Knowing how to stay warm in a hammock, whether you’re doing some winter camping or it’s just a breezy summer day, is important if you want to be comfortable and get some solid sleep throughout the night.
I’ve spent a few nights in a hammock where I was unprepared for the weather and let me just tell you, it’s not very comfortable at all.
Apart from the shivering I was never able to get more than 20 or 30 minutes of sleep before waking up and remembering how cold I was.
The thing is, I had all of the proper attire from wool socks and long johns to a down jacket and a winter hat.
What I didn’t have though, was a sleeping pad or an underquilt, two essential items for staying warm when you’re spending the night in hammock.
Without these two items my body was pressing through my down sleeping bag, compressing all of the down so that it lost its warmth keeping abilities, and because I was pressing up against the hammock material I could feel all of the cold air and drafts.
Well, it only took a few nights for me until I decided I wanted to come out completely prepared the next time I decided to go hammocking in cold weather.
How to Stay Warm When You’re Hammock Camping
Along with being prepared myself I wanted to share some of the tips and techniques I’ve learned on how to stay warm in a hammock during the winter during those less than ideal summer, spring and fall days.
Pick the Right Spot
While the cold temperatures suck there’s nothing worse than having the wind blowing you all night, freezing you down to the bone.
One of the best things I learned when it comes to staying warm in a hammock was to find a proper spot that was shielded from the elements.
When you’re out hiking or bicycle touring you probably start to look for a spot at the bare minimum around an hour or so before it gets dark.
Rather than waiting until the last minute, start sooner and look for somewhere that offers natural protection from the wind (and if you’re lucky the rain or snow).
You’ll want to keep an eye out for thick, dense groupings of trees or bushes, rocks or boulders that you can set up behind or any gullies or natural dips in the geology where you’re not going to be blasted by the wind.
It will also help to know the direction that the wind is coming from before you find a spot.
Simply not having wind blowing on you all night is one of the best ways to improve how warm you are without having to rely on gear – but the right gear is also helpful and very important in helping you stay warm.
Use the Right Sleeping Bag
If you’re out hammocking during the summer, warmer months you could definitely get away with using a blanket or just a top quilt paired with a sleeping pad.
In the winter though, this definitely isn’t going to cut it and you’re going to want to look for a sleeping bag that’s suitable to use when the weather gets cold.
I prefer using mummy bags, those tapered ones where are you can pull up the hood over your head and have it closed so you can keep your head and face protected from the cold weather and other elements.
There are two different kinds available, ones made from down and ones made from synthetic material.
It’s up to you to decide what your preferences are and what your outdoor needs are so definitely look into the advantages and disadvantages of both materials before making a purchase.
Look for options that are rated down to cold weather and keep in mind that the rating is more of an emergency rating so look for ones that offer a better cold-weather rating than you think you would need.
Once you’re all bundled up it’s great being able to zip the sleeping bag hood closed right over your face, leaving only your nose exposed, and being able to sleep warmly.
Keep in mind that if with the sleeping bag you’re still going to want a sleeping pad, at the bare minimum, to protect you even more from the elements.
Grab a Sleeping Bag Liner
Sleeping bag liners are just one more way to add a little bit more warmth and comfort to your hammock sleeping set up during the winter.
It’s basically a liner that goes on the inside of your sleeping bag and it helps to fill up any open spaces, which cuts down on the air that your body warms up and keeps you warmer overnight.
There are a few different options if you’re looking for a liner so I recommend taking a look at what’s available and trying to find one that’s most suitable for your needs and outdoor preferences.
Bring a Sleeping Pad No Matter What
What I learned when I was spending the night in the hammock without any proper insulation from the wind is that a sleeping pad is one of the most important items in protecting your body from the elements and helping to keep you a lot more warmer and comfortable throughout the night.
Sleeping pads add an extra layer of insulation below you and are very important when it comes to keeping your back, your butt and the backs of your legs warm.
Without one, your body is just pressed up against the hammock while it compresses your sleeping bag beneath you and you’re able to feel all of the wind and cold air all through the night.
The cold air will suck the warmth out of you and you’ll be left shivering and unable to sleep well.
There are two types of sleeping pad you can choose from – either an inflatable one or or just a regular foam/static material one.
Again, the one you use depends on your preferences, budget and how cold the weather is that you’re going to be sleeping in.
Wrap Your Pillow
If you’re already using a camping pillow for extra comfort then you should definitely consider wrapping it up before you go to sleep.
If you’re not using one you should definitely consider it. A small camping pillow will not only make sleeping a lot more comfortable but it will also help to insulate your head and keep you warmer overall.
Either way, once you have a pillow you’re going to want to wrap it up using any spare clothing that you’re not wearing to bed.
This will make the pillow more comfortable to sleep on and when it’s wrapped up your face won’t be pressing up directly against the cold nylon material and you’ll be able to sleep warmer.
Set Up Your Tarp
A lot of people, especially if you’re using an open hammock like the ENO single or double nest, sleep out in the open unexposed unless it’s raining.
During the winter and other colder times it’s a good idea to take advantage of a tarp and use it to your ability to stay warmer.
Setting up your tarp will help to block the wind, keep you protected from any rain or snow and will reflect the warm air of your breath and heat from your body back onto you.
Consider an Underquilt for Extreme Cold
If you’re hanging outdoors and it’s just below freezing then you can definitely get away with just using your sleeping pad.
However, if you’re heading out into the backcountry and you’re expecting very cold weather you should consider using it dedicated underquilt to stay warm.
Underquilts are just how they sound, they’re a quilt that goes underneath your hammock.
They’re quite similar to sleeping bags, usually made from the same materials, except they wrap around you on the outside of your hammock and turn you into somewhat of a taco.
There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to using them but it’s hard to beat their capability at keeping you warm and even in very cold temperatures you’ll be able to sleep warmly and comfortably if you’re taking advantage of an underquilt.
When you’re using an underquilt you don’t have to really use a sleeping pad but you’re going to want to make sure you have a sleeping bag or a top quilt with you.
Keep a Warm Water Bottle Inside With You
Before calling it a night you might want to consider boiling some water and adding it to your water bottle.
Then, toss the water bottle into your sleeping bag, right near your feet, and let its ambient warmth warm you up throughout the night.
This is a great way to quickly warm yourself up after a long day of hiking and when you combine it with some of the other techniques here to stay warm throughout the night without shivering or having to wake up because you’re so cold.
Of course, dressing properly is going to go along way in keeping you warm and cozy.
Make sure to pack everything you think you need to stay warm and even a little extra in case it gets colder than you thought.
For this I recommend bringing along thick wool socks, long johns, warm pants, a wool sweater, an undershirt, winter clothes, winter hat, a face mask and your down or synthetic jacket.
Try to avoid using cotton, especially during bouts of extreme cold, as it’s not going to be able to keep you warm at all and you’ll spend the night wishing you brought along your favorite merino wool gear.