Whether you're in the forest or the snow, if you're using a hammock to camp at night, an underquilt should be a standard part of your gear. When comparing underquilts, the most important aspect to look at is their material quality and ability to retain heat (to keep your body warm), followed by their pack size and weight (to make sure they're easy to store and carry). Based on these needs, we believe the ENO Vulcan is the best hammock underquilt out there. Although it's a little on the pricey side, its superior quality will last for years to come, making it a worthy investment for the long-term. Article Summary
Hammocks are one of the few options you have for sleeping out in the wild. Many are fond of them because they are pretty lightweight to carry and can be set up pretty much anywhere. However, this concept is not without faults. One of the biggest drawbacks of hammocks becomes apparent when you want to use them during colder periods of the year. The average person might think that cold weather isn’t a huge issue since you are separated from the ground, hence no heat transfer – but the experienced will tell you grim tales of waking up in the middle of the night with their backside frozen like a popsicle.
Luckily, there are several ways you can solve this problem. Some like to insert a pad, the kind often used with sleeping bags. While this technically can help solve the issue, having a pad in the hammock along with you is pretty uncomfortable. The other more preferable solution is to use a hammock underquilt. This is a specially designed piece of gear that wraps around the hammock without ever touching it, with different versions available for different conditions from common cold weather to negative temperatures. Not only are you perfectly protected from the elements to keep your body warm and cozy, but you also never feel the underquilt as you sleep.
To find the best hammock underquilt, we started by comparing material quality, as this is the most important factor in determining how well the quilt will do its job at keeping you comfortable and warm in cold temperatures. Next, we looked at size and weight, because it needs to be easy to carry around if you’re going to take this backpacking through the mountains. Finally, we compared prices. As with most bedding products, you usually get what you pay for with hammock underquilts, but we wanted to make sure certain picks were offering true value to back up their costs. Once we had gone through the research, three products stood out to use as the best underquilts for hammocks.
(our estimation: 50° F)
The best hammock underquilt overall
When you’re looking to buy a product, no matter what the product is, you probably want it to be made by a brand who is invested in what they do. Eagle Nest Outfitters is that type of brand. ENO was founded by a group of people who wanted to reinvent hammocks in a way that was not that common at the time. Over the years, their hammocks evolved from standard models designed to be used by anyone, to ultralight extreme weather models made with killer quality. The same can be said about their underquilts, which is exactly why the ENO Vulcan Underquilt is our top pick.
The Vulcan comes in a very light format, which makes it great for performance climbers and hikers. One of the first thing you learn the moment you set out to conquer a peak with a ruck on your back, is that ounces quickly turn into pounds. Because of this, it is important that a hammock underquilt is light weight. While the Vulcan is not the lightest underquilt out there, it surely is among the lighter crowd weighing in at just 30 ounces. Along with its light weight, the Vulcan also transforms to a pretty compact size when folded. You are looking at a bag that is roughly 14″ x 7″ in folded size, something that can easily be put in your backpack and carried without an issue.
ENO uses denier filament fibers as the main source of insulation. This material is light, soft and offers great performance for the price. Once you unfold the underquilt and go to sleep, your body heat will warm be trapped in the small air bubbles formed within the PrinaLoft Synergy insulation (what ENO has named their material). On top of its great insulation, the Vulcan also features a water-repellent layer which prevents water and moisture from penetrating the fabric. As far as temperature usage goes, you are going to be comfortable sleeping in temperatures that go down to 30°-40°F, although you could probably push that number even lower depending on what you personally consider comfortable. Several people have reported using the Vulcan in 0° settings with ease.
Setting up the Vulcan under your hammock is pretty easy and requires very little effort. Adjustable shock cords make it easy to find the perfect setup for your own needs, which in turn ensures a very snug fit. Those who need a functional, performance-oriented underquilt will definitely benefit from this type of design. After all, no one wants to spend too much time setting up the hammock after a long day of hiking.
In terms of durability, ENO’s Vulcan meets all of the requirements even for more professional use. The fabric used to build this underquilt is pretty durable to wear. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that you should completely eliminate caution when using it – it can definitely get torn up if you snag it on something during setup. With that said, a bush full of thorns will make Swiss cheese out of any underquilt out there, especially the ultralight variety, so it’s always important to be careful where you plan to set up camp for the night.
Overall, we think the ENO Vulcan is the best hammock underquilt out there. It’s made with the highest quality, it’s easy to use, and it will last forever. It does come at a slightly higher price tag, but as we mentioned earlier, you get what you pay for with these things. Plus, underquilts are more of a long-term investment, so if you consider the fact that you’ll be able to use this year after year for the next several decades, the price is much more justifiable.
A good, lighter alternative for warmer conditions
Remember how we said a brand that’s invested in their industry is someone to do business with? ENO proves that yet again as our second pick is also made by them, although it is fairly different from the Vulcan. The Ember 2 Underquilt is designed to be used all year round, with a slightly lighter layering and therefore not as low of a temperature rating. With that said, the Ember 2 compensates for this in a number of ways – one of them being a much more affordable price.
