Buying a hammock is kind of like going on a date: You’re a little nervous, worried you can’t afford it and wondering how this new addition will fit into your life. After the first-date jitters vanish, you’re suspended in a brief stage of comfort and bliss.
Then reality sets in: What the heck are you supposed to do next?
OK, we might be reaching. But here’s the good news: With a little creativity, a hammock can become a multi-purpose gear hero that you’ll never leave home without.
Here are seven ways to stretch your hammock’s potential beyond two trees.
A hammockThe humble hammock actually has a pretty interesting history: More than 1,000 years ago, Central Americans slept in suspended tree-bark slings to prevent contact with the dirty ground and protect themselves from snakes and rodents.
Modern-day hammocks come in every iteration you can think of, from ultra-light backpacking hammocks to luxe two-man nests with bug nets and rain flies.
We like the Slacker double hammock from Poler and Therm-a-Rest.
A gear bag
When you run out of space in your backpack, you can easily carry extra supplies over shorter distances by wrapping them inside of your hammock, then tying the ends of the hammock together to secure your gear.
It’s a great way to keep your hands free until you get down to the beach, up to the cabin or back to the climbing spot.
A multi-purpose tarpThe less you bring on a camping trip, the better. You’ll save packing space and weight by using your hammock as a multi-purpose tarp.
While some hammocks aren’t waterproof, most are highly durable and easy to clean, so they can double as a tablecloth, a seat for damp ground, an outdoor shower curtain and a welcome mat to keep dirt and grime out of your tent.
A beach blanketWhy use a heavy blanket at the beach when you can use a lightweight hammock instead? Most are wide enough to comfortably fit one or two people with regular-sized towels, and they can be weighed down easily with sandals or a beach bag.
A hammock is quick to dry, plus much lighter to carry and easier to shake sand out of than a blanket.
A climbing-rope matA climbing rope is literally your lifeline, so common sense says that you want to take the utmost care of it.
To give your rope a longer lifespan, use a hammock to keep your rope clean while climbing. You can also stand on the hammock to give your feet a break from tight climbing shoes while you’re belaying.
Nope, we’re not kidding. If you’re kayaking in windy conditions and want a quick lift back to shore, hold each end of your hammock with your hands, or join up with another kayaker, tie each side of the hammock to your paddle shafts and try to catch the breeze.
We’ve witnessed this work firsthand. We couldn’t make this up if we tried.
A sun shelterBy now, everyone knows the less time you spend in direct sunlight, the better.
Protect your skin from the sun by draping your hammock over some driftwood or a nearby tree branch, or simply cover your body with it. Its lightweight, breathable build will prevent you from getting too hot while offering some additional shade for your skin.