In the Beginning……. Where did the Hammock Originate?
Many anthropologists believe that the hammock dates back some 1,000 years to Central America, where the Maya and other indigenous peoples crafted them out of tree bark or plant fibers. Suspended beds prevented contact with the dirty ground and offered protection from snakes, rodents and other poisonous or simply pesky creatures. According to accounts by 16th-century explorers, people would place hot coals or kindle small fires under their hammocks to stay warm or ward off insects as they slumbered.
In Venezuela entire villages raised their families in hammocks. During the first part of the 20th century, many scientists, adventurers, geologists and other non-native visitors to Central and South American jungles soon adopted the Venezuelan hammock design, which gave protection against scorpions and venomous snakes such as the terciopelo. The difficult jungle environments of South America encountered by Western explorers soon stimulated further development of the Venezuelan hammock for use in other tropical environments.
The now most commonly used hammock is based on the Venezuelan hammock
The Venezuelan hammock’s panels were always made of breathable material, necessary to prevent the onset of fungal infections caused by constant rain and high humidity. Fine-woven sand fly netting was eventually added to provide more complete protection from mosquitoes, flies, and crawling insects, especially in regions notorious for malaria or screwworm infestations. A waterproof top sheet or “rainfly” could be added to protect the occupant from drenching by heavy night time rains, along with drip strings – short pieces of string tied to suspension lines — to prevent rainwater running from the tree trunk down the hammock cords to the hammock itself. A breathable false cotton (later nylon) bottom panel was frequently added to these jungle hammocks, allowing air to pass through while still preventing mosquito stings to the occupant.
The Venezuelan hammock, as modified, eventually became known as a “jungle hammock”. Simply by wetting the hammock suspension ropes with insecticides or insect repellent, the jungle hammock even gave protection against crawling insects with mandibles that could bite holes through the insect netting.
Venezuelan or Jungle hammocks made today are generally of breathable nylon or polyester, and use Dacron or similar non-stretch suspension lines. They are ‘inline’ hammocks; like the canvas naval hammocks of old, the occupant sleeps along the length of the hammock, rather than across it. With their breathable false bottoms, drip strings, Sandfly netting, and optional rain fly, they are one of the most secure hammocks against not only water entry, but also insect stings or bites.
To anyone who has ever enjoyed an afternoon nap while ensconced in a hammock gently rocking between two trees, it will come as no surprise that this centuries-old snoozing sling can help people fall asleep faster and achieve deeper slumber than regular beds, A recent study conducted by a team of Swiss researchers and published in the June issue of “Current Biology” has offered a scientific explanation for the longstanding global hammock craze. The team found that a swinging motion synchronizes brain waves, allowing people to doze off faster and attain a deeper state of sleep. Their results also support the ancient—and still very much alive—tradition of rocking children to sleep.
Travel or camping hammocks are popular among Leave No Trace and Ultra Light campers, hikers, and sailing enthusiasts for their reduced impact on the environment and their lightness and lack of bulk compared to tents. They are typically made of sturdy nylon parachute fabric which may use ripstop techniques to improve durability. Some hammocks feature a mosquito net and storage pockets. Special webbing straps (called “treestraps”) are used to loop around trees in order to create attachment points for the hammock.