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Underquilt/ Serape: down or synthetic?
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Underquilt/ Serape: down or synthetic? on 04/30/2006 09:45:39 MDT Print View

Here's a question for you Vick (Hines): I'm going to be ordering the materials to make the underquilt/serape you have recommended so often. I will be making the shell out of 0.9oz. ripstop nylon and the baffles out of bugnetting, but I wonder if I should be using down or synthetic insulation? I will using the hammock (to be made of Epic) in the rainy mountains of Japan, so I'm a bit worried about the underquilt getting waterlogged from ambient moisture. I've only used hammocks for camping a few times (and have never quite been comfortable in them due to the thrashing around on the different ground pads sandwiched in the double layer hammocks I made) so I'm not really sure what to expect with the underquilt. What would your experiences suggest? Do your down underquilts handle the moisture well?

When above treeline I've designed the hammock to function as a bivy (using the SpinnShelter as both a hammock canopy and a weatherworthy ground shelter), hence the Epic fabric, and I'm thinking of possibly filling polyethylene tubing with down and inserting them into the baffling in the underquilt, to be blown up and act as an inflatable mattress when on the ground. This way the underquilt can serve three functions: underquilt, serape, and inflatable down air mattress.

Have you tried this? What do you think of the chances of it working?

Thanks.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Underquilt/ Serape: down or synthetic? on 05/01/2006 17:03:39 MDT Print View

Michael,
If you use an underquilt, you can put the sleeping pad between the underquilt and the hammock.

There is another trick that works: take a rectangle of light fabric (I used 0.6 oz. polyester taffeta lining material.) 4x6.5 feet, fold a few inches over at each corner, then stitched drawstring casings at the ends and edges - by simply folding the fabric over into wide hems. 3/8" elastic goes into the casings, stitched in place in the end casings so about 18 inches in the center of each end casing does not scrunch. I open the hems on the sides 2 feet toward the center and let the elastic out there and install a simple plastic slider on each of the 4 elastic lines where they exit the casings (2 feet down the sides)(bar tark on each side of the elastic opening.) You could use cord locks instead of sliders. The loops of elastic at each corner then attach to a single mitten hook at each end of the hammock to make this rig into a sub-hammock or sling under the main hammock. Leave enough elastic to adjust it to be firm but not breaking-tight when you get into the hammock. The sub-hammock holds the sleeping pad when the weather is not too cool and the underquilt when it gets colder. No more squirming around trying to get the pad under the cold spots. The sub-hammock weighs 5.5 ounces.

So, my rig consists of an adequate sleeping pad to use under the underquilt between the sub-hammock and the main hammock. Then I can get by with a lighter underquilt and have a pad when I go to ground. That's the rig I use for cold weather: hammock, sub-hammock, thin sleeping pad (also pack liner), under quilt, top quilt, cape/tarp. I usually start using the underquilt below around 45F to 50F.

Down or synthetic? I use down most of the time. Under some conditions anything will get a little wet. Conventional wisdom holds that synthetics will insulate better than down when wet. Maybe so, maybe no. If any insulation gets wet the water absorbs lots of heat and it is heavy enough to cause even synthetic insulation to lose loft. I use down for river trips, too. It seems to keep on working for me. I think down has to get really really wet before it stops lofting. Its biggest enemy is soap or detergent residue from inadequate rinsing. I just about never wet out a sleeping bag to clean it. Just wipe it down with alcohol.

You might want to experiment a bit with the 'inflatable down tube' idea before you commit to it whole hog. You will still have to encase the down in fabric inside the plastic tubes. Otherwise it will decorate the woods. Any you will have to use a pump to inflate them. Otherwise your breath will certainly wet the down. To make them self-inflating, you will have to overstuff them considerably, an expensive proposition both in cost and weight.