In hot areas with the right emergency rain tarp and mosquito netting, camping hammocks can be an absolute godsend. The extra air circulation that you get makes hot temperatures tolerable and every rare breeze feel like heaven. However, when things start to get a bit colder, the extra air circulation starts to feel less nice.
To prevent convection heat loss in your camping hammock, when used in colder areas, you need to lay down some insulation. When camping you will have a few insulation options, namely a sleeping bag or a sleeping pad that stops your butt from getting so cold at night. However, the best option is the purpose-built underquilt specifically made to keep heat from escaping outside without making your hammock too crowded on the inside.
When to Use an Underquilt?
Underquilts are only for when you are free sleeping off the side of a frozen mountain, right? Wrong. As long as night time temperatures stay above 70°F (21°C) while you sleep, a thin blanket is good enough to keep you comfortable, but once temperatures start dropping even a little bit below that, well … Things are going to get chilly.
If you only use your camping hammock in tropical areas, you will likely be able to use it without an underquilt for most of the year while only suffering a few cold nights. However, for those that live in more temperate areas, don’t completely waste your camping hammock by shoving it in the garage for three of the four seasons. Underquilts make things surprisingly cozy.
Fill Type – Down vs. Synthetic
When choosing an underquilt filling, you really only get two options, but both are good at fulfilling their purpose. The filling in an underquilt traps warm air and slows it from escaping, assuring that you stay warm throughout the night. Like a thick comforter on your bed, you can choose an under-quilt made of down or one made of synthetic materials, each of which have their own pros and cons.
- Easy to compress to a manageable size
- Useless if it gets wet
- Often more expensive
- Water resistant
- Machine washable
Choosing the Right Under-quilt Length
Under-quilts come in three sizes: half, three-quarters, and full length. Choosing which size is best is entirely dependent on your personal needs. Essentially, any size will keep the majority of your body warm, but what you really need to consider is how much weight you want to carry, how much you want to spend, and how cold will it get?
If you want to travel light and you don’t intend to use your camping hammock for an abundance of winter camping, a half length under-quilt will be good enough for most situations. Providing it has the appropriate winter ratings, a full length under-quilt will keep you snug in any temperature. However, for all-around use, the three-quarters length under-quilt is what most hammock campers will want to choose. Typically some thick socks and perhaps a nice sleeping cap can make up for the lost length.
Proper Cleaning and Maintenance
Once you have picked the proper under-quilt to fit all your individual needs, it is important to take care of it. Taking care of an under-quilt is a lot like taking care of a sleeping bag, no matter what filling it has. You need to keep it in a dry and cool location, but while you can roll it like a sleeping bag, you should not use a compression sack. The longer an under-quilt is compressed, the more the filling looses the loft that keeps heat trapped inside. A sack can be used to keep the dust and dirt off, but compression makes your under-quilt infinitely less effective when you need it.
Depending on how much contact is has with the ground and the elements, the under-quilt will also need to be cleaned on occasion. However, there is no use lying about it. Cleaning an underquilt sucks. A key factor in your choice of under-quilt may also be whether it is machine washable, because washing it by hand is a real challenge.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying
So now that you know all about the different factors that go into choosing an under-quilt. You are all ready to go. Unless you just skimmed down to the bottom, in which case, your underquilt shopping experience can be simple if you ask yourself the following:
- Do I need to keep things light?
- Am I a big winter camper?
- Do I have a tub (and patience) big enough to wash my under quilt when needed?
Having the answers to those three questions is essentially all you need to when choose the best under-quilt for your camping hammock without an overly large amount of fuss.-