For most people, camping is considered a strictly warm weather activity. In fact, most of your average weekend outdoor enthusiasts do not even think about unpacking their tent, camp gear and sleeping bags until the chill of spring has totally subsided.
However, there are thousands of adventure seekers across the globe that just cannot wait for summer—or even spring, for that matter. No, these adventure junkies seem to constantly have their camping gear handy and ready to go, camping gear that, for many, is now including a hammock more often than not.
Cold weather hammock camping is a fun and exciting activity and a burgeoning trend that is now enjoyed by thousands of people each year. And if this sounds like something you would enjoy trying, the following article may prove very useful to you.
Here we have compiled several sure-fire cold weather hammock camping tips—tips and tricks that are designed to help you make the most of your excursion while remaining safe and comfortable throughout the trip.
Hammock Camping Can Be Done In Cold Weather
Are you tired of the age-old camping chore of setting up a tent—messing around with poles, stakes, rain flies, footprints and everything else this chore entails? If so, it might be time to give hammock camping a try.
When hammock camping you can spend a glorious night or two suspended between two trees, an experience that will draw you closer and closer to everything nature has to offer. However, once the winter season kicks in and the temperatures start to drop you will need to take certain precautions to ensure your warmth and safety.
The good news, though, is that you won’t have to worry about wet or snowy conditions on the ground when you sleep, as you’ll be safely above the ground and (hopefully) dry and protected from the elements.
Here are just a few tips to make sure your next hammock camping experience goes off without a hitch when the cold weather sets in.
Choosing Where to Hang Your Hammock
Choosing a well-thought-out place to hang your hammock can make a world of difference when winter camping. Of course, you want to choose an area between two relatively nearby trees, but you should also think about the possible weather conditions you may encounter.
Wind can be your biggest enemy when winter hammock camping. It can make you feel as if you are freezing to the bone if you do not plan carefully.
To ensure that the wind does not ruin your night, you should avoid camping in open spaces. Instead, find a spot within a dense forest if you can. That way, the many trees around you will protect you from the wind and the branches above will save you from the rain.
If dense forestation is not around you, tie your hammock behind a large boulder or anywhere near a natural windbreaker. Once that wind picks up you will be more than glad you took this piece of advice.
Dress Warmly For Sleeping
Most people like to sleep in lightweight clothing to prevent heat buildup during the night. However, when cold weather hammock camping this is not recommended.
Even though you will be covered entirely by a sleeping bag—a tip we will get to next—you should still dress warmly for the conditions. Some of the items that can keep you warm and toasty throughout the night include: Thermal underwear (long johns), sweats, thermal socks, gloves and a wool stocking cap.
Mum’s the Word
When the temperature dips below 40 degrees and steadily makes its way to the freezing mark, those blankets you packed in your bag are just not going to cut it. That’s why we recommend you bring along a mummy-style sleeping bag that is rated for cold temperatures.
If possible, try to choose a mummy bag that is rated for temperatures of 15 degrees F or less just to be on the safe side. It should also have a synthetic or down fill that promotes body warmth.
Mummy bags tend to fit nicely in a hammock, but be sure to close and cinch the hood portion to protect your head and face as well. As a bonus tip, if the sleeping bag is large enough, you can also keep some extra clothes and boot liners in the bag as you sleep.
Not only with this provide a little extra warmth it will ensure your clothes and boots are nice and toasty when it comes time to put them on in the morning.
Consider Getting a Sleeping Bag Liner
If you are even slightly considering winter or cold weather camping a great multi-purpose sleeping bag liner can be a lifesaver. Not only will a liner add lots of extra warmth to your sleeping bag on those raw, frigid nights, they are also very lightweight and take up very little room in your pack.
These liners additionally have a number of other potential uses, such as eliminating cold spots near your feet, shoulders or hips, and they can also serve as a pillow in a pinch, keeping your head in a comfortable, slightly elevated position.
Don’t Forget The Camping Pillow
Speaking of pillows, you should really think about bringing one along when you go hammock camping in the winter. Although pillows do tend to take up a lot of room, they can be a great addition to any hammock.
Even though your head will be fully protected from the mummy sleeping bag, a pillow gives you another layer of warmth between the cold vinyl of the hammock and your head. Pillows also promote better sleep and will leave you refreshed and ready to tackle the next day ahead.
Go with a Hammock Tarp
Although a hammock tarp is usually not necessary when camping in the summer it can be a great addition to your overall gear in the winter. Hammock tarps, also known as hammock rain flies, are designed to trap heat around your body.
Easy to use, the hammock tarp should be strung very near to your body to trap the necessary heat, keep you warm and protect you from wind, snow and rain. If you do not have a hammock-specific tarp you can usually use any type of tarp provided it covers the entire hammock.
Sleeping Pad Is a Must
A mummy sleeping bag is designed to hug your body. This is why these bags are so warm. However, over time the pressure of your body inside the bag can penetrate some of this warmth and leave you feeling the cold surface of the hammock beneath.
To prevent this, merely place a sleeping pad over your hammock before putting in the mummy bag. Pads come in a variety of styles and materials. Some sleeping pads can even be slightly inflated to make sure no part of you comes in contact with the actual hammock.
If you do not feel like lugging around a large, bulky tarp you can always go with an emergency under-quilt or emergency blanket in a pinch. Made for emergency kits (usually to prevent shock), under-quilts are typically waterproof and windproof, making them the perfect accessory for hammock camping.
Under-quilts are designed to surround the hammock entirely, forming a cocoon of sorts to keep you alee of the wind, rain and snow. To install an under-quilt around your hammock, simply tie the corners of the blanket long ways to the ends of the hammock and make certain the quilt is tight against the bottom and sides of your hammock.
Boiled Water Makes a Great Foot Warmer
Boiled water in a bottle can do wonders for keeping your feet warm and snug throughout the night. Prior to turning in for the night, simply boil some water over the camp stove and place it in a secure plastic bottle.
Make sure you are wearing socks and that no part of your skin is showing so that the hot water bottle does not scald your skin. Next, climb into your mummy-style sleeping bag and place the hot water bottle down by your feet to keep them warm. If you are lucky, the water will stay nice and warm until long after you fall asleep.
Be Smart About It
Last but certainly not least, you will need to be smart and understand when enough is enough when hammock camping. Although all of the techniques mentioned above are sure to keep you very warm and toasty while suspended off the ground, if the weather turns too ugly you will have to know when to quit and head for the tent or the car.
Camping out in the elements is not for rookies, and when the temperature sinks below the freezing point there are some very real dangers that you should not expose yourself to. Frost bite and hypothermia are not conditions to take lightly, so when it is too windy, too snowy, or just plain too cold, ditch the hammock for another day and head for a warmer environment where you are sure to be safe and protected from the elements.