Down quilts are cheaper, lighter, and have a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than traditional sleeping bags. As such, they’ve become a staple in ultralight and lightweight backpacking kits. The lightweight backpacking quilts in this guide are the best on the market. They can accommodate users on virtually any trip, anywhere in the world, in any season and any budget!
What is a Backpacking Quilt?
No, it’s not just a flat blanket! A modern down backpacking quilt strips away the heaviest and least effective features of a sleeping bag — leaving you with a supremely efficient and light cocoon of warmth. As such, it is a hoodless, backless, zipperless sleeping bag with a fully enclosed foot box opening at knee level. The upper 2/3 of the quilt can be loosely draped over the user for comfort and venting, or tucked in with a seal for maximum heat conservation. And of course they are 1/2 the cost and about a half pound lighter than a down sleeping bag.
Why Lightweight Backpacking Quilts are Better than Sleeping Bags
1) Quilts Are Lighter
On a sleeping bag, the down under you is “wasted.” That is, that down is compressed by your body reducing its warmth to near zero. It’s your sleeping pad that keeps your under-body warm. A down quilt simply removes the down under you (and the fabric enclosing it) saving nearly half a pound vs a sleeping bag. Finally, quilts don’t use a zipper, which is a surprisingly heavy component of a sleeping bag.
2) Quilts Are a Lot Cheaper!
Hoods and zippers are some of the most complicated and/or expensive sections of a sleeping bag to produce, and quilts forego them. This means that the manufacturers can instead use more down, or higher quality down and fabrics for any given price point. And per above, removing the down and fabric from the bottom vs. a sleeping bag also saves cost (high quality down is expensive!).
Price Comparison (chart above): Red arrows show quilts. Every down quilt is less expensive than any down sleeping bag. The least expensive down sleeping bag or down quilt is the very light Hammock Gear Burrow Econ Quilt. It is even less expensive than the two budget synthetic sleeping bags The North Face Cat’s Meow 22 and REI Lumen 20!
3) Quilts Are Comfier
Quilts are completely unrestrictive and much more comfortable than mummy bags. And because they ventilate so easily, you rarely ever suffer from having brought too warm of insulation. Finally, quilts more easily accommodate wearing clothes inside them (like a down jacket on an exceptionally cold night) without squeezing you and compressing insulation. This keeps you warmer and more comfortable vs. a sleeping bag.
Quilt Buying Tips
Suggested Temperature Ratings for Typical Use
For most 3-season use choose a +30 °F to +20°F quilt. The +20°F is likely for women or men who know they sleep cold. Or if you do a fair amount of camping on the shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall.
Why you might consider the warmer +30 °F rating? Well, many buy a sleeping bag or quilt rated for the average low temperature they expect. They know if they encounter unexpectedly cold temperatures (well below average) they can wear their warm down jacket and possibly other clothing in combination with the quilt or sleeping bag to increase warmth. This saves weight and money by not overbuying your quilt or bag. And, quilts do better with wearing clothes inside as they more easily expand their circumference to accommodate wearing bulky clothes like a down jacket.
More reading: see Guide to Lightweight Down Jackets and Pants for Backpacking
When in Doubt Size Up
If you think you are between sizes (width or length) size up on your quilt. The extra width especially will give you more drape along the side to form a seal against your pad and/or the ground. And the extra width will cost you virtually nothing in $ or additional weight. Most quilt manufacturers will happily discuss this with you and make a recommendation.
Pair With a Warm Sleeping Pad
Best Sleeping Pad for a Quilt (or Bag!) – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. This is the “Women’s” version of the XLite, but it’s the right size for most backpackers (all the men I know use it). At 12 oz and with an R-value of 3.9, it’s warmer and lighter than the “Men’s” version. The beauty of this pad when used with a quilt is that the sides of the quilt drape down along the edges of the pad to form a seal. Super warm and super comfortable! And it is just as good for use with a conventional sleeping bag!
Prepare for 2 to 4 Week Delivery
Most lightweight backpacking quilts are made to order. As such, many quilts have a 2-4 week delivery (but all are made in the USA). The bright side is you get exactly the quilt you want — custom size, fabric choice, amount of down, etc. A few companies offer off-the-shelf quilts: all of Jacks R Better quilts are off-the-shelf, see under “Top Quilts,” and Enlightened Equipment has a limited selection of on-the-shelf quilts.
