I have only recently discovered this forum, although I discovered hammocks a while back and bought an Hennessey Hyperlight in 2006. Apologies in advance but I'm going to ramble on a bit now....
Despite my intentions, I've never really used it (except the tarp). I camp frequently, but my style is a bit hampered by my man (I'm female by the way) who is not interested in hammocks in the slightest and regards the whole idea of me abandoning him in the tent as an act of treachery. He also refuses to wild camp and I hate campsites. But mutiny is in the air...
I still want to get off the ground (and out of campsites) so ignoring the mate's complaints, I spent half a night in the hammock in France, in June; no mat (left it in the tent), just an inadequate RAB top bag. Unsurprisingly, in the small hours, the cold drove me back into the tent again, much to the delight of 'im indoors. It wasn't really terribly cold, but the feeling that the breeze was blowing straight through my bed (which it was...) was not good. I know this wasn't a fair trial so I came back to the 'net to do some more research. I see the hammock scene has exploded since 2006. Had I read all this insulation stuff in 2006, it might well have put me off a hammock entirely.
I camp in Europe, in particular, the UK, France and the Alps. While I believe those that say that underquilts are the warmest of them all, I'm not so sure they are entirely suitable on my home patch. We have in the UK what is referred to as a maritime climate. It's not particularly cold, it is the horizontal driving rain that is the problem. There is no time of the year it will not rain. Heavily and for an extended period.
The same goes for the Alps in summer. There it specialises in spectacular thunderstorms with accompanying squalls and downpours, or the misty mizzly "walking inside a cloud" kind of rain that soaks everything. The only certainty is that this will happen to you at some point in a given week. Our tents (British, so designed with rain in mind) have always withstood this treatment (except once but that is another story) unless we chose a stupid place to pitch.
I hope that a carefully slung hammock with a big enough tarp will do the same. I have my doubts about mine even though I substituted a bigger tarp when I bought it (Tom Pennells was extremely helpful in this respect) but it is untried so I shall reserve judgement. I shall probably make an even bigger tarp with help from this forum. But I am uneasy about the whole outer quilt thing under such conditions. My gut tells me to go with a mat of some form. I don't want to spend the night worrying about my exposed, expensive quilt.
Or is this necessarily the case? Are there quilt users out there that can tell me otherwise? (experience please; I have read enough theory to make my brain bleed!). Or are quilts only really necessary for really low temperatures? I am not intending to camp in winter yet. I'm just trying to accomodate the British summer (or lack of it) at this time! My sewing skills are good so I would consider making one if convinced.
In the meantime, I am considering my own hammock inner "chrysalis". I'm thinking a home crocheted inner silk/merino blanket layer. Anyone familiar with merino wool/silk garments will agree that the warmth and luxury is up there with the best, it is very light and retains most of its insulatory properties when wet. It is light and soft but not nearly as compressible as down which is exactly why I think it will make a good under blanket. It won't be windproof on its own so I am also thinking a Pertex outer layer for windproofing without creating a total moisture trap like plastic foam mats are. This I will attach to my down filled RAB quantum top bag to make a hybrid quilt blanket bag thingy.
If anyone actually made it this far, any comments and suggestions are gratefully received.