Ask FGG: "Do I Need a Plus-Size Hammock?"
Posted by Angela in Ask FGG,Sports + Recreation
relaxing moment courtesy of ximenacab

Some "Ask FGG" questions apply on any day of the year. Others, like this week's reader inquiry, seem custom-made for hot and steamy July days.
There's a spot on my back deck that would look great with a hammock, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on something that might not hold me. Are hammocks one size fits all? If not, where should I look?

Few objects in this world say "relaxation" more completely than hammocks -- they might as well work a good book and a refreshing drink into the purchase price. For overweight women, however, hammocks tend to fall into the category of "Items We Feel Compelled to Approach With Caution," for fear they may not support our weight. (Other objects on that list: Camping chairs. Spindle-legged chairs. Men with runners' builds.)

Choosing a fat-girl-friendly hammock

For the kind of portable hammock that's popular for camping or use in the space you're describing (i.e. sets up and relocates easily onto a deck or lawn, no trees or hardware required), a weight capacity of 225-250 pounds is pretty common. Most big box stores or sporting/outdoor goods retailers seem to offer at least one comparable model, in addition to styles with more of a sling factor.

Since you'll be giving the hammock a home on your deck and likely won't need to move it around, you'll do better with a stand-and-hammock combo. To ensure reliable support, choose a hammock bed with a higher weight capacity (the Island Bay XL rope hammock accommodates 450 pounds) and mount it on a heavy-duty hammock frame; even better: buy both pieces as a kit ($174.98, Unless you're specifically shopping through a site like LivingXL or My Size USA, look for hammocks that are geared toward multiple people; the weight limit, width and often the length will be higher than your standard one-person hammock.

If you prefer your hammock bed to feel more solid beneath you than rope weave, try a fabric or quilted style, instead. Girls who like more substantial-feeling hammocks will also want to choose a design with spreader bars, which hold the hammock open to create a flat surface rather than a slack sling. On the other hand, hammocks without spreader bars (350-pound capacity with adjustable frame, $169.98) offer a more cocoon-like feeling as you sink into them -- though climbing back out may prove tricky. The frame we'd buy if money were no object? The Hatteras HammocksŪ Roman ArcŪ hammock stand (450-pound capacity, $499.95). And then we'd put it on the dreamy beach scene in the photo and we'd swing on that puppy.

Installing your hammock securely

Whatever design you choose, be sure to buy a frame that's compatible (some frames won't accommodate hammocks with spreader bars), as well as any additional hardware your specific model indicates. Once installed, unoccupied hammocks without spreader bars should hang parallel to the ground without sagging. The hammock will sink once your weight is in it, but shouldn't sag much -- if at all -- before that point. Detach and stretch the hammock tighter if necessary.

Readers who've had one eye sizing up the backyard trees as they read this post (13-16 feet apart is ideal) should keep in mind that they'll need hardware secure enough to bear the same weight as their hammocks. Using hardware is preferable to tying rope around the trees for permanent installations because rope can be more harmful to trees in the long run. For temporary hammock placement, such as while on vacation, try easy-to-use tree straps.

Once everything is securely fastened, it's time to take your new toy for a test swing, taking care to keep your weight evenly distributed (especially as you climb in) so the hammock doesn't flip. All that's left to do now is sway (okay, nap) for hours on end without a care. Isn't summer grand?

Speaking of relaxing naps: I'm off to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine on the beach of Lake Huron. Look for fabulous posts by Toni & Tee while I'm gone, and I'll see you all in August!

We're curious: Do you prefer a flatter hammock bed or one that cocoons you? And what setup (frame, trees, portable) has worked best for your hammocking needs? Tell us in the comments.