Winter Hammock Camping

Who says hammock camping has to end with the warm weather? Ever heard of winter hammocking? In this article, we’ll show you how to do it! Winter hammock camping doesn’t have to be miserable. In fact, if you know how to properly insulate, it’s actually just as comfortable as hammocking in warm weather!

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Insulation is the key ingredient to successfully camping in the colder months. Your insulation system is going to be your lifeline here. Thankfully, there are numerous options for insulation, and that allows you to build your own customized system.

Combine tips for staying warm and your personalized insulation system and you’re looking at one cozy winter hammocking experience. Let’s break down the types of insulation you can use.

Types of Insulation

Underquilt

An underquilt is basically just a flat sleeping bag that’s specially designed to fit the underside of your hammock. The benefit in these is that when laying in your hammock, you don’t compress the filling. Compressing the undersides filling, as you would if you were laying on a sleeping bag inside your hammock, leads to a phenomenon known as Cold Butt Syndrome. The dreaded cold butt syndrome is prevented by the underquilt since it provides insulation from the outside of your hammock.

Self inflating pads or mats

Adding a pad to you hammock can add additional insulation, but keep in mind that pads made from more slippery materials do have a tendency to slide around in your hammock. Some pads are a little to wide to fit easily inside of hammocks. Look for a pad made specifically hammocks, or one with a narrower shape, like the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite. A tip when searching for a self inflating pad or mat is that rectangular ones are usually harder to fit, and ones made for mummy shaped sleeping bags are usually a better bet. Be sure to check measurements of the pad before buying.

Closed Cell Foam (CCF) Pads

Quieter than most self inflating pads, CCF pads are a nice option. When tent camping they’re not as comfy as a self inflating, but for insulation only purposes, they are great. Most CCF pads also stay put better than other types of pads. A huge benefit of CCF is you are able to cut it to fit your hammock if need be. The pad will still work as normal and CCF will hold it’s shape even after being cut.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags aren’t generally great for hammock camping. Instead of a bag, many use an underquilt and a top quilt. However, when it’s extra cold, a sleeping bag can be used in addition to both quilts. Another option is to just use your sleeping bag as a top quilt.

Sleeping Bag Liner

Bag liners are helpful in keeping your sleeping bags cleaner longer, eliminating the need to wash them as often. They’re also good at adding some extra warmth to your bag. Liners can add up to 25 degrees of warmth to your sleep setup. That sounds like a winter hammock camper’s dream. Look for liners that are fleece or microfleece or ones that say insulated.

Tarp

How you hang your tarp can impact how much warmth your setup can hold near your hammock. Hanging it closer to your hammock will allow some warmth to hang around, and can make a difference in the “cold bite” you feel. The closer you can hang your tarp to your hammock, the more warmth you can keep close.

A 4 season tarp can be fully closed to help keep out bad weather and hold in warmth. A great 4 season tarp is the Glider Storm Shelter from Kammok.

Sleeping Bag Pod

A little lesser known, but super awesome insulator is the sleeping bag pod. The pod is an all encompassing cocoon of warmth that can help even the coldest of temperatures become bearable. Used alone, it can replace both your under and top quilts. In extreme cold, it can be added as the last piece of your setup, surrounding quilts, sleeping bag, and pads for the ultimate cold weather insulation system.

Here’s a video introducing the MummyPod system that shows how these work.

Tips to Keep Warm When Winter Hammock Camping

An emergency blanket, which you should already have in your pack, can add insulation in a pinch, or add to your existing insulation. You can tie the e-blanket to the ends of your hammock so it acts like an underquilt, or you can line your hammock with it under your pad. 

Find a spot sheltered from the wind to set up.

Try a pillow. It’ll add one more layer between you and the hammock, whether you put it inside your sleeping bag, or under it. 

Tarp placement. The closer to your hammock you place the tarp, the more warmth it can potentially hold. Tarps also work by helping ward off wind and snow. 

Layer your insulation. Hammock > Pad > Underquilt > Top quilt > Sleeping Pod > Tarp for ultimate warmth when the weather is bitter cold. Use any combination of these to build your ideal sleep system to fit the temperatures you’ll be hammock camping in.

Boil Your Way to a Warmer Hammock. Use a hot water bottle at your feet or at your midsection to add extra warmth where you need it most. I mostly place mine near my thighs but sometimes use one in the shoulder area as well.

Check out the articles below for more useful tips you can use in your hammock!

How to Sleep Warm When Backpacking and Camping