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Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron?
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Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 13:11:41 MST Print View

I am looking for opinions as to whether UL hammocking in the cold (cold means to me in the 30s and below) is really possible...I have a HH UL backpacker but am finding that the cold spots and slipping pads are really making me want an underquilt or the Supershelter, but these options can cost as much as the hammock and weigh anywhere from 1 to nearly 2 extra pounds, on top of the Hammock weight of basically 2 lbs! I love my hammock, but wonder if the weight and bulk "outweigh" the benefits and I should abandon my hammock and look more into the tarp/bivy option instead...Thoughts? Carol, are you out there? :)

John Chan
Re: Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 14:13:47 MST Print View

Hi Dane,

I used the Hennessy Supershelter with a UL Asym last October in Northern Ontario. I would guess that the temperature got down to around 32 F (with windchill) and for sure, it was very uncomfortable with the thin underpad. In addition to this, I didn't have the top-half (optional) of the Supershelter set-up so the occasional wind blasting through the bug-netting made it all the more uncomfortable. I haven't tried the JRB underquilt yet but it looks like a sound concept provided you have some way of keeping side-blown rain/sleet from wetting out the quilt. I do have some reservations about being able to evenly distribute the down though... you probably have to really "dial down" your system to get that working.

Most of my <30 F camping is done with a cat tarp and Quantum bivy. If it gets too windy/cold I can zip up the bivy and enjoy my own warm/moist microclimate inside.

Edited by ouroboros on 01/27/2006 14:15:08 MST.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 14:16:06 MST Print View

Have you checked out Carol Coker's (sp?)article on SUL hammocking? She tests several cool weather strategies.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Warm Hammocking and UL on 01/27/2006 14:26:57 MST Print View

Moved to a Make Your Own Gear - Thread

Edited by bfornshell on 01/28/2006 11:25:13 MST.

Jack Myers
(Smee) - F
Re: Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 14:44:18 MST Print View

Hammocking in colder weather is certainly possible and can be done at very reasonable weights. In fact, if making an honest comparison, just as lightweight as sleeping on the ground and infinitely more comfortable.

Hennessy Backpacker Ultralight A-Sym (w/o fly) 23 oz. ($170)
JRB 8'x8' Tarp 10 oz. ($80)
JRB Nest Underquilt 20 Oz. ($240)
JRB No Sniveller Top Quilt 20 oz. ($240)

TOTAL 73 oz. or 4 lbs. 9 oz. ($730)

The above set-up will get you into sub-freezing temperatures.

A comparable ground rig (20 deg. Sleeping Bag, Full Length Pad, Tent or Tarp, and Ground Sheet) will not save much if anything in weight.

Yes it's expensive, but so are a good Tent/Tarp, 20 deg Sleeping Bag, and Full length Sleeping Pad.

I know some will argue about the full length pad, but being honest, at those temperatures you need insulation under your legs as well.

This is the whole reason Jacks R Better came into being. We wanted to hammock camp year around. You simply can't beat the comfort of the hammock. We tried a bunch of different pad combinations before resolving to make our first under quilts. We liked the results enough to start a business to offer it to the rest of the community.


Jack Myers
Jacks 'R' Better, LLC

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 14:58:55 MST Print View

I have the same question. I just aquired 2 JacksRBetter No Snivler Long quilts (22 oz each) that will hopefully provide the answer. I haven't had the chance to try them yet accept in my basement. I used my HH UL Explorer ( 2.6 lb) on a week long trip this past season where the temps were in the low 40s F at night. I think I could have easily handled the low 30s given how warm I was, but I don't think the set up was a good one. I had a full length ThermaRest ProLite 4 (1.5 lb), a WM Versalite (a 10 degree bag at 2.4 lb) and an Equinox Bivy (6.5 oz) to keep the pad from moving underneath me. The zipper on the bag and on the bivy are on opposite sides. Needless to say, going to bed was a real chore and there was no way I was getting out until morning. I went to ground 2 nights not because of cold but because of the difficulty of going to bed suspended. With the quilts I will mount one under the hammock and use the other inside or 2 under and my bag on the inside. I think this will work for 4 season use though I haven't tried it. Buying one quilt was a no brainer for me because I can use it anywhere. I needed the quilt for 3 season use because my bag is too warm. A tarp system is going to weigh less. The comfort of a hammock comes at a cost. In the ideal case (hammock + quilts + stakes) my sleep system will weigh 5.4 lb and the quilt doubles as around camp insulation.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Warm Hammocking and UL-- Oxymoron? on 01/27/2006 21:35:54 MST Print View

> I am looking for opinions as to whether UL hammocking in the cold (cold means to me in the 30s and below) is really possible...

Cold, as in +10F to +15F, is certainly possible. The details of my gear and results are posted on this thread ((It's the 7th entry on page 2 of The G Spot >> "UL hommock camping" thread.) I won't repeat that here.

