Heading out for a weekend of winter hammock camping? Very nice! Here are 16 practical tips to help you stay warm and safe. You'll also find a great set of gear to make your trip more comfortable.
Here are some general winter camping tips for sub-zero temperatures.
Guide to Winter Hammock Camping
Camping during winter can be glorious. The wilderness and forests having lost their leaves open up allowing you see more wildlife, and the snow covered landscapes are dazzling. Plus, you seem to have a lot of trails and campsites to yourself which adds to the feeling of freedom.
So, why wouldn’t you go camping in winter?
Here's a glimpse of a winter hammock camping setup by Amanda Bess for the Appalachian Trail.
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It’s no longer just the adrenaline junkies and hard core hikers, more and more of us are enjoying the trails and parks year round and camping in winter. Not only is winter camping growing in popularity, so is hammock camping so we’ve combined the two to make this winter hammock camping guide.
Yes, it’s cold. We know. But isn’t that half the fun? Plus, these days there is some great gear to make your life easier, more comfortable and to even keep your toes warm during the night as you sleep – ensuring you are as snug as a bug in a rug.
So, we’ve compiled a list of great gear, and included some tips and tricks to aid you along your way to winter hammock camping fun and get you out there to enjoy the great outdoors this winter.
This guide is pretty detailed so we’ve broken it up into these sections:
- 16 Hammock Camping Tips (jump to section)
- Hammocks and other Camping Gear (including winter blankets and underquilts) (jump to section)
- Clothing (becoming an onion) (jump to section)
- Hammock Camping Safety (jump to section)
We don’t think you are crazy for wanting to hammock camp in winter, you aren’t the only one. But to be comfortable you will need a good hammock and some accessories to keep you warm during the night. So let’s get down to it.
16 Winter Hammock Camping Tips
The following tips are specifically for cold weather hammock camping. For more general skills, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hammock Camping.
1. Layer your clothes
This is pretty important. Having numerous layers allows you to increase/decrease the temperature inside your hammock setup.
You might want more layers when you first get in, but as you warm up the sleeping bag, you can remove a layer or two so you are comfortable and avoid sweating.
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2. Preheat your sleeping bag with a hot water bottle
This is pretty easy to do. After you cook your supper, put some water on to boil. Once it heats up, pour it into your metal water bottle then toss it into your sleeping bag. It will be toasty when you're ready to go to sleep.
Make sure that your bottle doesn't leak around the mouth. Nothing is worse than a wet sleeping back in the winter.
3. Watch out for snow-filled branches
The excessive weight of the snow and ice can weaken the integrity of the branch – it could break unexpectedly – dropping its snow load on a dozing hammock camper.
4. Choose your site carefully (avoid wind)
Look for natural windbreaks, like trees, rocks and natural topography. Avoid setting up on the edge of a clearing, as the wind can pick up across open areas. Rather, go a little deeper into the woods.
If you can't find natural shelter, you can create your own with a vertically hung tarp.
5. Watch for the sun
When choosing where to hang your hammock, watch for an opening in the forest canopy. Heat is a rare commodity in the winter – you'll want to expose your campsite to as much as possible.
6. Forget blankets: you need a mummy bag
These come with a drawstring hood (just like a winter jacket) – just pull the string and stay warm. The only exposed part will be your nose / mouth.
Check out these 15ºF mummy bags by Hyke and Byke.
7. Get a hammock compatible sleeping bag
These sleeping bags are specially made to wrap around the outside of the hammock.
This will keep you warmer (no compressed insulation) and more comfortable (no bunching and twisting). Hyke and Byke makes a hammock-compatible, down-filled sleeping bag rated to 0ºF (-18ºC).
8. Use an underquilt
This piece by Eagles Nest Outfitters is water repellent and will help prevent heat loss because of wind. This underquilt weights just 30 ounces.
9. And an emergency, reflective sleeping bag
Rather than getting inside of the sleeping bag (unless you're experiencing hypothermia), you can use this as liner in the bottom of your hammock.
This survival sleeping bag by Emergency Zone is worth adding to your pack.
10. Store your boot liners and clothes inside the sleeping bag
This accomplishes two things: Your clothes will be warm and dry in the morning. And your stuff will fill in the empty space at the bottom of your bag – helping to keep you even warmer.
