Hammock Insulation Part 2. The Practicalities.

Hammocks, Insulation, Sleeping -

Hammock Insulation Part 2. The Practicalities.

In my first hammock insulation post, I talked about the different ways that you can keep warm in a hammock at night. This time I'll run through some of the pros and cons of each setup.

You might be thinking that you have a sleeping bag already, and it's good enough to use in a tent. So why do you need to consider anything different for hammock camping?

The reason is simple. Cold butt syndrome. Because the insulation on the underside of a sleeping bag is compressed, it provides very little warmth. We get around this in a tent by using sleeping pads or sleeping mats to provide insulation against the ground. In a hammock, the sleeping bag insulation is again compressed. So we need some form of insulation. You also do not have the added insulation in a hammock that you do in a fully enclosed tent.

Foam Mats.

Pros.

  1. Cheap.
  2. Readily available.
  3. Can be used in a tent or a hammock.
  4. Lightweight.
  5. Good insulation.

Cons.

  1. Almost impossible to keep it in the hammock if you're a wriggly sleeper. It just slides out from under you.
  2. Because of the above, you wake up cold as the mat has shifted.
  3. Bulky to carry.

Reflectix windscreen protectors.

Pros.

  1. Cheap.
  2. Lightweight.
  3. Quite a small packable size.

Cons.

  1. Almost impossible to keep it in the hammock if you're a wriggly sleeper. It just slides out from under you.
  2. Because of the above, you wake up cold as the mat has shifted.
  3. With the metal foil type, as opposed to the fabric type, you could end up with a very soggy sleeping bag from perspiration not passing through the foil.

Self Inflating Mat.

Pros.

  1. Can be cheap.
  2. Provides insulation.
  3. Can be used in a tent as well.

Cons.

  1. Almost impossible to keep it in the hammock if you're a wriggly sleeper. It just slides out from under you.
  2. Because of the above, you wake up cold as the mat has shifted.
  3. Bulky.
  4. Quite heavy.

Air Inflatable Mat.

Pros.

  1. Depending on the type can offer good insulation.
  2. Can be used in a tent as well.
  3. Relatively packable.
  4. Relatively lightweight.

Cons.

  1. Almost impossible to keep it in the hammock if you're a wriggly sleeper. It just slides out from under you.
  2. Because of the above, you wake up cold as the mat has shifted.
  3. Can be expensive.

By now, you're probably getting the impression that using a mat in a hammock is generally quite a pain in the (cold) backside. However, the advantages are that you can at least use existing gear that you may already have for tent camping.

If using a mat, a dual layer hammock is generally better as the mat can be placed between the two layers to help keep it in place. Though in reality, it doesn't really make that much difference.

In an effort to prevent mat slippage, I have also inserted the mat into the sleeping bag method. Firstly this does not work if you have a very narrow sleeping bag as it leaves you with very little space in the bag its self. Also, if like me you're a wriggly sleeper, then the mat will often end up on top of you rather than underneath! Which again will leave you with cold butt syndrome.

Another option, without having to spend any money is to use your sleeping bag as a cocoon around the hammock. To do this simply thread your hammock through the sleeping bag. You'll need to unzip the lower zip by about a foot in order to not restrict your movement too much in the hammock. The easiest way to use this set up is to get into the hammock and pull the fully zipped sleeping bag up around you and the hammock. To prevent cold feet you can insert your feet into the sleeping bags foot box.

I have found this to be a much warmer set up than any of the mat setups listed above. Simply because the insulation is not compressed beneath you but wrapped around you instead, and no mat to slide around. Talking of which, things don't change whether you have a single layered or double layered hammock.

This sleeping bag cocoon method does mean that you won't be able to sleep diagonally in your hammock, though as a side sleeper myself I've found it comfortable enough to get some good quality sleep.

Sleeping Bag As A Cocoon.

Pros.

  1. No need to buy any extra equipment.
  2. No extra weight to carry.
  3. No extra bulk.
  4. Much warmer than using a mat.

Cons.

  1. Could be draughty if not set up right.
  2. Restricted movement if using a very narrow sleeping bag.

There are sleeping bags that are designed to be used as a cocoon around a hammock, and there are cocoons designed specifically for use around a hammock, that aren't as practical as a sleeping bag in a tent. The Pros and cons of such cocoons pretty much match that of the sleeping bag cocoon method described above.

Which leads me onto the hammock under quilt. This hangs under the hammock and provides great insulation as it's not being compressed. Used with either a sleeping bag used normally, or a top quilt, this set up provides the warmest solution.

Hammock Under Quilts.

Pros.

  1. Best for comfort.
  2. Best for warmth.

Cons.

  1. Can be expensive.
  2. Bulk. More to carry.
  3. Additional weight.

 There is no single right solution to making yourself warm and comfortable in a hammock. It depends on the weather conditions you're sleeping in, what you personally find comfortable, budget, desired pack size and overall packed weight. Ideally, we wouldn't spend money trying every different method listed above to come to a conclusion that what we really needed all along was an under quilt. However, I can recommend the sleeping bag cocoon method as a 'free' alternative for moderate weather hammock camping.

 


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