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Hammock stand, hanging hammocks and swinging chairs

Updated on November 9, 2013
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It is a beautiful sunny day and yesterday was spent mowing the lawns and pulling up the weeds, so today is one for relaxing and enjoying the garden.

I shall lie in my hammock and soak up the sun. I’m not sure when my fascination with hammocks started. I know I was very young and I would love to go through the photograph albums with my father of his days as a handsome young sailor in the Navy and he would tell me about the different places he had been and the aircraft carriers he had worked on, and all about Charlie, his helicopter. In his black and white photographs, there were all sorts of exotic places to see, houses on stilts that I had never seen before. One of the things I always remember is him saying that he slept in a hammock on board ship and how comfortable it was. So, when Mum and Dad traded up from their much loved family tent to their first little touring caravan, I was over the moon to find it had a small set of bunk beds and the top one was a canvas hammock. I loved having to climb up into it and roll out of it.

My Dad made me a garden swing too, and I would play for hours on it, shouting to be pushed higher and higher. On camping trips, he would find a length of rope and a stick and make a quick rope swing on the trees. Perhaps it was some primeval instinct in me that loved to swing through the branches, looking up at the treetops.

So, I have gone into adulthood with a fascination for swinging hammocks and tree swings. The trees in my garden are festooned with ropes and hammocks for us to swing and laze around in. I love the fact that hammocks can be the most simple piece of garden furniture, just some pieces of string netted together, but can also be the most complex, with majestically carved stands and frames holding a sumptuously upholstered chair in place. They can be indoors and outdoors, small or large. They can be simple nylon strings or huge great wooden frames. They are the ultimate lazing on a Sunday afternoon accessory.

My son has a tiny pocket hammock that he takes on scout trips and slings beneath the trees with a simple piece of plastic sheeting above it as shelter for the night, beneath the stars. If you are travelling, they are the ideal lightweight bed, off the ground and some are supplied with mosquito nets too.

If you want to try a hammock, then you need to decide what your purpose and budget is. If you need a simple, portable hammock that will not be used very much, you can get these for under $10 and they are very compact. Find ones that are made of nylon rather than cotton, which can rot quickly if you’re not careful to put it away dry. Make sure it has good sturdy fastening devices and check if it has a weight limit. Find two good strong trees that are close enough to accommodate the length of the hammock. You need to string it quite high and make sure that you can reach to climb into it. The hammock needs to be very taut when you fasten it as your weight will lower it so that it will touch the ground if you have not tied it high enough. You should test that it will take your weight before you leap into it. Try not to be tempted to get two people in the hammock unless you are sure that the weight capacity can accommodate you both. You can get luxurious Brazilian style double hammocks that are designed for both of you.

If you are looking for a more permanent structure for the garden, you need to decide where it will be stored when not in use and where you will assemble it. You can choose from free-standing hammocks that are supplied with a stand and you string the hammock onto the stand, or suspended hammocks that you swing from a tree.

Free-standing hammocks are available in steel or wooden frames, but check that the steel is coated and the wood has preservative varnish. Some hammocks are supplied with cushions for extra comfort, but you will need somewhere nice and dry to store these over the winter as they tend to rot quite quickly and mice love a little nibble of them.

If you want to hang your hammock from a tree, you need to be sure that the branches are sturdy enough to take the weight and that the sturdy branch is low enough for you to climb into the chair. Remember with these chairs that are left out in the garden, the ropes will start to decay eventually and you should always check them before you jump in. Some hammocks are for internal use, but you should check that the joist that you are hanging it from is sturdy enough and also the hook and hammock fitting will take your weight.

For hammock beds, you can choose between ones that can be dismantled fairly easily and stored in the shed over winter. Remember to put them away dry or you might find that the frame rots or rusts. Hammocks made of Textoline are suitable for leaving outside as it does not rot easily.

You can buy hammocks with canopies so you can soak up the sun, but have some shade and also some shelter from breezes and drizzle on cooler days. To make your hammock last longer, invest in a good quality hammock cover if it is to be left out in the garden, but make sure that it is well secured; a gust of wind can take these right up into the sky like a giant balloon.

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