Pictured Above: (Left) Sunset West Dana Wicker Hanging Swing Chair and (Right) Pawleys Island Single Original Cotton Rope Hammock from PatioLiving
The two have a long history of protecting people from the cold dirt during the winter while keeping them cool and dry during the summer. Both hung from trees or covered patios in backyards and mounted to ceiling beams or walls indoors, hammocks and swing chairs are equally useful as lounge furniture inside and outside the home. While hanging chairs and hammocks are both worthwhile purchases for any space, one might work better for certain homes and activities than for others. Learn more about hanging swing chairs and hammocks — and which is best for you — in our buying guide below.
A cozy cocoon you can cuddle up in for a nap or a full night’s sleep, the hammock is often thought of as a retro, 1970s piece of patio furniture or an accent on the beach of a tropical island resort. However, the hammock dates back much farther than the twentieth century, explains Dan Nosowitz in his article “Respect the Hammock, One of Humanity’s Greatest Creations: In praise of an excellent idea with a long, complicated history” for Atlas Obscura. Nosowitz writes that “the early days of the hammock are not well understood, but they certainly did come a long time ago.” He explains that accurately dating the hammock is difficult because those we do know of were “woven of organic materials that eventually decomposed in tropical environments.”
Adopted later on across the world for lounging and sleeping, hammocks were common in the Caribbean “when the first Europeans landed there,” with the word for hammock derived from the Spanish word “hamaca [and] from the Taíno languages of the Caribbean.” Both Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de las Casas wrote about hammocks in their journals. Nosowitz notes that de las Casas described the hammocks of the time as “‘like cotton nets’ with elaborate, well-crafted patterns” and ends made from “a different, hemp-like material, to attach to walls or poles.”
These netted swings were much loved in the hot, humid climate of the Caribbean because they allowed the user to sleep light and dry by offering ventilation. Hammocks quickly made their way to Europe, used in the late 16th century by Spanish nobility. Sadly, their use was discouraged in Europe during the 18th century as the Spanish royals and clergy pushed a narrative that hammocks were a symbol of laziness rather than “a direct, practical response to a hot, humid environment.” In closing — writes Nosowitz — the hammock remains a symbol of both “laziness — staining the people who make and use them when not on vacation” and of “luxury and leisure.” As long as we do not engage in hurtful stereotypes associated with the hammock — however — the hammock itself…[is] just a great idea.”
Pictured Above: (Left) Sunset West Dana Wicker Hanging Swing Chair from PatioLiving
In their article “The Difference between Hammock and Swing,” The Pittsburgh Better Times Team explains the difference between two beloved pieces of patio furniture. The article notes that swings and hammocks both provide variable levels of comfort and ease of owner use based on “fabric used, maintenance, size and regular use of the material.” Some hammocks and hanging swing chairs “can be designed to be used by one person or by two or more persons,” but understanding the intended use behind a hammock or swing determines longevity, ease of use and effectiveness. Though some assume hammocks are more difficult to use than hanging swing chairs, this may not be true — particularly if both are supported by an underlying frame.
For instance, some hanging swing chairs and hammocks have metal structures that support the piece from the ground, offering a sense of gravity and something to push against when trying to settle into the hammock or swing. Both swings and hammocks hung from a single hook in the ceiling can be difficult to use if the user has poor balance or the surrounding environment is experiencing high winds. All in all, once the user gets the “hang” of using their hammock or swing, ease of use is fairly comparable between the two.
According to luxury outdoor furniture company PatioLiving in their entry “Introduction to Luxury Outdoor Hammocks,” the weight supported by a hammock varies based on the type of material, supportive structure and size of the hammock. The company notes that “their sizes range from compact to presidential, with weight capacities up to 600 pounds, meaning you can enjoy a relaxing lay down alone or gather the entire family to lounge together.” A hammock intended for one person — rather than a group — will likely be smaller and have a lower weight capacity.
For instance, the Pawleys Island Single Original Cotton Rope Hammock weighs fourteen pounds, is intended for a single user and can accommodate up to 450 pounds at a time. Hanging swing chairs typically weight significantly more than hammocks do while accommodating a similar — if not lesser — amount of weight from the user. The Sunset West Milano Quick Ship Wicker Hanging Swing Chair in Echo Ash from PatioLiving — for example — weighs eighty-eight pounds and offers a weight capacity of 400 pounds.
When considering a hammock or swing chair for the interior of your home, it might be worth checking out versions outfitted with stands before choosing one that requires mounting on a wall or hanging from the ceiling. In the article “How to Hang Hammocks Inside Your Apartment” for Rent.com, Lesly Gregory outlines the dos and don’ts of hanging furniture in any interior. Gregory writes that renters should consider the terms of their lease before proceeding — particularly whether or not they are permitted to put holes in the walls or ceilings. Both homeowners and renters must “make sure their building has the proper construction to handle a hammock.”
While the majority of modern buildings “use wooden two-by-fours as the support studs in their walls [others] use metal studs.” Drilling into wooden beams offers a sturdy support for your hammock or swing, but drilling into metal studs does not “offer enough support to hang and use a hammock [or swing] without risk of injury.” If the construction of your building is sound, you should be able to mount or hang a hammock or swing chair without incident. However, before settling into your hammock or swing chair, Gregory recommends “test[ing] it out by setting about 50 pounds worth of books into the seat.” If the hammock or swing chair does not budge and seems sturdy, “cautiously sit in the chair, but keep your feet on the ground.” If all seems safe and acceptable, use your hammock or swing chair to your heart’s content!
Pictured Above: (Right) Panama Jack Graphite Wicker Cushion Swing from PatioLiving
The cost of swing chairs tends not to vary as significantly as the cost of hammocks unless an outlier piece — e.g. a high-cost designer item — is chosen. However, the cost of both hammocks and swing chairs varies based on materials, manufacturing — e.g. whether it is hand woven or factory-made —, size, weight of the unit and the unit’s weight capacity. Common materials for hammocks include canvas, cotton and nylon while common materials for hanging chairs include wicker, cane and rattan. Others are made from more innovative and industrial materials such as the Sika Design Exterior Aluminum Nanna Ditzel Hanging Egg Chair. This classic egg shaped hanging chair is made from aluminum — the frame —, acrylic and ArtFibre. While hammocks are often made of simpler materials than hanging chairs are, they are also more frequently made to order — potentially raising the cost. For instance, the Pawleys Island Single Original Cotton Rope Hammock from PatioLiving is handcrafted to order. Swing chairs sold by PatioLiving range in price from $629 — on sale — to $3,069.
One of the primary differences between swing chairs and hammocks is that hammocks are rarely intended as permanent fixtures of their environment. Unlike swing chairs, hammocks can be removed from their frame, unhooked from the ceiling or untied from a tree. Outdoorsmen often prefer hammocks over swing chairs because they are more portable, lightweight and less obtrusive. Aside from being more movable, hammocks are also longer, making them more comfortable for sleep.
Backpackers and campers often prefer hammocks to tents, yurts and other shelters when trekking long distances, notes the SERAC blog post “The 7 Ugly Truths About Tents and Why Hammocks Always Win.” The post explains that “tents tend to be heavy, bulky, and very inconvenient to carry,” but hammocks can be folded down and assembled quickly and easily. According to the SERAC post, the reasons why hammocks are more appropriate for camping than tents include the fact that hammocks offer virtually “unlimited campsites” wherever there are trees and that they save you from sleeping on the cold, hard ground. To set up your own hammock while camping — or “glamping” — follow the instructions in this guide from REI.