Hammock Insulation Systems: Underquilts vs. Pads

ENO underquilt hammock insulation to stay warm winter hammock camping
ENO Blaze Underquilt

Winter hammocking—and winter hammock camping—is completely possible. More than just possible, it can be downright enjoyable and comfortable with the proper gear and a few more helpful tips for combating cold weather in the wilderness.

In this day and age—ya know, since hammocks became über popular in the past five-ish years among hikers, backpackers, campers, and well, everyone—there are some great accessories and products to keep you warm in a hammock during the cold winter months.

You may think hammock camping isn’t doable when the temps drop. You wouldn’t be wrong to worry about the added protection you can get from sleeping in a tent.

Though you may also be surprised to know there are several great alternatives that will also keep you cozy and warm should you decide to forgo the tent and overnight in your hammock. 

First, let’s break down the different options for keeping warm in a hammock. Sure, you can grab your sleeping bag and sleeping pad, throw up your hammock, and hope for the best. And that’s not a terrible option.

Or, you can buy a specific hammock insulation system like an underquilt or inflatable pad.

Let’s look at the the pros and cons of each.

Hammock underquilts

Winter hammock underquilts are a great option for protecting your backside from wind drafts and chilly air.

Underquilts essentially act like a sleeping bag, but for your hammock. They wrap around it from below and can be adjusted so they’re nice a snug.

MORE: Review of the ENO Blaze Hammock Quilt (pictured above)

Most types operate on shock cord suspensions and flex, which can be tightened to form to the shape of the hammock once you’re inside. The upside here is that since you’re not touching the quilt, you won’t compress the filling, which means it can better do its job.

Or, if you’re headed into very cold temps, double up. Put your sleeping bag inside the hammock with you and use the underquilt around the bottom for even more protection.

Most are naturally made for double hammocks and will easily extend to act as a double hammock underquilt. So grab that special someone—or your dog, no shame—and cuddle on up. If you’re flying solo, the quilt is wide enough to enclose around you for even more protection. 

MORE: Lawson Hammocks Underquilt

There are tons of options when it comes to the best winter hammock underquilts. You can choose different designs, colors, shapes, and sizes, and even different fabrics, materials, fillings, temperature ranges, and attachment styles.

Underquilts typically come with a stuff stack and pack down to about the size of sleeping pad. They’re easy to carry and pretty lightweight. And, most importantly, they provide the best warmth and protection from the cold air.

The best hammock underquilts

Inflatable pads

Unlike hammock underquilts, inflatable hammock sleeping pads or mats go inside the hammock with you. They keep you warm by providing a layer of air between you and the elements. Your body heat heat warms the air inside the pad and traps it inside, keeping you warm head to toe. Some pads also have added insulation to provide even more warmth.

As with any system, there are pros and cons here. One con for inflatable pads is that they can get holes. If the pad is your only form of protection or comfort for the night, you may find yourself in trouble if there’s a hole you didn’t know about. Though it’s worth noting that most come with patch kits for fixing on the fly.

The pads do work well to keep your warm, and they pack down smaller than a quilt—about 1/3 of the size—which is nice for backpacking.

Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad hammock insulation to stay warm winter hammock camping
Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad

MORE: Review of the Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad (pictured here)

The sleeping pad would also come in handy if for whatever reason you can’t hang your hammock. Say, your campground doesn’t have appropriate trees. The sleeping pad acts like a regular sleeping pad and would provide a layer of protection and warmth between your body and the ground.

Another thing to consider is that the sleeping pad can easily shift around inside the hammock as you move at night. It doesn’t do you any good if the pad slips out from under you. The Klymit Hammock V Sleeping Pad has non-slip material on both sides to help keep it in place. Some other brands have built double layers of fabric into their hammock design so the sleeping pad has its own section, helping to keep it in place, such as Hennessy Hammock, Warbonnet Ridgerunner, Warbonnet Blackbird, Dream Hammock Sparrow, and Dutchware Chameleon.

If you have the option or need, it’s not a bad idea to use a pad with a quilt for even more protection. 

So, what’s the best winter hammock insulation system?

We’ve tested out both the underquilt and insulated sleeping pad, and you can’t go wrong with either if you’re looking to hammock camp in the winter. They both serve a valuable purpose, albeit via slightly different methods.

One big differentiator can be the price. While the quilt gives more protection because it can enclose around you, it is significantly more expensive, which might sway you in one direction or another. No pun intended. 

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