Characteristics of Basic Style Variations of the Hammock

Updated on July 24, 2017
A Quilted Hammock in the Shade
A Quilted Hammock in the Shade | Source

Hammocks have a rich history and are as diverse as their origins. Many hammock styles are a result of either the geographical region they originated like the Mayan hammock or are a direct result of a social problem that has been solved by hammocks, such as the poolside hammock. Examples of different hammock styles include: Mayan, Brazilian, Camping or Hiking, poolside, hammock chairs, and quilted hammocks. This list is not even close to all the different styles that exist, but it covers a lot of the main styles that most people are interested in.

All hammocks share the potential to be a relaxing place to unwind from the stress of the day. Some hammocks are designed to create a personal oasis in your own backyard, others can be brought along until the perfect place to relax is found along the way. Each type of hammock is suited for different types of purposes.


Mayan Hammocks

Mayan Hammocks are probably one of the closest to the original woven bed first described by Spanish colonists when they came upon the natives living in what is now Central and South America. They were first woven as a way to sleep safely above the poisonous insects and snakes on the floor. They even dipped the hammock suspension ropes into poison to keep insects from crawling over to them while they lay sleeping.

Mayan hammocks were originally woven from tree bark and other plant material they could find. Eventually that was replaced by sisal thread which is harvested from plants, but offers a softer more comfortable fiber. This in time was also replaced, by cotton; since then nylon has been added as another option to weave from.

Mayan Hammocks are characterized by their bright colors, lack of spreader bar, and offer a choice between cotton or nylon material. Cotton is softer and more flexible, but is susceptible to moisture. This is the kind of hammock you wouldn’t want to leave out in the rain, mildew is not a relaxing scent.

Mayan hammocks could also be made of nylon. This is the choice for those who prefer to not have to worry about their outdoor hammock every time it rains, but it will offer a less flexible resting place. Nylon is not only a stronger material than cotton, it is also better at getting wet meaning it is safer in the rain and washes easily.

Hammocks are perfect for pup snuggles!
Hammocks are perfect for pup snuggles! | Source

Brazilian Hammocks

Brazilian hammock origins are very similar to the Mayan Hammock. This makes sense since they are both hammock styles that came out of Central America and are believed to be closest of today's variations to the original hammocks made by these indigenous peoples.

The Brazilian hammock is also offered in brightly colored material, without a spreader bar; Brazilian hammocks are often decorated by the creating artist with intricate fringe patterns giving the hammock a more elaborate style. Brazilian hammocks are made of cotton and offer the comfort and flexibility that goes along. They come in a wide variety of colors so you are sure to find the right color for your decor. The tighter fabric weave of the Brazilian hammock make it a great choice for a colder climate or for cool summer nights.

The Americanized version of Brazilian hammocks are offered with spreader bars, their tighter weave make them a great choice for sunbathers who don’t want the rope weave pattern of a hammock imprinted in their flesh after laying out.


Camping/Hiking Hammocks

This type of hammock is also known as a jungle hammock, parachute hammock, or camping hammock. The parachute hammock is made of nylon so it is ultralight yet strong, making it the perfect hammock to take along on a hike or camping trip. Easier to set up than a tent, you don’t even need a flat space, just two trees that are 12 – 18 feet apart.

Camping hammocks are normally also designed so they fold up into an attached pocket to be a self-contained pouch. Straps are the preferred tie up method for these hammocks, not only because they are faster and easier to use, but there is less chance of slippage and it leaves no trace in the bark of the trees you use.

There are lots of accessories for these hammocks that makes them more deep woods friendly than their counterparts. Mosquito nets, overhead tarps, zip on roofs and walls are some of the products designed to make your outdoor experience exactly what you are looking for. In addition to keeping you bug free and dry these hammocks can also be outfitted with under quilts to keep you warm.


Most people don’t realize an under quilt is typically needed if you are sleeping outside in less than 70°F temperatures, not sleeping due to cold butt is no way to spend a whole night. I know 70 might seem conservatively warm, but if a wind kicks up at 68 in the woods at night, it can be quite chilly.


