Speer PeaPod over the Speer 8.0 A hammock in the High Uintas.
Hammocks can be a wonderfully comfortable way to sleep while backpacking. When sleeping on the ground, a pad provides cushioning from the ground and also insulation under the sleeper. Cushioning is not required in a hammock for comfort, but some type of insulation is, in all but the very warmest conditions. In fact, more insulation is required under a sleeper in a hammock than on the ground largely because of convective heat loss from the exposed hammock bottom.
The Speer PeaPod is an innovative way to provide insulation under a hammock sleeper. It is large enough to completely surround the hammock and, with the aid of attached Velcro strips that run the length of the PeaPod, it can be completely closed over the top of the hammock and sleeper (but leave an opening above your face). Both ends have a drawcord and toggle so they can be cinched closed once the PeaPod is in place around the hammock. Since insulation is under the hammock, it is not compressed by the weight of the sleeper. The PeaPod is very comfortable to sleep in as opposed to sleeping on a foam pad inside the hammock (which can be hard to adjust underneath you). The PeaPod is a dual use item - it can also be worn for in-camp insulation.
The rectangular Top Blanket on top of the PeaPod, which has its inner side up. Note the tapered shape of the PeaPod and that it is quite a bit longer than the 6'8" Top Blanket.
I tested the Speer PeaPod along with a companion piece, the Speer Top Blanket, with the Speer 8.0 A Hammock in Washington, Arizona, and Utah. Conditions included rain and wind, as well as cold, clear nights. Sleeping temperatures ranged from 65 to 20 °F. The Hammock, PeaPod, and Top Blanket are sold separately but are designed as a system. The hammock is used by itself in very warm weather. The PeaPod is added as the weather cools. As it gets even cooler, the Top Blanket is added as a quilt inside the hammock. When more insulation is needed, the Top Blanket can be used under the hammock and inside the PeaPod either in a single layer or doubled for more loft. Another Top Blanket, quilt, or sleeping bag of the appropriate rating is used on top of the sleeper.
The Top Blanket is a simple, 1-pound (0.45 kg), very reasonably priced down blanket. Velcro strips at the end of the Top Blanket can be closed to create a generous sized foot box when the Top Blanket is used as a quilt.
- The PeaPod fits over a hammock leaving an uncluttered and comfortable sleeping surface (the hammock itself).
- The PeaPod is relatively easy to add to the hammock after it has been set up.
- The PeaPod insulation is not compressed under a sleeper since it is beneath the hammock.
- The PeaPod can be worn in camp for warmth.
- Extra insulation can be added under the sleeper by simply sliding it into the PeaPod.
- The Top Blanket can be used over the sleeper as a quilt or beneath the hammock and inside the PeaPod as under insulation.
- The Top Blanket is a warm, weight saver in a hammock, at just the right width for hammock use.
|PeaPod for Speer 8.0 hammock and Top Bag, both with 700+ fill power down|
|PeaPod: oversize rectangular blanket with full length Velcro side closure and foot and head drawstrings; Top Blanket: rectangular blanket with Velcro closed foot box|
|700+ fill power goose down, sewn through box construction|
|45 °F (7 °C) rating for both PeaPod and Top Blanket|
|1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) ripstop nylon with DWR|
|Also available to fit the longer Speer 8.5 hammock. Down overstuffing is available, as well as 900 fill power down with baffles.|
The author models the Speer PeaPod as in-camp wear. The top half is secured under her arms and the bottom half is turned inside out and secured above her shoulders. The PeaPod can be worn in different configurations - this one insulates the torso even when the arms are being used.
The PeaPod design is well thought out and functional. It is relatively easy to install once the hammock is strung, although more care is required when the ground is wet or snow covered so that the PeaPod doesn't drag on the ground. Both edges of the Speer hammock have Velcro "loop" strips while the PeaPod has a loop strip on one side and a hook strip on the other so the two sides can be attached to each other. The side of the PeaPod with hook Velcro can be temporarily "tacked" to the loop Velcro strip of the Speer hammock to hold it in place while arranging the PeaPod over the hammock. But the other side of the PeaPod hangs free. It would aid setup over wet ground if some method of temporarily fastening the loop Velcro side of the PeaPod to the hammock were available. A small loop of cord sewn to the center edge of each side of the hammock and corresponding buttons or hooks on the PeaPod edges would do the trick, or a patch of hook Velcro could be sewn to each side of the hammock.
The hammock is easy to enter and exit with the PeaPod installed. Simply separate a section of Velcro and either sit down into the hammock to enter or swing your legs out to exit.
The PeaPod hangs below the hammock bottom so the hammock must be hung high enough that the bottom of the PeaPod doesn't drag on the ground. With extra insulation in the PeaPod, it hangs a little lower and hammock height must be adjusted accordingly. When I camped at 8000 feet on snow at Doyle Saddle in the Flagstaff Peaks of Arizona, I had two layers of insulation in the PeaPod - the Top Blanket and a down sleeping bag liner. The button and loop idea from above would have come in handy to quickly secure the sides of the PeaPod to the hammock sides to keep the loaded PeaPod from dragging on the snow upon entry and exit.