When it comes to construction and durability, ENO used similar materials as they did with Vulcan, only the insulation filling is made of much lighter polyester. The entire underquailt is much lighter as well. When packed, Ember 2 comes in at 25 oz. Once you fold it into its bag, you will get a package that is 15″ long and some 8″ in diameter. In comparison with Vulcan, Ember 2 comes in 5 oz lighter, approximately one inch taller and one inch wider when folded. Considering it comes at almost half the price, that is pretty great.
Setting up the Ember 2 is made extremely easy. Just like the Vulcan, the entire underquilt uses shock cords. Now, ENO designed this underquilt to be used with just about any hammock out there, including but not limited to their own models. You can even use it with smaller hammocks as well as asymmetrical ones.
ENO applied their efficient water repellant finish on this model as well. While not completely waterproof, this layer does prevent a good majority of the water from being absorbed by the underquilt. Instead, it beads up and runs down to the bottom where it is far away from your body. When it comes to durability, Ember 2 scores pretty well. The entire thing is made of a rather efficient rip stop polyester that does a great job at preventing tears but also localizing ones that do appear.
The main reason why we put the Vulcan as first instead of Ember 2 is the temperature rating. Unlike the Vulcan, the Ember 2 is rated for 50° F maximum. Pushing it below that point is possible, however you may begin feeling the cold begin creeping in. Hammocks underquilts are the type of gear that you use mostly during winter. In other words, their ability to protect you from the elements defines their practical value. Therefore, a 50° F rating isn’t the end of the world, but having an underquilt that will keep you comfortable and warm at much lower temperatures is worth the investment.
Even though 50° F is still very efficient, we still feel that Vulcan is the better choice all around. With that said, if you won’t be visiting super-low temperatures or if you just prefer a lighter layering, the Ember 2 Underquilt is definitely a great product.
A great bang for your buck
Unlike ENO, Snugpak is a company that produces a whole variety of cold weather gear, including a whole range of outdoor shelters. Based in the UK, they have been among the top brands for this type of products in the old continent. Their Hammock Under Blanket is pretty simple and much more old school than the ENO ones we talked about previously. It is designed to be used with just about any kind of hammock, which makes it a versatile choice for anyone who needs a simple but reliable solution. With that said, it falls behind ENO’s offer in several important aspects, which is why we have put in third place on our list.
This underquilt is made of Micro Diamond fabric that features a Paratex antibacterial treatment. The insulation used belongs to the Travelsoft family. It was designed to trap as much of your body heat as possible while also maximizing comfort. Compared to ENO’s insulation material, Travelsoft is unfortunately not as light. The entire underquilt comes at some 51 Oz, which makes it almost as heavy as both ENO models combined. Those who are looking for a super lightweight underquilt might find this to be a problem depending on their current gear configuration.
In terms of temperature rating, things become a bit confusing. Snugpak doesn’t state the lowest recommended temperature, but rather encourages the user to experiment until they find it themselves. This type of approach is a bit strange considering this company has a pretty good track record when it comes to the quality and application of their products. With that said, we can give you an approximation of our own. Up until some 50F, you should be fine with using a regular sleeping bag. If you are aiming more for a 30F range, we strongly recommend that use a cold weather sleeping bag rated for low temperatures.
In terms of installation, Snugpak’s underquilt is not the easiest one to setup. Unlike ENO’s simple system that uses two shock cords, Snugpak’s solution uses four on each side. Two in each set are designed to be tied together and attached to a carabiner while the other two are what you use to adjust the fit of the underquilt. With that said, we strongly suggest that you find a way to tie up the adjustment shock cords as they are susceptible to coming undone if you twist and turn in your sleep. While the setup process isn’t the most complicated out there, it is definitely not as easy to put this underquilt on your hammock as it is the case with ENO’s two models.
Everything we have said so far points to one direction when it comes to application and who the SnugPak underquilt was designed for. Professionals and those who need their gear to be bulletproof are probably going to need something a bit better than this underquilt, like either of the ENO models. On the other hand, this model’s extremely affordable price makes it a top choice for outdoor enthusiasts who are spending limited time in hammocks. The SnugPak Hammock Under Blanket is a great choice overall, but some of its drawbacks limit the range of its application.
Other blankets and underquilts worth mentioning
We know everyone has their own preference when it comes to outdoor gear. Although we believe the options above are the top three best hammock underquilts on the market, there were a couple other models we looked at during our research that we think are worth noting. They may not have made our top three for one reason or another, but they are still good options nonetheless.
The Outdoor Vitals Aerie is a pretty versatile underquilt that is made of quality materials. It features pretty thick insulation, which makes it effective all the way down to 30° F. We didn’t include this in our top three because it’s not exactly designed to be just an underquilt (which is both a positive and a negative depending on who you ask). Instead, Outdoor Vitals designed this product to be a multi-purpose system. You can use it as a sleeping bag, a blanket or a shell for a cold weather sleeping bag. Light, compact and warm, this underquilt is a pretty good bargain considering everything it offers.