11. Don't hesitate to head back
Especially for your first winter hammock adventure, it's probably best not to venture to far from home (or your car). If the weather changes and you get a chill you can't shake, there's no shame in heading back. But there IS shame in staying put and freezing into a popsicle.
Some campers even set a temperature threshold that will decide for them that they should head home.
12. Hang a tarp above the hammock
A tarp is always a good idea in a hammock. But in the winter, it's even more important. It will help keep you dry and warm.
Not only does it trap heat – it also shelters you from the wind. For the winter, you'll want to rig it as low as possible.
13. Don't forget your toque (you know, your beanie)
Your toque (Canadian high fashion) will keep you warm all day and all night. It's a good idea to take it to bed – you might not need it, but odds are that you will.
While there are lots of synthetic materials available, I recommend merino wool for your night beanie.
This cuff beanie by Minus33 is made of merino wool and is breathable and warm. (Comes in 11 colors).
14. Use a makeshift pillow
If you don't use a mummy-style sleeping bag, you'll need some type of a pillow. Otherwise, your head will be directly on the nylon hammock. A folded sweater, towel, or anything with insulation value will do.
Inflatable pillows are not a good idea for this application – they have zero insulation value.
15. Think about a pee bottle
I know – pee bottles are gross and you don't want to use one. That's fine. If you hate this idea, just skip to the next section. But just imagine how unhappy you would be to climb out of your warm sleeping bag – into the cold, dark night to go pee.
And cold temperatures have a way of making us go more often.
You have a few options:
- Men can use a water bottle or portable urinal.
- Women can do the same with help from a product like GoGirl.
- TravelJohn makes a disposable urinal that uses a polymer that absorbs liquid and converts it into a spill-proof gel. For men and women. The biggest drawback to this, is that you'll have to carry it back out of the woods with you.
16. Try to go to bed dry
It can be a challenge, but if you go to bed with wet clothes or cold feet, it can be almost impossible to get warmed up.
Take a few extra minutes before getting into the hammock and sit by the fire. Take off your wet socks and warm up your feet.
More reading: How to build the best winter campfire
2. Hammocks and Other Camping Gear
A sturdy lightweight hammock has so many benefits, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t convert from a tent years ago.
Hammocks are especially good if you have a bad back. A hammock cradles you so you don’t wake up with a stiff back after sleeping on hard, cold, and bumpy ground.
Here is our set of recommended gear for hammock camping in the winter:
1. Bear Butt Hammock (700lb Capacity)
Lightweight, expertly made and triple stitched to prevent tearing, it’s complete with reinforced end straps for added support so that it will last you years and provide many nights of peaceful sleep wrapped in its silky embrace.
It’s available in a wide array of colors to blend in with nature or stand out in the snow for safety.
2. Wise Owl Outfitters Hammock
Made of 210T nylon just like the parachutes skydivers use, you are safely up off the ground cradled in soft luxury keeping you dry and warm.
Looking for more options? Check out our guide to the 12 best camping hammocks for beginners.
Hammock Camping Accessories
To help keep you warm when the sun goes down here are some great accessories you may want to consider taking along with you.
3. OneTigris Hammock Underquilt:
Designed for 40° – 68°F (5°-20°C) its sections ensure no cold spots and an even layer of warmth.
4. Outdoor Vitals Down Underquilt:
Able to compress, down it’s lightweight, easily set up and can reduce the amount you need to pack and take with you because you can leave the blankets at home.
Able to hold up in temperatures down to 20°F (-6°C) it means you can use it as survival gear as its grid design locks the heat in preventing cold spots.
5. Bear Butt Hammock Fly
6. MalloMe XL Hammock Straps
These are fast to hang your hammock and don't stretch. Each strap holds 1000+lbs.
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Winter Top Blankets
Keeping warm during hammock camping is easy. Underquilts, cold climate sleeping bags and even a snuggly winter blanket will have you wrapped up all warm and happy no matter where you are. So here’s a couple of options for winter camping.
8. Down Under Outdoors Waterproof Blanket
The red side can also be used to gain the attention of rescuers in an emergency while the wind resistant fleece keeps you cozy.
9. Mambe Waterproof Blanket
Thick and soft, its heat reflective lining traps your body heat in keeping you warm all night long.
