It's easy to hammock camp below freezing with a little practice, so camping around 50 degrees is going to be a piece of cake.
You just need to know how to stay warm in a hammock and have the right equipment with you.
Do you want to look at the best ways to make a hammock warm enough to sleep in comfortably throughout the year?
How To Stay Warm In A Hammock
If you want to stay warm in a hammock you need to hang it somewhere away from the wind. A warm sleeping bag, sleeping pad, underquilt, and overquilt will keep you warm too. Others like a sleeping bag liner, layered clothing, and a hot water bottle are great.
There are lots of tips and tricks you can utalize to stay warm hammock camping throughout the year. Here is a list of things you can do on your next hammock camping trip:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Top quilt
- Sleeping bag liner
- Layered clothing
- Hot water bottle
- Emergency blanket
- Go to bed dry
1 Sleeping bag
A sleeping bag is the most important thing you'll need to stay warm in a hammock. I prefer a lightweight hammock that stuffs down small.
If the sleeping bag is rated at a low temperature with a down or synthetic fill it's going to be extra toasty. The exact temperature rating you choose is up to you.
I would probably think about 2 main things when choosing a new bag:
- Where am I going to be camping?
- How much money can I afford to spend?
Where am I going to be camping?
If you live somewhere warm and don't want to hammock camp in winter you might not need a down sleeping bag rated at a 15 degrees.
But if you plan on traveling to places like Nepal and Argentina it helps to have a sleeping back that will keep you warm in the freezing cold.
Take a few minutes to think about where you'll use it. Err on the side of caution if you think there is a chance you might do something more adventerous in the future.
How much money can I afford to spend?
A luxury goose down sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees doesn't come cheap. Some brands will be more expensive than others because of their name.
I know it's nice to have something expensive because it sounds better, but don't waste money on a sleeping bag when it's not absolutely neccessary.
You'll always find one that will fit your needs and your budget. It will be years before you'll be skilled enough to hammock camp in extremely cold conditions.
2 Sleeping pad
I know it's extremely comfortable sleeping in a hammock. Do you know why a sleeping pad is so important?
There is going to be a lot of cold air flowing underneath your sleeping bag at night because a hammock sits off the ground.
Even when you're in a sleeping bag it's going to leave your body freezing cold. You also squash the sleeping bag so much it doesn't offer perfect wind protection.
A sleeping pad provides a layer of insulation between you and the cold air below your hammock. Some hammocks even have a compartment to keep the sleeping pad in place.
It's just as comfortable lying on a sleeping pad and they only take a few minutes to blow up. They also take up minimum space in your backpack.
Once it starts to reach temperatures around 50 degrees at night you might want to think about investing in an underquilt. Hammock underquilts are a real game changer.
An under is like an open sleeping bag that hangs underneath your hammock. Standard hammock underquilts cover the full length of your hammock and will keep you warmest.
You can get 3/4 length hammock underquilts if you want to save more space in your backpack, but underquilts are good at compressing to a small size.
There should be almost no gap between the bottom of your hammock and the underquilt, which stops any cold air from going anywhere near you.
Some hammock underquilts even let you close them up over your body so you're inside an even warmer coccoon. If you're serious about hammocking they're worth the investment.
4 Top quilt
A hammock top quilt is almost like the one you have on top of your bed right now, but it's been specially made for camping.
I love them when the weather is okay, but I'd personally go with an underquilt when it's pretty cold. Here are some cool things I'm sure you'll appreciate:
- A footbox
- Takes up less space
- Spacious sleep
- Easier to get out
Hammock top quilts don't close up like a sleeping bag, but they have a footbox at the bootom to keep your feet warm.
The main reason top quilts have a footbox is to ensure the quilt stays on you during the night. Once your feet are locked in it's not going to fall off.
The rest of the top quilt will drape over you and it can be tucked into the sides of your hammock. It doesn't have a hood for your head.
Takes up less space
You won't waste very much space in your backpack because top quilts can be compressed to a small size. They're also extremely lightweight too.
The exact hammock top quilt weight will depend on a number of different factors:
- Temperature rating
Some materials are lighter and more compact than others. As a general rule expensive hammock top quilts will be smaller than cheap ones when squashed in your backpack.
The same thing applies to the temperature rating of hammock top quilts. Quilts with a lower temperature rating will be more compact because they're made from better material.
If you plan on using a sleeping bag you can use a blanket that's lying around at home as a top quilt. It's not going to be as good but it's a cheap alternative.
It will take up more space in your backpack, but sometimes staying warmer in your hammock is more important.
Do you ever feel like you're trapped when sleeping inside a sleeping bag? I don't mind now but it took me a while to get used to it.
If you want more freedom to move around a hammock top quilt is great. Even though your feet will be in the footbox every other part of your body will be free.
It's tough sleeping on your side in a sleeping bag when your arms are trapped inside. When you have a top quilt over you it's more comfortable.
Easier to get out
When it's cold outside you don't really want to get out of your hammock, but sometimes you don't have a choice.
Peeing inside your hammock is only going to feel warm for 10 seconds they you'll begin to freeze. Or you can get out and go to the toilet easily.
