Best Hammock Underquilt
Last update on 2020-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Hammocks were once a luxury item on camping trips, somewhere you could do a little midday lounging with a good book while someone else prepared lunch. Not anymore though; now those loungers are giving tents a run for their money as the preferred sleeping area.
Not only are hammocks super comfortable, but they’re also incredibly lightweight and easy to set up. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a few campers are reconsidering the merits of packing a tent for their next adventure.
Hammocks come with a few downsides though and one of the biggest is just how cold they can be on chilly nights. The ground that we lay our sleeping pads and sleeping bags on is actually a pretty decent insulator, preventing the cold night air from freezing our backsides.
Additionally, the down or synthetic fill in a sleeping bag gets compressed by the body’s weight, rendering it ineffectual. There’s a fairly simple solution to this problem though, you just need to add some insulation to the bottom of your hammock, which is usually accomplished with a warm underquilt.
These nifty comforters attach below your hammock, where it won’t get compressed, and can add a lot of warmth. While finding the right underquilt for camping can be a difficult endeavor, I’ve reviewed several of the best ones to make the decision easier for you.
Top 5 Best Hammock Underquilts
OnetTigris isn’t exactly a household name in the hammock industry or even the outdoor gear world. I was skeptical from the beginning, but their underquilt is actually a great budget option for campers that will only use it occasionally and in warmer weather.
The company is upfront about its warmth – it’s designed for three-season camping between 40 and 60°F. It’s not a winter hammock, and there’s nothing wrong with that because most people aren’t hammock camping in temperatures below freezing.
The underquilt is filled with polyester insulation that’s fairly lightweight (the whole package weighs 26 ounces) and warm even if it gets wet. It’s packed size isn’t amazing, at 14 x 7 inches, but it’s not going to take up your whole pack.
It’s made to fit most hammocks and unrolls to 7 ¾ by 4 feet; not really big enough for a double hammock, but suitable for most singles. The outer shell is made from 20-denier nylon, which is on the lower end when it comes to durability, but if it were thicker it would take up even more space and be heavier.
The shell has a DWR coating that does a decent job at shedding water, but again, this isn’t the quilt you’ll want to take on more rugged trips. The shell also comes equipped with some handy bungees that make attaching it to your hammock a cinch.
If you’ve never gone hammock camping before, this might be the perfect way to break into it without breaking the bank.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the Aerie Down from Outdoor Vitals, which has one of the best warmth to weight ratios of any underquilt. It weighs just nineteen ounces but is able to achieve what few underquilts can: three-season status.
Outdoor Vitals claims that this is rated to 20°, but all temperature ratings are subjective and there’s a good chance the Aerie Down will not be warm enough for winter camping. Hang it up in your yard and give it a try before taking it on a big trip.
The Aerie is touted for its versatility with Outdoor Vitals going so far as to market it as having five different uses: as an underquilt, a sleeping, a sleeping bag liner, a blanket, or as a hammock pod (essentially a sleeping bag that cocoons the hammock).
I think that’s a bit of a stretch though – it’s a down blanket with some hooks to attach it to a hammock, and it’s not even a particularly large down blanket. That being said, given its featherlight weight, it’s not a bad idea to bring it along on cold weather backpacking trips, even if you’re leaving the hammock at home.
As with all down products, it is critical that it be kept dry. While the feathers are treated for water resistance, the coating can only do so much and you’ll definitely see a loss of insulation if the quilt gets wet.
Additionally, it’s only 75 by 32 inches, which is kind of small as far as quilts go. It definitely won’t cover a double hammock and it may come up short on a few single models. Be sure to check your hammock measurements before investing in this one.
There’s just no way around it, down underquilts cost more and only you can decide whether the reduction in weight and increased packability is worth the price. If it is, the Aerie Down will be an excellent addition to your gear closet.
