Sheltowee Hammock Overview
The Sheltowee Hammock is one of the first commercially-available hammocks that has integrated, adjustable insulation. It is a niche product that aims to solve one of the hammock’s main flaws in cooler temperate zones: cold butt syndrome.
|MANUFACTURER||Sheltowee Hammock Company|
|YEAR OF MANUFACTURE||2014, made in Lawrenceburg, KY|
|MSRP||Sheltowee Boone 40° Hammock – $259.00 USD|
*This is just the size of the insulated portion of the quilt. There is extra fabric surrounding the quilt that seals up the ends and the long edges that adds to the overall length and width, which matches the size of the hammock.
Sheltowee presents an interesting solution to an age-old design problem: how to best insulate a hammock. Hammocks are such effective convective coolers, that even in hot weather, often a little insulation is needed to be comfortable (I was at first surprised to find I needed some insulation when sleeping outdoors in Phoenix, Arizona where the overnight low was in the 80s°F/27°C!).
There are certainly a lot of opinions on the merits of an insulated hammock. What if it is too hot? What if it is too cold? What if you don’t like the hammock? What if you don’t like the under quilt?
One advantage to separating hammock from insulation is that a hanger can pick and choose which quilt, hammock, or other accessory fit a preference. Sheltowee takes a bold step in presuming that you’ll not only like the hammock, but enjoy the built-in insulation as well.
Some mainstream sleeping bag manufacturers are also bringing products to market that combine features to create hybrid bags. On one hand, the advantage of the Sheltowee brand is that you only need to purchase a single piece of gear to get both hammock and insulation. Another way to view it is having a hammock with an integrated base layer that would work in most 3-season camping trips, and then extra layers could be added when it was colder.
I had my own doubts going in. First impressions can be long lasting, and the only insulated hammocks I had seen to this point were hammocks with sewn-in insulation. The Sheltowee Boone hammock is a much more sophisticated merger of hammock and quilt. In some ways, the Boone hammock is like having a double-layer hammock, only the outer layer has insulation sewn in. The hammock itself is nearly separate from the insulation, only coming together at the ends. This allows the under quilt to be vented and adjusted for warmer weather much better than a hammock with attached, sewn-in insulation. The insulation also acts as a type of weather shield by more fully enclosing the quilt layer and sealing up the ends and sides for more heat retention and wind protection.
One failing of most under quilts is that small gaps can form where the hammock gathers up near the ends. The gaps can be large or small, depending on where the hammock folds and how the quilt seals the gaps. Some quilt makers have added draft tubes to help fill in the gaps, but even these aren’t 100% effective. The Sheltowee Boone hammocks, in contrast, add material that wraps and seals the ends and sides completely, making 100% positive seals on all sides of the hammock.
In The Field
I tested the Sheltowee Boone 40° quilt in the winter, down to 20°F (-7°C). Not ideal for the temperature rating, but it did allow me to test the possibility of adding insulation to the hammock, and to also try it indoors, where temperatures were warmer and more controlled.
The full-length quilt added a measure of protection that I enjoyed, particularly around my lower legs and feet. In the field, I used an extra under quilt that wrapped around the outside of the Boone hammock, thus boosting the warmth rating. I also could have added the second under quilt on the inside, between the hammock and the outer shell. In this way, I could seal up both under quilts. I really liked how the sides of the under quilt pulled up high around the hammock, helping to cut out side drafts. Indoors, I used the Boone 40° stock. In both cases, I slept warm and comfortable.
In the field, I really enjoyed the storage pockets on the head and foot ends of the hammock. I tossed my hat and other clothing items there for safe keeping in the night. Thankfully, this pocket does not alter how the under quilt snugs around the hammock. There are cord locks and adjustment points on the ends of the under quilt that make it easy to vent or tighten the shape of the quilt.
The hammock is actually very comfortable. The longer length (just over 10 ft/3.2 m) helps reduce or eliminate the dreaded calf ridge, and the ridge line prevents the hammock from being pulled too taut, which contributes to shoulder squeeze. The ridge line also keeps the right amount of sag to find that sweet spot in the hammock.
Where I have really enjoyed using the Sheltowee hammock has been indoors. Having the hammock and insulation so tightly integrated has made it easy to set up and take-down my hammock inside. I like that I don’t have to fiddle with extra set-up and take-down of an under quilt. The net-less hammock is also more convenient to get in and out of indoors.
The insulation has been amazing. Usually, a 40-degree under quilt hasn’t been warm enough indoors (we keep it cool inside, even in the winter), but the Sheltowee has performed flawlessly. I know part of that has to do with the full-length quilt and the sealed edges. I love how the sides of the outer quilt layer wrap up and around the hammock snugly.
Out camping, I think the only minor drawback has been packing. With hammock and insulation integrated, I have to rethink my packing options a little. The included bishop bag is big enough to hold everything, but it makes for a bulky, almost awkward shape to pack in a back. This is more for personal taste, but I like to pack my insulation directly into my pack so it fils the volume better. Using a lot of stuff sacks creates bulky shapes that don’t always fit well together.
I think in the future, if I take the Sheltowee on an extended backpacking trip, I would just stuff the hammock directly into my backpack and skip the stuff sack altogether.
All things considered, the Sheltowee hammock system works wonderfully. The hammock is very comfortable (I slept like a rock!), and the insulation is very effective. The unique way the two work together really separates this brand from the others on the market.
The big piece missing for this to be a full camping kit is an integrated bug net and tarp. Alex has hinted that a bug net is in the works, and certainly both third-party netting and tarp can be added separately already from multiple vendors.
My big question is whether or not an integrated under quilt is the future of hammock camping. I tend to see hammocks as the perfect modular kit, but the Sheltowee locks you in to a certain framework. If I were to recommend one, I’d get the 40-degree model as a base that you could augment if you happen to camp in cooler weather. For me, the 40-degree model worked great as a base winter model and alone as a summer model.
Where I think there is a lot of opportunity is for Sheltowee to sell their under quilt separately. I think there is some real innovation in an under quilt that has DWR fabric that completely seals the ends along with high sides and an innovative inner cinching system. It’s a win.
Disclosure of material connection: The author (Derek Hansen) was provided with a free sample from the manufacturer for testing and evaluation purposes. The comments in this post (written & spoken) are of my own opinion, which I formed after personally handling the gear. I was under no obligation to publish a review of this item.