A guide to the best hammock underquilts for ultralight backpacking and camping.
© Per Ljungdahl (@perljungdahl)
Underquilts add serious insulation to your hammock setup for a warmer night sleep.
It only takes one cold night to realize that using a sleeping bag in a hammock might not be ideal. The issue is compression. When you are laying on your back in the hammock, you are compressing the insulation of the sleeping bag. Without air pockets to trap heat, this compressed part of the bag stays cold and you have a terrible night sleep. You can throw a sleeping pad under your back for added warmth (double layered hammocks help with this), but that often doesn't work. Most sleeping pads don't fit inside a hammock and easily slip out when you are sleeping.
A better alternative is the underquilt which hangs snugly underneath your hammock. Because it hangs on the outside of the hammock, the underquilt is not compressed. It can loft and provide warmth along your back. Underquilts can be used four all year round, but are most useful in the fall and winter when temperatures drop.
© Allie “Aspen” Leonard (@iamallieleonard)
WEIGHT: Keep it under 2 lbs.
Underquilts are available for backpacking, car camping and even at home use. Keep the weight comparable to a similar temperature-rated sleeping bag. Weight is obviously one of the biggest considerations when backpacking so aim for a quilt that is about 30 ounces or less if you are looking to pack light.
MATERIAL: Know the difference between nylon and polyester.
NYLON: Ripstop nylon is the most common material for a hammock, but it is not the only option, especially when you are making your own hammock. Ripstop nylon is the top choice because it is a durable fabric that does not tear easily. It also stretches and does not absorb odors. Nylon does absorb water so a wet hammock may get heavier to carry and may take some time to dry. To minimize water absorption, some nylon - called silnylon - is treated with silicone to be extra water-resistant. Silnylon also is stronger than regular nylon.
POLYESTER: Polyester is almost the polar opposite of nylon. It isn't quite as strong as nylon and doesn't stretch like nylon, but it does not absorb water. You can use it on a rainy day, and the fabric won't gain any water weight. Similar to nylon, polyester can be coated with silicone on both sides to form Silpoly. Silpoly is waterproof and windproof, both of which are useful for hammocks.
SIZE AND LENGTH: Do you need the extra insulation coverage for colder conditions?
Underquilts are typically sold in full, half and three-quarter length sizes.
FULL-LENGTH: The full-length size is bulkier and heavier than the shorter quilts, but they provide head to toe protection. It is excellent for cold sleepers or hammocking in the winter.
HALF-QUILT: At the opposite end of the spectrum is the half quilt which covers only your midsection. It is reserved for ultralight backpackers who want the most minimalist gear possible.
3/4 LENGTH: The three-quarter length quilts hit the sweet spot between comfort and weight. These quilts are not as heavy as a full-length, but not as lightweight and sparse as a half-quilt. The three-quarter quilts cover you from your head to your knees, providing just enough warmth so you can sleep. You may have to stick a small pad under your feet or wear extra warm socks to keep your toes warm on a chilly night.
INSULATION: Down (feathers) versus synthetic fillers. Down is warmer and 'lighter'. However, not ideal for wet conditions. Synthetic is foolproof for weather conditions. However, heavier and bulkier.
DOWN: If you are going to be backpacking in mostly dry conditions, then down quilts should be your first choice for your sleep kit. Down underquilts are lightweight, compress easily and are very warm for their weight.
When researching, you'll see the 'fill power' of a quilt. Fill power is a measurement of the loft quality of the down. The higher the fill power, the higher the loft of the down, and the more warmth the down will deliver.
The fill power influences the weight of the quilt. A higher fill power down will require less down to meet its temperature rating and will be lighter in weight than a lower fill down. Most ultralightweight down quilts use 800-fill-power or higher down and weigh 3 pounds or less.
Down is warm and lightweight, but it has a significant downside. When it gets wet, it loses its loft and its ability to keep you warm. Some down is treated with DWR to repel water and minimize this loss of heat, but it only lasts so long. If you get caught in a soaking rain, even DWR won't help keep the down dry and you warm.
SYNTHETIC: Though down is the most common insulation, you sometimes will see underquilts made with synthetic insulation. Though heavier than a down quilt, a synthetic underquilt excels when it is wet. Because of how it is made, synthetic insulation will retain warmth even when it is wet, making it ideal for hammocking in inclement weather or moisture-prone areas. A synthetic quilt will be heavier to carry and won't compress down, making it bulky. It's a trade-off you have to make if you want to be warm when it is wet.
TEMPERATURE RATING: Consider your trip temperatures and add a 'buffer'.
