A tent is the most typical overnight shelter for the majority of campers. However, hammock camping is becoming increasingly popular and with it, certain questions arise. In this article we will answer one such question: Should I use a pad when hammock camping?

An inflated or foam sleeping pad is a great choice for sleeping in a tent. However, when you shift around in a hammock, your sleeping pad shifts with you, leaving a lot of your underside exposed to the cold. A hammock underquilt is by far the best choice for sleeping outside in a hammock.

Sleeping outside in a hammock can get really cold. Find out how cold is too cold for hammock camping. In this article, we will present you with different options for staying warm and discuss hammock camping in detail.

What are sleeping pads?

Sleeping pads used for camping are designed to meet two very important criteria: cushioning and insolation. Their function is to provide you comfort when you sleep, and even more importantly, to keep you warm overnight. These are three main types of sleeping pads that you should consider before you choose the one that best suits your needs:

  1. Air pads – to inflate them you blow air into them with your mouth or with a pump. They are thick, comfortable, and lightweight, all at the same time. They come in a wide variety of insulation options. You can decide how firm they are by adding or allowing some air out of the valve. The downsides are that air pads tend to be a bit pricey, they are easy to puncture and can make a crinkly sound.
  2. Self-inflating pads aka open-cell foam padsare comfortable and provide a lot of insulation. When it comes to price, they are less expensive than air pads but more expensive than simple foam pads. Open-cell foam pads are a great choice for side sleepers. Their disadvantages are that they are bulkier and heavier than air pads and can get punctures, just like air pads.
  3. Closed-cell foam pads – can be strapped to the exterior of your pack without you worrying that they will get damaged. Their foam doesn’t need to be inflated and therefore can’t be popped or destroyed. Closed-cell foam pads are lightweight and inexpensive. Their cons are that they are bulky and are not the most comfortable. They are still a popular choice for their durability.

Should I use a pad when hammock camping?

When you sleep, your body weight will naturally compress the underside of your sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag will lose its insulation value whether you are sleeping in a tent or a hammock. Using an inflated or foam sleeping pad in a tent on the ground with a sleeping bag provides a solution to this problem, but what happens when you use a sleeping pad in a hammock?

Inflatable sleeping pads are really comfortable in both tents and hammocks. However, if you find it difficult to stay on top of your sleeping pad in a hammock, try deflating it a bit so that it forms to the hammock’s shape. If you toss and turn a lot while you sleep, you can even try to put a sleeping pad inside a sleeping bag before you lay flat in the hammock.

When you sleep on a pad in a hammock, you can easily shift off of the pad, leaving your shoulders, arms, or feet pretty cold. The main downside to using a sleeping pad in a hammock is that you will inevitably shift around during the night and you will end up off of the pad and you can get really cold. Sleeping pad wings are accessories that you may want to fit onto your regular sleeping pads to prevent shifting around in a hammock.

What is a hammock underquilt?

A hammock underquilt is another form of bottom insulation. Combined with a top quilt, it’s probably the best choice for keeping you warm in your hammock. Since an underquilt hangs outside and below your hammock, it won’t get crushed under your body’s weight. The pros of using an underquilt instead of using a sleeping pad are these:

  • Comfort – underquilts are generally more comfortable than sleeping pads, as they won’t interfere with your natural hammock sleeping position. An underquilt doesn’t stand between you and the hammock the way a sleeping pad does.
  • Warmth – underquilts provide more warmth than sleeping pads, especially those underquilt models with high-loft fills.
  • Weight – they do tend to weigh slightly more than sleeping pads, but for that additional weight, you get extra comfort.

Keep in mind that underquilts are more expensive than sleeping pads. If you are on a budget you may want to try to make a DIY underquilt from an old quilt or sleeping bag.

How do you put an underquilt on a hammock?

In order to set up an underquilt on a hammock, you just need to follow the underquilt manual. These are some things you should also pay attention to:

  • Lay your underquilt on the hammock to prevent it from getting dirty or wet.
  • Follow the proper direction – put the narrow end towards the direction of the feet and the wide end towards the head direction.
  • Adjust the suspension of your quilt so that there are no air gaps. The quilt should stay full and it shouldn’t flatten.

If you’ve heard about ENO underquilts and a DoubleNest hammock and you would like to know if the ENO DoubleNest is too big for one person, makes sure to check our blog.

A girl chilling in her yellow hammock.

What do you need for hammock camping?

Apart from an underquilt or a sleeping pad, what else do you need for hammock camping? We’ve comprised a list of the equipment you might need. Also read here if you can put a hammock in a tent and where to put your pack when hammock camping.

#1 Hammock

When hammock camping you will obviously need a hammock. When buying a hammock you should consider these factors:

  • Size – hammocks are usually single or double, and some people choose a double hammock because it’s comfortable even when they hang in it alone.
  • Use – you should consider the purpose you will use your hammock. Weight matters when it comes to backpacking and durability is more important when it comes to camping.
  • Accessories – starting with straps or a suspension system to set your hammock up, you may also need a rain tarp, a bug net, and an underquilt.
  • A hammock tent – if you grow to like sleeping in a hammock, you can also consider a hammock tent that includes a hammock and all the needed accessories.

#2 Suspension system

It is vitally important that your suspension system includes wide straps that won’t cause any damage to tree bark. If you purchase a pair of tree straps separately from your hammock, make sure that it is at least 0.75 inches wide. Bare ropes and thinner straps can dig into tree bark and you should never use them. You can read our blog to find out how long hammock straps last.

#3 Rain tarp or rainfly

A rainfly for a hammock that hangs above a hammock serves the same purpose as a rainfly for a tent. It should keep everything dry underneath and keep the wind away from you. It should be large enough to cover your entire hammock. You should choose a rain tarp that works well with your hammock. Diamond-shaped rain tarps are the best choice.

#4 Bug net

Your bug net should ideally offer you 360-degree protection. It means that it should fit over your whole hammock. If you buy a top-only net, you may need to consider treating the bottom of your hammock with permethrin insecticide that won’t damage the fabric. Take a look at our blog if you need additional tips on how to keep ants out of your hammock.

#5 Hammock tent

A hammock tent, as its name suggests, is both a hammock and a tent. It’s a great summer shelter option because it gets you off the ground and lets you enjoy the breeze. Most people agree that, when properly set up, a hammock tent is more comfortable than a regular tent. You can set up a hammock tent regardless of the surface below, as long as you can find two trees that are 12 to 15 feet apart. This gives you more freedom to choose a camping spot in prettier and less crowded locations.

Final words

We hope that our article provided you with plenty of information on sleeping pads, underquilts, and other equipment you might need when you go hammock camping. When you know how to stay warm when overnighting in a hammock, it is truly unforgettable and one of the most comfortable outdoor sleeping experiences.

Both sleeping pads and underquilts can turn your hammock into a cozy outdoor cocoon. With hammock camping, you can say goodbye to sleeping on uneven surfaces, which include rocks, branches, roots, and bugs. Gentle breezes lull you to sleep, you fall asleep watching the stars and wake up surrounded by nature and fresh air. Few outdoor experiences compare to that.