The history of hammocks

Posted by: Rebecca Chen

Hammocks have a long history of providing shelter and a place to rest, but how is that the case? Who made the first one, and how did they come to be? Well, it’s time to find some answers.


So where did hammocks come from anyway?

“Hammock” originated from a Taino culture Arwakan word meaning “fish net”. Traditional hammocks originated in Central America, and can be traced back nearly 1,000 years ago to the Mayan civilization.


Originally, hammocks were not designed for leisure, but instead served as protection. The suspended beds safely kept hammockers away from dangerous creatures and insects in warmer climates.


Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing hammocks to Europe after observing their widespread use among the Taino people of the Bahamas. During Spain’s colonial period, cotton and canvas were brought to the Americas and began to be incorporated into the hammock design we know today.



No sea-sickness here / Safe at sea

In the mid-16th century, hammocks were adopted as the primary on-deck sleeping choice by Spanish and English navies. These portable beds were used aboard ships for three centuries spanning from World War I, World War II, the Civil War, and the Vietnam War.


By the late 19th century, British prisons saved space and cut costs by replacing cots with hammocks. Meanwhile in the United States, hammocks were used as both as cheap, practical solutions for farmers, and a leisure item for wealthy families.

Well, what are you up to now? / A hammock for modern times

Today, hammocks are used in a variety of ways, especially with the invention of lightweight and portable hammock stands.


Hammocks are particularly trendy among millennials and are used as a way to engage in community. In 2016, the market research group NPD found that overall sales of the product had doubled since 2014. Why is this the case? According to Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at NPD, "millennials are looking for products they can share with their friends that they can turn into an experience….Hammocking is a way of hanging out with your pals—you don't have to be in a deep forest, you can be in a backyard. It's a relatively inexpensive way to spend an afternoon."



Not only are hammocks being adopted by millennials, but companies and as well. Google, Hubspot, and Box Inc. are just a few companies that have incorporated hammocks in their offices as a place to work and/or nap.




Lastly, hammock camping has become a popular alternative to tents, because of their lightweight and easy-to-use set-up. For more reasons why people are switching, here are 5.