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  1. #1
    Registered User Nedrian's Avatar
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    Default Underquilt/sleeping bag question

    I'm preparing for a 2014 thru-hike and am going to be bringing a sleeping bag rated near 0 degrees (with a sleeping bag liner) since I already have one. I am also planning to be using a Blackbird hammock, single layer with a Thermarest prolite sleeping pad.

    I know my sleeping bag will be compressed, thereby rendering the down insulation underneath me next to useless. However, I'll also have the sleeping pad under me, so that may help some.

    My question is what temperature rating should I be looking for in an underquilt, or would I need one at all?

  2. #2
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    What is your start date ? It doesn't sound like your conident that sleeping bag will keep you warm . If it's a quality
    down bag then I see no reason for the underquilt
    Plus you have a really sound under pad in the Therma-Rest Prolte.

    Try using the exact same setup in higher elevations near where you live to actually simulate what conditions might be like in March
    early April.
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  3. #3
    Registered User Nedrian's Avatar
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    Oh, I totally forgot to include my start date - sorry about that. I'll be starting mid/late March.

    It's a Western Mountaineering Antelope bag (rated 5 degrees F, but I've heard numerous times that you can add on another 10 degrees of warmth to WM bags and be confident down to that temperature). I'm just being overly cautious because I'm still very new to anything and everything cold weather camping perhaps, haha.

  4. #4
    Registered User johnnybgood's Avatar
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    I think you will be just fine with that setup Nedrian. Again, as I stated above, try an overnight hike with nighttime lows dipping into the low 20's , upper teens to get a feel for what March weather in higher elevations in GA might be like.

    Also, go over to Hammocksforums.net and pick up some advice too

    Have a blast on your hike this spring.
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  5. #5
    Registered User Tuckahoe's Avatar
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    The best thing for you would be to actually get out and test your WM bag and the pad in the hammock together. That would give you a better idea of how cold you could comfortably go in the hammock with a pad and bag.

    If that set up works for you, you may not need an underquilt. Some folks seem to make a bag and pad work well for them in a hammock.
    igne et ferrum est potentas
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  6. #6
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    It's all about weight vs comfort, right? This is a great time of year for a couple of night's testing your gear. I'm a hammock person, hiking the AT next year, and to me it was an either/or choice. I'm taking the pad. It gives me more flexibility. I will use it in the cold, but can also use it in a shelter if I so choose, as well as in a hostel in town.


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  7. #7

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    I started April 2nd and used a 20 degree UQ and a 30 degree WM bag. I was fine but I did wear extra clothes a couple of times. I did not use a pad although if I were doing it again I probably would use one instead of an UQ. There were a couple of times when my UQ became damp from heavy fog/mist and there were a couple of times I wanted to sleep in a shelter. An inflatable pad would have solved both problems. One concern with pads...make sure your shoulders are OK. If your shoulders touch the side of the hammock they will be very cold. A simple fix is to carry a closed cell foam pad about four feet long and place it under your inflatable so it forms a T. This is very effective as it wraps around your shoulders on the sides of the hammock. It will double as an awesome sit pad. Some people don't need the shoulder pad but I do. Hope this helps a bit.

    Cat in the Hat

  8. #8
    Registered User Theosus's Avatar
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    The old Pad Vs. Quilt debate… A sure way to fire up any hammockers. That's like walking into a redneck bar and saying, "which is better, ford or chevy?".

    As one who spends time in a hammock whenever possible - they both have advantages. First, sleeping on a pad in a hammock really sort of sucks. I sweat out of my back something horrible last time I used a thermarest pad in a hammock. However - i you are going to be sleeping on the floor in a shelter, the pad is a necessity. Sleeping on top of your under quilt in a shelter is probably going to do next to nothing for you, and will likely damage it. The weather is the biggest problem for quilts. If a down quilt gets wet, thats it. Synthetic quilts might dry out better, but they are bulkier and heavier.

    From my own experience. Ditch the sleeping bag and get an under quilt/top quilt combo. Yes, there is going to be some expense there. BUT - you will lose some sleeping bag weight (probably) and bulk. My UQ and TQ fit where my sleeping bag alone used to fit. If you still want a pad, the inflatable ones work a little better in hammocks than solid CCF ones. You can let out a little air so they form around you better, they are smaller, and you still have something for a shelter if you need to sleep on the floor.

    One other thing: I have a lightweight fleece liner I made from a thin texsport "55 degree sleeping bag" (available for about $15 on amazon). Turn inside out, cut the zipper off and cut it into a mummy shape. Sew the bottom 2 feet together so you make a foot box, but leave the rest open and sew an edge onto the rest. It's not too bulky, but can add a little warmth if you need it. I like it because it doesn't feel as much like sleeping on synthetic fabric, and gives me some temperature control between being covered and lying exposed.
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  9. #9
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    What size is the Prolite pad? And why are you bringing it? If you are willing to hang every night, an underquilt is more comfortable and warmer, though of course if you decide to stay in a shelter you're pretty much S.O.L. I guess you could combine a short pad with a lighter quilt but I think that's one of those compromises that makes no one happy.