Like sleeping bags, most underquilts have a temperature rating that is often listed as a comfort rating or a limit rating. The comfort rating is the lowest temperature that you could stay warm while sleeping or resting in a relaxed state. The limit rating is the lowest temperature you could not get cold when curled up in a ball to sleep. The comfort temp is the target temperature while the limit is the absolute bottom temperature you should use the bag.
These ratings are only guidelines. Everyone sleeps differently - some people sleep cold while others sleep warm. Choose a bag that has a comfort rating that matches the most frigid conditions you'll encounter. If you are a cold sleeper, then add a 'buffer' - or go 10 degrees lower than your coldest outdoors temperature. For most people, a 20°F quilt is more than enough for three-season use, while cold sleepers should consider a 10°F quilt. If you are only doing summer camping, then you could go a bit warmer and choose a 30°F or warmer quilt.
WATER RESISTANCE: Waterproof coatings are nice, but care is more important.
Down can't handle moisture, but there are ways you can minimize exposure. You can purchase a quilt treated on the outside with a DWR coating or internally with a water-resistant down. Both methods help to repel water and keep it away from the fragile down fibers that clump when they are wet.
More important than coatings is how you care for your quilt during the day as you hike and at night while you're setup. In the daytime, ensure your quilt is stoared in your pack with a dry pack liner or in a dry stuff sack. At night, ensure you know you have dry weather conditions or that your rain fly has adequate coverage.
SUSPENSION SYSTEM: Simple setup is ideal.
Underqulits are positioned underneath your hammock and must be adequately attached if you want them to keep you warm. The hammock must first connect to your hammock's suspension systems using shock cord and micro-carabiners or cord lock. This attachment allows you to position the quilt underneath the hammock and up around the sides as needed. You'll want the quilt to be snug underneath you but not so tight that you compress down the quilt and prevent it from lofting. This loft traps heat and will keep you warm.
Once the quilt is hanging correctly, you then need to use the cord locks or a similar system to cinch down the head and foot portions of the quilt to prevent sleep-stealing drafts.
Hanging an underquilt takes less than ten minutes, but you need to get it correct, so you are not cold while you are sleeping.
✓ Step 1: Unpack the underquilt, allow it to loft and locate the two ends of the quilt
✓ Step 2: Attach the two ends of the underquilt to your hammock suspension system using the included shock cord, carabiners or cord locks
✓ Step 3: Adjust the underquilt backward and forward, so the loftiest section is positioned directly underneath where you sleep
✓ Step 4: Climb into the hammock and tweak the placement of the quilt to ensure your head, torso, and feet are covered by the quilt (if you have a full-length hammock).
✓ Step 5: Adjust the elastic at the head and feet to cinch the quilt around each end of the hammock to prevent drafts
Weight: 15.95 ounces to 30.5 ounces
Material: 20D ripstop nylon with DWR
Insulation type: 850 fill Hyper-Dry DWR goose down
Temperature rating: 40°F, 20°F, 0°F, Scandinavian (-20°F)
Price: starting at $220 at Warbonnet Outdoors
Operating out of Colorado, Warbonnet Outdoors places a priority on quality and craftsmanship. All their gear is designed and manufactured in the USA by American workers. The Warbonnet Wooki has a unique design to keep you warmer than a traditional underquilt. The blanket portion is sewn into a piece of fabric that extends the length of the hammock. It's like a hammock with a blanket.
Because it covers the entire bottom of the hammock, you stay warm from head to foot. Built to last, the Wooki is made with 20D ripstop nylon, and 850 fill Hyper-Dry DWR goose down. The outside fabric is treated with a DWR coating that adds a water-resistant layer to protect from light rain and morning dew.
Available in 40°F, 20°F, 0°F, and Scandinavian (-20°F) versions, the Wooki is compatible with Warbonnet's hammocks including the Blackbird, Blackbird XLC, Eldorado and Traveler. You can use the Wooki with other hammocks, but not very easily. You may have to spend some time fiddling with the sizing and fit.
Weight: 24 ounces
Material: 20D Ripstop Nylon DWR shell, 33D Nylon Taffeta lining
Insulation type: 750-fill-power DownTek® water-repellent duck down
Temperature rating: 30-40°F (when paired with a comparable top quilt)
Price: $299.95 (see at Amazon)
With a humble beginning selling hammocks out of the back of a van, Eagles Nest Outfitters has grown to become one of the top hammock manufacturers in the industry. Eno is best known for its SingleNest and DoubleNesy parachute hammocks which offer a simple design and reliable performance.
