If for some reason you had to go to ground, I'd bring my tarp down flush with the ground close the ends, I carry a tyvek sheet approx 6' by 3' to stand on and cook on which would become a ground sheet. Pad would go on the ground then hammock over that pack cover around my upper back while in sleeping bag, balaclava on wool cap fleece cap and wool neck band. If it got cold enough that this settup wasn't enough most likely would break camp leave my camp set up and just start walking. When it stopped storming or daylight broke I would go back pack up and hike out. I would rather lose gear than my life.
my two cents, I am an avid outdoorsman, I love it all. From my outings in cold stormy weather, if in wooded areas a combonation of all types of shelt is needed. We will start with the shelter first dig a snow trench between two trees just enough that the hammock when hung doesnt touch snow. Second build an A-frame shelter and cut the ridge pole green ( this isnt killing a tree this could mean your life you decide wheather a tree is worth your life). Now find green or dead fall to fill in the side ( since these are serve condition green is best) you want this thing strong I have seen limbs break and go through lesser construction. Then lay you tarp over the A-frame this will help water and wind proof you. Now lay on all kinds of debris that is around. Then get in clean up your snowy floor a bit hang your hammock. The reason I use a hammock is first heat rises, Two you should have some sort of under insultation you came out in the first place in fairly harsh weather, and third you just sleep better.
As far as flat lands go tipi type shelter if you want to hang or just go with a snow cave. yes tipis will stand up to it, look at the natives who used them for 1000s of years.
Ok I have rambled enough.
Personally, I find excluding draughts and water more important than thick insulation, but I have always slept warm anyway.
In winter, the UK is WET cold (not dry and frozen) most of the time. People die of exposure on the hills in the UK because they do not dress to keep themselves dry. The same applies to sleeping arrangements.
Although in summer, if I use a tarp at all, I use a rip-stop nylon army poncho, in winter I take both the poncho AND a 4.5 x 4.5 metre (14' 9" x 14' 9") tarp. I usually set this up with a ridge line slung between the same two trees as I am going to use to suspend the hammock, but not always. I have one side (the side from which the weather is coming) come down to the ground and peg it down firmly, piling leaf litter over any gaps and using small rocks if the wind is strong. I use the poncho to extend the porch on the opposite side which makes a neat cooking area.
I use a goretex bivi bag with an old down sleeping bag (750g of 90/10 goose down) and a thermarest all inside the bivi. This means I can roll up the entire contraption in one operation, even in stormy weather, without the sleeping bag getting wet. I have the Thermarest valve at the open end of the bag of course.
I have slept comfortably in this setup in temperatures of -10°C ( 14°F). I usually have to prop the bivi open if the weather is not below freezing. My best tip for a warm night is WEAR a HAT. I can't believe the number of people who complain of sleeping cold on winter camps, but don't wear a hat.
I won't pretend this is the lightest sleep system in the world, but it is warmer, more comfortable, cheaper and lighter than what I used to carry when I used tents.
The weights are:
Hammock 1160g (with webbing)
Sleeping Bag 1200g
Bivi Bag 350g
Pegs and cordage 750g
All told, this comes to a reasonably hefty 13 pounds, but it packs away, along with my stove, brew kit and everything else, into a 50 litre alpine rucksack.
(In summer I only need a 30 litre daysack.)
In short, extreme weather hammock use requires the proper techniques along with the appropriate gear. One without the other can work in less extreme situations, but both are required when the conditions worsen.
This was a really helpful article. Thanks! Hammocks are perfect for winters in MO.
first line: witner should be winter