Spending the night in a hammock while winter camping can be an amazing experience. Waking up surrounded by snow-covered trees with a steaming hot cup of coffee is a perfect way to start the day. However, ensuring you stay warm and comfortable throughout the frigid night requires the right gear and proper setup. In this post, we'll explore the best ways to sleep comfortably while winter camping in a hammock.
Can you hammock camp in winter?
Yes, you can hammock camp in winter with the right gear and preparation. While hammock camping in frigid temperatures and snow requires more specialized equipment and precautions compared to fair weather trips, it is certainly possible to have fun and safe winter hammocking adventures. The keys are choosing winter-rated insulation like underquilts to prevent heat loss, protecting from moisture and wind, monitoring weather vigilantly, picking sheltered sites, and having backup shelter plans in case of extremes. Start with short winter trips close to home before attempting multiday remote excursions. With practice, winter hammocking can be very enjoyable and opens beautiful snow-covered destinations others can't easily reach. Don't be deterred by the cold – bundle up properly and you can comfortably camp suspended all year long.
What Type of Hammock is Best for Winter?
The two main types of hammocks are gathered end and bridge styles. For winter camping, a gathered end hammock is preferable. The ends are drawn together, creating a cocoon-like shape that helps retain heat. Look for a double layer hammock made with breathable nylon or polyester fabric. Top brands like Warbonnet, Dream Hammock, and Hammock Gear make quality cold weather gathered end hammocks.
Consider key features like:
- Insulated – Models with insulation sandwiched between layers help block wind and retain warmth.
- Integrated bug net – Keep biting insects at bay without sacrificing interior space.
- Structural ridgeline – Ensures optimal hang angle and position for flat, comfortable sleep.
- Adequate length and width – Allows room to add insulation beneath and around your body.
Effective Hammock Insulation Options
Insulating a hammock for winter is crucial. You lose heat not only from the sides and ends of the hammock, but also from below. Several excellent options exist:
A top quilt is essentially a sleeping bag without a back. Quilts are easy to ventilate, saving you from overheating. Quality down or synthetic insulated top quilts rated to 0°F or lower are ideal.
Underquilts are insulated layers that hang beneath the hammock, providing insulation and blocking wind. Down underquilts are lightweight and compressible, though more expensive. Synthetic versions are cheaper and still get the job done.
Inflatable sleeping pads add an extra layer of insulation beneath your body. They're inexpensive and multi-purpose for ground sleeping too. However, they can shift during the night. Securing your pad is essential.
Hammock socks aka insulated sleeves, are another option. They slide over the ends of your hammock to cover any gaps between your top quilt and underquilt. Easy DIY projects if purchased ones seem overpriced.
A quality winter-rated sleeping bag can work, especially when combined with a sleeping pad. But they are bulkier and provide less insulation underneath compared to underquilts.
Crucial Winter Hammock Camping Gear
Besides your hammock system itself, be sure to pack these cold weather camping necessities:
- Insulated jackets and pants
- Wool socks, hat, gloves
- Hot water bottle or Nalgenes
- Sleep mask and ear plugs
- Foam sit pad
- Hand and toe warmers
- Backup battery pack
- Headlamp or lantern
- Lighter and fire starter
- Camp stove and one alternative stove or heat source
- Food and water
Hammock & Tarp Setup for Warmth & Dryness
Proper setup is vital for both warmth and keeping precipitation out. Follow this winter camping hammock checklist:
- Find sheltered campsite under dense tree cover
- Use tree straps to prevent bark damage
- Optimal hang angle around 30° for flat lay
- Hang hammock as tight as possible to prevent sagging
- Hang tarp or rainfly ridge line higher to increase coverage
- Pitch tarp or rainfly at steeper angle to shed snow
- Stake out tarp ends tightly and anchor with guy lines
- Leave vestibule space for gear storage
What's the Best Way to Stay Warm All Night?
Here are some tips to retain heat and sleep soundly until sunrise:
- Hydrate well before bed to produce internal warmth
- Fill water bottle with hot water and tuck it inside sleep system
- Do light exercise before bed to increase circulation
- Change into dry base layers and wool socks
- Eat high energy snack before crawling in
- Use chemical or electric hand and toe warmers
- Use face masks and ear plugs to prevent heat loss
- Zip top quilt tight and cinch cord around neck
- Wrap upper body with light puffy if cold
- Sleep in a mummy bag inside the hammock if very cold
Troubleshooting Cold Spots & Staying Warm
Even with excellent gear, you may still experience some cold spots and chill. Try these tricks to troubleshoot and get cozy:
- Add hammock sock to close gaps between ends
- Adjust underquilt tightness or rehang to eliminate gaps
- Add closed cell foam pad for extra bottom insulation
- Use blanket or puffy to layer over feet and torso
- Check for leaks in air pad or gaps in bottom insulation
- Snug top quilt hood around head and shoulders
- Place hand warmers by feet, knees, hands or neck
- Do squats, jumping jacks or briskly walk around camp
Winter Hammock Camping Safety Tips
When braving cold weather, safety should be your top concern. Keep these tips in mind when hammock camping:
- Tell someone your planned route and return time
- Check weather forecast and pack appropriate gear
- Avoid camping in high avalanche risk areas
- Bring emergency shelter, stove, food rations
- Carry map, compass, GPS or Personal Locator Beacon
- Have insulated water reservoir or backup water plan
- Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite
- Get up slowly to avoid orthostatic hypotension
- Keep phone inside quilt so batteries stay warm
- Know when to abort trip if conditions deteriorate
- Camp near vehicle, exit point, or in paid campsites with buildings nearby.
- Choose your camsite wisely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What's the best winter hammock setup for a newbie on a budget?
Start with an inexpensive gathered end hammock, affordable synthetic top quilt and bottom quilt. Upgrade components over time. However, you setup depends heavily on the temperature and weather conditions you will be faced with when camping. With that said a bit more investment can go a long way to keep you comfortable.
Is winter hammock camping safe for solo trips?
It can be, with proper preparation. Avoid high risk areas, file a trip plan, carry emergency gear and know your limits. Companions provide an extra safety net.
How do I keep my water from freezing overnight?
Insulate water bottles and keep them inside your sleep system. Use an insulated reservoir like a Hydro Flask. Boil water before bed and fill Nalgene. Sleep with bottles inside foot of sleeping bag.
Can I bring my dog winter hammock camping?
Yes! Get a double-sized hammock. Place dog inside first, then follow while holding edges together. Consider a sleeping pad for dog and extra blankets or quilt. Watch them closely for signs of cold. Consider boots for their paws and a winter coat made specifically for dogs.
Is it possible to winter camp in a hammock when there are no trees around?
Yes, with the right hammock stand. Look for sturdy steel stands capable of supporting weight of occupant plus heavy winter gear. Use wise setup strategies to block wind and retain warmth.
Winter hammock camping allows you to experience wintry landscapes in cozy comfort. With quality cold weather gear, smart hammock setup, and some insulation tricks, you can stay toasty warm. Test out different systems and refine your preferences over time. Proper preparation matched with cautious route planning will keep you safe and adventure on! Just imagine drifting off to sleep while gently rocking, cocooned in your hammock as the snow softly falls around you.