As you’ve read above, Eagle Nest Outfitters is arguably the king of the mountain when it comes to hammock gear. They’ve got a huge following and customers love their stuff, which explains why two of the top three products in our guide were made by ENO. With that said, their top-of-the-line Blaze Underquilt didn’t quite make our top three – not due to quality reasons, mainly just because of its huge price tag. When choosing products for our top three, we were looking for the best hammock underquilt for most people – and for most people, a list price of $300 on an underquilt is a little over the top. However, if you want “five-star-hotel-quality camping” then this model is unbeatable, rated nearly perfect 5 stars by customers.
Last but not least we have a pretty simple and affordable underquilt made by OneTigris. This design is compatible with any kind of hammock, which makes it pretty versatile. The company claims this is rated for 10° – 20° F, but given its rather thin material, the credibility of this claim is a little debatable (which is why we didn’t include it in our top three). Other than that, this underquilt is one of the better affordable models on the market.
Things to consider before buying
Just like it is the case with any other gear designed for outdoor use, there are some things you need to consider before buying anything. With hammock underquilts, this becomes even more important because they are literally protecting your body from cold during sleep.
One of the most important things you need to get right is the temperature rating of the underquilt. There are many, many models out there on the market, and each of them is rated for a certain temperature range. If you end up using an underquilt in weather that pushes it beyond its limit, you will end up sleeping in a cold hammock, which isn’t just a pain figuratively speaking, but it could also cause literal sickness due to lack of heat. Make sure to know exactly what temperature the underquilt is rated for. On the same note, it is highly recommended that you always bring a sleeping bag that is rated for at least 10 degrees colder weather than you anticipate to deal with. This way you can only be hot, and being hot is much better than being cold.
Size (both open and folded)
Underquilt size is one of the factors that is often overlooked. Hammocks come in all kinds of sizes and designs. You have standard hammocks, asymmetrical hammocks and many other. Finding an underquailt that works well with the type and size of hammock you have is imperative. Most manufactures produce underquilts which are compatible with almost any kind of hammock out there, but there is also a huge number of models designed for a specific underquilt. Make sure that the one you are getting is compatible with your hammock.
It’s also important to consider the folded size to make sure the underquilt will fit in your pack as you hike. Some models are compact and easy to store, whereas others are bulky and take up a lot of space. The last thing you want is to buy an underquilt that you won’t even be able to carry, so double check that the model you’re interested in is compact enough for out-of-sight storage.
Weight is a factor that only a part of the user base has to worry about. Realistically, a good portion of those who need an underquilt will arrive at their destination via car or some other form of transportation. In this case, the weight of an underquilt isn’t a huge factor. However, there are also those who will have to walk for a considerable amount of time over all kinds of unforgiving terrain before they reach their destination. In this type of scenarios, weight makes all the difference in the world. If you are a professional hiker, you will definitely want to go with an ultralight underquilt and weight might prove to be a bigger factor than performance.
Why you should use an underquilt
Underquilts are not a new creation. They have been around for quite a while in one form or another. Many will try to substitute underquilts either by using pads or by making their own. These two solutions might work well if you are not going out in extreme cold. If you are, do you really want to put your health on the line or use a product that was developed, designed and produced for that specific purpose?
Keep in mind that your body’s ability to preserve internal temperature is reduced when you sleep. Your metabolism goes into hibernation and very few calories are being burnt. This is why good insulation is extremely important. It traps whatever body heat you are producing and prevents it from leaving the hammock/underquilt cocoon. Depending on how cold it is out there, using an underquilt is not only beneficial, but necessary.
How to properly use an underquilt with your hammock
Each underquilt comes with its own set of instructions as far as installation goes, but one thing all of them share no matter who makes them or what kind of design they utilize, is the core principle. Underquilts must not touch your body. This cannot be emphasized enough. When you are setting up your underquilt, make sure that it is not touching the hammock or your body in any way, shape, or form.
The reason for this is very simple. A sleeping bag on its own in a hammock won’t protect you from cold because your body is compressing it against the hammock, thus preventing the sleeping bag from retaining that crucial body heat. Same thing happens with underquilts when they touch your body. All of those precious bubbles of air are being compressed and the insulation layer inside the underquilt is unable to perform its main function. Therefore, preventing the underquilt from touching your body is your number one goal.
Wrapping it up
Depending on how serious you are about sleeping outside in a hammock, an underquilt is more or less a necessary part of the gear you should have with you. We believe ENO makes the best hammock underquilts out there, most notably the Vulcan and Ember 2. They also have a few other models worth checking out, but those are our two favorites based on their performance and price. Any underquilt is better than none, but for your own safety, you should pay close attention to the specs of the models you’re interested in. Weather conditions can change rather quickly and you definitely want to have some leeway when you are out there in the wild.