The PeaPod can easily be used on the ground as a sleeping bag. It is long enough that the top can be pulled over the user's head to form a hood. The Velcro can be left open to form a face hole - but watch out for the scratchy Velcro. I wore the PeaPod around camp in various configurations. My favorite was with one end cinched under my armpits with the drawcord tied to hold it in place, and the other end turned inside out and brought up to my neck and secured. Almost full body coverage with two layers of material, some neck warmth, yet I was still able to use my hands through the front opening.
The PeaPod and Top Blanket I tested both have 700 fill power down in a sewn through box construction. I measured the loft of both items at the highest point in the center of several baffles and averaged the results. In each case (Top Blanket, bottom of PeaPod, top of PeaPod), I measured a higher loft than Speer claims. Since the baffles are sewn through and not overstuffed, Speer's claims of 1.5 inch loft for the Top Blanket and bottom of the PeaPod, and 1.0 inch loft for the top of the PeaPod provide more conservative estimates for comparing these items to other sleeping quilts and bags. The Top Blanket I tested weighed 14.5 ounces, 1.5 ounces less than claimed. I would have liked to see that extra ounce and a half as fill, since some baffles appeared to have slightly less down than other baffles. Speer offers overfill to prevent down shifting and also the option of 900 fill power down with baffles for more loft.
The drawcord ends and Velcro along the top of the PeaPod effectively seal in warmth. Since the PeaPod closes above the hammock sides, there is an air gap between the sleeper and the PeaPod. I felt cozier with that gap filled by something such as the Top Blanket. As advised by Speer, I left an opening in the Velcro along the top of the PeaPod for my face. I normally sleep with a sleeping bag hood snugged around my face, so this open gap took some getting used to. However, I found I was comfortably warm with the PeaPod/Top Blanket combination wearing the same headgear I would have worn in a hooded sleeping bag.
The Top Blanket is a wonderful quilt for hammock use. It doesn't waste weight with unneeded width, and it is nice and puffy. The foot pocket keeps my feet covered all night, and the blanket is wide enough to tuck in along my sides and stay there even with frequent turning from side to side. Speer says that the Top Blanket is not intended for on-the-ground sleeping, but I tried it anyway as a lightweight option. The Top Blanket is quite narrow and must be adjusted throughout the night to keep it tucked in at the sides. Still, it made a nice 60 °F quilt under a tarp.
The PeaPod and Top Blanket have ripstop 1.1 oz/yd2 nylon shells with DWR treatment. Additionally, the PeaPod can be closed along its entire length with Velcro and both ends can be closed snuggly with drawcord and cord lock. The shell material is highly wind resistant and water resistant. I never felt a draft inside the PeaPod even in winds gusting to 25 mph. Water left in a puddle on the shell did not wet out the fabric or soak into it after an hour. After a very still, 20 °F night in the PeaPod, frost covered the shell, but the loft was unaffected. I stuffed the frost covered PeaPod, Top Blanket and hammock into my pack while I went day hiking and later drove home. I was surprised to find the PeaPod limp but still retaining about half its loft when I removed it from the pack a day and a half later - I'd expected it to lose all its loft. Speer Hammocks believes in the use of substantial tarps with their hammocks. The 8' by 10' tarp provided with the Speer hammocks does a good job of protecting the down of the PeaPod from rain.
Stealth camping at its best - I woke up from a rainy day nap in the High Uintas and snapped this photo from the comforts of the Speer 8.0 A Hammock and PeaPod.
I used the Top Blanket over me inside the PeaPod in moderate temperatures and under me (between the hammock bottom and the PeaPod) in colder weather. The 17-inch deep Velcro foot pocket kept my feet securely contained when I used the Top Blanket over me. I also wore the Top Blanket around my torso, underneath a rain jacket for in camp warmth.
The Top Blanket slides into the PeaPod easily and stays in place overnight lengthwise, but the sides fold during the night to form a double layer of bottom insulation. Speer recommends four safety pins to hold the Top Blanket in place if only one under layer is desired, and folding the Top Blanket in half for a double layer of insulation.
Missing from this review (and for all sleeping bag reviews published here, for that matter) will be an assessment of whether or not the sleeping bag performs adequately at temperatures near its manufacturer-reported temperature rating. Click here for the complete Backpacking Light Position Statement on Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings.
Both the PeaPod and Top Blanket are well made with appropriate materials. With a bit of care, both should last a long time.
At $109, the Top Blanket is a good deal for a hammock top quilt. The PeaPod retails for $235, which is a fair value because the long length of the PeaPod requires much more down than a typical sleeping bag.
Speer recommends four safety pins to keep the Top Blanket as a single layer underneath the hammock. Extra line tied to both corners on each end and secured to the D-rings on the hammock straps also works if one has forgotten the safety pins.
Tie the drawcord at each PeaPod end to the D-ring on the Speer Hammock strap to keep the PeaPod in place.
To help keep the PeaPod off the ground when first installing it, temporarily tack one side of the PeaPod in place using the compatible Velcro strip on the side of the Speer Hammock.
Recommendations for Improvement
Larger stuff sacks or pull-tabs on the ends of the stuff sacks would aid in removing the Top Blanket and PeaPod from their stuff sacks.
A small loop on the center edge of both sides of the hammock and corresponding buttons on the edges of the PeaPod would make it easier to keep the PeaPod from dragging on the ground or snow when initially putting it on the hammock in camp.