Saturday, February 25, 2012

Staying Warm in the Hammock and while Backpacking

Mike is right about staying warm. On our last trip to Springer Mountain. Mike stayed in the shelter the first night and he was upstairs. The cracks in the loft let the 15* wind blow though the shelter like a wind turbine. He might as well have been sleeping outside. But another buddy of ours, Josh, and I were toasty in our hammocks and we didn't even have an under-quilt. I just pulled my rain fly down as close to the ground as I could to block the wind and closed the "doors" on the fly.

I did have a pad in my hammock so that helped. You can either use some sort of pad inside your hammock or an under-quilt. The thing with the pad is it takes away some of the comfort of being in the hammock. This is why we sleep in the hammock -comfort and warmth.
The way to keep warm when sleeping in a hammock or even when you are sleeping on the Forest's floor in a tent is insulation.

There are 4 ways to loos body heat when camping:

Websters defines convection as the transfer of heat by the circulation or movement of the heated parts of a liquid or gas.

So when your warm face is exposed to the cold wind on the top of the mountain, the speed of that wind is what counts. If the if the wind is only blowing at a couple of MPH it may not cool your face very much at all. However if you are in a frigid wind storm at 50 or 60 miles an hour, you may actually get frostbite on your nose or cheeks. The blood in your body also transfers heat by convection. your body will protect its core body temperature by blood away from the extremities (arms, legs, feet and hands). This is why our feet and hands get cold quicker. Which is why I have always have kept warm with my raincoat on. though back then, I didn't really understand why. The raincoat acted as a wind barrier to prevent the cold wind from cooling down the air that is trapped underneath the raincoat.

Websters defines conduction as "the transfer of heat between two parts of a stationary system, caused by a temperature difference between the parts".

Basically conduction is the transfer of heat from one object to another object that is cooler while they are touching. Which is what happens in a hammock. Think about the hot summer days back when you would lay down in the shade of an oak tree or in the shade of a barn or other structure. It wasn't the shade that cooled you off, it was the ground. Your body is upwards in the 90* area if not hotter when you are working in the hot sun and the ground is so much cooler so when you lay down The heat transfers from your body to the ground by way of Conduction.

So when you are in a hammock, you need to keep the hammock (because you are in direct contact with the hammock) warmer than the outside air. We accomplish with a pad inside the hammock or an under-quilt. The under-quilt, because it is insulated, traps your body's heat and helps you to stay warm. If you are sleeping in a sleeping bag, even a 0* bag, the part of the bag under your body does nothing to keep warm because it is compressed and it looses its insulation factor.


Websters defines evaporation as the act or process of evaporating. radiation as the process in which energy is emitted as particles or waves.

Where this comes in while you are camping is when you are hiking or working in the hot sun, you can cool yourself off by getting your clothes wet. Like on the hot summer days when you are working in the yard, if you take some water and soak your hat or your shirt, you cool off. Especially if there is a light breeze. The process of the water evaporating cools off the surface from which is evaporating from. You can take a room temperature can of coke and wrap it in a wet bandana or tee shirt and it will cool off enough to enjoy. -I learned that one in the scouts.

When you are out there in the cold weather, this can still happen which is why we use layers when we are backpacking. When you start off on the trip you need to be almost freezing. you need to be shaking almost to the point of an uncontrollable shake.

Now you can start hiking. As you hike, you start to heat up and if you start out with too many layers on, you build up too much heat and start to sweat. In the col air, sweat is bad. You control your body's core temperature with the layers. If you get too cold, add a layer. An easy way I personally control by body temperature is with a simple wool cap or a bandana when I am hiking -depending on the season.


Websters defines radiation as the process in which energy is emitted as particles or waves.
As we receive radiated heat from sun rays, our body also radiates heat. My wife loves me all the time, but she REALLY loves me in the winter time. I am like the human furnace.

To prevent loosing heat via radiation, keep your skin covered as much as possible. So in the cold months,when you are hiking, start out with short sleeves and short pants even. When you start generating heat because you are walking up the mountain with 30+pounds on your back, your skin will radiate heat off of your body. This will and keep you from over heating If you have too many layers on, you will start to sweat.

Think about the car's radiator. It does the same thing. the hot water in the engine block (blood in your body) passes through the radiator, (your blood passes along your extremities like your arms and legs) and the radiator lets the heat evaporate off of the engine keeping it working at a tolerable temperature.

Your body does just that. Your body radiates heat off your skin keeping your core working at a tolerable temperature. So when you are sleeping, you need to trap that heat radiating from your body. In a hammock, we use under-quilts. Under-quilts are made from several types of materials. But the basic premise is something that you can hang under your hammock to trap the heat.

 Some use an additional sleeping bag:

 -some use Insultex

and some use a couple of sheets or ripstop nylon with pockets of down sewn into it.

I hope my borrowing these pics from the net is okay with the picture takers.

It is very important to stay warm in the cold months when camping so do what you need to do to stay warm.
And as always Plan right and pack light. .


  1. You may want to credit the photo takers instead of just stating that you hope it's okay (if you remember where the pictures came from). I don't think anyone will have a problem with it, but it's always nice to see your name credited :)

    1. Yeah that's my bad on that. I will be doing that from now on. Most of the pictures that we use are our own but there is an occasional picture we use from others and you are entirely correct, we should have taken the time to put the URL of the photo that we used. I hope you enjoyed the post, thanks for checking us out!