Buy a Down Quilt – Skip Synthetics
I recommend down quilts. They are warmer, lighter and a better long term value than synthetics. You have to be extremely negligent to get a down bag wet enough that it isn’t warm. Especially now that there are new water resistant shell materials, and now water-resistant down. Note: for most folks 800 fill power water-repellent duck or goose down is fine. Unless you are flush with $, you can skip the upgrade to 850 & 900 fill power down.
The Best Lightweight Backpacking Quilts
Below are some great lightweight backpacking quilts. And we’ve made an effort to focus on quilts that a good value quilts that also deliver on performance.
- For a level playing field, we’ve tried to pick approximately +20 °F models, for people 6′ long, 50-52 inches in width, and with 800 to 850 fill power water resistant down.
PICK – Hammock Gear Burrow 20 Quilt
The HG Burrow 20 is a perfect combination of value, weight and performance! The Burrow is equally adept for use with ground sleeping (use like a conventional sleeping-bag) or as a hammock top-quilt. It is highly customizable with different sizes, fabric colors and weights, as well as the type and amount of down fill. I have even spec’ed extra down fill added just in the longitudinal baffles for mine. You can get a Zipper Footbox which allows it to be spread flat. Or a sewn foot box is fully enclosed/fully insulated, and thus allows no cold spots (my choice). There is an optional Ground Pad Attachment Kit.
Specs: $260, 18.5 ounces in standard configuration of +20 °F; 850 fill power, water-resistant goose down. 2-4 week delivery.
This quilt was a Backpacker Magazine pick in their “The 13 Best New Sleeping Bags [and quilts] & Pads of 2017.” And to be sure Enlightened Equipment makes great quilts. Per the manufacturer: “The Enigma is the simplest quilt available and is perfect for hikers, [and backpackers] who need minimal weight and maximum warmth.” Like many of the quilts here, it’s highly customizable, size, fabric colors & weights, type and amount of down fill, etc. The minimalist Enigma uses a sewn-closed 3D footbox minimizing weight and maximizing warmth (my preference and the quilt pictured). The slightly heavier Revelation Quilt uses a zippered footbox — when unzipped it allows use of the quilt like a blanket.
Specs: $290, 18.7 ounces in standard configuration of +20 °F; 850 fill power, water-resistant goose down. 3-5 week delivery.
You can save some money with the Massdrop x Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt which is only $219. It’s slightly heavier at 21 oz, and is intermittently available. Just click the “Request” button to be notified when the next drop is avaialbe.
Off-the-shelf Major Retailer – REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30
New for 2019 | off the shelf and ready to go | REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30. We are super stoked to see REI offer a quilt version of the award winning Magma series bags! Loaded with 11 oz of down we expect this may sleep warmer than it’s temperature rating. Like most modern quilts, the Magma uses longitudinal baffles in in the chest area of the bag to prevent down shiting and creating cold spots. And it has a sexy, bright orange liner fabric!
Specs: $299, Regular: 19 oz. Standard configuration of +30 °F; 850 fill power, water-resistant goose down. Off the shelf, so no wait.
Save $100 and get the same warmth: Hammock Gear just released its Economy line of down quilts. For a slight increase in weight over their popular ultralight Burrow Quilts, you get essentially the same quilt for a lot less money. The difference is that the Econ quilt uses 800 fill power duck down (vs. 850 goose), and slightly heavier (but more durable) 1.1 oz fabric. Total weight difference is only 5 oz! And some may prefer the slightly more durable fabric.
Specs: $160, 24 ounces in standard configuration of +20 °F; 800 fill power, water-resistant duck down. 2-4 week delivery.
Off-the-shelf Major Retailer – Therm-a-Rest Vesper Down Quilt 20
New for 2019 | off the shelf and ready to go | Therm-a-Rest Vesper Down Quilt 20. Another off-the-shelf entry from a major manufacture, the Therm-a-Rest Vesper competes in weight and specs with the best. Filled with a generous 12 oz of premium 900-fill-power Nikwax Hydrophobic down, a puffy draft collar around the neck, and perimeter side baffles, we expect the Vesper to be quite warm. Comes with SynergyLink™ connectors perfect for pairing with Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite Sleeping Pad or Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite “Women’s” pad our personal favorite.
Specs: $380, Regular: 19 oz. Standard configuration of +20 °F; 900 fill power, water-resistant goose down. Off the shelf, so no wait.