Similar to most hammock makers, ENO also sells companion products like the Blaze underquilt to accompany their hammocks. The Blaze underquilt is a full-length quilt with an adjustable fit that cinches at your head and feet. It has a 20D ripstop nylon outer shell and a 33D nylon taffeta that is both strong and soft against your skin. On the inside, you'll find a 750-fill DownTek down that is water-resistant. When used with a top quilt, the Blaze can keep you warm down to 30°F.
Weight: 10.63 ounces - 21.66 ounces
Material: 10D interior / 10D exterior with DWR
Insulation type: 800 fill DownTek-treated down
Temperature rating: 40°F, 30°F, 20°F, 10°F
Price: starting at $225 at Enlightened Equipment
Started in 2007, Enlightened Equipment has outgrown its basement and single founder/employee. Now, the quilt-makers employs 50 employees and operates out of a warehouse in its home state of Minnesota. The company's forte is its quilts for backpacking and hammocking.
The Revolt has an adaptable suspension system that is deisgned to accommodate a variety of hammocks. It is wide (45-inches) and has a differential cut (the outer fabric is larger than the inner fabric), so the quilt can be pulled snug against the hammock without losing loft. It is constructed with 10D nylon on the exterior and the interior with DRW to protect against moisture. Each quilt is handmade to order in the company's facility in Minnesota.
The Revolt series is sold either as a custom quilt that you can personalize to suit your needs or a stock quilt. Stock models are available in 40°F, 30°F, 20°F, or 10°F temperatures.
Weight: 25 ounces
Material: Atmos X™ 15D ripstop nylon fabric with Cire, DWR waterproofing, and YKK snaps
Insulation type: Downtek down
Temperature rating: 30ºF
Price: $279 at Kammok
After falling to the ground thanks to a tear in a cheap hammock, Kammok founder Greg McEvilly dedicated himself to producing high-quality hammocking gear. The company is a 1% For the Planet member, which donates 1% of its top-line revenue each year to nonprofit partners.
The Firebelly quilt from Kammok is a versatile quilt that can be used as an underquilt or a top quilt. The quilt has shock cords that can attach to a hammock system providing ample coverage across your back. When you are backpacking in a tent or shelter, the sleeping pad attachment let you use it as a top quilt with a cozy footbox. It's made from 15D Atoms-X fabric, a proprietary material that is more abrasion-resistant and stronger than standard nylon.
Weight: 13 ounces
Material: 15 denier water-resistant nylon
Insulation type: 850 fill power goose down
Temperature rating: 20°F
Price: $295 (see at Amazon)
Western Mountaineering started 30 years ago as a small independent company, and it remains one to this day. The company carefully sources its materials and crafts them to make some of the highest quality bags on the market. Despite its growing reputation, Western Mountaineering still makes all its sleeping bags and quilts in its San Jose factory.
The Slinglite Underquilt weighs a mere 13 ounces, adding less than a pound to your pack for warmth down to 20°F. The company's winning combination is its ultra-light 15D water-resistant nylon fabric and 850 fill down. It has a continuous baffle design for optimal loft and warmth. The Slinglite uses shock cord ends and clips that allow you to attach it to any hammock regardless of manufacturer. Elastic draw-cords at the head and foot reduce drafts and improve warmth by keeping the quilt snug on the hammock.
Weight: 20 ounces to 32 ounces
Material: 10 Denier Ripstop Nylon w/ VitalDry DWR
Insulation type: 800-Fill Power StormLoft™ DWR Treated Down
Temperature rating: 30°F, 15°F, 0°F
Price: starting at $179.97 at Outdoor Vitals
Like many outdoor companies, Outdoor Vitals was founded with an unrelenting passion for ultralight gear and a desire to bring this gear to a broader audience. Outdoor Vitals wants outdoor enthusiasts to "live ultralight" by buying less equipment that'll last longer and go further. The company also strives to keep costs low by selling directly to the consumer. This dedication to craftsmanship and affordability is evident in the company's StormLoft underquilt.
The StormLoft covers you from head to toe with warmth and comfort. The 800-fill down provides plenty of heat-trapping loft for colder temperatures, while a unique vertical baffle helps keep the down right where you need it most. A contoured cut also helps to warp the quilt around you when you climb into your hammock. The StormLoft has an integrated suspension system that easily attaches to a variety of hammocks. There's also an extra draft baffle and bungee adjustments that let you seal out any drafts. On the outside, the underquilt is made with ultralightweight 10D ripstop nylon that helps keep weight to a minimum.