My hammock-based sleep system weighed 6.73 pounds. It could certainly be done lighter: I used a synthetic quilt that probably weighs 13 oz. more than an equivalent down quilt, and the Ultralight Explorer is much heavier (12 oz.?) than a home-made UL hammock could be (but I like my HH). It could go colder, too: with the addition of one of the pads and perhaps the Jacks R Better Weather Shield top I could see taking this rig down to -10F. (My target is -10F to -20F overnight temps.)

I haven't done much testing in 'warmer' cold (20-30F), but now that I have a Hennessy Supershelter I plan to test that and the JRB Weather Shield with a thin pad and see how they work. I wasn't happy with one or two pads in the hammock when temperatures approached freezing, so I'm willing to carry the weight of an under-hammock solution. I should be able to lighten up the gear if I'm not going to be out in temps below +20F.

>I love my hammock, but wonder if the weight and bulk "outweigh" the benefits

Of course, it all depends on how much you value sleeping in a hammock. A tarp and bivy with two stacked quilts and two thick pads on snow would probably handle 10F and lower (not speaking from personal experience), and with snow on the ground you don't have to look far to find a decent flat spot. But I sleep all night long in a hammock and that's worth a little extra weight to me.

Edited by Otter on 01/27/2006 21:54:33 MST.

Dane Fliedner
(dfliedner) - F

Locale: North Texas
UL Hammocking in cold on 01/27/2006 22:46:26 MST Print View

Thanks to everyone for the input. I didn't realize a similar thread ran a few weeks ago, but it didn't show in the "search" feature. Seems that the underquilt is a must...does anyone know any companies that would be willing to alter a sleeping bag into an underquilt (for $$, of course)? (I recently bought a TNF UL down sleeping bag before I realized that quilts would be better for hammocks). It seems a shame to lose considerable $ selling it on Ebay or whatever and starting from scratch! Ideas? (I'm scared to think about cutting it open and sewing it myself, especially with 900 fill down)

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: UL Hammocking in cold on 01/28/2006 09:16:42 MST Print View

Before you do anything, check out the No Snivler at Jacks 'R' Better. They are made to fit the hammock and the service and quality are top notch. I think being able to use it as a down poncho around camp is a big plus. Your bag is still useful inside the hammock with the quilt used under the hammock.

Edited by ericnoble on 01/28/2006 09:17:22 MST.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: UL Hammocking in cold on 01/28/2006 09:50:43 MST Print View

> alter a sleeping bag into an underquilt

I'll second Eric Noble's comment. You'll still need something over you in the hammock, and you can just unzip the sleeping bag (keeping a foot pocket) and have essentially the same design as my Ray-Way quilt. I find the extra width useful to tuck underneath me to prevent drafts and cold sides. The Jacks R Better Nest (which is made for the Hennessy; the No Sniveler is a more general design) is a good solution for an under quilt (20 oz.).

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Synthetic Quilts on 01/29/2006 10:55:22 MST Print View

Can you give me a better idea why you folks don't have some versions of the No-Sniveller and Under Quilt with synthetic fill rather than the current down? It seems like the amount of exposure that those quilts could argue for synthetic. I expect that you'll mention weight and compression, but would like to hear your comments.

john Tier
(Peter_pan) - M

Locale: Co-Owner Jacks 'R' Better, LLC, VA
Re: Synthetic Quilts on 01/29/2006 15:43:25 MST Print View

To paraphrase Henry Ford," You can have any fill you want as long as it is Down".

When we started in 2003 we decided not only to fill an empty nitche but to be the best under quilt and quilt makers for the hammock community...To avoid distractions (you can't please everone...and those that try usually fail), Jacks 'R' Better decided to produce top quality down items at reasonable cost, and to do it with a made in USA approach...Superior warmth to weight and compressibilty fit best in our view of ultra light and hammocks...

Today JRB is supported by a US Manufacturer private labeling our flatware items and a cottage production base of 7 personnel involved in production of all JRB quilts...Jack (Smee) and I still control the kitting as well as the down fill and finalization of every quilt...We are proud to have to have brought 5 different quilt designs, most now available in both regular and long size, a Down Hood and first ever availability of Down Sleeves, a unique at the time of development 8x8 tarp, A breathable, waterproof and windproof Weathershield System, self tensioning lines, a multipurpose gear hammock and pack cover that effectively carries large volumes of water and facilitates field bathing and a uniquely designed compression/ stuff sack, that is waterproof if seam sealed at just over 1 oz to market... BTW there are two more quilt/bag designs that should be announced in the next month.

Along the way, we observed that the majority of synthetic quilts discussed are based on the Ray Way approach and are the product of the DIY comunity... Further, we observed that the quilts such as those originally offered by Go-lite (during the Jardine association years), morphed into detachable top layers on bags, then disappeared altogether.

FWIW, JRB aviods significant custom work as it detracts from our on going R&D and production. JRB will change out side ladder loops for small tabs on the sides for the ground dwellers.