    I use my hammock in the summer, with a 3/4-length closed cell foam pad. It works well -- plenty warm enough and I can use the pad for many other things. But the temps don't get below the high 40s.
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  10. #10
    Registered User gunner76's Avatar
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    I own 3 Blackbirds and have used a variety of set ups while camping.

    Is the Blackbird hammock a single or double layer ? If it is a double layer then a CCF pad will work just fine. If it is a single layer then beware that the pad will slip under you.
    Depending on how tall/wide you are, I would recommend a pad 24+ inches wide and at least 5 ft long. A 20" wide pad will probably be too narrow.

    Inflatable pads will also work, just do not fully inflate. Down side is they tend to be be heavy compared to a CCF pad.

    If you insist on using a sleeping bag, leave it partially zipped/open at the foot end and use as a top quilt. Just beware that the zippers could catch on the hammock fabric and tear the hammock. Nothing more fun that watching someone trying to get into their sleeping bag once they are in the hammock. Only thing funnier is to watch someone get into their sleeping bag outside the hammock and then try to get into the hammock.

    With all that, I recommend that you get a UQ and TQ. A 20 degree TQ/TQ combo will be fine, it you get too warm you can always vent.

    I switched to TQ/UQ's several years ago and will not go back. Way too comfortable. I use both down and synthetic TQ/UQs.
    Down...lightens the load and the wallet and compress to small ball. Downside (great pun) is that the down is subject to losing loft if it gets wet so if you get down get it with the new dri down. Several vendors on hammock forums are using it ( check out http://www.undergroundquilts.com/. very nice folks and while I do not own any of their products, yet, I have talked to them on several occasions and have seen their work and discussed the details of why they made it the way they do. they are very quality driven on their gear)

    Synthetic is a bit bulkier but not as expensive as down and if it does get wet will dry very quickly compared to down


    My BB with a Arrowhead UQ on the AT


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  11. #11
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    +1 on everything Theosus said, though I will offer this...

    I prefer a single layer hammock for that type of pad, especially in a wide hammock like the BB where the pad is liable to slip around anyway between the layers. If you get something to deal with insulation on the sides/shoulders, you're fine with just the pad. Having gone from using pads to now using UQ's, that is not my recommendation. An UQ will keep you warmer and with venting is good into all but the warmest temps, after which the pad could be used as is. Don't attempt to use the pad with the UQ and its renders the quilt inefficient - it needs the warmth from you body to trap in order to keep the cold out and the pad blocks that heat transfer (same with too many clothes). The UQ would be additional weight, but you'll soon begin to think the pad is additional weight.

    On top, your bag is more than you'll need, but its relatively light and will be good in a shelter with the pad - though, I think you'll find you get to use more of its insulation when used on the ground, and therefore, it will be more efficient and probably too hot sometimes. In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason to zip up a sleeping bag in a hammock, especially if you'll need your arms to adjust the pad from time to time. The liner can only add to that misery... exponentially! Keep it for the ground if you wish. With the bag unzipped and draped over you, you'll find that the bag has a greater range of comfortable temps.

    If you get an UQ, do yourself a favor and trust its temp rating and learn how to use it instead of using the ground as a crutch - you'll be glad you did even if it doesn't seem that way the first time out. A zero UQ probably matches up better with your bag, giving you a true winter setup good for the coldest temps, and I think you'd be surprised by how high temp-wise you can go and still be comfy. Given that you can go to just the pad at higher temps, that might be a better overall way to go. The caveat is that once you have the UQ, you may very well not want to have to use the pad at all, and if so, then a 3 season UQ is more useful over a greater range of "normal" temps.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
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  12. #12
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    This is the same dilemma I am facing right now. I completed the lower half (Penmar to Springer) using my Never Winter down bag and a large Thermarest prolite pad for my trip that took place from July 26 to Nov 1 of this past year. The combination worked great for me, but it was almost near perfect weather most of the way. I started right after the heatwave broke, nice comfortable hiking temps, little humidity, and really no prolonged periods of rain. I am now planning the other half of the trail and am exploring my options for the drastic difference in weather starting end of March/beginning of April and heading north. My thought process is that it is going to be much colder this go round and would prob be more comfortable with the UQ than the pad. But lingering in the back of my mind is how wet it is going to be trekking through spring, and the added difficulty of keeping it dry the whole time. I did like the option of having the pad to crash in a shelter occasionally after a long day, but would still wake up with a sore back from sleeping on the ground. I am pretty sure I would prod be just as sore if I slept directly on the floor anyway, so what am I really gaining here, haha?

    Any opinions based on what weather I will be facing starting that early and that far up on the trail as to the most beneficial setup? One thing that I will have going for me is I will be using a tarp with doors this time, different from my last trek. I would hope this will increase my chances of staying dry, even in the worst of it.

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