As temperatures drop, hammock campers begin to ponder what gear they need to keep them warm. Although hammocks keep you suspended above the ground, anytime you’re camping in cold weather, you must adequately insulate your hammock.
A hammock underquilt is one of the best ways to keep warm while spending the night in your hammock. However, an underquilt isn’t your only option when hammock camping.
In this article, I’ll explore whether or not you need an underquilt for hammock camping, as well as some popular alternatives!
What is a Hammock Underquilt?
Sleeping bags come to mind when most people think of staying warm while camping. The problem with sleeping bags is your bodyweight compresses the bottom of the bag, significantly decreasing the warmth it provides. The same thing occurs when using a sleeping bag in a hammock.
A hammock underquilt is an insulated quilt that hangs snugly below a hammock to prevent heat loss. It provides better insulation for the lower half of your body than a sleeping bag.
You can use Hammock underquilts year-round to maintain warmth around your back, but they’re most useful when temperatures drop in the fall and winter.
Without a hammock underquilt or other insulation type, cold air passes beneath your hammock and through the hammock’s fabric. With nothing to protect you from this cold air, you’ll lose body heat.
What is a Sleeping Pad?
A hammock sleeping pad is similar to the sleeping pads campers often use in tents. The most significant difference is a sleeping back designed for a hammock has tapered ends to fit snugly into a hammock, although square versions are also available.
Instead of hanging below the hammock, like an underquilt, you place a sleeping pad directly into the hammock with you. Double hammocks are double layered with a special sleeve designed to hold a sleeping pad.
You can use either foam or air pads in a hammock. Foam pads are more durable and cost less than air pads. However, an air pad is more comfortable.
Underquilt Vs. Pad
Underquilts and pads have advantages and disadvantages, so choosing one over the other comes down to personal preference.
Both options will keep you warm in chilly weather; the question is, what works best for you?
Most would agree that underquilts are more comfortable than sleeping pads because it sits below the hammock while you must put a sleeping pad in the hammock with you.
With an underquilt, nothing is coming between you and the hammock. Thus, you can maintain your comfortable hammock sleeping position, something not possible with a sleeping pad.
Hammocks are slippery, so getting a sleeping pad to fit comfortably in a hammock and stay in place overnight can be challenging.
Most sleeping pads are just big enough for you to lay on, leaving parts of your body exposed. In contrast, an underquilt protects your entire body from the cold.
If you’re venturing out into extreme weather, an underquilt will keep you warmer than a sleeping pad. You’ll need a well-made underquilt with a high-loft fill to stay toasty, but it’s worth the extra expense to keep warm in freezing temperatures.
If you’re looking for an underquilt that will keep you as warm as a sleeping bag, a good rule of thumb is to shop for an underquilt with the same thickness as your bag.
Once temperatures fall below 40 degrees, it’s probably best to stick with an underquilt.
Sleeping pads tend to be lighter than underquilts, so if you’re hiking to your campsite or concerned about weight, a sleeping pad may be the better option.
Not all underquilts are heavy; you can often purchase lightweight underquilts that are packable for hiking.
Check out the fill and design of sleeping pads and underquilts before deciding which to purchase.
Sleeping pads are generally less expensive than underquilts, making them an excellent option if you’re on a tight budget. There are many more sleeping pad options available at a low cost when compared to underquilts.
On the other hand, a premium air pad may cost as much as an underquilt. If you choose a closed-cell foam pad, you’ll pay a much lower price.
If you’re a camper, you may already have a sleeping pad, so you can save money by using it in your hammock on overnight trips. If you decide to make hammock camping a hobby, you can invest in an underquilt later.
Do You Need An Underquilt For Hammock Camping?
To be clear, you can go hammock camping without a hammock camping and still stay warm.
Sleeping pads are the most popular alternative to underquilts, but there are other options you can use to ensure you keep warm while hammock camping in the great outdoors.
#1 A Reflective Emergency Blanket
Placing a reflective blanket under your sleeping bag is one way to stay warm while sleeping in a hammock. A mylar blanket will reflect heat back at you and is an inexpensive way to conduct warmth towards your body.
These blankets are highly portable, made of thin, plastic material that acts as a heat shield when placed under your body. You can wrap the blanket around you to maximize heat retention.
A downside is condensation tends to accumulate in these blankets, resulting in a damp sleeping bag.
#2 DIY Underquilt
If money’s a concern and you’re skilled with a sewing machine, you could make an underquilt from an old sleeping bag or quilt.
Reflectex resembles an aluminum foil-lined bubble wrap and is available in most hardware stores.
This inexpensive material has two layers of heat-reflecting material, and you can buy it in various sizes based on your needs. You can turn it into a nice sleeping pad that will help you stay warm on cold nights.
#4 Your Car’s Sunshade
Another great budget-friendly option is recycling your car’s sunshade by turning it into a reflective sleeping pad for your hammock. The reflective material works similarly to Mylar and Reflectex to keep you warm at night.
If you’re camping with others, the crinkling noises of you tossing and turning may disturb their sleep. You’ll also need to figure out how to transport this bulky material to the campsite.
This option is better bet for pull-up style camping rather than a backcountry trip.
Create a Sleeping Bag Hammock
Open your sleeping bag from the foot area and slide your hammock through it. This will turn your hammock into a sleeping bag-hammock with you and your hammock cradled by the insulating layers of your sleeping bag.
Although not as effective as a traditional underquilt, you will get some of the benefits of a top quilt and underquilt. Getting the sleeping bag hammock set up can be challenging.
You’ll need someone to zip you up once you’ve climbed into this contraption. Be sure the sleeping bag’s hood is secured to the hammock to keep cold air out!
Getting back to our original question, do you need an underquilt for hammock camping?
While underquilts for hammocks are a great addition to any camper’s tool kit, they aren’t necessary for a successful camping trip. Before deciding whether to invest in an underquilt, determine how often you’ll be hammock camping and in what types of conditions.
Sleeping pads can keep you warm, but if you are camping in temperatures below 40 degrees, an underquilt will be well worth the investment. I’d recommend taking a look at this great option from OneTrigris below.
There are several budget-friendly DIY options if you don’t want to invest in an underquilt right now. Before going hammock camping, be sure you take along the right gear to keep you warm.
If you found this article helpful, then make sure to take a look at some of my other related posts linked below!