hammocks hold HUGE potential for city dwellers.
…as do portable, foldable stands. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to monkey around with the black powder coating. (I am thinking it would look great striped white…). But for now…