Hammock camping can be one of the most exciting ways to camp. You have the luxury of being completely exposed to the backcountry without being confined to a tent and having to sleep on the cold hard ground.
So do you need a sleeping bag with a hammock?
You do not have to have a sleeping bag in a hammock if temperatures are 70 degrees or above. If temperatures are going to be low, typically below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need a sleeping bag or other means of insulation, like a sleeping pad, to keep you warm in your hammock. If you know that there will be wind in the forecast, there is even more of a reason to utilize a sleeping bag while you’re in your hammock.
While in some cases you could get by fine without a sleeping bag with a hammock be sure to read below to find out why it’s a good idea and some other great information.
Why You Need a Sleeping Bag in a Hammock?
One thing that draws people into hammock camping is the sheer minimalism of it. There’s nothing between you and the wild except the hammock. While this is a great experience, a hammock alone will not protect you from the elements.
Staying warm in a hammock is more of a challenge than most people would think, even in the summer months. In addition to wind, breeze, moisture, and temperature, your heart rate drops while you’re sleeping. This makes your body temperature drop lower than it would if you were up and moving around.
When you’re sleeping, due to this drop in heart rate, temperatures as high as 75 degrees Fahrenheit can feel chilly.
Hammocks are made out of a breathable material, usually nylon, that keeps you both cool and dry in the summer. However, this fabric allows wind to pass above, underneath and through the hammock. These characteristics of hammocks are the very reason you need a sleeping bag or other means of insulation.
Thin breathable materials are excellent for summer days, but they can be a bit chilly at night during both winter and summer months.
Always plan accordingly. Before heading out to the campsite, be sure to check the weather. Always make sure it’s suitable for hammock camping along with the other gear that you have packed. Consider wind and precipitation when checking the weather, these factors can make it much colder.
Another thing to consider when sleeping in a hammock during cooler temperatures is a sleeping bag liner. Having a bag liner is beneficial in the winter months, as it can add up to 20 degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag, depending on the liner you choose.
In the summer, sleeping bag liners can be used, separate from the sleeping bag, to help break the wind at night. This will also prevent you from getting chilled. Sleeping bag liners are a great choice as they are very lightweight and packable.
Alternatives to Sleeping Bags
Having a sleeping bag inside your hammock will definitely help to keep you warm. However your body will compress the bottom of the sleeping bag. This one issue will make your backside a little more prone to being cold. The thickness of a sleeping bag is what helps keep you warm, so compressing it is counter-productive.
Underquilts are an excellent option for many hammock campers. Although pricey, they are very effective. These can be purchased with either synthetic or down insulation. If it’s in your budget, down will be the warmer and lighter option. If you choose a down-insulated underquilt, make sure that it does not get wet. Down loses all of its insulating properties if it becomes wet.
Underquilts are basically sleeping bags that hook to each end of a hammock while wrapping underneath and up around the sides. This eliminates your body from compressing the bottom and allowing the cold to reach you.
One advantage to underquilts is that they allow you to move around more freely inside your hammock. Although most people sleep on their backs typically, having the ability to change positions allows you to be much more comfortable while you’re sleeping.
You can also purchase an overquilt (or top quilt), although not usually as necessary. The main reason for an underquilt is to fix the issue of compressing your sleeping bag under your body. This is not an issue above you. Your sleeping bag will typically handle the top of your body, as long as you have a properly rated sleeping bag for the outdoor temperature.
Another alternative that usually performs very well is a simple ground pad. Whether it is the most basic foam ground pad or a self-inflating ground pad, they work!
To use a ground pad as insulation, simply place it in the hammock underneath your sleeping bag. This will help insulate you from the wind that blows underneath the hammock. It will also compensate for the compression of the sleeping bag. This method works well in the summer months as well as it aids in breaking the chill of any wind passing below the hammock.
The only issue with a ground pad is that they move freely inside the hammock. Almost every time you move, the ground pad will move underneath you. This can cause you to be quite uncomfortable at times.
In addition to a ground pad, a car sunshade can be used as improv if you’re caught in a last-minute situation when you need insulation. As any camping enthusiast knows, sometimes things get overlooked when packing. You can pick up a car sunshade at most gas stations and supermarkets for a few dollars.
Although many people have mixed opinions, summertime camping will be much easier in planning out your hammock camping trips. You may need less insulation in the summer months, but you may still need something to insulate you at night.
In general, if the temperature is going to drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit at night, you’re going to want a sleeping bag liner or something similar, even if it’s just wearing the proper clothing. If the temperature is forecasted to be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to consider a little more insulation.
If you’re unable to get a ground pad or underquilt, you can string your hammock through your sleeping bag. Typically sleeping bags have two zippers. You can run one end of the hammock through the hood of the sleeping bag, and the other end through the two zippers.
This is the closest that you can get to an underquilt without actually having one. If possible, tie off each end of the sleeping bag to the hammock. Since a sleeping bag is not intended to be used as an underquilt, it can slide up and down the hammock. It can also allow cold air in at the top and bottom.
Other Options and Additions that can Keep You Warm
There are other things that you can do that will help insulate you and shield you from the elements when camping in a hammock.
A rainfly is one thing that you should always plan to have when hammock camping. A rainfly is essentially a fancy tarp that ties to each tree above the hammock and is staked to the ground on the other corners.
Even if there is no rain in the forecast, this will keep morning dew off of you. There’s nothing like waking up covered in a thin coating of moisture.
The main reason, aside from using it in rainy conditions, is that the rainfly acts as a windbreak for your hammock. Wind is generally the main reason people become chilled when sleeping in a hammock.
As you lay in your hammock to sleep, your heart rate drops, causing your body temperature to drop much more quickly and easily. Wind will make even summer nighttime temperatures feel chilly to quite cold sometimes.
In addition to sleeping bags, underquilts, and other insulation options, the manner in which you dress has a significant impact on how well you will stay warm in your hammock. If the temperatures are going to be harsh, make sure you dress appropriately.
Wool base-layers, and even down mid-layers can make or break how warm you are in your hammock in cold temperatures. If need be, you can add additional layers on top of these. One advantage to layering is that if you get overheated, you can remove layers as needed.
One thing to always remember is that none of these options have to be used by themselves. If temperatures are going to be extreme, you can apply multiple methods at once to assure that you stay warm, dry, and comfortable through the night.
Placing your sleeping bag in the hammock and still having an underquilt may make or break your comfort in a hammock, as well as maybe putting a liner inside of the sleeping bag.
All in all, there are plenty of options out there to keep you warm in your hammock. A sleeping bag is always going to be the number one choice, but it often requires a little extra gear to get the job done effectively.
As always, preparation is critical. Make sure you know the conditions and temperatures of the location in which you plan to camp before packing and heading out to the campsite. Being cold and damp is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be critical to your health. It is worth every penny to have the correct gear!
How do you sleep in a hammock in cold weather?
Since your body weight will compress the insulation in a hammock, it is best to get a highly rated hammock quilt in order to stay warm.
What is the best hammock Underquilt?
We personally use the Onetigris under quilt. It’s light and portable and we have never had any issues with it. This makes us comfortable recommending it to you. You can find them on Amazon Here.
Here are a couple of related articles that you may find helpful.
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