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Hammocks: Still Hanging Around

For such a simple concept, hammocks continue to endure and endear. Carve out a comfy perch on a porch or in the backyard, and let the nostalgia and gentle sways take you away to your happy place.

"We like Hammocks!" So proclaimed the story, above, in the July 1960 issue of Better Homes & Gardens. And what's not to like? Judging by the family's blissful looks, hammocks are good for the soul. "Read, rest, talk, or bounce according to your mood of the moment," the story urged. While we recommend saving the bouncing for the trampoline, we're all for climbing into these fabric slings to just chill. Back then, "conversation hammocks" that allowed two people to hang side-by-side were the buzz. "Sociable souls prize them, and your teen-agers will say they're 'the most!'" the story noted.

Today, backyard hammocks are enjoying another wave of popularity. To the magazine, though, they've always been a hit. As far back as the July 1936 issue, editors praised these inviting nap spots for soaking up summer. In "Give Me a Hammock," the writer recounted the pleasure of daydreaming in his hammock, swinging between an ancient pear tree and a big old huckleberry. "Summer may be summertime most anywhere, but it can't be the good old summertime without a hammock," he surmised.

The Logistics

As relaxing as being in a hammock is, let's face it: Getting in and out gracefully (or safely) can be tricky. The "Your Best Summer Weekend" story in the June 2006 magazine offered some encouraging words on that front: "It's a little like getting into a canoe—once you know how, it's easy." The recommended strategy still applies today:

•Getting in: Turn so that your back is facing the hammock, in the same manner as if you were about to sit in a chair. Reach behind yourself and grasp the edge. Sit down and lie back slowly. Never climb into a hammock feet first or side first—you may go overboard.

•Getting comfy: Try to lie diagonally across the hammock, which distributes weight evenly, keeps the hammock stable, and supports your back better.

• Getting out: Swing your legs over the side first, and then sit up. Hold the edges of the hammock firmly and push yourself up and off.

What's Your Style?

Do you want a shady spot under trees, or do you like the ability to move the hammock to wherever you can best catch the sun? Do you like the fabric to cocoon you, or do you prefer to stretch out flat in the open, allowing more ventilation? The answers to those questions will help guide your decision on the type of hammock that's best for you. If you want to keep it classic, plan on a hammock that you can tie between two trees (with trunks at least 8 inches in diameter). Hammocks on stands, which are easy to find today, allow flexibility to move around (though some stands can be heavy and bulky). Make sure the stand will support the heaviest person in your household, and check for stability before you buy; the stand shouldn't rock or bow when you get in the hammock.

Three to Consider...

National Hammock Day is July 22, so scope out your trees or grab a stand—and then find a hammock that suits your style. Above left: Weather-resistant fabric and a multicord design for better weight distribution and comfort. Brisa Double Classic Hammock, $90; Above middle: Designed for two people and double-quilted fabric for comfort. Lazy Daze Hammock, $80; Above right: A classic rope style from a classic maker. Single Original Duracord Rope Hammock, $249;

Image credits, from left: La Siesta, Amazon, Pawleys Island Hammocks

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