Hammocks in the fall

One of the greatest joys of the summer is being able to curl up in a hammock with a good book. On the other hand, as most of us who enjoy hammocks year round can attest, a hammock in a cold day can get very cold very fast. Now, my hammock is indoors, so extreme weather is not an issue, but still my choices are to crank up the thermostat –something I try to avoid due to the whole carbon footprint thing– or to figure out a way to make my hammock a little more winter-friendly… an important concern, seeing how said hammock also doubles as my bed.

Now, first of all, let’s rule out what doesn’t work: sleeping bags. Yes, at first glance these would seem like the most logical solution and they are wonderful for sleeping on the ground, but they work by trapping a layer of air between your body and the outside world, and then using your own body heat to warm it. If you are on a hammock, however, your own weight is effectively squeezing the air out of the bottom part of that protective cocoon, and your sides and backside become an incredibly effective heat sink… not a pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination (and keep in mind that while this is particularly true of sleeping bags, it applies to a lesser degree to other kinds of clothing).

A slightly more effective option is what is usually referred to as ‘the taco approach’. This means that you wrap yourself up in a blanket before climbing into your hammock. Getting the hang of this takes a bit of practice, but this works well enough provided that you don’t need to use your hands (a problem if what you want to do is read), and that you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night (a round of blanket-fishing if you woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night will usually leave you wide awake)… it can also get tricky if the weather is so cold that you have to juggle more than one blanket.

There are, of course, commercial solutions out there, such as specially designed underquilts. I assume that these work well enough, but most of these are designed with camping hammocks in mind and tend to look out of place in a bedroom, not to mention that they don’t usually fit more traditional models.

So what are the alternatives?

For days or nights that are not too cold (no less than 15°C/60°F or thereabouts) you can try pinning a couple of blankets to the cross corners where you put your head and feet, and then you just have to stretch the top corner opposite to your feet in order to lie down… and in case you were wondering, gravity takes care of the fourth corner for you. Once you’ve done this you can easily wrap yourself in, and you can even count on your blankets being where you left them if you do get up.

If the weather is a little chillier (down to something like 7°C/45°F)You may want to pin the four corners of two or three folded full sized blankets (for a total of four or six layers of insulation. This may seem like overkill but, as I said above, the problem regarding the absence of a layer of warm air is not restricted to sleeping bags, and this is also the reason why you may want to contemplate some additional insulation even if you are just looking for a place to read) to protect your back and sides, and then just use a duvet or a sleeping bag on top of that if you need it. A twin-sized memory foam mattress topper could be an alternative to those folded blankets here, though the truth is that I haven’t really tried it.

If the temperature drops below 5°C/40°F I admit that I give in to the inevitable and turn up the thermostat, so I can’t really help you there.

Update: Since writing this post I have come up with a more effective solution to this problem. You can find that one here.

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