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Setting up a hammock -- and getting yourself into one -- takes skill and precision. Think you can hang?

The hammock
is one of the quintessential symbols of summer and the ultimate stress-reliever. Now, lounging is one thing. But actually hanging the hammock? Not as leisurely -- especially if you've been the victim of a vicious roll-up-and-spit-out attack!

Most hammocks come in a kit with hanging hardware included; this is the easiest route to take. Some hammocks even come complete with floor stands. But if yours doesn't, there are several places you hang your hammock: between two posts on your wooden deck or from the ceiling of your covered porch (the latter option works best for hammocks without spreader bars).

Here we'll focus on the old-fashioned, tried-and-true method: hanging a hammock between two trees. You can find hammocks in various lengths, depending on the distance between your trees. Plus, we'll give you a few great tips on the right way to get in the hammock -- and stay there.

1. Choose the location. Where, and how, you hang your hammock depends on the following factors:
-- Whether the trees will support the hammock's weight capacity (indicated on label)
-- Whether you can work with the distance between the trees (they can't be too far or too close)
-- Whether your hammock has spreader bars (wooden slats on either side that provide support, prevent it from twisting and keep it opened up -- not folded in half)

2. Select your trees. Both should be hardwood trees (oak, maple or beech, for example), completely healthy and at least one foot in diameter.

3. Calculate hanging distance. Measure the length of your hammock and the distance between the two trees. Say you've chosen a 15-foot-long (end-to-end) hammock with spreader bars; the distance between trees should be at least the length of the hammock : 15 feet.

If the trees are further apart than the hammock's length, you'll need to extend it, with equal lengths of rope or chain, on both sides, no more than 18 inches per side. Extending its length beyond three feet total will exponentially up the tip-over factor.

For maximum stability, hammocks with spreader bars should be pulled as taut as possible, positioned completely parallel to the ground.

Because a hammock without spreader bars is designed to hang freely, and dip down slightly in the center, the trees from which you hang it can actually be closer together (a.k.a. less than its total length from end to end). Aim to hang this type of hammock at least two-thirds of its length in inches/feet. For example, If you have a 15-foot hammock without spreaders, its hanging distance should be at least 120 inches. Two feet more (12 inches on each side) and you'll hit the maximum recommendation. Hanging requirements are pretty flexible for this type of hammock; just remember that the closer the trees, the higher up their trunks you'll need to hang it -- and the farther apart, the closer to the ground.

4. Determine height from the ground. This part's pretty simple: Hammocks with spreader bars should be approximately four to five feet off the ground while those without them can be hung six to eight feet above it. Just remember: Mosquitoes can be brutal at dusk -- and beyond. If you're planning to pass out, douse yourself with your insect repellent of choice. (This writer has this lesson the hard way!)

5. Get in -- the right way! Let's face it; getting in a hammock can sometimes be comical. Here's how not to embarrass yourself. Stand with your back to the hammock, as if you were going to sit in a chair -- don't straddle it or climb in feet-first. Reach back and lightly grab on to steady it. (For hammocks without spreaders, spread it out a bit before sitting so your weight is evenly distributed.) Sit, stretch your legs, and flip them both onto the hammock.

Then commence relaxation! When you want to get out (probably in a hundred years or so), swing your legs over one side and sit up -- while gripping the edges for stability -- and pry yourself out. Relax, you've earned it!

** We want to hear from you: Got a funny hammock story? Share it here! **

  • GIG

    Diseased trees rot from the inside out. If the tree snaps from your weight the hammock will pull it right down on top of you. Any many spinal, rib and pelvic injuries have occured when the hammock broke and the individual landed on the hammock stand people often use instead of trees.

  • kbaredge126cd

    If you need instructions for using a hammock, you seriously need a life.

  • jm

    OMG! I SOOOOOO agree with you!
    (not only a life, but 2 freakin' brain cells to rub together)
    If you can't handle a Hammock, you deserve EXACTLY what you get. Let this simple "backyard relaxing place" thin out the herd.
    Don't bother to call me an idiot or a jerk... I don't care. I stand behind this proclamation.

  • Jerry

    Ain't that the truth.

  • eric

    Dont leave canvas hammock out over the winter. First time i jumped in it in spring bottom ripped out My tail was on the ground rest of my body was 4 ft off ground and I was stuck in "dying cockroach " postion Wife thought it was fun humm

  • JadeDogwood

    The best Hammocks, aside from the Pawley"s Island Hammock, are from the Yucatan, Mexico, where they still use them. If you go to a border town in Mexico, don't buy hammocks from a street vendor, they will show you a big one, and switch out a puny one that is useless ($12-15).

    Always get the nylon, it's more weather resistant than cotton, and make sure it is at least eight feet wide when streched out. Expect to pay $35-45. Save room in your luggage, and buy one next trip to Cancun. Makes a great gift too.

  • Patty

    So can we order this most excellent hammock... without the trip to Cancun? Any suggested sites?

  • JadeDogwood

    OOPS...... I mean La Fuente

  • JadeDogwood

    My other reply didn't come up about La Fuente Imports, but I'm sure there are other sellers on the internet. Always get the biggest, or you will regret it.

  • Arborist

    Chains or ropes placed around tree trunks or over limbs create compression injuries. Therefore our tree preservation company recommends that those who must attach something to a tree (hammocks, bird feeders, etc) use lag hooks or lag eyes. Drill an appropriate sized pilot hole, then screw the hook or eye into the limb or tree trunk, then hang your item from the newly installed hardware. There is a very small risk of introducing a pathogen into the tree's vascular system, but that can be reduced by sanitizing the drill, and threads of the hardware, with rubbing alcohol. However, the risk is far, far smaller for injuring the tree than the constant weight of even lightweight items bruising the cambial and xylem tissue of the tree.

  • Dusty

    Well at least there are some that cannot spell the word hammock,

  • Kate

    There is no accounting for the idiocy of the American Public. You have to remember that laws were passed to force pail manufacturers to put warning signs on their products because "childen can drown in them"

  • 12 Comments / 1 Pages

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