Full Length Hammock Underquilt or 3/4 Length?

Full Length Hammock Underquilt or 3/4 Length How to Choose

A hammock underquilt keeps your underside warm at night, much like a sleeping pad, if you sleep on the ground instead of in the air. Most underquilt manufacturers like Hammock Gear and UGQ Outdoors give you the option to purchase full-length hammock underquilts or 3/4 length ones that only insulate your back and butt, but not your feet and lower legs. What factors should you consider in deciding between the two options?

The reason 3/4 hammock underquilts exist is because your feet and lower legs don’t require as much insulation at night as the rest of your body, especially in warm weather. It’s the same reason that some hikers use torso-length sleeping pads instead of full-length ones. Many backpackers are also obsessed by reducing the weight and volume of their backpacking gear and willing to go to seemingly pathological extremes to do so.

The Kammok Firebelly snaps onto the sides of Kammok Hammocks for use as an underquilt.
The Kammok Firebelly snaps onto the sides of Kammok Hammocks for use as an underquilt.

Hammock-Specific and General Purpose Underquilts

There are two main types of underquilts, those designed for use with a hammock from a specific manufacturer like ENO, Kammock, Therm-a-rest, or Warbonnet, that are fitted for one or more specific hammocks, and more general-purpose underquilts that can be used with any hammock. The advantage of buying a purpose-built underquilt designed for your hammock is that it makes it easier to set up and minimizes adjustment. It also makes ordering much simpler, since you don’t have to fret about messing up a non-returnable custom-made underquilt by ordering the wrong thing.

General-purpose underquilts are designed to fit hammocks from any manufacturer, but they’re a little more complicated to position on the hammock at setup time since hammocks vary in length. This is controlled using what’s known as a primary and secondary suspension system, where the primary suspension controls where the ends of the underquilt are located along the length of your hammock and the secondary controls  how tightly the ends wrap around the hammock body.  Both are usually controlled by elastic cords and line locks. Some general-purpose hammock underquilts with primary and secondary suspensions include:

For purposes of this article, we leave off a discussion of underquilts for bridge hammocks, and focus on gathered end hammocks instead, because their use is so widespread.

A 3/4 length underquilt must be carefully positioned along the length of a hammock to prevent cold spots when you move around at night.
A 3/4 length underquilt must be carefully positioned along the length of a hammock to prevent cold spots when you move around at night.

Underquilt Temperature Ratings

Temperature Ratings are usually the most important factor in deciding which length underquilt to get. If you plan to use a hammock when nighttime temperature are 40-50 degrees (Fahrenheit) or warmer, you can usually get by with a 3/4 length underquilt instead of a full length one. The exact temperature cut-off will depend on whether you are a warm sleeper or a cold sleeper.

Above 40-50 degrees, the extra top-quilt or sleeping bag insulation you sleep with inside your hammock should provide enough insulation under your lower legs and feet, although you can also augment it by carrying a short insulated foam pad to put under them. For temperatures, under 40 degrees, most people will opt for a full-length underquilt that also insulates your feet.

Underquilt Positioning

One of the downsides of a 3/4 length underquilt is that it takes more adjustment to properly position it to cover your torso and butt, each time you hang your hammock. If you have a tendency to slide down inside your hammock or move around a lot, there’s a good chance you’ll experience a cold spot by morning unless you get out at night and re-adjust your underquilt. There’s a lot less variability with a full-length underquilt in this respect because it covers more of the hammock’s surface area. You can move around all you want inside your hammock and still stay warm.

A full length underquilt is much easier to position because it covers a more surface area of the hammock
A full length underquilt is much easier to position on a hammock because it covers more surface area.

Underquilt Weight and Pack Volume

While reduced weight and small pack volume are benefits of using a 3/4 quilt instead of a full length one, you’ll want to consider their impact on your comfort. Lighter weight goose down insulation and fabrics can often help offset the weight penalty of a higher coverage underquilt.

In addition, many people decide to purchase two underquilts,  a 3/4 length one for warmer temperatures where the risk of discomfort is less severe, and a full length underquilt for colder weather, or they simply go to ground and sleep on an insulated pad when it gets cold out.

See also:

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He also volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.
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6 comments

  1. Having used both, I contend that a full length underquilt is unnecessary, even in colder conditions (into the 20s). If you look at where a typical 11 foot gathered end hammock exerts pressure on your body, it’s mostly your torso to mid-calves. This is exactly where a 3/4 quilt provides insulation. If you lay like me (with the head-end of the hammock around a foot lower than the foot), from mid-calf downward you kind of float, so the insulation in the footbox of your quilt provides good protection, given that it is not compressed that much. In colder weather I also wear a hat and always use a small pillow, so my head is well insulated, making any insulation provided by a full length underquilt above my shoulders redundant. Finally, I always carry a butt pad that I size to fit in the footbox of my quilt. This serves as backup in case my legs get chilled, which rarely happens.

    • I really like having both, a 40 degree 3/4 underquilt for summer when I carry a smaller pack and a 20 degree, full length underquilt for under 40 degrees when the nights are longer than the days. My philosophy is that you can’t be too warm in a hammock, just too cold.

    • I went with a full-length one because once my feet feel cold, it’s really hard for me to sleep. My bed socks are wool socks my mom knitted, but I’ve found that even with that I need insulation. When I sleep on the ground I can live with a shorter pad, but not when I’m in the air.

      I would love to carry less weight, but not at the expense of not being able to sleep. I can tolerate hiking in the cold & rain all day, but I can’t bear being cold when I’m trying to sleep.

  2. I carry a puffy coat and wear it as needed in the evening or morning, but use it as a foot box at night. My diy Costco is good for now but looking at a Wookie for my WBBB for the Fall.
    I love the line:
    “Many backpackers are also obsessed by reducing the weight and volume of their backpacking gear and willing to go to seemingly pathological extremes to do so.”
    Thanks for all you do. Phil et al.

  3. Hammock camping, as a friend of mine noted, is one of those rare activities where it’s actually an advantage being a short guy. I’m 5 foot 9 inches and find that my AHE Jarbidge 3/4 length underquilt gives me coverage from roughly my shoulders to my ankles. Like you, I own both full and 3/4 length underquilts to more closely match conditions. If I could only own one, I’d make it full length.

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