Hammock Chairs

Hammock chairs are generally only designed for one person, and can be great for anyone who wants to sit up a little further than a traditional style hammock, but still feel weightlessly supported. These can be hung from the ceiling, a tree, or a stand and are wonderful for reading under a tree, watching the kids play outside, they are a great seating solution for kids’ play areas, the den or living room, and the porch or deck. Hammock chairs usually have a single spreader bar that holds the seat open, this makes for a sturdy and more chair like design.

Hammock chairs can come in a variety of colors and weave patterns, much the way hammocks do. Mayan hammocks have a semi open weave pattern and are available in a range of colors and color combinations. Rope hammock chairs are made of cotton or polyester rope, usually in white, though it can be available in other colors as well. Fabric hammocks transfer well into hammock chairs, making the Brazilian hammock chair a favorite; it has closed weave so nothing can fall through the holes in the seat.

Also similarly to hammocks, hammock chairs are portable and a wonderful addition to many outdoor adventures. Watching the kids play soccer? Take along an easy to set up tripod stand and a hammock chair and watch in ultimate comfort. There are even hammock chairs with a foot rest, arm rests, and a cup holder!


Poolside/Rope Hammocks

Rope hammocks are a great example of a hammock meant to solve a social problem. Many people enjoy relaxing in a hammock in the summer either in their back yard or inside on a rainy day watching the thunderstorms roll by (my favorite). But there were no great hammocks for those people whose favorite spot is by the water where their hammock was likely to get wet. Enter the rope hammock. Their open weave design is perfect for a hot summer day to allow you to feel that light summer breeze.

Rope hammocks are usually made of rope; cotton and polyester are the two most frequently used types. Cotton rope hammocks are more comfortable because the cotton is softer and conforms to your body more. However, cotton also absorbs moisture, meaning if it gets wet a lot the hammock won’t last as long as others might. A polyester hammock is a little stiffer of a material, but does not absorb moisture. Hammocks made with polyester are also stronger and have higher weight limits generally than cotton hammocks.

These are the iconic beach or poolside hammock that many people think of when you say the word “hammock” today. They are a popular poolside choice because they are made of rope and will dry quickly. This is obviously desirable because people may be lounging after a dip in the pool and will be wet when they get into the hammock. The hammock can also dry quickly because it is common for these hammocks to have a spreader bar. The spreader bar holds the hammock open to its full width, which assists in the drying of the hammock. It is important to keep a hammock dry so it does not start to smell of mildew or succumb to mold.


Tip: Mayan, Brazilian and all fabric hammocks all offer a close weave pattern, meaning there are no large holes in the hammock bed. This is an advantage for those of you who have pets or little ones at home. Rope style hammocks have large openings, making it easy for little arms and legs to get twisted up. Be sure you are watching any hammock time for them.


Fabric Hammocks

Fabric hammocks is a category that encompasses a lot of types of hammocks. All these types of hammocks have a few basic characteristics that identify them. Fabric hammocks usually have spreader bars, but inside of the spreader bars is tacked a piece of fabric. This might be a length of canvas material such as might be found in a naval ship, or some light cotton material. In some cases two pieces of fabric have some stuffing in between to provide a soft, warm bed like hammock called a quilted hammock.

Fabric hammocks are becoming popular as an alternative to rope hammocks for a pool or lake setting. Some are even made of treated fabric to withstand mildew and mold. These hammocks can also be found most often with a sewn in or detachable pillow.

Hammock Styles At A Glance

Bright Colors
Bright Color
On the Go
Pool or Lake
Perfect for Sunbathing
Upright Body Position
In-Line Hammock
In-Line Hammock
In-Line Hammock
Spreader Bar
Spreader Bar
Spreader Bar
Cotton or Nylon
Cotton Only
Cotton or Polyester
Cotton, Polyester, or Nylon
Cotton, Polyester, or Nylon
Slightly Open Weave
Fabric Weave
Lots of Accessories
Very Open Weave
Fabric Weave
Open or Fabric Weave

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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