Hammocks aren’t just for summer backpacking trips. During the winter, they provide a wonderful respite from the frozen ground — if set up correctly. To keep warm, you’ll need an underquilt — a special type of insulation that suspends from the bottom of your hammock.
Unlike sleeping pads, a quality underquilt can insulate you from the cold without being crushed and pushed around by the weight of your body. It will spell the difference between a pleasant night’s sleep and hours of shivering. Unfortunately, the best underquilts cost hundreds of dollars.
Short on time or money? No worries — you’re not doomed to a miserable winter camping experience. No matter your budget or available prep time, you can create a DIY hammock underquilt that keeps you cozy and warm.[toc]
1. Costco Down Blanket Method
Costco helps you save money on your groceries and clothing, so it only stands to reason that your favorite big box store can also reduce camping equipment costs.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a Costco-only project. In addition to buying a blanket at Costco, you may need to stop by your local fabric store for synthetic webbing.
This project requires some sewing, but nothing especially complicated. Borrow a friend’s sewing machine if necessary; you can figure out these simple stitches even if you’ve never operated a sewing machine before.
- Double Black Diamond Space Blanket. You can easily find this at your local Costco.
- Sewing machine (sewing by hand is acceptable if you’re feeling ambitious)
- Synthetic webbing such as polyester
- Two bungee cords
- Two toggles for the bungees
- Two carabiners for attaching the underquilt to the hammock
Making the Underquilt
- Lay out the space saver blanket — shiny side up.
- Create baffles along the blanket’s shortest ends – Begin by folding in the first square of fabric from the shorter end of the blanket. Use a sewing machine to stitch down the crease. Repeat for the other side of the blanket.
- Create additional baffles for the blanket’s two remaining sides – Fold in the fabric from the longer end of the blanket — the goal is to take up two squares per side, as opposed to the one square previously used for each of the blanket’s short ends. Stitch along the crease.
- Stitch the webbing to the newly-formed end of each long side.
- Attach bungee cords and toggles – Thread a bungee cord through the first baffle on the blanket’s short side. Attach toggles on either side to adjust the bungee’s tightness as necessary. Repeat on the other side.
- Attach the underquilt beneath the hammock – Use the attached bungee and a carabiner.
- Adjust the blanket once you’re resting in the hammock – You may need to pull up the edges so they rest comfortably under your shoulders.
2. Space Blanket Method
WalMart sells solar blankets for less than $10 apiece. A single blanket may not provide sufficient warmth, but two can be attached together to provide a better fit for your hammock. Not only is this project affordable, it can be completed in just a few minutes — without sewing!
- Two solar blankets
- Replacement hardware combo kit from WalMart
- Clear packaging tape — the stickier the better.
- 550 paracord
- At least four bungee cords
Making the Underquilt
- Lay out the solar blankets with the shiny side facing up – One blanket should lie on top of the other, but not directly — they will overlap by a few feet. The goal should be to create one large 6 x 6 foot blanket.
- Tape the blankets together – Use the clear packaging tape to attach the two blankets.
- Fold the edge of the blanket over a piece of paracord – When folded, the colorful side of the blanket should overlap the shiny side by about two inches. Attach the edge of the blanket with tape.
- Repeat on the opposite side of the blanket.
- Attach one end of each paracord to a bungee – These bungees will help you attach the underquilt to the hammock.
- Target the next side – Attach another segment of paracord on the third side of the blanket.
- Use cord locks – Attach each end of this third paracord segment to a cord lock. Pull each cord lock tight to cinch the ends of the underquilt. This will prevent cold air from getting between the underquilt and the hammock.
3. Advanced Sewing Method
Proud of your sewing skills? You’re the perfect candidate for this DIY underquilt project. When complete, it’s more durable than non-sewing alternatives — and it provides just as much warmth as a store-bought underquilt. It’s your best option for keeping cozy in subzero temperatures…and on a budget.
This project doesn’t just take skill — it takes time. Begin at least a week before your intended camping trip to ensure ample opportunities for adjustments, if necessary. The result will be well worth the effort — you’ll produce a high-quality underquilt you can use for years of comfortable hammock camping.
