For some we just can’t get enough of hammock camping. Hiking, backpacking or camping in the snow appeals to anyone who enjoys the beauty and peacefulness of a crisp winter wonderland. There are less to even no bugs and even better no crowds. With a little preparation, you will be surprised at how comfortable it can be camping in winter.
Winter offers different challenges than summer camping, but the world is a different place when covered in snow. You must be prepared for severe weather conditions and shorter daylight hours and by having extra gear and additional skills. Staying warm is a priority to experience the beauty of a true winter wonderland.
Winter Hammock Camping
Plan To Hike, Hike To The Plan
Before you leave home, have a plan. Below I cover some of the ways to fight the cold so you can enjoy your trip out into a snowy crisp winter wonderland.
Share the trip with a few friends who have expertise in different winter skills, don’t go alone.
Study maps and research the location. Travel time, how long will it take to get to you site and set up camp?
Plan for emergency services (i.e., medical, search & rescue) what are closest?
Talk to people who know the area and conditions and can advise to give you pointers.
Check the local road and trail conditions.
Check the weather forecast conditions favorable. NWS.NOAA
Carry cash for unexpected fees or emergencies.
What’s a Good Plan
Check and recognize the local avalanche areas and forecast and don’t go if avalanche danger is high. Keep in mind that avalanche forecasts may be general and not accurate for specific areas. If you are on or near any slope greater than 20°, your group should have formal avalanche training.
Let others know where you’ll be, when you’ll be there, when you’ll return, vehicle information and names and contact number for participants in your group. Leave a trip plan with a responsible person that can action in the event of emergency.
Make sure everyone in the group has the same plans, expectations, turnaround times and goals. Be prepared for the unexpected. Always have extra food and clothing just in case the weather changes, you get lost or your trip makes any unexpected detours
How to Stay Warm When Camping
Shelter’s the most important thing when camping, whether you’re in a tent or a hammock, you’ll need to learn how to stay warm. As temperature drops, the amount of gear you need to stay warm increases. While everyone’s metabolism is different, most people begin to feel cool in a hammock when the outside temperature reaches 65-70 degrees.
At this point, the addition of bottom insulation is usually required in addition to whatever sleeping bag or quilt you use to cover the top of your body in the hammock.
Hammock campers are all too familiar with the phenomenon known as “CBS” (Cold Butt Syndrome). It’s that feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night shivering because your butt feels as if it’s been placed in a freezer.
Even though in a hammock you’re suspended away from the cold ground, cold air will still circulate under your hammock and reduce your body heat over time unless you are well insulated and a light breeze can add to wind-chill factor.
Sleeping pads and Sleeping bags in your hammock may not be enough insulation in the cooler conditions. The same breathable material properties that make a hammock so comfortable in the summer heat also lets cold air flow right through in the cold.
Having a sleeping bag is standard camping practice. But when laying your body weight compresses the bottom portion and significantly reduces the insulation sleeping bags provide.
In winter, I recommend using an underquilt. They’re light weight, more comfortable and you get to sleep directly on the hammock. Underquilt’s provide more coverage and are essential insulation at night to keep you comfortable. A good night’s sleep will reduce fatigue during the day.
How To Stop Gear From Freezing
While hiking in the winter be prepared your boots and socks are going to get wet. Leaving them out overnight is a mistake. One way to prevent this is to keep your shoes and socks in a plastic bag and sleep near them at night. Place them in your hammock or you could even keep them in your sleeping bag.
You’ll also want to keep close to you is your water bottle. You want to avoid waking up to find your water bottle frozen, along with all the streams, lakes or water sources being frozen too. Before you go to sleep in your hammock, consider heating up some water and filling up your water bottle. You can also use the bottle to warm up your sleeping bag before you climb in, this can offer you a cozy and warm hammock and quick warm relief to help fall asleep.
What Hammocks Work Best in Snow
With proper insulation and tarp coverage, any camping hammock can work well in the winter. Everest Active Gear Bug and Mosquito hammocks in the reversed position (net side down) add extra insulation when you place a Mylar blanket between the bug net and hammock nylon as it acts as a retainer. Having a Mylar blanket placed here will reflect heat back at you.
