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Grab A Hammock and Go!

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Thursday, May 25, 2017

Advance planning, equipment needs, and time spent packing and unpacking can make it hard to find time to get outside. Yet, we know that time spent outdoors is good for our mental and physical health (See Studies Show That Time Outdoors is Good for Your Health). An article published in the April 2016 Business Insider (Friedman, Lauren F. and Kevin Loria, “11 Scientific Reasons You Should Be Spending More Time Outside.” Business Insider, April 22, 2016, summarizes a number of scientific studies that have found positive mental and physical benefits to time spent outdoors. These include improved short-term memory, boost to mental energy, relief from stress, reduction in inflammation, improved vision, better concentration, clearer thinking and more creativity, possible anti-cancer effects, improved immune function, better mental health, and longevity.

Hammocking offers an easy solution to this dilemma; it is an outdoors activity that requires little to no planning, equipment, or unpacking. Here are a few tips to help you on your way to enjoy the health benefits of being outside while using a hammock:

1. Find the hammock that's right for you (hint- most come in a one- or two-person size):
  • Do you want to hammock alone? Do you want the hammock all to yourself?
  • Would you prefer to have a significant other, child, or pet in the hammock with you?
  • Do you like lots of space to spread out? Would you like to cocoon in your hammock or would you prefer not to squeeze in so tightly?
  • Do you want to have a clear line of sight over the edge of the hammock at all times?
2. Purchase a set of tree-safe straps:
  • Portable hammocks need to be secured to trees (or a similar structure). Wide, tree-safe straps minimize any damage to the trees that you use and make set-up a snap!
  • You don't have to memorize or practice difficult and tedious knot-tying.
  • You get piece-of-mind from the knowledge that you are causing minimal impact to the area around you.
3. Pick a place that you'd like to visit, grab your hammock, and go:
  • For inspiration, go to our Find a Natural Area page to locate a natural area near you or our Visit a Natural Area page to find a listing of natural areas with trails.
  • Make sure that the site you visit allows hammocking (our natural areas do).
  • Hammocks fit easily into a small backpack, so once you pick a place, just load up your hammock and go! You might want to pack a bottle of water, sunscreen, insect repellant, a camera, a digital music player, or a good book -- but all of these will easily fit into a small bag with your hammock.
4. Even shorter on time? Or short on gas money? You can still hammock:
  • Consider alternative outdoor locales close to you. You can set up a hammock almost anywhere that you can find two trees (or structures) to hang it from. Think city park, college campus, or your front yard.
  • Make sure that the area you are using allows hammocks on site.
5. Pay attention to the distance between two trees when setting up your hammock:
  • In order to keep your hammock (and you) from coming too close to the ground and sagging, you'll need to adjust the height of the tree strap placement based on how far apart the trees are.
  • If your trees are closer together, then your straps need to be placed higher on the tree; if they are farther apart, then the straps need to be placed lower on the tree.
  • Most guides advise that you use trees that are between 11 and 15 feet apart to secure your hammock.
  • Avoid hanging your hammock more than 18 inches off the ground for your health (falling risk) and the tree's health (avoid damaging low branches).
  • Also for your own safety, don't hang your hammock from dead trees or limbs.
6. Let your hammock hang loose, in a softly curved shape:
  • We are used to having a flat surface to support our bodies, like a bed, couch, or the ground, so our natural instinct is to want to lie flat. Resist the urge to tighten your hammock into a flat line.
  • A hammock that isn't hanging tight has a slightly curved shape that allows the hammock to sink a little when you climb into it.
  • One of the many benefits of a hammock is that it provides support to your body without any pressure points, cradling you without pain to your back or joints.
7. Have you caught the hammocking bug? Enrich your experience with accessories:
  • Want to hammock on rainy days? Consider purchasing a rain tarp and drip strips to keep the rain off your head and from rolling down into the hammock.
  • Tired of insects buzzing around while you try to relax? Numerous manufacturers sell insect netting to keep the bugs away.
  • Want somewhere to store your things while you read a book or take photographs? Try a gear sling or mesh pockets.
  • Is the cold weather keeping you indoors? Look for specially designed aerodynamic underquilts made to fit the shape of your hammock, as well as hammock specific tarps, top quilts, sleeping pads, and even a sleeping bag pod that encases your hammock.
  • Enjoy napping in your hammock? Sleeping pads with wings, hammock pillows, and sleeping bags can make your dozing even more comfortable.
  • While hammock accessories are far from necessary for a quick trip outdoors, the variety of accessory choices can enhance the experience.
Photo credits: Three hammocks -- Pexels Photo 177519; Girls in hammocks with dogs -- Claire Woods; Black cat in hammock with person -- enchiladaplate

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Leisure Activity Perfect for Natural Areas

Studies Show That Time Outdoors is Good For Your Health

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