Hammock Top Quilt vs Underquilt: Which One Wins?

Do you use a sleeping bag and pad combination when camping? It's what the majority of people still use even though it's changing.

The top quilt vs underquilt debate always comes up when you want something new but don't know which one to start with.

It's a pretty easy decision when you take a close look at the benefits of each one.

Hammock Top Quilt vs Underquilt

It's best to start with a hammock underquilt because maximum bottom insulation is the easiest way to stay warm when you're camping. Underquilts are a lot more comfortable than sleeping pads. A top quilt is still a great choice if you need to replace your sleeping bag.

There are probably three specific reasons why an underquilt is going to be the number one choice for most people who love camping:

  1. Using an underquilt on its own
  2. Using a sleeping bag as a quilt
  3. Underquilts are more comfortable

1 Using an underquilt on its own

Is an underquilt enough on its own when you're hammock camping? You can use an underquilt without a sleeping bag or top quilt when it's warm.

It's easy in summer when it's really warm. It might even be possible in spring and autumn depending on where you live and when you go camping.

At what temperature do you need an underquilt?

Once the temperature drops below 70 degrees you'll need bottom insulation to keep the bottom of your body warm no matter how cold it might feel outside.

If you have cold air sitting underneath an exposed hammock you're going to suffer from cold butt syndrome, but the same isn't true if you don't have top insulation.

Heat rises and when you're lying in a hammock with a good underquilt beneath you it's going to feel so toasty you might need to vent the underquilt.

You might be comfortable inside a good sleeping bag liner or putting on an extra layer of clothes before you go to bed.

Can an underquilt be too warm when camping?

You shouldn't worry about an underquilt being too warm if you're in a sleeping bag, a sleeping bag liner, or an extra pair of clothes.

If it gets to the point where you feel like you're lying on a fire you can easily vent the underquilt to get rid of the hot air.

2 Using a sleeping bag as a quilt

What is the difference between a sleeping bag and quilt? Top quilts are backless, hoodless, and sometimes zipperless.

Other than that a sleeping bag and top quilt are almost the same. Each one is made from the same materials and serves the same purpose.

It's possible to use your sleeping bag as a top quilt if you decide to get an underquilt first. Just open the zipper and drape the sleeping bag over you.

A hammock camping sleeping pad vs underquilt

It's impossible to do the same thing with an underquilt. There is no way you can use an underquilt as a sleeping pad because it will offer you zero insulation.

You can't use a sleeping pad as an underquilt and it will look stupid if you find a way to connect it to the underside of your hammock.

If you compare sleeping pads vs underquilts when hammock camping the only thing they have in common is the fact each one offers bottom insulation.

3 Underquilts are more comfortable

Top quilts are more comfortable than sleeping bags when it's warm outside, but sleeping bags are still pretty comfortable so there isn't a huge rush to replace them.

Once you've slept in a hammock with an underquilt it's different. You want to replace your sleeping pad whenever possible because it's just not the same.

Here are a few reasons why underquilts are much comfier than sleeping pads:

  • Don't move around at night
  • Let you sleep on the hammock
  • Cover your entire body
  • Great when sleeping diagonally

Once an underquilt is set up you can forget about them. They don't cause you any problems when you're hammock camping.

Underquilts don't move around when you turn in the middle of the night. You don't have to move them when you want to sleep diagonally.

Your feet and shoulders won't get a bit cold if you slide off the pad. Most importantly you get to sleep on the hammock instead of an inflatable pad.

It's easy to see why you would want to get rid of your sleeping pad before your sleeping bag, but there are two sides to every story as you'll soon see.

Underquilt vs Top Quilt When Tent + Tarp Camping

If you enjoy all types of camping you might be better getting a top quilt before you get an underquilt because it's better when you're sleeping on the ground.

You can use a top quilt or sleeping bag for top insulation when you're inside a tent or under a tarp. It's impossible to use an underquilt for bottom insulation.

Underquilts are like sleeping bags when you lie on top of them. The weight of your body will compress them so much you will get zero insulation.

Sleeping on the ground without insulation is nasty and you'll feel the ground suck the hot air from your body leaving you shivering.

You don't need an underquilt when you're ground camping, so it's okay to replace your sleeping bag with a top quilt. You'll be okay using a sleeping pad and top quilt in a hammock too.

Why use a quilt over a sleeping bag when ground camping?

It's easy to see how a top quilt would be more beneficial when you're hammock camping, but it's tough to see how a quilt would beat a sleeping bag on the ground.

The truth is top quilts are just as effective at keeping you warm when you're sleeping on the forest floor as long as you're using it properly.

I do think a mummy sleeping bag is hard to beat when it's really cold, but a 3-season top quilt is wonderful for 3/4 of the year.

Can I use an underquilt as top quilt?

If you're desperate to use an underquilt when hammock camping you might have realized it could be used as a top quilt when on the ground.

Can I use an underquilt as a sleeping bag or top quilt? You could because it's comprised of the same materials you'll find in each one.

But it's not worth the hassle unless you don't have a choice. I don't know if you've looked at the prices but underquilts aren't cheap. It's expensive top insulation.

Which is warmer tent or hammock camping?

Tent camping is slightly warmer than hammock camping but if you have correctly rated equipment you'll be warm whether you're sleeping on the ground or in the air.

Unless you plan on going camping in the winter months the weather isn't something you'll need to think about.

Choose the type of camping you think is most exciting. It's okay to sleep in a hammock every night and it never gets boring.

What is the best hammock underquilt to start with?

The best underquilt for hammock camping is one that can handle the lowest temperature you expect when you're sleeping in the middle of the woods.

I think it's best to take the nightly temperature and subtract 10 degrees when you're buying an underquilt.

If you wanted to go camping in temperatures that dropped to 32 degrees (zero Celsius) you should get an underquilt that's rated at around 20 degrees.

At least you'll know you'll be safe and comfortable if the weather takes an unexpected turn in the middle of the night, which it does regularly.

Although it's not as important you'll still want to get one that is:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Large enough
  • Durable

How long should my underquilt be?

You will have to choose between a 3/4 and full-length underquilt because they come in two different sizes.

The 3/4 vs full-length underquilt choice comes down to when you'll go hammock camping during the year. If you only plan on camping in summer a 3/4 underquilt might be okay.

Once the temperature drops below 40 degrees it's much better to have a full-length underquilt. I would choose a full-length model if you're only getting one.

Why spend good money on something you can only use for a few months? If you want a 3/4 model for very hot nights in summer make a DIY underquilt with down from Costco.

Are quilts good for side sleepers?

Underquilts are fantastic for side sleepers because you won't need to touch them during the night as you switch from your back to side to back again.

Top quilts are very good for side sleepers too, so once you finally have both pieces of equipment you'll get a great night's sleep.

A Top Quilt vs Underquilt For Hammock Camping

If you're hammock camping in summer you should get an underquilt before a top quilt. You don't need a top quilt when it's hot, your sleeping bag can be used as a quilt, and underquilts will have a bigger impact on how comfortable you are at night.

It's still worth looking into a top quilt if you also plan on going tent and tarp camping because you can't use an underquilt as bottom protection.

No matter which one you choose first it's guaranteed you'll love it, plus I think you'll try to go camping with an underquilt and top quilt soon enough.