Winter camping: Keeping warm in your hammock
Winter can get a bad rep. For many it means packing away the camping gear and avoiding the chill, willing away the cold days and dreaming of summer. We think it’s here to be made the best of: it means long, dark nights perfect for stargazing and aurora-watching (depending on your geographical location). It means flasks of tea (or whisky*), quiet woodlands and campfires. Tempted to venture out in the chilly season with your hammock? You’re in luck - we happen to know how you can stay warm!
*Everything in moderation. Please don't drink heavily in the cold - it can make you colder, and far more likely to trip over your guy lines in the dark. Nobody wants that. Be responsible!
Picking a smart pitch
The cold will pool in low-level ‘basins’ of land, and become harsh and windy at any great height. It’s a good idea, if you can, to think about setting up in a mid-level area. Unless you’re prepared to be buffeted by the wind, try and pick a campsite with some natural shelter - perhaps a dense forest, or the foot of a hill or cliff. If you can angle your pitch so it sees most of the daylight, that’s also a plus.
Dewy areas also pose a risk for creating moisture - this can cause condensation inside your hammock (which could be dangerous as it can lead to hypothermia in very cold temperatures). It doesn't sound logical in winter to expose yourself to the air, but a bit of ventilation helps keep everything dry, and this is essential to keeping warm.
There are a number of ways to insulate yourself in your hammock - some methods are more effective than others, but there are some low-cost hacks that we know a lot of hammockers will appreciate. Ideally you will already have a good sleeping bag to use - a hammock-friendly one like the DD Jura 2 Sleeping Bag is certainly an advantage, but any will work. If it’s super cold out, though, this may not be enough. So what can you add to keep yourself toasty?
Underblankets are by far the smartest hammock insulation method, purely due to the nature of hammocks. In hammocks, your body heat will escape right out from underneath you because your body weight compresses the loft of whatever is between you and the ground. What a waste of warmth!
That's what makes underblankets so economical: they hang beneath you, gently ‘hugging’ the outside of your hammock and trapping a pocket of your own body heat in the space between to keep you warm. It’s a great hammocking companion not just for winter, but year-round as it can also be used on its own in milder weather.
You can also use foam camping pads or inflatable mats inside your hammock, though many users find these annoying as mats can shift out of place easily. A top tip to prevent this is to put the mat inside your sleeping bag with you!
Another cheap solution is the good old emergency foil or ‘space blanket’ - the type used by rescue teams! These are thin but when wrapped around you (or under your sleeping bag) they help ‘reflect’ the heat back onto you.
And don’t forget…
Clothing is a big part of any outdoor activity, so make sure yours is up to the task at hand! We are advocates of thermals, and numerous thin layers to trap the heat close to your body. A good down jacket is a worthy investment, as are woolen socks and boot liners.
...And whoever said hot water bottles are for sissies is lying. They’re oft-forgotten saviours. Just boil your kettle, fill one up and stuff it under your toes. Warm feet = warm body! Oh, and don't forget a flask of your favourite winter warmer.
Remember, if the temperature outside really is too far outwith your cold threshold to go camping, then wait until the grass gets a little greener. Hammock camping is only awesome when you’re comfortable!
Have you ever been winter hammocking? Tell us or share your experiences on Facebook or Instagram!
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About the writer
A great view and a big sky are Jocasta's favourite things about being outdoors. As DD's content writer she oversees the blog and social media.