Hammocks: What Could Be Better?

What makes hammocks wonderful isn't the flawlessness of the idea but its simplicity, which has allowed for constant innovation.

2835692289_75bdf32a87_z-615.jpg

akeg/Flickr

What could be better than spending a warm summer afternoon relaxing in a hammock, reading a book, drifting in and out of a nap?

Well, for one, there could be a good place for your drink. And, you know, it wouldn't be such a bad thing if you could switch to a seated position every now and then, and have some decent back support to boot.

Also, while we're at it, could there be room for another person? And could we lie in it together without constantly rolling toward the middle?

Now that would be great.

Solutions to such problems have been developed and patented by generations of American tinkerers. There are thousands and thousands of results for "hammock" in Google's patent search (although many of those are unrelated, for example, this patent for "Rise Promoters for Regulation of Plant Expression," which references a person with the last name Hammock).

Here's a quick tour of some of the innovations:

Some of the inventions captured in hammock patents, including a few pictured above, are overkill. But many are quite useful -- hammock stands that negate the need for well-spaced trees, or wooden rods at the ends that keep the hammock flat and allow for multiple users. The result is that the hammock -- this basic sling of fabric hung between two points -- is available in a diverse range of incarnations: light and portable for camping, wide and bulky for a suburban backyard, and everything in between. What makes hammocks seem so perfect isn't the flawlessness of the idea but its simplicity. That simplicity is what makes them an open platform for innovation and improvement, and why you can end up with one that is so suited to your needs that you might even call it perfect.

Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In