As committed outdoor enthusiasts, we’re big fans of the hammock camping experience: it’s comfortable, lightweight, and fun – what more could you want?
Most people we speak to tend to share our enthusiasm for hammocking, but only in the summer months.
What you might not know is that, with a few small adjustments to your hammock camping strategy, you can sleep comfortably even during cold winter nights.
Winter hammocking might not be something that you’ve seriously considered in the past because, if you’re freezing, it’s tough to enjoy the outdoors.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled our top seven tried and tested hammocking tips to keep you warm in your camping hammock, whatever the season:
1. Pick your hammocking spot
This is key. While there are many things you can do to maximize your warmth (and no end to the fancy gadgets available on the market), if you don’t find a good spot to set-up, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle against the cold.
You can’t control the temperature when you’re outdoors, but you can guard against the wind chill factor. You should always try to minimize the impact that the wind will have on your hammocking experience. The difference between a windy spot and a non-windy spot on a cold night is like night and day. Even if there is a big temperature drop during the night in a spot that is sheltered from the wind, you can still get a good night’s sleep.
Check the direction of the wind and scout the area for natural windbreakers. Find a densely forested spot, boulders or any other natural windbreaker that you come across, then get started with hanging your hammock.
2. Get a sleeping bag that’s a good match for the conditions
Blankets are just not going to cut it when the temperatures start dipping below 40. Your best bet is a mummy-style sleeping bag, with a synthetic or down fill, rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (or less). Pull the hood closed around your head as tightly as possible to prevent heat loss and to protect your face from the elements.
If you’re expecting icy weather, a sleeping bag liner is also a must-have. They take up virtually no room in your backpack but punch above their weight (pun intended) in terms of adding an extra layer of warmth and insulation at night.
You can put a few extra clothing items in the sleeping bag with you such as your boot liners and clothing for the next day. That way, when you wake up in the morning, you can get dressed in the relative warmth of your hammock, putting on clothes that have been absorbing your body heat overnight.
3. Put your emergency blanket to good use
If you’re out in nature in winter, it goes without saying that you need to have an emergency blanket with you. They’re super effective as they trap up to 90% of your radiated body heat (heat that would normally be lost).
Their heat-trapping abilities make them an ideal underquilt because, in addition to keeping you warm, they’re also waterproof and windproof.
There are a few different ways to use an emergency blanket if you are hammocking in colder weather. It can be used to line the hammock, or you can surround the outside of the hammock, which will give you the best protection from wind and rain. For the blanket to be effective, it needs to be snug against the sides and bottom of the hammock.
For a warmer, more durable solution, you can invest in an underquilt designed specifically for hammocks. They work best in conjunction with a sleeping bag and/or top quilt, and are well worth it if you plan on hammocking regularly throughout winter.
4. Test out a sleeping pad
This is a great alternative to an underquilt as it’s lightweight and adds an extra layer of comfort to the hammocking experience. You can use an inflatable or standard foam sleeping pad but check that it doesn’t slip out from under you if you move in your hammock during the night. Many hammocks have an inner compartment that you can slip your sleeping pad into to keep it in place.
Get a sleeping pad that is designed specifically to be used with a hammock. These feature folding side sections and help to insulate the body and retain body heat.
5. Rig a tarp above your hammock
A correctly rigged tarp is going to be a lifesaver if the weather takes a turn for the worse. In addition to helping trap body heat, it can effectively block wind, rain and even snow. When you’ve set up your hammock, attach the tarp just above it and pull the corners down as low as possible before securing them.
The trick to using a tarp is to place it as close as possible to the top of your hammock to prevent heat from escaping.
6. Layer your clothing
When you climb into your hammock, make sure you have a few layers of clothing so that you can regulate your temperature without having to get out of bed when you get too hot or too cold. Before you get into your hammock check that all your clothing is completely dry and there is no snow on your outer layers that will melt as you warm up in your hammock.
Keep some extra clothing in your hammock so that it’s accessible and you can put it on another layer if you need it.
7. Make yourself a hot water bottle
You might not want to pack an actual hot water bottle but, in a pinch, your Nalgene or another water bottle will do. Pop some hot (not boiling water), then place it by your feet.
Remember to put on a pair of socks as the bottle will transmit a lot of heat!
Winter hammocking can be a magical experience. It’s a chance to be outdoors, in nature, without anyone else around.
But know when to call it.
Most people would agree that about 32 degrees you might want to opt for a tent. While it’s possible to enjoy hammock camping when the temperature hits zero, it’s usually only something that appeals to die-hard hammock-campers.
If below freezing conditions sound good to you, do your research, read our tips, get the right gear and have a (warmer) backup plan in place, just in case.