What is a Hammock Underquilt?
In a hammock, you’ll need bottom insulation, when you used to sleep on the ground this was taken care of by your sleeping pad (inflatable or closed cell foam), and if you like you can use it in your hammock as well.
You might think “I don’t need any padding in the hammock, and I have a very warm sleeping bag also, so I don’t think I’ll need any bottom insulation.” Well, Think again. If your sleeping bag is made of compressible insulation (like down or highly compressible hollow fiber synthetic) the part underneath you will compress to almost zero thickness wherever you are laying on it, rendering it mostly useless in those locations, and the more compressible your sleeping bag insulation is, the less it will insulate where it is compressed under you.
In general, without any real bottom insulation under you at all, you’d start to get a cold backside after a few hours in temps as high as the high 60’s. It gets this cool on many summer nights so you’ll normally need something for bottom insulation year-round.
Your 2 options are: camping pad, or an underquilt. When it comes to underquilts vs sleeping pads, they each have their pros and cons.
An underquilt is used as bottom insulation as a replacement for a sleeping pad. So, what is a hammock underquilt? It consists of sleeping bag insulation that is suspended underneath the hammock where it can insulate the bottom of the hammock without being crushed under the occupant’s body weight.
Pads: Either high-quality closed-cell foam, or inflatable.
Closed cell foam is available by the yard so you can cut it to your exact specifications and it’s cheap, however it doesn’t compress at all so it can be harder to pack and will have more issues with condensation on the warm side of the pad than an air pad or UQ. (Check local upholstery shops for quality closed cell foam by the yard) If the foam is high quality, 1/8″ can be enough for summer nights, 1/4″ thickness for milder weather (down into the low 50’s), 3/8″ for cooler weather (to freezing or below) and 1/2″-5/8″ down into the single digits and below.
Inflatable backpacking pads are available at most outdoor camping stores and come in full-length and torso-length, the latter makes a good compact leg pad for use with a torso-length underquilt.
Most folks prefer an air pad to be only about half inflated when used in a hammock. Air pads are much more compressible than foam but are also more expensive.
Full-length pads (ccf or air) can be tough to get positioned properly, and they buckle, bend, and poke near your hips (especially with end-gathered hammocks) and as result most people find them to be uncomfortable because of this. This is the only reason underquilts exist. (The Ridgerunner (bridge-style hammocks) in general) are an exception to this rule, not suffering from these issues to a large degree). Inflatable camping pad normally come in 2 different widths, 20″ and 25″ wide. The 20″ width is very narrow for a hammock, and many feel the 25″ pads are only slightly better (an underquilt is generally 40″ or wider as a comparison).
As far as bottom-insulation goes, you can use any of the bottom-insulation options (pad or underquilt) or any combination of them to cover yourself from head to toe and stay warm at just about any temperature, provided you choose an appropriately rated pad or quilt for the air temp.
When it comes to underquilts vs. sleeping pads, we recommend an underquilt for anyone using an end-gathered style hammock (if you can afford it). This includes the BB, the XLC, Eldorado and our Traveler hammocks as well as end-gathered style hammocks from other manufactures. Alternatively, anyone using a Ridgerunner can pretty much use an underquilt or a pad with equal ease/convenience/comfort.