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Can Hammocks Stay Outside?

There’s nothing more relaxing than gently swinging back and forth in a hammock. It’s the perfect way to de-stress out in the yard. But they are a hassle to put up and take down – so can we just leave them outside, especially in the summer?

Hammocks shouldn’t stay outside even in good weather, as UV rays can fade the material and morning dew can make the fabric go moldy. Strong wind can rip your hammock and rain will make it go rotten. Using a tarp is no good either, as your hammock will still get damp and covered in mildew underneath.

Let’s dive down into this subject in more detail, and consider if hammocks are truly waterproof, what can damage them – and how to look after them properly so they last a good few years.

Can Hammocks Stay Outside?

Are Hammocks Waterproof? (Can They Get Wet Or Rained On?)

Most hammocks are not waterproof, and there are good reasons for this. So, unless you’re creating your own hammock from a tarp and two trees, you’re going to need a wet-weather plan for yours.

The reason why hammocks aren’t waterproof is that water would simply collect in them. Under heavy rain, a suspended hammock would quickly become like a plastic bag filled with water. And (we’re sorry), a waterproof hammock would soon have an unpleasant coating of sweat and sunblock on a hot summer’s day.

Because of this, aim for water-resistant or quick drying. For example, many camping hammocks are made from parachute nylon, a tough and lightweight fabric that dries really quickly.

If you like the look of the traditional hammock, they tend to be made from brightly colored cotton. This is a soft and breathable material (no pools of sweat here), but it won’t stand up to constant rain or damp. The same goes for canvas, which is basically a tough weave of cotton. This definitely needs to be brought indoors between each use.

Will Too Much Prolonged Direct Sunlight Damage a Hammock?

All the elements will eventually have an effect on your hammock, and sunlight is no exception. Too much UV will cause fading; so although the warmth of the sun on the hammock prevents dampness, it will also eventually damage the fabric.

If you want to keep those colors nice and bright, only have your hammock up if you plan to use it. For the rest of the time, store it somewhere clean and dry, and away from direct sunlight.

Of course, most of us choose to hang our hammocks in shady places (such as under trees, or in our porches if they’re on a stand), which will still provide indirect warmth without too much damaging sunlight: good for you and your hammock.

Can You Leave a Hammock Out Overnight? (And All Day?)

No, you can’t leave a hammock out 24/7, even in good weather. If the weather forecast is dry, there’ll still be dew in your yard first thing in the morning. Also, do you really want to come down in the morning to find the neighborhood cats (or even foxes) have moved into your hammock?

Speaking of uninvited guests, by storing your hammock every day, you’re preventing critters from moving into its ropes. Rodents, bugs and birds will chew at the ropes, and even use its fibers to make nests! The last thing you want is a compromised rope that gives way when you lie down on the hammock…

If your hammock is on a stand, you’ll also preserve the life of the stand by bringing it in overnight. A smart wooden stand will last much longer (and look better) if it isn’t permanently kept outside. Gathering up the hammock at night will become just another part of your nighttime routine, and really isn’t a very onerous one.

What Happens if My Hammock Gets Mildew On it?

You really don’t want mold or mildew developing on your hammock. There are two main ways to prevent it: keep your hammock indoors when not in use, and wash it every few weeks with warm water and detergent. Mildew develops when fabric is allowed to remain damp, so always make sure your hammock is completely dry after washing.

If your hammock gets rained on, wash it with water and detergent, then hang it up somewhere warm and dry until no trace of damp remains. If you have a cotton hammock, you can wash it in the machine, on a gentle, cool setting, but it will need to dry naturally (more about this in a minute).

What do you do if you spot mold and mildew on the hammock fabric? It’s time for our old friend, white vinegar. Hand wash it in a solution that’s half vinegar, half water (you may want to wear gloves for this), then wash it again in water and detergent to rinse off the vinegar smell. This should clear the mildew.

If it’s a bad case of mildew, the fabric will develop an unpleasant musty smell. Should this occur, use baking soda. You don’t have to scrub the whole thing; simply clean the affected areas by rubbing in the soda, which should absorb the odors. Rinse, then hang to dry.

Tarp over hammock

How Do You Put a Tarp On a Hammock?

A tarp is normally suspended over a hammock if you plan to sleep under it at night, or if you want to go camping. We wouldn’t advise using a tarp as an alternative to dry, indoor storage. Your hammock will still become damp under a tarp, and eventually it will develop mold and mildew.

However, if you want to rig up a tarp so you can sleep under it, it will provide shade and shelter. You can pick up tarps in most hardware stores, as they have so many uses in the home and yard. Alternatively, you can buy special hammock tarps on Amazon and outdoor stores. A tarp is  also called a rain fly, so you might want to search for that term, too.

When you’re buying tarp, make sure the piece you choose or have cut is larger than your hammock (hung length, not fully stretched length). It needs to be at least two feet longer than the hammock. For simple yard use, you don’t need a heavy duty or high tech fabric.

Tarp bought, here’s what you do next. There are several ways to hang a tarp. The easiest is a rectangular hang. You’ll need to create a “ridge line” by fixing a guy rope to either end of the hammock. You’ll end up with a rope running above the length of the hammock.

Drape the tarp over the ridge line and stake the four corners to the ground, pulling them taut. It’s that easy.

Camping experts Outdoorser recommend a diamond-shape for straightforward yard shelter, as you get more coverage from a smaller tarp. You’ll need to hang the tarp diagonally over the hammock, with the overhang equal on both sides. This gives you maximum shelter.

Two corners are fixed at the head and foot of the hammock. You’ll need to stake the other two corners to the ground (unless you have some well-placed trees!).

How Do You Dry a Hammock?

As we mentioned earlier, it’s vital that you keep your hammock dry. A damp hammock will develop mold and mildew, and really won’t be a very inviting place for a nap. If your hammock gets wet, it’s important to dry it out completely.

You should wash your hammock fabric every few weeks with warm water and detergent. After this, air dry them outdoors in a sunny spot. If it’s raining, find a place indoors where you can drape the hammock to dry

Don’t be tempted to rig up the hammock to dry. The gathered ends won’t dry properly, and these could end up becoming unpleasantly moldy. It needs to be hung flat to make sure that every bit of the fabric dries out.

If your hammock gets rained on, bring it indoors to dry (unless the sun comes out again quickly). It is recommended to give it a wash if it gets wet in the rain, to prevent mildew from developing. Dry as above. The easiest solution is to bring it in every day, and don’t rig it up if you think it might rain.

Final Thoughts

In summary, hammocks should not really stay outside even in good weather – as the sun’s UV rays can make the material fade, and early morning dew can also make the fabric go moldy.

Strong wind can rip your hammock and rain will also make it go moldy if it’s not dried out properly. Using a tarp is no good either as the hammock will still get damp and covered in mildew underneath.

So…in short; use your hammock and relax in it – then take it back inside when you’ve finished and store it in a dry place no matter what the weather’s doing.

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >