While most people stick to camping in tents, hammock camping is being a more popular alternative, especially amongst seasoned camping enthusiasts.
Hammock camping helps to reduce pack weight and many find that it’s fairly impossible to wake up with a sore back when sleeping in a hammock. Not to mention the gentle swing and overall cradled feel is certainly relaxing.
However, compared to tent camping there is one tricky factor when it comes to hammocks – and that is how to properly keep warm.
Those new to hammock camping may simply throw their regular old sleeping bag into their pack, load up their hammock and go. Unfortunately, many of these enthusiastic first-timers don’t realize that a normal sleeping bag just won’t cut it when it comes to proper insulation. Consider the difference between sleeping on the ground and suspended.
In a tent setting, you will have your sleeping bag directly on the tent floor or perhaps on a sleeping pad. Your body is naturally going to compress the sleeping bag bottom, but thanks to the natural insulation of being against the ground, with or without the cushion of a pad, it will help you conserve body heat.
When you are instead in a hammock, this bottom compression will still occur (and perhaps even on the sides too). The issue this time around is that you are suspended in the air and there is no insulative buffer to help you keep in the heat your body generates.
Instead, your body weight will squish down the sleeping bag to quite a thin layer, and even with the thickness of the hammock itself added in you likely still will get chilled.
The warmth factor is one reason why it’s important to carefully consider and reassess your sleeping bag situation if you are trying out hammock camping. Many hammock campers actually forgo the sleeping bag altogether, instead of using a specially designed quilt or two, perhaps with a pad.
That being said, when the weather is fairly warm or if you also include an underquilt, you can quite comfortably use a sleeping bag right in your hammock. Just be sure to consider the compression aspect of using this type of setup and always check the lowest expected nighttime temps before you head out.
If you enjoy the snug feeling of a sleeping bag or are looking for a bag that will work for the hammock as well as tent camping, here are 3 different models to consider.
First up is Outdoor Vitals Aerie, a very unique and versatile sleeping bag that can also be used as an underquilt, pod or blanket. The Aerie is designed to be fully capable of hammock camping and tent camping, while still remaining reasonably priced for the average consumer.
The Aerie has a comfort rating of 30F and may be used alone or with other quilts. For insulation, it has 800+ fill StormLOFT down that is RDS sourced. This down is naturally highly water-resistant which is an important feature for obvious reasons.
The shell is made of 20D ripstop fabric that has been treated with VitalDry DWR coating. The lining is a soft 20D ripstop as well. Altogether, with the stuff sack, this bag weighs 1 lb 14 oz.
Since the Aerie is designed with hammock camping in mind Outdoor Vitals included loops for hanging as a pod and double drawstrings for when you use it as an underquilt. The Aerie retails for just under $155 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), which is a killer deal for such a versatile but warm sleeping bag setup.
If you have a double hammock or do equal amounts of tent camping with a partner as well as hammock camping, you can zip together two Aeries for even more space.
Mountain Hardwear makes some seriously warm sleeping bags, so it comes as no surprise that many of their models work well for hammock campers. Due to the compression issue mentioned previously, it’s typically a good idea to get a warmer bag than you think you’d need.
This is already a common practice, but far more important for hammock hangers. It isn’t unusual to select a sleeping bag that is two or three times as warm as you’d need for a tent.
The Phantom Torch 3 is a favorite for winter backpackers that need something exceptionally warm, but also very lightweight. The Phantom Torch 3 is insulated with 800 fill Q.Shield Down which offers enough warmth for 3F temps and maintains a very high loft when in use.
The Q.Shield down insulation is also highly water-resistant. The regular bag only weighs 2lbs 9 oz, while the long is 3 oz more. This is a mummy-cut bag and has a left hand side zipper. The hood has a 6 chamber baffled designed and can easily be cinched with just one hand.
The Phantom Torch 3 is a technical sleeping bag and priced accordingly at $600 or $630 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), depending on whether you need a regular or a large.
Customers do note that the Phantom Torch 3 is fairly roomy compared to regular sleeping bags, which is a bonus for getting comfy in a hammock setting as well as when it comes to getting out of your hammock.
A frustrating problem that many hammock campers face when attempting to use a sleeping bag is the struggle of getting out of said bag to exit the hammock. If you’ve ever accidentally lost your balance and have fallen from a hammock you know how important it is to remain steady.
Struggling to get out of a normal side zip bag is tricky, but thankfully there are a few great front zip bags on the market, like the Mobile Mummy.Sierra Designs created the Mobile Mummy to allow for maximum ease of movement. You can sleep on your back, stomach or sides, and exit easily from any position. Another advantage is that you can easily sit up while still in this bag but have your hands free.
The foot box can also be stowed away, allowing you to walk around camp without leaving your cozy, warm sleeping bag.
Sierra Designs offers the Mobile Mummy in a few different options, but the 600 fill 30F model is a great all-around choice for most hammock campers. The regular size bag is a reasonable $199.95 while the long is $219.95 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
This bag is made of 30D polyester ripstop, 30D polyester taffeta, and insulated with 600 fill duck DriDown.
While hammock camping requires a little more attention to what gear you take, after a while it will be just as second-nature as sleeping in a tent. Dedicated hammock campers often urge tent campers to give it a try as the comfort and quality of sleeping of a hammock, given that you stay warm enough, is astounding.
It isn’t surprising that many that try hammocks combined with the proper gear never go back to tent camping again.
Any one of the above 3 models will work well in a hammock. Just be sure to consider adding an underquilt in temps below 40F or so. Talking with experienced hammock campers is the best way of determining what gear will suit you and your environment best.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival skills. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.