Superior Hammock is a new cottage gear manufacturer based in Minnesota that makes fully integrated hammock shelter systems. They’re flagship product is a gathered-end hammock that has the down-filled insulation sewn directly onto it instead of being packaged as a separate underquilt. Weighing 36 ounces (including carabiners and tree straps), the Superior Hammock (also the company name) has a temperature range of 30 to 75 degrees. It’s insulated with 13 oz of 800 fill power duck down, is 10.25 feet long, with a width 58″. It’s also available at a special introductory discount on Kickstarter for a few more days.
I’m very bullish on the idea of insulated hammocks because they reduce the learning curve for people interested in hammock camping and the need to buy a separate underquilt or sleeping pad to avoid cold-butt syndrome. When the temperatures get down to about 70 degrees fahrenheit, you need some sort of back insulation when sleeping in a hammock, much like you need a sleeping pad when camping in a tent on the ground.
The two main options available today are lying on top of a foam or inflatable sleeping pad in your hammock or attaching a underquilt beneath it. While these are both “tolerable” options, neither is really optimal. Sleeping pads are awkward to use when you try to sleep on a diagonal in a hammock (which is how to lay flat instead of like a banana) and underquilts require a lot of fiddling around with primary and secondary suspensions to prevent drafts from robbing your warmth at night. You eliminate all that if you sew the insulation to the bottom of your hammock, making it easier for anyone, beginners or old-hands, to sleep comfortably warm at night in a hammock. It’s also potentially lighter weight because you’ve combined several functions into one piece of gear.
Sewing the insulation to the bottom of a hammock is also very handy for cold weather hammocking, where optimizing the effectiveness of your hammock insulation is particularly important. When it’s frosty outside, the last thing you want to experience are cold spots or having to get out of your hammock to reposition your underquilt at night. All that is eliminated if the insulation is sewn to the bottom of the hammock. There’s no need for a primary or secondary suspension system, quilt hooks, or underquilt draft collars to block drafts between your hammock bottom and underquilt.
The Superior Hammock’s down insulation is sewn into continuous baffles on the underside of the hammock, so you can move it around to where it’s needed most with a few good shakes. It also includes a ridgeline and 15′ ultralight Dyneema tree straps w/cinch buckles that are intuitive to use.
What’s it like to sleep in the Superior Hammock?
It’s too cold to sleep in New England in the regular 30 degree Superior Hammock, so the company sent me an overstuffed version to try with 18.3 oz of down fill instead of the standard 13 oz. This drops its temperature rating down to between 10-15 degrees. It’s bulky when packed and close to the size of a zero degree sleeping bag, which wasn’t totally unexpected. I can however still get it into a 10L Hyperlite Mountain Gear packing pod to give you a sense of the volume it takes when packed.
But I’ve taken that overstuffed Superior Hammock down to 14 degrees at night and sleeping in it is simply divine. You can stretch out and get a diagonal lay, although I must admit, I do miss having the patented side shelf for holding stuff out-of-the-way on my Warbonnet Blackbird. The Superior Hammock does have a ridgeline however, so I’d recommend getting a ridgeline pocket organizer if you like to keep a few diversions close at hand. When the sun goes down at 4:30 pm you definitely want a book or smartphone to amuse yourself for a few hours before going to sleep.
While the current version of the Superior Hammock is filled with 800 fill power down, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to envision multiple weight optimizations that could be made to the core concept like: 900+ fill power down, baffles with variable amounts of down fill, a lighter weight suspension system, or the use of lighter weight fabrics. If the idea of insulated hammocks catches on, I fully expect there will be an insulated hammock gear-weight arms race, just like there’s been with regular top quilts and under quilts.
To their credit, Superior Hammock (the company) is focused on building multi-component hammock shelter systems targeting mainstream hammock users in the 30-75 degree range (not just cold weather hammocks for the crazies) that let you add additional components to their core insulated hammock. They just launched a new product called the Superior Blanket that snaps into Superior Insulated Hammock using snaps located around its hem. The jury is still out whether this kind of integrated hammock insulation system will catch on with consumers or weight obsessed ultralight backpackers who are willing to sacrifice daytime speed for nighttime sleeping comfort.
However, if you’ve been frustrated by machinations required to insulate your gathered-end hammock or you dread upgrading to a underquilt and learning how to suspend and adjust it to stay warm at night, check out Superior Hammock and their Kickstarter. They’ve already raised their goal, but this is a good opportunity to score their products at a discount and help sponsor the development of this exciting new gear category.
Disclosure: Superior Hammock provided the author with a sample hammock for this review.
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