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3. Clothing (Becoming an Onion)
Dressing for winter camping is all about layers. They don’t have to be heavy old jumpers and jackets, in fact, most clothes designed for winter are surprisingly lightweight, comfortable and pack down to next to nothing.
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Thermal underwear under your everyday attire is hidden and keeps you toasty warm during the colder nighttime hours. Being an onion and dressing in layers means it is easier to regulate your body temperature during the day and night by adding or subtracting layers.
10. Arctic Extreme Thermal Socks
They are also wicking which means that they draw moisture away and keep your feet as dry as possible which is very important in winter.
Non-itchy and softer than wool, they are perfect for winter camping, hiking or any outdoor activity.
11. Tesla Microfibre Thermal Underwear (Men)
Tesla has a great thermal set for men. Moisture wicking and quick time dry means that even if you do get wet they’ll dry quickly and get you warm again in no time. four-way stretch is built in for greater comfort and unrestricted movement while ultra-soft fabric means you are comfortable and snuggly all day and night.
12. ThermaJane Fleece Lined Thermal Underwear (Women)
Thermajane has come up with a fun set of thermal underwear for the ladies. Long johns and a long sleeved top made of four-way stretch super soft polyester and spandex blend for comfort and greater mobility, they are also come in great variety of colors and sizes.
13. Oydelf Tactical Balaclava
Comfortable and wind-proof it’s easy to put on and adjust to the conditions you find yourself in. Being a 3-in-1 bit of kit means it reduces the amount you have to pack as well.
More reading: 26 Winter Hiking Tips
4. Safety: Tips & Tools to Help You Stay Safe
Things can get a little more serious when winter camping if something happens and you don’t have the right gear. There are a few essentials that can help you survive in the wilds so you don’t have do a ‘Bear Grylls style’ survival kind of camping trip. No-one wants that… well except good ol Bear himself of course.
Don’t worry, we’ve found lightweight great options for you so it’s well and truly doable on both the budget and amount of gear that you take with you. Here are a few basics that any experienced outdoors person will tell you are essential, and the best part is they can be used year round.
Learning basic bushcraft first aid and always having a first aid kit is top of that list – that way, on the off chance that something does happen you are confident, can handle the situation and everyone makes it back with all of their fingers and toes… and everything else of course.
- Keep a knife, pocket knife or multi tool with knives in it – they are super handy and can help any number of ways. This includes chopping, splitting, carving, slicing, and drilling.
- Emergency way to contact the outside world – let’s face it, if you are roaming the wilds then chances are you may lose cell service so a GPS, navigation or satellite phone are just the thing.
- Personal filtration device to make fresh water – if something does happen, water is your biggest essential.
14. Compact First Aid Kit
This is an excellent first aid kit with 85 items – weighing just 0.56 pounds. It’s FDA approved, lightweight, and comes with the basic supplies (emergency blanket, bandages, etc) you might need on a weekend trip.
A strong, sturdy water resistant bag means it will last years and is small enough to stow in your gear or bottom of your backpack.
15. Lifestraw Personal Water Filter
Removing 99.999% of all waterborne bacteria and protozoa this small, lightweight personal filtration device is a life saver. You might have to break the surface of the ice to use this – or even melt some ice down – let it cool then use the straw.
Capable of filtering over 1,000 gallons of river, lake or even puddle water into clean drinking water makes this a must for every person venturing out on a camping trip.
Here are 5 ways to purify drinking water.
16. Garmin GPSMAP 64st
This personal GPS and navigation device is a powerful tool, especially if your compass and map skills could use some work. Ahead of time you can plot where you are going and invite family and friends to follow your progress so they can see where you are.
Navigation and GPS satellite navigator means you'll probably never get lost. This unit comes with 1 year subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery.
Swedish FireKnife (3.75in Blade)
It includes Swedish FireSteel in the handle, which is made of a magnesium alloy that produces a 5,400°F (3000°C) spark. Works wet – and lasts around 3000 strikes. Comes with plastic belt sheath.
And there you have it – our set of recommended gear for your next winter camping trip.
With all this great gear, it is all the more reason to get out there and enjoy the National Parks and trails before the weather warms up and all the campsites and trails get over run.
Now you can hike and camp confidently while enjoying the pristine winter landscapes and cool fresh air in comfort.
Have a hammock camping tip to share? Or maybe a question? Join me in the comments!