Camping in the winter can be tricky, even dangerous if you find the excellent old cold-butt-syndrome frightening.
No, seriously, when the temperatures drop to zero or below, you definitely want to make sure you're well prepared. Therefore, the everlasting dilemma remains whether winter camping in a hammock is a good idea.
The answer is yes!
Hammocks actually provide better heat retention, since you are not lying directly on the ground, as it is the case with tents and sleeping bags. However, hammocks themselves are not enough.
The air circulation under your back demands a lot of extra insulation to survive the night of hammock camping in cold weather as a champion!
This article is entirely centered around the experiential tips on how to stay warm in a hammock when the climate turns its back on you! So please keep reading to be ready for any of the tricks it may pull.
What You Must Know When Hammock Camping in Winter?
Before we get to business, I would like to note that the tips in this article are intended for extreme weather conditions. If the temperatures don't drop below zero where you live, you maybe won't need everything listed below.
So, don't blindly follow our guide, but think about the actual conditions you'll find yourself in beforehand.
Where to Set Your Hammock Up
Your greatest enemy in cold weather is the wind. Camping in windy areas without any protector can turn into a nightmare.
So, the first thing you must consider when camping in winter is the place of the setup. Valleys and basins trap the cold, so avoid them by all means.
On the other hand, hilltops can be very windy, so, basically, you want to settle somewhere in the middle area. Dense woods and large boulders are what you're going for since they act as natural wind protectors.
But of course, you need to create some additional wind blockade to protect you, which leads us to know the next important thing.
How to Protect From Bad Weather
The absolute necessity of winter camping is a proper hammock tarp or rainfly. You can never be sure what nature may throw at you, so be prepared.
Now, If the tarp is too small, the water break from the hammock will be exposed, the water will flow down the rope into the hammock.
On the other hand, If it's too long, the ridgeline will interfere with your suspension.
So what is the right size?
If your hammock is 10ft long, you need a 10-11ft long tarp. Now the tarp also protects you from the wind, so choose the wider one and hang it in the V shape over your head.
Here's a useful video on how to hang a hammock tarp.
What is The Essential Gear to Bring on Winter Hammock Camping?
Even in the summer, you will need a blanket or a top quilt to keep you warm during the night. But when we are talking about the harsh under-the- zero conditions, you really want to step up your game when it comes to the gear.
Prepare a massive backpack as you'll need to pack up a lot of things, or you may go for a pulk and a sled.
1. Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags are currently the best choice for having efficient warmth insulation in your hammock. There are mummy-style bags, ordinary bags, and sleeping pods.
Now the difference is that the mummy-style bags and regular bags go into your hammock, letting you nestle and keeping your head warm.
However, the weight of your body can compress the insulation and decrease the heat retention, keeping your back cold. So you will definitely need an underquilt or a pad if you choose these.
Sleeping pods go outside of the hammock, which prevents the compression of your insulation, but they can be tricky to use, as you will need another person to zip you up. With these, you might want to use a top quilt or a blanket to snuggle up.
Whatever option you choose, check the type of insulation and the material of the shell. Down has better insulative properties, but synthetic is more water-resistant. The optimal choice, therefore, is DWR-treated down for the insulation, and tear-resistant nylon for the shell.
Underquilts go outside of the hammock and usually have excellent weight-to warmth ratio, so they will keep your back warm while not putting too much weight on your backpack.
3. Sleeping Pad
Another choice for keeping your back warm is a sleeping pad; it has the same purpose as the underquilt. There are inflatable sleeping pads, self-inflatable sleeping pads, and Closed-Cell-Foam Pads.
When getting one, the trick is to check their R-value as it implies the level of the insulation you get. For additional guidance with sleeping pads, watch this useful video HERE.
4. Top Quilt
Top quilts are usually combined with underquilts or sleeping pads when you're not using a sleeping bag. However, extremely harsh weather may require a top quilt, even If you're in a sleeping bag.
They are definitely more efficient than blankets, as they are filled in with down or synthetic insulation, and they have a tremendous weight-to-warmth ratio, compress to minimal sizes, and therefore take up very little space.
Now, whatever piece of equipment you're choosing, the temperature rating should always be lower than the actual temperature you will be faced with.
Smart Firsthand Tips and Tricks
If this all sounds expensive to you, there are some ways to cut corners and go winter camping without spending a fortune on your camping gear.
Firstly, mylar blankets are an excellent alternative to top quilts or underquilts, but be careful with the weather conditions, as they are not as efficient. Also, investing in a suitable sleeping bag will cut the cost of an extra top quilt.
Finally, you can also make your sleeping pad from car window shade and cut some cost.
Camping in cold weather has its perks and benefits, but it most definitely is an unforgettable experience.
Learning how to do it properly and protect yourself in harsh conditions is the absolute necessity before you embark on this adventure.
If you're a first-time winter camper, one channel you should definitely check out is the shugemery. This man is based in Minnesota and has gone camping in extreme temperatures, gaining a pearl of valuable wisdom when it comes to winter camping.
So, what more is there to say? Be smart, do your research, get the right equipment, and, most importantly, test yourself.
Do not bite more than you can chew, winter camping is cool, but it is not for everyone.