Hammock camping in winter…I know it sounds crazy.
Yet, with the right equipment, adequate preparation, and a properly set up camp, you’ll stay warm, dry, and have fun! Today, we’re going to show you exactly what you need to know to make your next winter hammock camping trip a success.
Here’s our ultimate guide to hammock camping in the winter.
Why Go Hammock Camping in Winter?
Why go winter hammock camping in the first place?
Honestly, you might even be asking yourself – why go winter camping at all?
Despite the cold temperatures and chance of snow, camping in the winter can be immensely rewarding. Not only are you likely to have the entire campground to yourself, but the hush of winter throughout the forest is truly special. You’re in for a real treat if you wake up to a fresh blanket of snow.
But why sacrifice the security of your winter tent in favor of a hammock?
The main benefit of hammock camping in winter is it keeps you up off the cold ground. This is particularly beneficial for snowy or rainy nights. Although sleeping in a hammock can be a little colder at first due to the air circulating underneath your body, proper insulation will take care of this problem quickly.
Another reason I often favor my hammock versus a tent in the winter is the weight. The best camping hammocks are lighter than most backpacking tents. Of course, this isn’t a major concern if you’re car camping, but it is a huge benefit if you’re winter backpacking up into the remote backcountry.
The easy set up and take down is another highlight. I can set my winter hammock up in less than a minute. This enables me to quickly seek shelter in serious winter weather conditions without fumbling around with my tent poles.
Finally, if you bring the right hammock accessories along, camping in a hammock in winter if just as warm, cozy, and dry as spending the night in the best winter tent.
The Best Winter Hammock Camping Gear
You absolutely need high-quality equipment for hammock camping in winter.
Although you can sometimes get away with budget-quality gear in the spring, summer, and fall, the harsh conditions of winter necessitate the best equipment money can buy, especially if you expect below-freezing temperatures and/or snow.
Here’s the most important winter hammock camping gear:
Most camping and backpacking hammocks work well for winter camping. The key is to select a model that’s compatible with winter camping accessories like a rainfly and underquilt. Our guide to the best hammocks for 2020 is a great place to start your search.
The ENO SingleNest (or two-person ENO DoubleNest) is a good budget-friendly option that’s compatible with a variety of ENO winter accessories. Personally, I like Hennessy Hammocks best for winter hammock camping, especially the Hennessy Explorer Deluxe Asym Zip and the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip. Yet another quality option is the unique REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock, compatible with many winter hammock accessories, including the REI Hammock Underquilt.
For winter hammock camping, you absolutely need easy-to-use hammock straps. The quicker you can set up your hammock, the sooner you’ll be inside out of the weather. Hammock straps are also much easier to use with gloves or mittens on than trying to hang a hammock with ropes. Many camping hammocks, like those from Hennessy Hammocks, come with built-in straps while others, like ENO Hammocks, require you to buy straps separately (ENO Atlas Hammock Straps).
Winter Sleeping Bag
A top-quality winter sleeping bag is essential for hammock camping in cold weather. Make sure to select a model that’s rated for at least 10°F colder than the coldest temperatures you expect to encounter. I personally prefer using a mummy-bag in my hammock – not only because of their lightweight and superior insulation, but also because their tapered shape fits more comfortably into the narrow confines of a hammock. Our guide to the best winter sleeping bags for 2020 will help you find the best sleeping bag for you.
A rainfly is essential for winter hammocking to keep rain and snow off your hammock. Look for a model designed specifically for your hammock (such as the ENO ProFly Hammock Rain Tarp) for the easiest set up and the best coverage. Oversize models are available that somewhat help protect your hammock from the wind as well. I often bring along an additional tarp to hang above my hammock rainfly for an extra layer of coverage while camping in the rain.
An underquilt is all but essential for winter hammock camping, especially in very cold temperatures. This hammock accessory adds an extra layer of insulation to your hammock setup, thereby increasing warmth at night. Although a lot of great options are available, the ENO Vulcan Hammock Underquilt is one of my favorites.
Hammock Top Quilt
A top quilt is much like a normal sleeping bag, except specifically designed for use in a hammock. When I expect very cold weather, I often bring both my top quilt and winter sleeping bag along for a one-two punch of warmth and insulation. Look for a model specifically designed for your hammock for the best fit and most comfort possible.
Hammock Sleeping Pad
A hammock sleeping bag serves two purposes: increasing both comfort and insulation. Although you can use your normal backpacking sleeping pad, many manufacturers now offer special hammock sleeping pads which are designed to better accommodate the shape of your hammock. An inflatable model is your best bet as far as weight saving is concerned, but closed-cell foam sleeping pads typically provide more warmth.
Don’t go camping in the winter – whether in a tent or a hammock – without the proper winter clothing. Of utmost importance is proper winter clothing layering. I break down my winter clothing into three layers: base layer (wicking material), middle layer (insulating material), and top layer (rain and wind repellent material). I always add a quality pair of winter hiking boots, moisture-wicking winter socks, a knit hat, and winter gloves to that list. The options for specific clothing items are nearly endless and are available for all budgets. Just make sure that the items you choose will keep you warm and dry in cold conditions.
Other Winter Camping Gear
Use our guide to the best winter camping gear and simple family camping checklist to make sure you don’t forget any other essential items. For example, a camping stove or backpacking stove is necessary to cook delicious camping meals on your winter hammocking excursion. And, although you can’t use it inside a hammock like you can inside of a tent, a portable winter heater can help you stay warm while preparing camp, even if you plan to sleep in a hammock.
How to Set Up Your Hammock in Winter
It’s just as important to know how to correctly set up camp as it is to buy the right gear when hammock camping in winter. Here’s how:
Choose the Right Spot
Look for a campsite near two trees or other anchor points. In winter, a location with a natural wind barrier such as next to a large boulder or in a dense forest is a must. Avoid areas where cold pools at night, such as in basins and other areas that are lower than the rest of the surrounding land. Always check overhead to make sure there are no dangerous widow makers in the trees above.
Set Up Your Hammock
Set up your hammock first by securely attaching it to two trees roughly 10 feet apart with your hammock tree straps. Your hammock should sag to about 18 inches off the ground with you inside for the best hammock hang angle for comfortable sleep. Next, put your sleeping pad and sleeping bag inside the hammock before setting up your rainfly or hammock tarp.
Don’t get inside your hammock for the night before taking care of all your business. You won’t want to get outside of its comforting warmth in the middle of the night. Tend your campfire, go to the bathroom, and take off any wet clothes before getting inside. I like to hang my backpack and wet gear from either my rainfly ridge line or from a carabiner on my hammock straps (making sure they are well under the rainfly’s protective coverage) to keep them dry at night.
Winter hammock camping is an unforgettable experience if you come prepared.
Invest in the correct hammock camping gear, make sure you have quality winter clothing, and take special care to select a well-sheltered campsite for the best results. For beginners, I recommend bringing a tent along just in case – winter hammock camping isn’t for everyone and you don’t want to be stuck in an uncomfortable situation if you realize you’re one of these people!
Now I want to hear from you – what do you think about winter hammock camping? What do you think about winter camping in general? Let me know in the comments below!