You're not imagining the hammock boom


What used to be a backyard fixture is now a backcountry staple.

Kammok hammock

Kammok hammockers relax over Lake Tahoe. Photo by Greg Balkin, courtesy of Kammok.

The hammocks of your childhoodwere more likely than not secured to a front porch or metal pole, probably made of heavy fabric or rope netting and definitely not portable.

That was then. Today, in the aisles of Outdoor Retailer, you’ll find that hammocks have shaken their backyard-lazy ways. Technical hammocks now pack down to the size of a tennis ball and are made of ripstop fabric so thin you can see through it—and a lot of new brands are getting into the market.

In 2013, hammock sales were around $26 million. They more than doubled last year to $53 million, according to the NPD Group.

“There’s kind of no excuse not to bring your hammock with you everywhere,” said Amy Allison, marketing team manager of Eagles Nest Outfitters, which was founded in 1999 and has been a staple for hammock-hangers long before that term was commonplace. Brands have trended toward ease of use, which is likely contributing to what Allison calls the “boom.” Tree straps from brands like ENO, Grand Trunk, Sea to Summit, Therm-a-Rest and Kammok don’t need any knots.

Sea to Summit made its first venture into hammocks this year, and went as light as possible right from the start. Its Ultralight Hammock weighs 4.9 ounces.

Kammok, which is fairly new to the hammock scene, makes versions with climbing-grade carabiners. Hammocks are accessible to everyone, said COO Haley Robison, so people who might not generally call themselves “outdoorsy” are getting out into nature.

“Hammocks, in this crazy way, do that for almost anyone,” Robison said. “It’s a reduced barrier to entry. I don’t have to be physically in the best of shape because I can just lie in this thing. Now, I have this key to adventure I didn’t have before.”

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment hammocks became an essential for the outdoors, but college kids on social media appear to have aided the boom. People love posting photos on Instagram of hammocks stacked three or four high, and it’s as much a social activity as it is a sly ultralight sleep system.

This story first appeared on p. 96 of the Day 4 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.