ENO is the de facto leader in the hammock revolution that’s been happening over the past decade or so; chances are that if you’ve got a camping hammock it’s one of theirs. That’s good news because you know their Ember underquilt is going to fit it.
As you might expect from ENO, the quilt is super easy to set up with just a few shock cord straps attaching it to your hammock.
The quilt is 8 by 4 feet, which is a little bigger than some models; you can be fairly certain it will fit your hammock, even if you’ve got one of the longer ones. It works somewhat well for camper’s using the more comfortable diagonal sleeping position.
The Ember’s durability is a cut above most underquilts thanks to its 40-denier nylon shell, which is about twice as thick as most other models. I wouldn’t drag it on the ground, but I’d feel confident that it’s not going to get banged up flapping in the wind.
The Ember has its issues though; with the first being its packability. Because it uses synthetic insulation (which is only rated to 50 degrees), it only squishes down to 12 by 6.5” – not terrible, but nothing to brag about. It also weighs 25 ounces, which isn’t going to impress any ultralight backpackers.
While it’s actually wide enough for diagonal sleeping, ENO went with a hammock-shaped cut makes the quilt somewhat formfitting. A rectangular cut quilt is better for diagonal sleepers.
ENO has created a pretty amazing hammock with the Ember that is a great choice for first-time hammock campers. If it was just a little less expensive, I think it would be many campers’ top choice.
Chill Gorilla is a relative newcomer to the hammock game (they consider themselves a startup), but they’ve done an excellent job at designing an inexpensive synthetic underquilt.
So many of the underquilts on the market today are designed to fit your hammock tightly. While I think that’s useful for trapping heat, it does cut down on its versatility and which hammocks it can be paired with. I appreciate the Chill Gorilla’s larger size though of 84 by 58 inches.
Despite that large size, it still packs down to a nice 7 by 10 inches, which isn’t bad for synthetic insulation. It’s a great choice if you’re worried about wet weather, but still need something highly packable.
One reason that it can pack down like that is the relatively thin 20-denier nylon shell. This is not one of the most durable underquilts and if you don’t treat it carefully you can’t expect it to last more than a couple seasons.
Some users have also complained that the hammock is difficult to set up and doesn’t come with any instructions. If you don’t consider yourself a spatially inclined individual, it might be a good idea to watch a YouTube video or two to get it figured out.
The Chill Gorilla is one of the better inexpensive, entry-level underquilts, especially if you’re looking for something bigger that can be used as a blanket or sleeping bag liner when not attached to your hammock. I’m a bit skeptical about such a new company though, which may not be as capable of dealing with returns and repairs.
If you liked most of the features on the ENO Ember but would prefer something that’s a bit more of an upgrade, this might be the perfect underquilt for you. It’s just as easy to set up but has even better insulation.
Rather than basic polyester fill, the Vulcan is packed with Primaloft - a proprietary blend of polyester microfibers mixed with merino wool. Much of the polyester is sustainably sourced from recycled materials too.
Primaloft insulation keeps the Vulcan a little warmer, rated down to about 35 degrees – 5 degrees warmer than the Ember. That being said, unless you go to sleep in your warmest long underwear, there’s a good chance you’ll wake up with a cold butt – the ratings are exaggerated.
The Vulcan weighs somewhat more than the Ember - 30 ounces compared to 25; which is a little odd given the thinner 20-denier nylon shell. That’s not great for durability, but ENO felt the compromise was necessary to prevent the Vulcan from being too heavy.
The Vulcan splays out to a somewhat roomy 6’2” by 4’. However, ENO cut its shape to form fit a hammock, with the drawstrings cinching down the ends. That’s great for keeping conventional hammock campers warm, but not so good for diagonal sleepers and those wishing to use the Vulcan as a blanket.
The shell does have some excellent water repellency though thanks to a good coat of DWR. Combined with the Primaloft insulation, this is one of the best quilts for wet weather camping.