This mission vision and these policies have enabled Jacks 'R' Better rapidly expand its product base, avoid unnecessary distraction, and to put hundreds of quality down quilts in the field over the last two years...More importantly, since November 2003, no one has waited more than 10 days for a JRB quilt to ship.

Hope this explains our focus.

The other Jack, Smee is off skiing.


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Synthetic Quilts on 01/29/2006 17:42:55 MST Print View

Thanks for the feedback. Filling a niche sounds like a good reason. I have been looking at some of your products ever since I first saw your booth at Trail Days a few years ago. It's great to have the small cottage businesses like yours grow and continue to develop new products. I'd like to extend my HH to cooler weather, and have had my eye on the hood for a while...just a matter of time and deciding on my personal strategy.
Thanks again,

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Synthetic Quilts on 01/30/2006 00:22:23 MST Print View

By the way, someone has taken up the niche of synthetic (rather than down) quilts.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Synthetic Quilts on 01/30/2006 01:03:16 MST Print View

Also, well known to many here on the Forums, based upon their posts, is a company called Fanatic Fringe,

They also make synthetic quilts. IME, they are a fine company to do business with - fine products, and very trustworthy. Whether or not these quilts can be adapted to hammocks, I don't know.

Edited by pj on 01/30/2006 01:07:34 MST.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Synthetic Quilts on 01/30/2006 06:04:46 MST Print View

Thanks for the info. This was a new site/product to me. After a quick glance, it wasn't too clear what the insulation was (other than polyester). One of the reviews mentioned 1.5-2" of loft. I'll have to look at it in more detail later.

Frank Ramos
(frprovis) - F
Synthetic quilts on 01/30/2006 11:02:47 MST Print View

The 3oz Polarguard 3D is rated by the manufacturer at 1" of loft. Ray Jardine more honestly rates it at .9". My experience is that the loft will quickly degrade on a long-distance hike to about .65", after which there is no further loft degradation. Thus a two-layer quilt will quickly degrade to about 1.3" in loft. In theory, this is only enough loft, for the average person, for temperatures about 50F.

Generally speaking, a down quilt will run about 8oz less weight, for 50% more loft (2" versus 1.3"), and 50% less space (500ci versus 1000ci stuff sack size) as compared with Polarguard 3D. This makes down sound like a hands-down winner. However, it is important to consider exactly what conditions you plan to hike in, before you rule out Polarguard.

Most of my hiking involves nights with temperatures above 50F, but with the possibility of temperatures as low as the 20F. What I do is supplement my quilt on cold nights with my synthetic insulated vest and either a synthetic pullover or down jacket, which brings the torso loft back over 2" (or even over 3" for the down jacket), which is adequate for temperatures down to 20F. So I don't see the lower loft of Polarguard as compared with down as a real problem, nor do I care about the extra space, since my pack is roomy. The extra 8oz of weight I consider a worthwhile tradeoff for the added safety of polarguard. Also, polarguard can be easily machine-washed and dried in case you stink it up somehow. Not so with down. This is an issue for me, since I am normally traveling for months at a time, with no easy way to clean a down bag.

I should note that my quilt is a modified Jardine style. Instead of the Jardine "gorget", which I found suffocating to use, I simply extended the quilt to 87" long (I am 71" tall), then sewed up the edges of the head end, to make a sort of "head pocket", but left 8" unsewed towards the middle of the quilt for a "breathing hole". The added length brings my quilt weight to about 27oz. The breathing hole works for either back or side sleeping. (For side sleeping, the quilt needs to be at least 48" wide at the head, in order to allow the breathing hole to be pulled down to face level.)

The problem with the Golite Polarguard quilts was that they were too narrow and hence their were drafts under the sides. Jardine fixed this problem by increasing his recommended quilt width and by the addition of "draft stoppers" (something which down quilt makers have yet to copy, for some reason). Also, Golite used very heavy shell fabric and otherwise overbuilt the quilts so they were much heavier than necessary.

Fanatic Fringe doesn't state their dimensions, but based on their weights, they are not particularly roomy. Their quilts are also missing two important features. First, the draft stoppers. Second, either the Jardine "gorget" or the "head pocket" with "breathing hole" as described above. Making the quilt long enough to cover the head is critical to making it truly warm.

It is my belief that synthetic quilts are still in an evolving phase, but that the synthetic quilt/down jacket combination will eventually become the rule among lightweight hikers, at least for 3-season use. Using a down jacket with a synthetic quilt seems a much better solution than using a synthetic jacket/pullover with a down quilt, which is a combination many people discuss on this forum. Even worse is going all down. It takes only one bad experience with down to make you realize just how dangerous the stuff can be. My only bad experience was my own fault (my pack cover leaked and allow the bottom of my pack, where my down bag was, to fill with water) but the reality is that I am not perfect and I do make mistakes. Down simply doesn't leave a safety margin.