Hammock Underquilt: How to Use it & Why Should You Have One?

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What could be more comfortable and cozier than a hammock? The convenience factor doesn’t stop there: Hammocks are easy to set up, lightweight, and safe from all the critters on the ground.

Here’s how to use a hammock underquilt, and why it’s such a good idea to have one. Underquilts can really amp up the comfort levels of a hammock on your next hiking or camping trip. Staying outdoors for a few days is hard enough as it is. You’re going to need all the comfort you can get. You need a good tent, a cot, a hammock, some chairs, etc. Don’t forget to get a good camping mattress either.

Underquilts: We’ve Got You Covered

If you go camping to get rid of the feeling of claustrophobia inside four walls then the last thing you’ll want is to exchange it for a tent. As nice as some tents can be if they have open-top vents and netted zip doors, nothing beats the exhilaration of being outdoors and sleeping on a hammock.

If this is your first time camping with a hammock and sleeping under the stars, it’s best to prepare as much as you can so that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night wishing you hadn’t decided to try it. Make sure to choose the best hammock for your specific needs. If the colder months are creeping in, and you don’t want to be caught off guard when the campfire burns low, knowing about how to insulate yourself for the night ahead is really important information.

This is where underquilts can become your new, best friend.

What Happens If I Don’t Use an Underquilt?

It doesn’t matter if you’re camping during any season or weather, there’s never a time when you won’t want to use a sleeping pad of some sort if you are calling it quits for the night and sleeping on the ground. It can be an inflatable air cushion or a closed-cell foam, but it makes the difference between a good night’s sleep and eight hours of discomfort and cold.

The same thing goes for an underquilt on your hammock. You might think you won’t need padding in your hammock because it’s up in the air, and you have a seasonal sleeping bag, but this is wishful thinking. Sleeping bags are made from compressible insulation materials, such as highly compressive hollow synthetic fibers and down from feathers.

How the insulation of a sleeping bag works is the fibers or down inside the material enables pockets of air to fill the areas in between them. When the air in between the fibers or down is heated up by your body heat, the stuffing materials keep this warmed air from dispersing by trapping it within the sleeping bag textiles. Think of it as down + air = heat.

After a few hours laying in a hammock, all of the air between the insulating materials will be squashed out from your sleeping bag material as you lie on top of it. Your hammock doesn’t come with an inflatable cushion or foam underneath it to stop the air from seeping out, and this is why you will get cold in all the wrong places if you don’t have an underquilt.

Ask any long-time camper how difficult it is to get warm at night once the campfire has burnt out and the ground damp has started rising, and you will get some idea of the discomfort levels experienced from sleeping outdoors unprepared.

The last thing you need on a hiking and camping trip is to begin the day feeling sleep deprived, and with aching joints and muscles. This is why hammock underquilts were invented – so that sleeping under the stars is a nice as it sounds.

Do I Have to Take a Hammock Underquilt Every Time I Go Camping?

Going hammock camping during the spring or fall shoulder season offers the unique opportunity for seclusion, peace, and serenity. The air is crisp, the bird calls melodic, and the colors on the foliage are outstandingly beautiful. However, there is always the chance of a sharp nighttime breeze will be there to remind you about the proximity of winter.

You’ll be okay hammock camping in the great outdoors, as long as you have the proper gear and attire; this means an underquilt. No shoulder season camping trip can consider itself well equipped without a hammock underquilt.

If you want to stay warm in a hammock, you have to use the right clothes and heat insulators. For optimal comfort and warmth, your hammock should have top and bottom insulation to stop you losing body heat throughout the night.

Some campers get by with using a sleeping pad as a hammock underquilt and placing a completely unzipped sleeping bag on top and tucked into the sides. As convenient as it sounds to be able to double up the use of a sleeping pad, it’s not ideal for fit or comfort. Even though sleeping pads are smaller and more lightweight than most underquilts, which makes them the easiest to carry in a backpack, they are a real nightmare to sleep on comfortably all night.

First of all, sleeping pads are made to lie flat on the ground, and not curved into the shape of a hammock all night. This makes it harder for you to get in and out of the hammock, as well as stay warm and comfortable. Hammock underquilts were designed for a reason, and they shouldn’t be considered an unnecessary purchase.

If you want a purpose-made hammock underquilt and top quilt, these items won’t scrunch up underneath you during the night, because they are crafted to fit around a hammock specifically.  No quilt can slip into a ball in to middle of your hammock curve at any point because it’s attached to the same tie points as your hammock and around the hammock shape itself.

This cocooning effect is what makes sleeping with one so comfortable. An underquilt provides you with the right amount of insulation, and any cold air or breezes passing underneath and through your hammock won’t chill you during the night.

What’s the Best Filler for an Underquilt?

Hammocks are designed to be light, and easy to compress into a pack. This is why they don’t have the insulation capabilities of a sleeping bag or underquilt. If you already own a sleeping bag, the chances are you already have a preference over whether down or synthetic materials are best.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right filler:

  • If you have allergies, stay away from down.
  • Down offers the best insulation.
  • Down is natural and has been used as insulation for millennia.
  • Synthetic material is cheaper than down.
  • Both fillers can be compressed into a smaller size.
  • Down must be protected from rain and water.
  • Down needs a rain fly or waterproof shell.

How to Use a Hammock Underquilt

The underquilt is designed to fit underneath your hammock and is meant to serve the same purpose as a sleeping mat (for the ground) or mattress (at home). The main objective of having an underquilt, besides making you feel incredibly snug, is to prevent conductive heat from seeping out during the night.

If you have left the instruction manual for your underquilt at home, there are some easy tried and trusted methods for setting up. And it’s a lot simpler than pitching a tent.

  • Place the underquilt inside the hammock if you are setting up on the ground. This will prevent it from getting damp or soiled.
  • Attach the ends of the hammock and underquilt to your chosen supports and then flip it so that the underquilt is at the bottom.
  • Make sure your hammock setup has minimal slack, and is at an easy height for you to get in and out without struggling.
  • Your hammock setup mustn’t be touching the ground.
  • Get into the hammock and check the adjustments to make the underquilt close, but not enough so that your body is touching and compressing it.
  • Ensure each end is snug and no air can flow through.
  • Tie the attachments along the hammock and underquilt sides to get rid of any gaps that might allow the air to escape.

It’s inspiring to hear stories from seasoned campers about them hitting the hiking trails with only a sleeping bag and a few packets of noodles in their backpack. But it’s safe to say that, one, they are exaggerating the lack of gear and supplies, and two, they won’t have a pleasurable adventure without prioritizing warmth, food, and shelter. So, don’t forget to pack an underquilt on your next holiday with a hammock.

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About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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