As the Vulcan is quite a bit more expensive compared to its ENO cousin, it’s better suited for campers that are concerned about their insulation – Primaloft is its main advantage. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth the extra expense.
How to choose a hammock underquilt
Why use an underquilt?
Camping in a hammock will be a totally new experience for most people: no annoying tent setup, way less to carry, and a very different sleeping position. However, what few people realize is just how much colder it is in a hammock.
When we sleep on the ground, we typically lay on an inflatable or closed-cell foam sleeping pad. The most obvious reason for this is comfort – sleeping pads are softer than the ground underneath. But these pads also provide a layer of insulation that prevents the ground from absorbing heat from you during the night.
However, the Earth isn’t all that bad of an insulator either. Once you’ve been laying on a certain patch of it for a while, the top layer of soil will heat up. The same can’t be said for a hammock.
Hammocks are subject to constant airflow above and below them; that airflow carries away a fair amount of your body heat. To combat this problem, you might camp with a heavier sleeping bag. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.
Sleeping bags really only insulate the top and sides of your body (that’s why sleeping pads are important) because the insulation underneath gets crushed by your body weight and loses its insulating properties.
A quilt, which mounts underneath your hammock where it won’t be crushed by your weight, is an excellent solution to the hammock’s insulation problem.
Do I still need a sleeping bag with an underquilt?
Absolutely! If it’s warm enough that you don’t need any sort of insulation besides the underquilt, than you might not even need the underquilt (nighttime temperatures above 80°F for instance).
The underquilt only protects your backside from getting cold, there’s still plenty of surface area to lose heat on top. At the very least, you’ll want something like a 50° sleeping bag or a wool blanket.
How warm of an underquilt do I need?
Well, that all depends on where you intend to use it. Are you camping during the summer months, at low elevation, in a fairly temperate climate? Then you may not even need one at all, but there’s no harm in bringing along something rated to 50° F.
However, other campers might use their hammock in the winter, atop a windy peak; I support you in your boldness! The only way you’ll keep a hammock setup as warm as a tent would be with a beefy underquilt that blocks the wind and hangs on to every bit of heat that your body is putting out.
Insulation rating system
Let’s start with how underquilts are rated for warmth though. The most basic ranking system involves what season they’re warm enough for: one season (summer), three seasons (spring, summer, fall), and four season (winter – and it will be too hot for any other season).
Where you live greatly affects what a season is though: a late summer evening in Montana might feel pretty similar to a “cold” winter night in Louisiana. It’s not the most useful rating system, which is one I prefer ones with actual degrees listed.
Underquilts with a temperature rating are telling you what the lowest temperature is that it would be comfortable for; it’s the same system that’s used for sleeping bags. It’s an idealized rating that assumes you’re sleeping in the right clothes i.e. thermal underwear.
However, there’s been a push as of recently to move to the European standard for warmth:
- An upper limit - the highest temperature that a man could sleep comfortably.
- A comfort rating – the lowest temperature a woman could sleep comfortably.
- A lower limit – the lowest temperature a man could sleep comfortably.
Armed with those three numbers, it should be a lot easier to figure out which level of warmth is right for you. Are you a man that sleeps hot, use the lower limit? Do you pile on the blankets at night? The comfort rating might be a better estimate.
What type of insulation should I get, down or synthetic?
Whether you’re talking about sleeping bags, jackets, or underquilts, there’s always a debate about whether down is better than synthetic and vise versa. The truth is one is not universally better than the other; it all depends on the situation.
Carefully crafted from the fluffiest interior feathers of a goose, down is often touted as the superior material thanks to its incredible warmth to weight ratio. Despite many years of material scientists working on this problem, none have been able to match the lightweight fibers with a synthetic material.
Down is also more compressible, which means your underquilt can be scrunched into a tiny ball at the bottom of your pack. A quick shake at the campsite will have it back to its puffy self in no time.