Mylar emergency blankets are cheap and are used by marathon runners, emergency personnel and many outdoor enthusiasts. They are a very lightweight source of heat retention. It’s a thin, plastic material which will act as a heat shield under your body and provide extra insulation that other hammocks don’t offer.
Used in conjunction with an under quilt you will stay warm throughout the night. Tarps over the hammock will prevent snow and keep the wind out to ensure you sleep comfortably all night. There are also in addition to our Rain Tarps, winter tarps that can be purchased. These have close-able flaps at the ends to seal the trap for additional protection.
Be sure to bring along a warm, mummy-style sleeping bag. Make sure you use a bag that’s rated at least 10°F lower than the coldest temperature you expect to encounter. You can always vent the bag if you get too warm. Cold and winter rated bags are supplied with generous amounts of goose down or synthetic insulation.
Down is the most popular choice due to its superior warmth to weight ratio. Be sure to cinch the hood closed around your head to shield it from the elements. Keep clothes and boot liners in your sleeping bag to keep them warm and take up air space. You’ll be thankful in the morning, when you’re not putting on freezing cold, snow-laden clothes or liners.
Sleeping Bag Liners
If you’re at all interested in 4-season camping or hammocking, invest in a sleeping bag liner. Using a bag liner adds extra warmth, minimizes wear and helps keep your bag cleaner. The extra layer can add 8° to 15°F of warmth.
Though your head will be wrapped snugly in your mummy bag hood, I suggest that you take along a pillow as an extra layer between your head and the cold nylon. Not only will you likely be comfier, leading to better sleep, but you’ll also increase overall body warmth by insulating you head and preventing heat loss through the head.
Closed-cell foam pads are a cheap way to stay warm during a cold day in a hammock. Pads are rated by R-value, the measurement of insulation, ranging from 1.0 and 8.0. The higher the R-value, the better it insulates.
A CCF pad is popularly known and provides good wind block and does not compress when laid on. A consideration should also be the width of the pad when considering purchasing. Pads should provide you enough space and support to your shoulders and back. CCF pads are bulky to pack and thus can be an issue for those who wish to carry light.
These provide a great deal of warmth and also wind protection in a hammock. It’s easy to deflate and inflate them and they are available in different sizes shapes colors and even for large persons. They are essentially easy to compress, pack and carry. Make sure however to carry a repair kit too.
These are very durable, lightweight and offer the best hammock insulation. They hang just below your hammock with the support of shock cords and various methods depending on the model.
There are quite a few factors that you need to make sure of when buying a proper underquilt to ensure that it will do everything that you need it to. I’ve compiled a basic list of what you need to look out for or considerations when purchasing as they can be expensive additions.
Over Covers or Top Quilts
A topquilt is really a down blanket with a “foot box” on the end. You can easily move around in the hammock and keep warm. They are similar to underquilts but the difference is that they come over the hammock and cover you from the top. This helps to trap the heat inside the hammock and keeps you warm. An old sleeping bag can be converted into a cheap Top Quilt.
Cold Weather Clothing Layering
The simple rule of winter camping is to stay dry and warm. Choose clothing layers that wick moisture, dry quickly, insulate and are waterproof and breathable. By adjusting these layers, you can regulate the amount of warmth you need. The 3 basic layers:
The base layer is basically your underwear, the layer next to your skin. Synthetic and merino wool fabrics work best (avoid cotton). They wick perspiration away from your skin to outer layers so it can evaporate. They dry quickly so you spend minimal time in wet clothing. When snow camping, it’s common to wear 2 base layers, a lightweight or mid-weight layer, then a thicker heavyweight layer.
The middle layer is your insulating layer. It is primarily designed to help you retain body heat. For snow camping, consider expedition-weight fleece or micro-fleece shirts, pants and jacket and or a goose down jacket.
The outer layer, or shell, is your waterproof windproof breathable layer. Laminates such as Gore-Tex or Less expensive alternatives use polyurethane-coated fabrics that are equally waterproof but somewhat less breathable. Look for core vents and underarm vents that expel excess heat and moisture.
Tip: If you take a break, put on a layer so you don’t cool off too much. Your body will have to work harder to warm up again.
