Students enjoying their hammocks with each other on Central Campus.

Come April, when green leaves start dotting the trees across campus, it’s inevitable that you’ll see neon hammocks hanging from a Norway spruce tree or black maple.

Thirty-two hammocks littered the lawns of Central Campus at 5:30 p.m. Monday as the sun shone through a near-cloudless sky. Among those hammocks was a display by The Green Umbrella club, the Iowa State Outdoor Recreation and Facilities Planning and Management department, teaching students about safe and sustainable hammocking habits. While many Iowa State "hammockers" may find interest in stacking hammocks on one set of trees with their friends, it may come as a surprise that this is actually bad for the trees and the safety of those relaxing below the tree canopy.

Students cite the beauty of campus as a major factor in their reasoning for attending Iowa State.

William Hayes, sophomore in psychology, was among the 32 hammockers that evening.

“I like to relax between classes,” Hayes said. 

The imagery of the Iowa State campus was a “huge factor” for Hayes when determining to attend Iowa State.

For most hammockers, the idea of relaxing outside in the fresh air and sun is more attractive than napping in their dorms or apartments.

Megan Koppenhafer, The Green Umbrella co-president, said when hammocking, students need to take into consideration the diameter of the trees they use to hold them up.

“You definitely want to make sure that if you’re hanging on trees or branches, they need to be at least 8 inches in diameter,” Koppenhafer said.

Pamphlets with hammock guidelines were handed out at the event to ensure the students knew the different ways to pitch a hammock, the proper angle to hang a hammock (30 degrees) and the types of material to use as a buffer between the tree and hammock straps.

Carpet squares were handed out to students interested in protecting the trees from the stress of the straps and student’s weight.


A carpet square is used to provide a buffer between the stress of a hammock strap against a tree on the Iowa State campus.

Iowa State’s campus tree inventory lists more than 13,000 trees on campus, with many of them over 100 years old. In January 2016, Iowa State was designated as a Tree Campus USA for effectively managing campus trees, developing connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy urban forests and striving to engage students with learning opportunities related to campus trees.

“Part of our campus forest, if you will, is that we have such a rich diversity," said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability. "We have such a beautiful place on Central Campus for people to enjoy it."

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