Weight: 18 ounces
Material: 20D polyester ripstop
Insulation type: 650 Fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down
Temperature rating: 32°F
Price: $169.95 at Therm-a-Rest
Therm-a-rest has been making gear for sleeping outside since 1971. The company pioneered the self-inflatable sleeping pad that combines the comfort of foam with the warmth of the air. Though they can be heavy, these inflatable sleeping pads deliver a warm and comfortable night's sleep. The company still dominates the self-inflatable market, but it has expanded beyond its roots. Now, Therm-a-rest makes both foam and inflatable sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and even hammock gear. You can't go too far on the trail without seeing someone carrying something with a Therm-a-rest label on it.
The Down Snuggler is Therm-a-Rest's hammock companion, offering a water-resistant 650 fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down to help keep you warm when the temps hover at the freezing mark. The Snuggler attaches to your hammock suspension and extends 50-inches wide to cover most single and double hammocks. It has a tapered design that naturally hugs your hammock, making it easy to attach to a variety of different hammocks with minimal adjustment.
The Down Snuggler has an adjustable non-stretchy cord at one end and a stretchy shock cord at the other end. This design allows you to attach the quilt close to your hammock, but you cannot fine-tune the fit as well as you can with adjustable cords at both ends. Depending on how you lay, it is preferable to put the adjustable end at your head where you may need to tweak the underquilt to allow the proper airflow. Like most Therm-a-rest products, the underquilt has a reflective layer that radiates back your heat and provides some extra warmth on cold nights.
Weight: 13.4 to 23.46 ounces
Material: 20D Calendared Nylon Taffeta fabric
Insulation type: 800 fill power DWR Treated Grey Duck Down
Temperature rating: 40°F, 30°F, 20°F, 10°F, 0°F
Price: starting at $109.95 at Hammock Gear
Based out of Columbus, Ohio, Hammock Gear has assembled a team of experts to help design and manufacture their lineup of hammock gear and accessories. The company cuts costs by selling directly to customers without a retailer in the middle to jack up the price. They are best known for their affordable hammock gear with down underquilts available for less than $200.
The Economy Phoenix underquilt starts at $110 for a 40°F and climbs to a mere $190 for a 0°F quilt. The Phoenix is a 3/4-length underquilt measuring 52-inches long and 45-inches wide. It is designed to cover the core of your body (shoulders to knees), so you will need a small sit pad or piece of insulation under your feet. To maximize insulation power, the Phoenix is filled with 800-fill DWR down and is shaped to contour your body when you sleep in a hammock. Adjustable corded ends ensure a no-draft fit. The hammock is made with a 20D nylon taffeta that is soft and silky on the skin.
Not only is the Phoenix low in price, but it also is low in weight. It is an ideal underquilt for the three-season backpacker who wants to trim ounces without sacrificing warmth or comfort.
Can make your own hammock underquilt?
You can make a DIY underquilt using an extra sleeping bag or pick up a cheap 700-fill down throw for less than $50 from Costco. Designs for a DIY underquilt range from the relatively simple no-sew quilt to the more complex quilt with shock cord loops and sophisticated suspension attachment. You do have to be able to use a sewing machine and must know how to work with standard sewing supplies like seam rippers and grosgrain ribbon.
Hammock underquilt vs sleeping pad - which is better for hammocks?
A Hammock underquilt and a sleeping pad serve a similar purpose - both add insulation and warmth underneath you as you sleep. Sleeping pads, however, are more versatile. You can use them in a hammock or on the ground. They also are affordable if you don't already have one.
Sleeping pads in a hammock pose some challenges. First, they typically are narrow and difficult to sleep on in a hammock. Unless you attach it to your hammock or your sleeping bag, you will likely slide off the sleeping pad or have it slip out of your hammock. You'll realize you lost your pad when you wake up cold in the middle of the night.
Because an underquilt fits underneath your hammock, you won't roll off of it when you move at night and it won't slide off your hammock. Hammock quilts are designed to fit under a hammock so you can only use them with a hammock. You can't take t off the hammock and use it car camping or with a tent.
Underquilts tend to be more expensive than sleeping pads and less versatile, that's why they are popular among experienced hammock users who are willing to invest in gear. Sleeping pads are typical among first-time hammock sleepers who may not be ready to shell out $300 or more to try out hammock camping.
Do I also need a top quilt?
Bottom quilts wrap your back in warmth, but that is only half of your body. You still need to supply a layer of warmth on top of you. Most hammock users choose a top quilt to supplement their bottom quilt. The top quilt is used as a standard blanket and is cut to fit conveniently inside a hammock. Just like a bottom quilt, top quilts are available in a range of temperatures and you should choose the best one for your conditions. During the summer, you may be able to get away without a top quilt, but they are a necessity in the winter.
By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.
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