You might think hammock underquilts are a waste of money and take up too much room.
They come with lots of benefits you'll appreciate on colder nights.
But I'm sure you just want to know whether or not you need one, so let's get to the bottom of it.
Do I Need An Underquilt For My Hammock?
Bottom insulation is essential when you're hammock camping in cold or hot weather. If you don't have anything between your sleeping back and the ground you'll be freezing at night. But you can choose between a hammock underquilt and a sleeping pad.
Most people will agree you can use a hammock sleeping pad down to a certain temperature then switch to an underquilt when it's colder.
But you don't need to go hammock camping with a sleeping pad. It's a huge bonus if you use an underquilt every time you go camping even in warmer weather.
Do You Need An Underquilt If You Have A Sleeping Bag?
I know it seems like you don't need a hammock quilt if you have a sleeping bag. Especially when it's warm during those long summer nights.
But there is a gap between you and the ground. Cold air is going to flow through the gap during the night and you'll be turned into an ice pop.
When you lie inside a sleeping back it gets squashed down even when it's made from quality material like goose down.
The gap between your body and the underside of the hammock is tiny. A good sleeping bag and nylon hammock will not be enough alone to protect you from cold weather.
How Important Is An Underquilt?
The most important thing about staying warm when you're hammock camping is bottom insulation. It doesn't matter what provides you with insulation.
I'm sure you could take a heap of wool blankets and throw them into your hammock, but you're camping so they won't squeeze into your backpack.
A hammock underquilt is so special because it provides you with the extra and it can be stuffed to a small size for portability.
At What Temperature Do You Need A Hammock Underquilt?
If you're just starting to hammock camp you should use an underquilt once the temperature drops to between 32-50 degrees.
If you already have a hammock sleeping pad with a high R-value feel free to keep using it in freezing conditions if it's enough to keep you warm.
Per square inch, hammock underquilts provide more warmth than sleeping pads and they also come with a few benefits I think beginner hammock campers will appreciate.
Here are some of the reasons why hammock underquilts are more comfortable:
- Lying on a hammock
- Quilts don't shift
- Covering your body
Lying on a hammock
There's nothing more relaxing than lying in a nylon camping hammock because they feel so good. But when you use a sleeping pad you're not sleeping on the hammock.
You're lying on top of a sleeping pad which isn't as good as it sounds. It takes lots of enjoyment away from sleeping in a hammock.
I know pads are sometimes crucial because you need bottom insulation, but I don't think anyone will argue about the fact lying on your hammock is more comfortable.
Quilts don't shift
It takes you a few minutes to set up your hammock quilt once you get used to it, but once you're done you don't need to think about it again.
The same can't usually be said about sleeping pads. It's hard to get comfortable when the pad underneath you is moving throughout the night.
You might be lucky if you have a sleeping pad compartment in your hammock and your pad is shaped specifically for hammocks. Quilts won't move anywhere.
Covering your body
A hammock quilt runs from the top of your hammock to the bottom. It means it covers every single part of your body.
Hammock sleeping pads don't normally offer you the same advantage because they're sometimes not long enough to cover your feet and your head.
If your sleeping pad is thin it's not going to do a good job covering the top half of your shoulders. You could end up with a chilly upper body during the night.
Downsides Of Hammock Underquilts
You might not want an underquilt for your hammock if you don't go camping in extreme weather. There are some negatives we should speak about before you make any decisions.
Here are some reasons why a hammock underquilt might not be such a good idea:
- More expensive
- Heavier + bigger
- Attaching underquilt
- Sleeping in ground
A good hammock underquilt is probably going to be the most expensive piece of hammock camping equipment you own. It might be a big expense for you in the beginning.
It's unfortunate because hammock camping is something you'd expect to be relatively cheap. After all, you're only sleeping in a nylon hammock.
There's a lot of competition and you can find good deals nowadays. If you're not camping below freezing I doubt the cost will hurt your bank balance as much as you think.
Heavier + bigger
It's really hard to work out whether underquilts or sleeping pads are bigger and heavier because there isn't much difference between them.
Things get complicated because you have to take things like price and temperature rating. Each one has a different temperature rating system too.
If an underquilt and sleeping pad had roughly the same temperature rating and price the underquilt would be a bit bigger and heavier.
But I don't think the difference is noticeable enough to make a difference. I would still take the one you think is best suited for your needs.
If I could choose between hanging an underquilt or blowing up an inflatable sleeping pad I would be happy doing either.
But I know some hammock campers don't appreciate setting up an underquilt on a hammock. I know a hammock wasn't designed to accommodate them.
Just know you'll be able to set up any bottom insulation system pretty quickly once you've had enough practice on a few camping weekends.
Sleeping in ground
Tarp camping is just as exciting as hammock camping, which is why I think sleeping on the ground is where sleeping pads reign supreme.
If you have a hammock underquilt you won't be able to sleep on the ground because it won't offer you any insulation from the cold.
Put an inflatable sleeping pad on the ground and you can sleep comfortably in your sleeping bag as long as you have a tarp set up. It can be used in various places like:
- Above tree lines
- On sandy beaches
- Closer to cities
- In large fields
If you know exactly where you're going and it's full of trees I would probably opt for a hammock underquilt in most cases.
But if you're just going on an adventure and don't know where you'll end up it's great when you have the option to sleep on the ground on a sleeping pad.
How Do You Keep A Hammock Warm Without An Underquilt?
The only real way to keep a hammock warm on the bottom is a sleeping pad. You can also double up sleeping pads when it's very cold.
If you want to know the temperature rating of two sleeping bag pads combined just add the R-values together and you'll know how cold you can go.
How Do You Insulate A Hammock Even More?
You can keep the hammock even more insulated on top by adding a couple of things like a top quilt. A top quilt is a sleeping bag that doesn't close.
It's like a blanket you'd have on your bed except it comes with a footbox to ensure it doesn't fall off you in the middle of the night.
Little extras like layered clothing, sleeping bag liners, and emergency blankets are great too. You don't need everything unless it's a cold winter.
Can You Use A Top Quilt As An Underquilt?
Even though both are similar you can't use a top quilt as an underquilt. It's just not designed to hang from the underside of your hammock. A hammock top quilt is supposed to sit on top of you like a blanket to keep you insulated from the air coming from above.
I know a lot of people usually make DIY hammock underquilts, but it's best to use an old sleeping bag. I will be good enough to stay warm in less extreme conditions.
Do I Need An Underquilt For My Hammock?
If you can afford a hammock underquilt it's a great choice you won't regret. It's just the easiest way to stay warm and comfortable when you go camping. It's not too heavy and isn't too big, so it's not too hard to carry around with you.
I know a hammock sleeping pad has its benefits and it's the best choice in some scenarios, so you'll need to work out which benefits are important to you.