While it may be possible to get by with traditional summer hiking boots, most snow trekking is greatly enhanced by winter or mountaineering boots that are waterproof and insulating.
Tip: Warm up socks and boot insoles by placing them in a plastic bag in your sleeping bag at night.
You lose a significant percentage of your body heat through the top of your head. Follow the old mountaineering adage “If your feet are cold, put on a hat.” Consider windproof models such as those made of Gore Wind Stopper fabric.
Another must. Take extras, too, in case they get wet.
A must for deep snow, they help keep snow and water out of your boots. They even add a bit of warmth. Be sure to use a waterproof breathable model designed for winter use.
Goggles and Glasses
Always protect your eyes from sun and wind. There are different lens tints for various weather conditions.
Wear a thin, snug layer next to your skin and a second layer over it, both made of merino wool or a synthetic fabric. The thickness of your second sock is determined by your boot fit. An extra-thick sock will not keep your feet warm if it makes your boots too tight. Take extras. If they get wet, put them in the sleeping bag next to you to dry.
Ten Essentials You Need Consider
A must for any backcountry hiking, there are Ten Essentials, especially important for your comfort and safety in winter.
Insulation (extra clothing)
Repair kit & Tools (Multi Tool)
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (water or filtration system)
Gear Considerations Winter (see checklist)
Winter backpacking requires extra gear, so consider a high-volume pack. Pack light as you can, but always make sure you’re prepared for winter conditions. Rough guidelines for a 2- to 4-day trip.
Day-Hike: Minimum 65-liter (3,967 cubic inch) pack.
Multi-Day: Minimum 80-liter (4,882 cubic inch) pack.
If you plan on carrying skis or snowshoes, make sure your pack has lash points or is otherwise able to secure these large items.
Route Finding in Winter (GPS)
Snow or bad weather may hide the trail and your destination. Before heading out, ensure everyone in your group has a good map and route description. If using a GPS, program in lots of waypoints.
Study your map and plot your compass bearings in advance. You may need to vary your route somewhat to find better snow conditions.
Hammock Campsite Set Up In Snow
Make sure you reach your destination with plenty of daylight to spare. Relax, have a snack, cool down and put on extra clothing layers. Take time to find the right camp spot and set up your gear. Hammock camping in cold weather is easier to set-up, than trying to set-up a tent. There are no poles and stakes to hammer into the ground, hammock camping you are not sleeping on the ground.
locate a spot with lots of trees or behind a boulder or near a naturally formed windbreaker to hang your hammock. With a few tips and tricks, you can extend your hammock camping season into much colder weather. The key to remaining warm in a hammock is to have the right gear.
Is there natural wind protection?
Check there is a good water source nearby or will you need to melt snow?
Ensure the site free of avalanche danger?
Is it reasonably safe from falling trees and branches?
Does it give privacy to and from other campers?
Are there landmarks to help you find the camp in the dark or a snowstorm?
Where will the sun rise? A sunny spot will help you warm up faster.
How to Avoid Hypothermia
In patchy snow conditions, set up camp on the snow or an established campsite of bare ground Always follow Leave No Trace camping ethics
When setting up and being in your campsite staying warm is essential, even when the temperature is low, you can still get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water or soups even if you’re not thirsty. Drink before you become thirsty.
The cooling of the body core or Hypothermia is the body’s temperature decreasing due to exposure to the cold conditions. It can be life threatening. A person can become hypothermic without even noticing.
Eat Well (High Protein)
If you think one of your group is displaying symptoms of hypothermia place the person in a sleeping bag pre-warmed by another person. Hypothermic person doesn’t have enough heat to warm the bag.
Put warm water in bottles and place them in the sleeping bag with the person. Use personal or group warmth for a hypothermic person. Severe cases will require careful evacuation to a medical facility.
Tip: Carry a small vacuum bottle with hot drinks or soup. It’s important to stay warm.
Camping in the snow offers beauty and peacefulness of a crisp winter wonderland. If you use my guide and with proper planning and preparation, you will be at how comfortable winter hammock camping can be. Winter camping is challenging, winter camping makes the world seem like a different place . Importantly, prepare for any change in conditions, staying warm is always the priority. Happy Winter Hammocking