- 850fp goose down
- Argon 67 yellow, black, and gray fabric
- Polyester thread in yellow and black
- Sewing machine
- High-strength webbing
- Bungee cords
- Soldering pen
- Silver Sharpie marker
- Tape measure
Making the Underquilt
- Cut the argon fabric – Use a soldering pen to cut in a straight line and cauterize the material. Cut four black and five gray strips of fabric, each thirteen inches wide.
- Measure and mark the argon fabric – The goal: four-inch baffles. Measure four inches from the end of the fabric and mark with a silver Sharpie.
- Create baffles with the black fabric strips – Lay the black strip down over the gray strip, overlapping slightly. Stitch down one end. The other end can be flipped over to create a baffle.
- Put your sewing machine to work – Use your sewing machine to attach the first two pieces of fabric with a half-inch seam. Take your time and pull both ends tight to prevent the fabric from bunching up. There should be fewer stitches (located farther apart from one another) per inch than you expect — definitely fewer than if you were to sew conventional clothing. Aim for about eight stitches per inch.
- Create a baffle – Once the stitch is complete, fold the other end over (as described earlier) to form a baffle.
- Repeat the previous four steps – Measure and attach a new piece of fabric to the end of the previous piece that you folded over. Alternate gray and black pieces of fabric to create a striped effect.
- Move to the yellow argon – Mark the yellow fabric every six and one-quarter inches. The goal: a total of nine yellow panels. Once complete, the ends of each yellow fabric piece will line up with a baffle.
- Sew the yellow strips of fabric to the black baffles.
- Create a straight edge – Cut the edge of the overlapping fabric (again with the soldering pen) to ensure that the yellow, black, and gray ends are even.
- Fold and sew – Fold in the yellow side three-quarters of an inch. Fold again and equal length. Sew along the folded edge.
- Incorporate grosgrain – Fold a one-inch piece of grosgrain in half. Iron the folded piece. If you’re new to working with grosgrain, aim for a slightly wider piece. Allow to cool before placing each end of the grosgrain over the newly-sewed yellow end of the underquilt. The crease of the grosgrain should align with the underquilt’s edge. Slowly sew the grosgrain to the underquilt.
- Attach paracord loops at each end of the grosgrain – Attach bungee cords to each loop.
- Stuff the underquilt – Use 850fp goose down. Begin stuffing at one end, with the yellow side up. Complete this step outside if you’re worried about making a mess with goose feathers. Once stuffed, sew the open end of the underquilt shut.
- Attach the finished underquilt to your hammock – Use the bungees affixed to paracord loops. Practice attaching the bungee and hammock before you embark on your trip, as you may need to adjust to create a narrower underquilt.
4. Sleeping Bag Hack Method
This is a simple no sew, yet still effective underquilt hack. This project will prove most affordable if you have an old sleeping bag on hand. If you’re like most outdoors enthusiasts, you already have a few sleeping bags collecting dust — so this is no great sacrifice.
Otherwise, you can score cheap sleeping bags at local garage sales or on Craigslist. Either way, you’ll appreciate the ease of this project, especially if you’re on a time crunch.
- Sleeping bag, preferably one you don’t feel bad about “modifying”.
- Duct tape
- Paracord, straps, or whatever you typically use to hang your hammock
Making the Underquilt
- Find a sleeping bag – Choose an old sleeping bag you don’t mind sacrificing for your project.
- Cut a hole – Use a knife (a simple jackknife will do the trick) to cut a six to eight-inch hole on the end of your sleeping bag, near where your feet would otherwise rest.
- Tape the sleeping bag’s edges – Use duct tape to secure the edges of the sleeping back’s cut portion. This will keep the bag’s inner insulation from getting loose from the outer shell — without forcing you to sew.
- Insert the hammock – Push one end of the hammock through the zipped sleeping bag.
- Hook up and suspend the hammock – Tie a cord around the tree or post using a basic slip knot. Attach the cord to the hammock. It should not touch the ground.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a sewing guru or a DIY-phobe; you’re capable of rounding out your camping gear collection without blowing your budget. All you need? A few bucks and a few minutes. Your homemade underquilt will transform your hammock camping experience.