Well, that is unless it gets wet. A little moisture will have those voluminous feathers matted down into a sticky mess, and they provide next to no insulation when clumped together. Down underquilts are only functional so long as the weather cooperates. Quilt manufacturers envelop the insulation in water-resistant fabric, but that can only go so far in protecting them.
A few companies are making products with treated down – feathers that have been coated in DWR (the water-resistant material on your rain jacket). These products absorb less water and dry quicker, but still aren’t as useful as full synthetic.
Vegans may also be uncomfortable with some of the practices used in sourcing down. Feathers are a byproduct of the meat industry, though many outdoor companies have taken steps to make their supply chain more ethical. Synthetic insulation is often quite a bit cheaper too, making it a good option for budget-minded consumers.
Bottom Line: If you’re camping in wet weather, are vegan, or just don’t want to spend a lot of money on your underquilt, go synthetic. If you need something lightweight, highly packable, and very warm for it’s warm – down is a good choice for you.
What about the outer shell?
Having a high-quality shell on your quilt is critical for a good camping experience. Nearly all underquilts use DWR-coated nylon. However, that’s doesn’t tell you much about its water resistance.
For starters, nylon comes in different densities – the denier count. This is similar to the thread count in your bed sheets with higher denier cloth being more expensive and more durable. It will also be heavier, so if you’re an ultralight enthusiast, you’ll need to weigh durability against the extra ounces stronger fabric would add.
Most hammock underquilts utilize 20-denier nylon, which is similar to what you’d find on a sleeping bag. Your sleeping bag rarely leaves the tent though and isn’t exposed to the elements. If you get a quilt this thin, you’ll need to be very careful to prevent tears on branches and thorns.
For many campers, it might be worth it to look for a quilt with a higher denier count that can withstand a little wind and abrasion. Higher denier fabrics are also more water resistant as they’re formed from a tighter weave. That goes a long way in assisting the DWR coating in keeping moisture out.
Are underquilts hard to set up?
No, most underquilts are as easy to hang as the hammocks that they are attached to. Expect to spend less than five minutes with most models.
There are exceptions to the rule though and they usually present themselves in the ultralight category. Easy to use clips and shock cord add ounces; so some of the lighter models might only have a string that needs to be carefully wrapped into the hammock’s suspension system. Avoid these if you’ve ever struggled with putting together IKEA furniture.
Can I use my underquilt without the hammock?
Of course you can, underquilts are just big insulating blankets that conveniently attach to the bottom of your hammock. When you spend a good chunk of change on one, it would be nice if it could get some use without the hammock.
The problem is that most underquilts are designed to be form fitting on the hammock; this helps the quilt keep the heat in, but reduces its versatility; that’s especially true for narrower quilts.
If you want something that will work as a blanket, choose an underquilt that’s wider and more rectangular. If the quilt has shock cords to attach it to the hammock, they’re likely to constrict the quilt’s shape when you’re using it as a blanket; look for one with drawstrings or something with non-elastic clips.
What's the best hammock underquilt for me?
As usual, that all depends on the conditions you’re camping in, what kind of features you value in your gear (durability, ease of use, etc.), and how much you’re willing to spend.
The ENO Ember is a great starting point for most hammock campers. It checks all the boxes: durability, functionality, easy setup, and weather resistant. It’s also moderately priced. If you’re unsure about what to purchase, it’s a great middle of the road option.
Those not wanting to spend as much on their first underquilt might be better served by the Chill Gorilla, which is a bit less expensive, while still providing great functionality. It’s an untested company and not the most durable of products, but there’s a good chance you’ll upgrade after a few seasons anyway.
Those that are sure of their needs and love their lightweight gear would do well with Outdoor Vital’s Aerie. It’s an incredibly well made product that will last for years with proper care and you can pack it and forget it on non-hammock adventures for a little extra warmth.
Having an underquilt is really the only way to have a comfortable hammock camping experience. You will literally freeze your butt off without one. Thankfully, there are quite a few excellent options to choose from.