There can be nothing more adventurous than camping outdoors and sleeping under the starry night amidst nature. It sounds incredible, right?
However, you have to keep yourself warm, especially if you plan to take such a trip during the winter. Under that light, you will have to look for popular methods to stay warm. Thankfully you have two popular options, sleeping pads, and underquilts.
But which one should you choose?
In this article, we have addressed this question in depth.
However, you might be wondering, is it necessary to get a sleeping pad or an underquilt while hammocking outside, especially when you have multiple warm clothing layers to keep you warm?
Oh, my friend, you are gravely mistaken, for winter camping comes with a horrible nightmare, cold butt syndrome! Let’s know about it quickly first before jumping to the Underquilt vs Sleeping Pad comparison.
Cold Butt Syndrome
CBS occurs when the insulation layer between you and the hammock gets squashed due to your weight, leaving the downside of your sleeping bag useless and rendering your back exposed to cold wind and frostbites.
How to avoid it?
Indeed layering up is an option. You can also wear a heavy jacket to keep you warm, but are you willing to carry all that weigh with you while on a trek? Unfortunately, a traditional sleeping bag and a fluffy down jacket are not enough to keep you warm during the winter seasons. The only way to save yourself from CBS is by having a layer of insulation on the underside that remains lofty throughout the night.
The catch here is to select the layer that will retain its loft throughout the night, thereby keeping the air trapped within the fibers and providing you with the desired level of heat.
Now that we know the cold devil, it’s time to select from the two popular options and decide on an option ideal for you.
Underquilt vs Sleeping Pad: Definition, Pros and Cons
A sleeping pad is a foam or an inflatable pad that fits directly at the bottom of the hammock. You stick it to the bottom of your hammock, and then you lie on top of it inside your sleeping bag. You can also choose to take either a blanket or anything else you feel comfortable in. The basic idea of a sleeping pad is to add a layer to keep you warm. Sleeping pads are popular for the many benefits it offers ( we will look into those shortly).
For starters, they are very versatile. For example, sleeping pads can still keep you warm if you sleep on the floor during the winter.
Additionally, these pads are lightweight, so you can take them anywhere; plus, they are also inexpensive so that you can buy a good quality pad at an affordable price range before your next camping trip. You can also get these pads inflated to any level you want, which adds a bit of customization.
The look and feel of an underquilt are very similar to a sleeping bag; however, it does not have a pouch area for you to sleep in. Instead, an underquilt is a single soft layer of warm loft that is suspended from the hammock so that your weight does not crush the fibers in the underquilt, thereby killing its insulation. The trapped air coupled with your body heat thus keeps you warm. Like sleeping pads, underquilts are also popular for multiple reasons. First, the type of insulation used in an underquilt is very comfortable.
While sleeping on it, you won’t even notice or feel it. The layer does not touch or bother you in any way. That means you still get to enjoy all the benefits of a hammock.
Plus, you need not worry about getting cold as these are designed to provide you with ample heat. This is all possible for the insulation used that does not crush under your weight and has an amount of loft left to keep you warm.
Both sleeping pads and underquilts have pros and cons, and understanding these is essential to making an informed choice.
Pros & Cons of Sleeping Pad
Available with most: If you were a tent camper before and have recently shifted into hammocking, then in all probability, you already own a sleeping pad. You can use the same one on your hammock and see if it’s working.
An inexpensive option: Since sleeping pads are staple camping gear, many brands manufacture them, decreasing the price. The price range is extremely affordable, and you have multiple choices, from low prices to high ones.
Provides extra comfort: Unlike underquilts which provide only warmth, sleeping pads provide both warmth and comfort. Though most hammocks are quite comfortable these days, a well-cushioned sleeping pad in the correct position can provide the ideal comfort.
Versatility: Though hammock camping is desirable, it’s not ideal for all occasions. For instance, you might want the privacy of a tent on a camping site. A sleeping pad will give you that edge as you can sleep on it.
Pads are narrow: Most sleeping pads are too narrow, which means there is little space to move around without falling. Thus it’s hard to stay on the pad if you are sleeping in a diagonal position on a hammock. Also, if you are a restless sleeper, you might wake up in an awkward position on the sleeping pad with cold spots on your body where it was exposed to the hammocking material.
Takes space: Though sleeping pads come in various shapes and sizes, all of them are bulkier and heavier than underquilts when packed. Thus sleeping pads might not be a good option for serious campers who monitor every ounce of weight they carry.
Pros & Cons of underquilt
As mentioned earlier, this is a premium quality insulation gear that is placed between you and the hammock. Underquilts add another layer of air that heats due to your body’s convention and prevents the chill winds from making your back cold.
Easy to use: Once you set up the underquilt, you need not do anything else until you take down your hammock. You can get in out of the hammock easily and enjoy the deep snug every time.
Lighter and easy to carry: Generally, a hammock underquilt weighs less than a sleeping pad. Plus, it packs down to a smaller size and can thus fit in your backpack easily. Of course, there will be outliners if you opt for premium quality options, but it’s true for most average price units. Due to this factor, underquilts are more favored by experienced campers and trekkers.
No rolling: Unlike sleeping pads which shifts as you change positions, underquilts stay in one place even if you move a lot while sleeping. Plus, underquilts don’t result in cold spots, a common problem with sleeping pads.
Expensive: As underquilts have many advantages over sleeping pads, naturally, they are more expensive. If you opt for top brands with 4-season ratings, you need to have a budget between $100-$300. Even the most affordable ones are no less than $100.
Not versatility: Sleeping pads can come in handy while sleeping in a tent and on a hammock. However, you can’t use an underquilt to sleep in a tent. Also, these can’t be used as an extra bed if guests drop in.
Underquilt vs Sleeping Pad: Which One to Choose?
Both sleeping pads and underquilts have their pros and cons when used on a hammock. If you own a sleeping pad, it’s advisable to use it on your hammock and test it before investing in an underquilt. However, if you are a frequent camper and go on trips often, it makes sense to invest more and get an underquilt since they have multiple advantages over sleeping pads.
However, sleeping pads and underquilts are not the only two options. There are a few alternatives to these two that you can try:
These are designed to reflect heat on the back. Though they lack the loft of a warm pad or underquilts, they are worth a shot. It is a good option to have if you are going somewhere cold. Plus, these are extremely cheap and pack up very small, making them desirable. The only issue with this blanket is that they make a lot of noise and keep you up. Thus it’s a good idea to wrap it in some cover to mellow the noise.
This insulation material is available at most hardware stores. It looks very similar to a bubble wrap lined with aluminum foil. It’s is a plastic bubble wrap type of material placed between two heat-reflecting materials. These are fairly cheap and come in multiple widths and lengths. You can use it to make a makeshift sleeping pad. However, carrying this material is challenging.
Besides sleeping pads and underquilts, you need to consider taking a sleeping bag or a blanket to keep you warm. In case you are going to some freezing place, you need to take both to keep yourself warm. If you are into winter camping, you need to consider these options. However, it all depends on your preference and what you are comfortable in at the end of the day, so choose well.