As soon as you need the toilet you can pull back your top quilt and jump out of your hammock within seconds. It's just as easy to get back in too.
Once you get back into your hammock it won't take long until the top quilt warms you up again. If you get up lots through the night I think you'll love this option.
5 Sleeping bag liner
Everyone should get a sleeping back liner because you get so much bang for your buck. Compared to every other piece of equipment they're so cheap.
Sleeping bag liners come in handy for a couple of different reasons:
- An extra layer of warmth
- Keeping things clean
An extra layer of warmth
It never hurts to have an extra layer covering your body especially when you're camping on cooler nights. A sleeping bag liner heats you up more than you think.
If you're inside a liner you might be able to use less layers of clothing, which means less clothes to wash while you're in the middle of the woods.
Keeping things clean
Sleeping bag liners are also designed to keep your sleeping bag cleaner because your dirty body won't be touching the insides. It means you need to wash your sleeping bag less often.
Due to the fact bag liners are so thin and lightweight it's much easier to wash them, plus they don't take long to dry even when it's cold.
6 Layered clothing
You shouldn't wear the thickest clothes you can find when you go hammock camping because they're not great at keeping you warm.
When you want to stay warm inside your sleeping bag it's all about layers. You can wear as many layers as you want depending on how cold it is outside.
I would definitely take some thermal underwear with you even when it's not freezing cold. They're so compact you don't even need to wear them if it's uneccessary.
Stuff an extra pair of socks in your backpack too. I like to keep a pair I only use to double up on socks when it drops to lower temperatures.
You should have a warm hat in your backpack and if it's the middle of winter a scarf won't hurt. A hat is pretty much essential unless you're hammock camping somewhere warm.
Finally, think about the material you're wearing. It's good to have some clothes that wick away moisture as opposed to absorbing it.
7 Hot water bottle
When was the last time you used a hot water bottle? It's a great tool to take hammock camping as long as you can squeeze it into your backpack easily.
At night you can boil your pot above the fire and pour the water into your hot water bottle. Throw it inside your sleeping bag to warm everything up while you're getting ready for bed.
Keep the hot water bottle close to your core because it will heat the rest of your body when the blood flows to your fingers and toes.
You need to be extra careful when dealing with boiling water because you don't want to get burned. Especiially in dark forests miles away from civilization.
8 Emergency blanket
If you're trying to stay as safe as possible you need to take an emergency blanket with you. It won't take up any space in your backpack because it's so small.
You don't need to sleep with the emergency camping blanket every night. It should be kept somewhere you can reach it in an emergency.
If you find yourself in a position where it's much colder than you expected you can throw the emergency blanket over you to raise your body temperature a little.
It will help keep you safe until the sun comes out so you can make your way home. Hopefully you never have to use it but it's better to be safe than sorry.
9 Go to bed dry
No matter how cold and wet it is you should go to bed dry. It's really hard to warm yourself up in a hammock when you're already wet.
When possible you should take any wet clothes off and dry them close to the fire, but make sure you don't leave them too close they get damaged.
Don't be afraid to change your clothes if the ones you're wearing are damp. Being smelly the next day is better than being freezing cold.
Where To Hang Your Hammock To Stay Warm
Hanging your hammock in the correct place is absolutely essential when you want to stay warm. The wind is your number one enemy when hammock camping in the cold.
Here are a few ideas about where you can find shelter from the wind:
- In dense forest
- Behind a boulder
- Down a hill
Before you set up your hammock check which way the wind is blowing. You don't want the wind to be blowing directly onto you day or night.
A huge part of hanging your hammock correctly is setting your tarp up correctly too. On colder nights you want the tarp to be closer to your body.
When the tarp is lower it's going to stop wind from getting to you, but it helps out even more even though it sounds strange.
Warmer air gets trapped in the space between you and your tarp. In the same way it gets trapped between your hammock and underquilt.
Finally even if you're in dense forest try to hang your hammock somewhere sunlight can penetrate through the trees. Even in winter direct sunlight can warm you up.
How To Keep Feet Warm In Hammock
If you want to keep your feet warmer in your hammock you should pour some boiling water into a bottle. Place the bottle at your feet and it will warm them up in no time. Make sure you wrap the bottle in something to make sure you don't burn yourself.
I know we've already talked about the hot water bottle, but you might not have enough space in your backpack to bring one.
You'll probably always have a water bottle with you. It must be good enough to keep every last drop of water inside it so you don't end up soaking wet by morning.
Deep Winter Hammock Camping Tips
If you want to take things to the next level we'll touch on a few tips and tricks you can use when your tears turn to ice because it's so cold you're crying:
- Wear a balaclava
- Makeshift pillow
- Drink more water
- Warm boot liners
- Don't stray far
Wear a balaclava
You might not own a balaclava if you're not a bank robber, but it's a good investment to make when you're hammock camping in the winter.
A normal hat might come off your head in the middle of the night. At least a balaclava isn't going to go anywhere once it's in your head.
It will keep much more of your face warm in freezing weather. You can still wear your normal hat over the top of it.
I don't take a pillow with me when it's warm because I don't need it. A hat and sleeping bag hood are good enough.
