New hammock campers are often left with one of two first impressions after their first night – amazed at how comfortable they were and how restful they slept or feeling irritable and annoyed that they had terrible sleep and woke up cold.
Sadly this happens fairly often for those that don’t research hammock camping, but is 100% preventable.
One of the most common complaints about hammock camping is feeling cold and being unable to conserve body heat. However, this issue comes down to your choice of gear.
After all, there are plenty of die-hard hammock campers that still go out on trips in the dead of winter in frigid cold temperatures. The trick is that they always take along an appropriate underquilt.
An underquilt is a piece of gear that is basically essential to most hammock camping trips, save for those in the heat of the summer. Just as its name suggests, an underquilt is a quilted material that is placed under the hammock itself, rather than just under your body.
The issue with hammock and heat retention is that if you use just a sleeping bag with no underquilt, your body weight will compress the bag, leaving hardly any insulation between you and the hammock.
In a tent setting, this isn’t so much of an issue as the tent floor and the ground underneath acts as a buffer, helping to prevent body heat loss. This is especially true if you add in a sleeping pad. With a hammock, you are laying against a durable but fairly thin material, and on the other side is the cold air.
An underquilt effectively blocks the cold temperatures and acts as additional insulation to trap body heat. This is far more effective than simply using a thicker sleeping bag or a sleeping pad within your hammock.
Most hammock campers will agree that you should add an underquilt if there is a chance of nighttime lows reaching 40-45 F. In the middle of the summer you actually might quite enjoy having a bit of a breeze under you while you sleep, but typically on cool nights you should pack along your underquilt.
Underquilts essentially all perform the same function, but there are some models that are better constructed, higher quality, and overall have higher performance than others. If you are looking to purchase your first underquilt to complete your hammock camping set or are just interested in replacing your old one, here are the top 4 models to consider.
One of ENO’s most impressive underquilts is the Blaze. The ENO Blaze is a 750 fill duck down insulated underquilt, designed for temps down to 30F. They sell this as a 4 season capable underquilt, when combined with other gear appropriate for winter temps.
The down used in the Blaze is real duck down that has been sustainably sourced. It features Downtek technology which drastically increases the natural water repellency of real down. The shell is made of ripstop nylon finished with a DWR coating.
The Blaze has shock cord suspension rails and is very easy to get exactly right under your hammock. This underquilt weighs 24 ounces and is 6′ 6″ long.
It retails for $299.95 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here), which many find is very reasonable for the quality of the Blaze. If you need a super warm underquilt and don’t want to wait for a custom made one, this is a good route to go.
Kammok was founded out of a need for tough hammock gear after the founder experienced a fall in the middle of the night due to a failure in his equipment. Kammok is growing quickly and can now be found through major outdoor retailers like REI.
It goes without saying that when a brand specializes in one type of gear, they can truly become masters. Kammok is top-notch quality and their Koala underquilt is a perfect example of the great products this brand creates.
Despite being a cute name the Koala underquilt is seriously warm and well-designed. The Koala is designed for those chilly nights. It is highly resistant to water/moisture and features Kammok’s CustomFit adjustments, making it easy to have this quilt roomy or quite snug depending on your tastes.
The Koala also has Insotect Flow, which is a design Kammok created that helps regulate the flow or distribution of body heat. This helps spread the warmth and thereby reduces the chances of a cold spot. Kammok additionally makes this bag in either a synthetic or down option.
The synthetic bag is good down to 40F, weighs 27 ounces, and is 84″ long. The down bag is 80″ long, weighs 23 ounces, and is good down to 30F. There is a $100 price difference between the two, with the synthetic at $229 and the down at $329 (. For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
Enlightened Equipment is dedicated to creating lightweight, functional camping gear, primarily designed with ultralight backpackers in mind. They have a variety of hammock gear, including their Revolt 30 Degree Underquilt.
The Revolt 30 Degree Underquilt is a customer-designed model, meaning you get to choose the length, color (inside and out), as well as down type. You can also choose different temperatures, though the 30-degree model is a versatile choice.
The Revolt underquilt has a high fill and is designed with KARO baffles for maximum warmth retention. It has a high loft and incredible insulation, but remains easy to use and allows for any type of positioning. The Revolt is truly made with ease of use in mind, letting you easily readjust it even when you are already laying down.
Enlightened Equipment includes a Silnylon stuff sack for packing, a 100% cotton bag for storage at home/in the off-season, as well as 2 shock cords for suspension. You can also opt to include 2 mini carabiners.
Prices do vary based on what options you select, but an 850 fill down, regular length 30F Revolt will cost roughly $240 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) and weighs about 14.05 oz. This is a custom made quilt so keep in mind that it may be a few weeks before you get your product.
Underground Quilts (UGQ) is a small cottage company that focuses on hammock gear, including top quilts, tarps, and underquilts. Despite being a fairly new company, having been founded in 2011, they have quickly made a name for themselves. Of the two underquilts they offer, the Zeppelin is a particularly great choice.
Similarly to the Revolt underquilt, the Zeppelin is available in a plethora of different colors, lengths and fill. However, you also get the choice of additional fill, type of suspension system, and whether you want a storage sack or not.
All Zeppelin underquilts are made of extremely durable materials, including your choice of a DWR outer shell. The inner shell is made of M10, a silky soft materials that are also DWR treated. This underquilt has an impressive loft with 10 different baffled chambers sewn in.
All Zeppelin quilts are made to order. A 20F 850 fill regular length Zeppelin will cost about $209.95. With all the various options the Zeppelin is a great way for a more experience hammock camper to get exactly what they need.
Underquilts are a unique piece of gear for hammock camping, but one that you will regret not purchasing. While the average/casual camper probably won’t be out camping in very cold temperatures, it is still better to pack an underquilt than wake up in the middle of the night shivering.
Also, keep in mind that while underquilts are fairly universal, some models are designed to work with that brand’s hammock hanging system. If this is your first time purchasing hammock camping gear, it’s often worth it to invest in a reputable brand’s gear set to get you started. This is the easiest way of ensuring that you will be toasty warm throughout the night.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival prepping. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.