In summer, there is nothing nicer than lying and relaxing in a hammock when a cool breeze is blowing. Sometimes, I am even grateful for the gentle wind that cools me down. When it gets a bit more autumnal outside, however, it can suddenly feel less pleasant. Often, this is why hammock camping beginners do not use the hammock in autumn, although there are a range of effective methods which can help fight the cold.
Sleeping in a hammock usually means sleeping in a more exposed and open way than in a normal tent. Even the smallest breeze prevents the air warming up underneath most thin hammocks and so your back cools down quickly. Moreover, the insulation of the sleeping bag or of the clothes is not as effective because it is compressed by our own body weight and, therefore, a so-called “cold bridge” evolves. A “cold bridge” is not ideal as far too much warmth escapes.
How to stay warm in a hammock
There are various ways to make yourself comfortable in a hammock. The first and most important step is the appropriate insulation from above. This can be your normal sleeping bag, a thick woolly blanket or a top quilt. The latter has the advantage of being much lighter compared to the sleeping bag and the woolly blanket.
The sleeping mat
I take my sleeping mat with me on every tour in any event, and it’s actually also suitable to sleep on in your hammock. Where’s the problem then? In many forums people report that the sleeping mat is not very comfortable to use in the hammock. There are certain hammock models which offer a slit for sleeping mats but even then, it can apparently slip. I have to admit that I am a rather peaceful sleeper and that my inflatable mat is comfortable for me. The second disadvantage is, however, the insulation of the sides. Most sleeping mats are cut in a way so that the whole body just about fits on it. However, the cold comes in from all sides and the sleeping bag alone cannot balance that.
A quilt such as the ft underquilt 150
As the name suggests, this is a quilt that is fixed below the hammock and therefore has the same functions as a top quilt or a sleeping bag from above – the only difference being that it’s from below. With an underquilt, body warmth is kept in from below and the sides. The hammock camping community thoroughly recommends underquilts. There is already quite a good range of them. I decided to go for the ft underquilt 150 as it is perfect for my purposes. It has a g-loft synthetic fibre filling and it can be compressed for easy packing. It’s a classic full-length underquilt. There are shorter ones that only cover the back and the behind, but for me that wouldn’t be enough. Moreover, the ft underquilt 150 has an excellent additional feature – it has an in-built hoody and can therefore also be used as a warming cover. In my view, it’s the most important warming companion whilst hammock camping.
Less used but apparently extremely comfortable is the pod system. You probably feel like a butterfly just before hatching as it’s a cocoon made of down which wraps once around the whole hammock. The biggest disadvantage that I can see with this pod system and why I haven’t got one myself yet is that you also lie in there with your head and breathe. We should avoid this with down as oxygen contains moisture, and therefore I consider this construction to be rather suboptimal.
My favourite system
I like experimenting and have tried out various hammock camping combinations. In summer, I prefer a light hammock with sleeping mat and light sleeping bag as I can vary depending on warmth. Depending on the climate zone, I have recently been using the flying tent with mosquito protection to sleep outside. And if the thermometer falls below the 10 degrees Celsius mark at night, I take my down sleeping bag (which provides comfort for below 10 degrees Celsius) and the beloved ft underquilt 150 with me. With this combination, I can sleep outside up to freezing point and enjoy the star-lit sky.
Hammock camping in winter?
I have never tried it, but apparently, it’s meant to be particularly nice. With the suggested insulation practices it should be possible to sleep in the hammock at below-zero temperature without any problems. I recommend, however, getting some experience in a safe environment as everyone should decide by themselves how much insulation is necessary.
My personal tip: fill your aluminium drinking bottle with warm water, put it in your sleeping bag and use it as a hot water bottle. This will definitely keep you warm!