The Ghost Pepper uses unique chevron style baffles that not only look sexy, but more important they limit down shift by catching it in the corners that form every time it changes direction. This keeps the down on top, where you want it, keeping you warm. Like many of the quilts here, Like many of the quilts here, it’s highly customizable; size, different tapers, pad attachments, fabric colors, type and amount of down fill — even the stitching color! Foot box options are snap/drawcord closure, or the warmer, sewn “hot box.” There’s also a nice neck draft collar option. Hand made in New Jersey.
Specs: $284, 19.9 ounces in standard configuration of +20 °F; 800 fill power, Downtek water repellent down duck down. 8-9 week delivery.
Katabatic Gear Flex 22°F
Katabatic Gear was one of the first to seriously manufacture quilts for backpacking. The Katabatic Gear Flex 22°F uses their Patented Cord Clip Attachment System for a ground pad. It comes standard with a down collar. A drawstring foot closure on this Flex model keeps cost down vs. the sewn foot-box with down overfill on the Alsek 22°F which adds another $85. But it has the advantage that the quilt can be laid out flat like a down blanket. There are 3 length options, 2 widths, and down overfill is available on request. Katabatic sells separate Down Hoods. There is only one fabric choice. Note: Katabatic has a reputation for conservative temperature ratings (but their price and weights are also proportionally higher).
Specs: $300, 26.2 ounces, Flex 22°F 6′ wide model; 850 fill power, HyperDry duck down™ water repellent down. 2 week availability for the Flex. Longer for the Alsek.
PICK – Jacks ‘R’ Better [wearable] Sierra Sniveler Quilt Series
Jacks ‘R’ BetterSniveller Quilts have a slit in the middle for a neck hole, and “sleeve” snaps so they can be worn as an insulating poncho. If you are hard-core, you can use it both as a quilt and for as a “down jacket,” saving both weight and cost. But they are still a great weight and great price if you only use them as a quilt. Although they can easily be used in a hammock, these are designed for ground sleeping with their 52 inch width. They offer a sewn foot-box option. Jacks R Better offers a Down Hood that integrates with Sniveler Quilts. And added bonus, amost all Jacks ‘R’ Better Quilts are off-the-shelf! The Sniveler quilts are not customizable and only come in green. But you can choose size, Reg or Long; sewn or non-sewn foot-box, and have the option for 1 or 2 oz of down overfill. [1 or 2 oz of overfill would push it closer to the +25 to +20 F range.]
Specs: $309, 24 ounces, Sierra Sniveler, 3-season model +25-30 °F; 800 fill power, Activ-dri down™ water repellent down. Off-the-shelf availability.
Jacks ‘R’ Better Standard Quilts – Shenandoah, Hudson River, and Ol Rag Moutain
The Jacks ‘R’ Better 3 season, +25 to +30°F Hudson River Quilt is light, inexpensive and available off-the-shelf. Because of this, it is also not customizable and only comes in green. But you can choose size, Reg or Long, sewn or non-sewn foot-box, and have the option for 1 or 2 oz of down overfill. [1 or 2 oz of overfill would push it closer to the +25 to +20 F range.] Note: while this series is listed for ” use as a top quilt (in a hammock or on the ground)” its 48 inch width may not suit larger campers vs. the 52 inch width of the Sniveler Series (although at 5’8″ and 160 lb it works for me).
Specs: $269, 21.5 ounces 3-season model, Hudson River +25-30 °F; 800 fill power, Activ-dri down™ water repellent down. Off-the-shelf availability.
Warbonnet Mamba (3-Season XL)
Warbonnet Mamba +20 quilt is another option for a quilt with entirely longitudinal baffles from a longtime quilt maker with a good reputation. A plus is that it is almost off-the-shelf. Lead time as of writing was a reasonable 2-3 weeks! The Mamba has a more limited set of options: two sizes, regular and XL; green, brown and camo fabric colors in one weight, and set down type and fill amounts.
Specs: $305, 23 ounces, size XL* in standard configuration of +20 °F; 850 fill power Hyper-Dry Goose down. 2-3 week delivery.
*Note: The standard Mamba is fairly narrow at 48 inches wide and primarily intended for hammock use. For ground sleeping its 48 inch width may not work for larger campers (although at 5’8″ and 160 lb it works for me). Larger campers will likely want the XL size with its 55″ width. This will allow the quilt to drape all the way to the ground and create a draft free seal.
Because they’re so light, cheap and comfortable, down quilts are a fast growing trend that you should become a part of. Extremely high quality quilts have never been this available at these prices, so now is a great time to upgrade. Please reach out to me in the comments or on Facebook if you have any questions.
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