Hammock Camping 101
Tip #1 - The Vestibule
More to come...
Tip #11 - Sleeping Pads
Most sleeping pads these days are 20" wide, and that is really too narrow for sleeping in a hammock since the hammock sort of "wraps" up around our shoulders. When you lay on the ground, only about 18-20" of your body comes into contact with the floor or ground and compress the insulation loft of your bag to the point you need a pad to keep warm. In a hammock, the area that compresses the loft is much more, somewhere between 24"-28" depending on your build. What I have also found is that there is an area under your butt and shoulders where you compress the pad the most and may need some extra insulation layers, a solution is often to have a second thin pad directly under the first to provide this extra layer.
Unfortunately, most pads that are over 20", are still less than 24". One pad I have found that is cheap and easy to get is a surplus Army foam pad. I used one of these to make my project called The Wing Pad. If I were to make this pad again now, I would cut the foot part a little more narrow - 18" is plenty wide enough. I slept on a pad like this for months while I was in Iraq and it worked great. The second layer under the back and butt made sure I never got cold sleeping with this option.
A great solution I finally hit upon was the Evazote® pad from Oware. This pad comes in approximately 40"x60", but not always exactly that size. I ordered a pair and one was 42"x62" while the other was 41"x61.5". These pads are 1/4" thick, so not a lot of insulation, but their width makes them flexible for cutting to your desired size. After my experience in Iraq, I designed a pad that is 61.5" long and 28" wide at the top. The sides of the "Wings" are 28" long, then the pad tapers down to 18" at the feet. I took two of the pads and used spray adhesive to permanently attach them together in order to make a 1/2" thick pad that only weighs 9.6 ounces. Since this pad is about 7" shorter than I am, I use a stuff sack full of clothing as a pillow and an insulator under my head. With the remnants left over from making this pad I could ad an extra layer under the butt and shoulders to bring that part up to 3/4" thick, and this would probably only make the pad weigh 12 ounces or so. But even without adding this extra layer, my pad has worked well down to the high 30's.
Tip #12 - Underquilt
Many of you that have been following me know I have been a huge skeptic of an efficient under-quilt system for hammocks for a long time. I considered the plan highly suspect because they would most likely be as heavy and as expensive as a quilt like the Back Country Blanket since they would need DWR shells to shed rain splash, baffles to hold the insulation in the right place, and expensive loft to keep the weight low enough to make them feasible for the lightweight hiker. It turns out a lot of what I predicted is true, but some of these negatives have been dealt with in a highly positive manner in order to make effective insulation systems.
As I write this, I cannot find a company that provides commercially produced underquilts for hammocks, but there are some resources out there that can allow you to attain them.
1. Poncho Liner underquilt: this system is something I used as a field expedient method of producing a quilt why I was in Iraq. It uses a Thinsulate Poncho liner to create a 3/4" thick quilt that can attach under the hammock:
To make this quilt you will need:
This quilt idea has worked for me down into the upper 30's without any major issues, but it is just not thick enough for a really good quilt, and it doesn't cover the area under the hiker as well as some other solutions provide.
2. Canoe Blue's Down Underquilt. I haven't gotten to try this quilt yet, but it is a homemade project that is supposed to be offered soon as a kit from www.thru-hiker.com . At 10.9 ounces, it is the lightest underquilt I have seen out there and it includes a DWR shell to shed water that splashes onto it. It has a 1" to 1 1/2" thick loft under the hammock. If you are looking for a VERY lightweight version and don't mind doing your own work - this might be just what you are looking for. Some small modifications to the hammock are required in order to get the quilt to attach correctly.
3. PeterPan and Smee have been sewing and came up with this quilt design that basically comes in two models. The Nest, their standard quilt, has a slit up the front to serve as a vest and to facilitate getting in and out of the hammock. The second version they called the "No Sniveling" quilt (wonder where they got that idea?) that does not have the slit, but does have a head hole so it can serve as a poncho liner and an underquilt. Both models have Velcro system so that they can also be used as sleeping quilts if that is what the user desires by forming a foot box area. This design weighs more, the current weight (without support system and stuff sack ) is about 15 ounces using +800 fill down, but with the larger size and increased versatility, they may be what some people are looking for.
I have a 600 fill prototype of the "No Sniveling" quilt I plan to test out and file a report on later. I may get some +800 fill down and upgrade this to their lighter weight system.
These quilts should be offered on a limited custom build basis, but for right now I don't have a price.
The "No Sniveling" Quilt prototype on my Hennesy hammock.