10 Tips for Winter Hammock Camping

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They call it “cold butt syndrome.” When you sleep in a hammock, you’re not only exposed to the elements, but you also tend to get much colder in areas where your body presses more heavily against the hammock fabric. In these areas you’re more susceptible to the effects of wind and cold temperatures. If you camp in a hammock in winter, you need to take extra steps to counter this syndrome and stay warm. Leaning on our own experience, as well as advice from manufacturers, we’ve come up with tips to help you stay warmer in your hammock.

1. Seek natural shelter & consider the wind

“Rather than setting up your hammock right at the treeline, move farther into the forest,” says Natalie DeRatt, Eno’s media and marketing coordinator. She explained that this allows you to enjoy the natural sheltering effect of the surrounding trees.

As you set up your hammock, a main goal is to deal with potential wind, says Bill Bussler of Grand Trunk. “Take notice of which direction the wind is blowing and set up your hammock accordingly,” he says. “Seek out natural wind breakers like hills, trees and rock formations, and consider hanging a tarp between two trees as an extra layer of protection.”

DeRatt added that it’s best to set up your hammock no more than 18 inches off the ground, because it will be more windy higher in the trees.

2. Maximize the sunshine

“Daylight hours are limited in the winter months, but it’s important to take advantage of the sun’s warmth, when it’s available,” says Bussler. “Be sure to arrange your hammock in way that absorbs the greatest amount of sunlight.”

3. Use an under quilt

The Blaze under quilt from Eno

The Blaze under quilt from Eno

An under quilt is a type of insulated blanket that you string up beneath your hammock. This creates a layer of air between the quilt and the hammock, so heat is trapped to provide more insulation. An under quilt also works well with a hammock because its insulation does not get compressed. In a hammock, your body will compress the insulation in a sleeping bag and reduce its ability to trap heat. However, a sleeping bag will still do a good job of insulating the top of your body, so it’s OK to use one.

4. Consider using a hammock-compatible sleeping bag

We’re seeing more equipment designed specifically for cold-weather hammock camping, and this includes hammock-compatible sleeping bags. Check out Grand Trunk’s Hammock Sleeping Bag, which actually wraps around the hammock so that no insulation is compressed.

5. Use an under pad

Hennessy Radiant Pad

Hennessy Radiant Pad

To increase the insulation beneath your body, you can also place a camping pad beneath you inside the hammock. You can use a standard camping sleeping pad, such as a Thermarest pad, or you can use a product specifically made for a hammock, such as the Hennessy Hammock Radiant Double Bubble Pad, which has material that reflects your body heat. The issue with some pads is that they can slip out of the hammock, so Eno developed the Hot Spot, a sleeve that slips onto a camping pad to give it wings to keep it in place. Also, Eno has the Reactor hammock, which has a sleeve to hold a pad.

6. Rig a tarp above the hammock

Place a tarp above your hammock to block wind, rain and snow, and also trap heat. Keep in mind that it’s best to place the tarp as low as possible. Once you’ve attached the tarp to a spot on the tree just above your hammock straps, pull the tarp corners low and secure them. On the market you’ll find a wide variety of rainflys and tarps, from Hennessy’s streamlined Hyperlite, which weighs just over 8 ounces, to the company’s Typhoon which is about 25 ounces and almost covers you like a tent. Also, check out the Eno House Fly, another quasi-tent for a hammock.

7. Use a pillow

To stay warm in winter, you should prevent your skin from pressing against the hammock fabric as much as possible. Try to cover your neck and shoulders as you sleep, says DeRatt, adding that it helps to sleep on some sort of pillow.

8. Layer your clothingLayers

It’s a good idea to wear many layers when you camp in winter, even when you’re using a hammock. “With a little practice, it’s possible to add or remove clothes without leaving the cozy confines of your hammock sleeping bag,” says Bussler. “We suggest keeping extra clothing inside the hammock at all times, so it stays warm and readily available, if it’s ever needed during the night.” Also, be sure to remove snow from your clothing before you get into your hammock. Sounds simple, but it can make a big difference in keeping you dry and warm.

9. Fill a bottle with hot water

Here’s a trick we’ve been using for years—fill an insulated water bottle with boiling water before you go to bed and place it in the foot areas of your sleeping bag. This will help warm your whole body throughout the night.

10. Be cautious of damaged trees

“Campers should always be cautious when hanging their hammocks, but this is especially true in the winter months,” says Bussler. “Heavy snow and ice can easily compromise the integrity of nearby trees and branches.”

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