Once it gets a bit colder it's nice to have something extra between your head and the cold underneath you, which makes a pillow a good choice.
You can pack a camping pillow but I prefer to fold a towel and position it under my head. It's one of those things I don't do very much.
Drink more water
I don't think some people drink lots of water when it's cold outside. For some reason they think you only need to drink water when it's hot.
But it's easy to get dehydrated in winter and it will stop your body from being able to warm itself up as effectively as normal.
I enjoy drinking tea and coffee throughout the day too. It does actually help hydrate you contrary to popular belief. And I try to carry homemade soup in a food flask.
Warm liquids sit in my stomach making me feel warmer in minutes. Try drinking something hot in an air conditioned room and you'll see what I mean.
The coffee also gives you a good energy boost so you'll walk around more. Try to eat lots of food to give you an even bigger energy boost.
Warm boot liners
You shouldn't leave your boot liners with your boots when it's snowing because they're not going to be comfortable to wear when you wake up.
Sleep with your boots liners in your sleeping bag liner to heat them up. It's not going to make a huge difference but it will stop them from being so cold.
You should bring all your clothes into the sleeping back too. It might not be as comfortable when you go to sleep, but it's going to be nicer in the morning.
Don't stray far
Sometimes it's easy to push things too far when you're desperate to go hammock camping. Even though it's very cold you brave the outdoors anyway.
But if you're not having a good time it's okay to drive home or stop at a local motel for the night where it's toasty.
Don't stray too far from civilization when the weather is terrible because it will be easy to get back to your car.
Should I Use A Sleeping Pad In A Hammock?
If you don't have a hammock underquilt you need to have a sleeping pad underneath you even when it's warm outside. You can still get very cold hammock camping when you don't have any insulation underneath you because temperature drops during the night.
It doesn't need to be an expensive hammock sleeping pad because a cheap one will still work on warmer nights. If you want to spend a little bit more it's worth it.
Some sleeping pads are shaped to fit into a hammock perfectly, so they're a bit wider at the top to make sure they keep your shouders warm.
These kinds of hammock sleeping pads are also great because they don't move around. If you have a sleeping pad compartment in your hammock it's less important.
Can You Sleep In A Sleeping Bag With Just A Sleeping Bag?
A sleeping bag isn't enough to stay warm when you're hammock camping even if it's an expensive one. It's not going to offer you enough protection once it's compressed by the weight of your body. A sleeping bag on its own is okay through the day.
If you want to take an afternoon nap while camping it's okay to leave your sleeping pad in your backpack. It will need to come out once the sun goes down.
How do you keep a hammock warm without an underquilt or sleeping pad? You'll need some sort of insulation to protect the underside of your body.
If you're struggling for cash you could come up with a DIY option, but it's not going to be as effective in colder weather.
Is It Warmer To Sleep On The Ground Or In A Hammock?
Sleeping in a hammock is just as warm as sleeping on the ground. You still need to have all the same protection to keep you warm in lower temperatures. Equipment like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and layered clothing. You just use a tarp instead of a tent.
A lot of people assume you're warmer on the ground because you're touching solid ground. But the ground sucks the warmth out of your body.
So it's just as bad as air floating underneath you in a hammock. In both situations you need something like a sleeping pad to provide insulation.
Sleeping on the ground can be warmer on a windy night when you're in a tent. In a hammock you need to set your tarp up correctly and stay away from the wind for the same results.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Hammock Camping?
If the temperature doesn't drop below 32 degrees you'll find hammock camping okay. When it's around 50 degrees it's still chilly although you'll need less equipment. Once it drops below freezing it becomes challenging and it's sometimes mentally and physically tough.
It's hard to give an exact temperature where it's officially too cold. Some people have been hammock camping in temperatures so low you'll never experience them.
You just need to find a temperature you're comfortable with. I think you'll be suprised by how much you can handle hammock camping in colder temperatures.
At What Temperature Do You Need An Underquilt?
It's a good idea to use an underquilt when it drops below 50 degrees because it's going to keep you warm. But a sleeping pad still works at those kinds of temperatures if you don't have an alternative. Some might prefer using quilts even when it's a bit warmer.
Can an underquilt be too warm? Yes, but it's better to cool down by opening your sleeping bag or wearing less layers versus hurting the insulation underneath you.
Does Sleeping Pad Go Inside Sleeping Bag?
Keep your sleeping pad outside your sleeping bag when hammock camping. It's tempting to slide the pad inside your bag if it doesn't have a special hammock compartment because it won't move. But you lose some of the insulation properties when you do this.
You might want to think about buying a hammock sleeping pad that fits the shape of your hammock because they don't move like rectangular sleeping pads.
How To Stay Warm In A Hammock
You need two things to stay warm in a hammock when it's cold outside. The first thing is the perfect place to hang your hammock that's protected from the wind. The second thing is great equipment like a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and hammock underquilt.
There are lots of other little things you can do depending on how cold it is outside. Unless it's freezing cold you don't need to do everything or you'll be too warm.
That's a bonus because when you don't need to carry as much equipment in your backpack it's more enjoyable.