The Art of Sleeping Warm – A Guide to Sleeping Bags and Quilts

Sleeping Bags and Quilts
Down quilts are far and away the best sleep value for most backpacking trips. They are half the cost and substantially lighter than sleeping bags. For example, a +20°F down quilt like the one above weighs just over a pound and can cost as little as $150, far less than $460 for a +20°F sleeping bag like a Marmot Phase 20. And even less even than most synthetic bags! [Pic in the High Sierra at over 10,000 feet]


What’s Great About Quilts

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of down quilts. But now even Backpacker Magazine has jumped on the bandwagon, selecting Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma Quilt in their “The 13 Best New Sleeping Bags [and quilts] & Pads of 2017.”

At half the price and much lighter than most sleeping bags, a down quilt is your best value to sleep warm. As such, it’s not surprising that quilts are increasing in popularity and new quilt manufacturers are popping up. Quilts are lighter and cost less than conventional sleeping bags with similar warmth. In fact, some down quilts are less expensive than synthetic sleeping bags!

featheredfriends_sleeping_bagStill Not Convinced About Quilts?

Just want a conventional sleeping bag? Yup, a light down sleeping bag like the superb 23 oz Feathered Friends Merlin UL 30 Sleeping Bag (pictured on the left) is still an excellent choice! So, if you aren’t interested in quilts you can jump to the Recommended Sleeping Bags section. I list out some great sleeping bags from Western Mountaineering and Mountain Hardwear.


Pros and Cons of Quilts vs. Sleeping Bags

But before we get into Pros and Cons let’s give you a brief 101 on Backpacking Quilts

What is a Backpacking Quilt?

Sleeping Bags and Quilts

The warm and super puffy Hammock Gear Burrow showing the detail of the top and bottom of a backpacking quilt. This also shows the longitudinal baffles (purple – running lengthwise in the middle of the quilt). These baffles keep the down on top rather than drifting down to the sides overnight.

A down backpacking quilt is much like the down quilt you would use on a bed. Just like a bed quilt, you don’t sleep on top of it since the down under you is compressed and doesn’t keep you warm. For a bed, your mattress keeps your bottom-side warm, and for a backpacking quilt your ground pad keeps you warm. Not having down on the underside of a quilt saves cost and weight. You save the weight and cost of down (very expensive!) and fabric as well as the associated sewing cost. And you save the weight, cost and assembly time of a zipper.

Pros of Down Quilts

1) Quilts Are Substantially Lighter and Less Expensive

The best way to explain this is to compare a few examples of each at the same temperature rating, +20 °F

quilt_chart-800v3

On the left: the least expensive sleeping bag or quilt is the very light Hammock Gear Econ Quilt. It is even less expensive than the two synthetic sleeping bags The North Face Cat’s Meow 22 and REI Lumen 20! On the right: the three lightest are all quilts, the Hammock Gear Burrow, Hammock Gear Econ, and Enlightened Equipment Enigma.

Sleeping Bags and Quilts

The standout is the $149 Hammock Gear Econ down quilt. It is the lowest cost of any bag/quit & the third lightest!

 

The Details +20 °F Quilts vs. Sleeping Bags

As you can see from the charts above and the table below, a Down Quilt is half the cost comparable sleeping bags—at times less than a good synthetic sleeping bag! And the quilt is substantially lighter than even the highest quality down sleeping bags.

Model Type Price Wt oz Temp F Fill Type
Value – Quilt vs. Sleeping Bags
 Hammock Gear Econ  Quilt $149  23.0  +20  800 FP Water Res. Duck Down
 The North Face Cat’s Meow 22  Bag $169  43.0  +22  Synthetic Fill
 REI Igneo 17  Bag $299  31.0  +17  700 FP Water Res. Duck Down
High End – Quilt vs. Sleeping Bags
Hammock Gear Burrow 20  Quilt  $249  18.5  +20 850 FP Water Res. Goose Down
Enlightened Equipment Enigma  Quilt  $280  18.1  +20 850 FP Water Res. Goose Down
Feathered Friends Hummingbird  Bag $479  25.0  +20 950 FP Water Res. Goose Down
Western Mountaineering Ultralight  Bag $500  29.0  +20 850+ FP Goose Down

 2) Quilts Work

Quilts work in all sorts of environments and situations. I’ve used quilts for outings like a February backcountry ski trip in Wyoming’s Beartooth Plateau, winter at 15,000 feet in the Andes, and hammock camping down to +10F in the Appalachian mountains. Alison and I have shared a 2-person quilt for the last 13 years.

3) Quilts are More Comfortable

Quilts are less confining and more comfortable than a constricting mummy bag. Quilts more easily accommodate wearing clothes inside them without squeezing you and compressing insulation (keeping you warm and comfortable).


Cons and “Learning Curves” for Quilts

Availability of Quilts is Usually 2-4 weeks from order to delivery

Down sleeping bags are available on-the-shelf from many major retailers like REI, and individual manufactures like Feathered Friends, and finally,  Campsaver has one of the best online sections of Western Mountaineering’s best down bag and down jackets.

Quilts are not so readily available. Many quilts have a 2-4 week delivery (but all are made in the USA). The only exception is Jacks R Better, which has most quilts on-the-shelf see under “Top Quilts.” And Enlightened Equipment has a limited selection of on-the-shelf quilts.

Learning Curve – How to Use a Quilt

People are sometimes worried about drafts under the sides of the quilt. This is addressed by getting a quilt of sufficient width that drapes down to the ground to form a draft free seal (talk to the manufacturer), and by learning to move a bit more quietly when you shift during sleep. Most people I know quickly master this. And finally, many quilts have a cord/strap arrangement on the side of a quilt that goes under your sleeping pad to hold the quilt sides in place. Quilts usually do not have a built in hood like many sleeping bags. This is addressed by sleeping in the same warm hat you were wearing in camp. If it’s super cold, I have used a down hood (some quilt manufacturers make them) or have slept in my down jacket which has a hood. But this has been rare. Usually my fleece camp hat does fine. Actually the hat is more comfortable and less confining than the immobile hood on a sleeping bag.

Tip – 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.


0c84516d-312e-49f5-b486-3efe024e92ea

 

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!

 

 



Recommended Sleeping Bags and Quilts

How Warm a Sleeping Bag or Quilt?

For most 3 season use I would recommend a +30 °F to +20°F bag or 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.

Recommended Sleeping Bags & Quilts

Quilts usually do not have a built in hood. Most just go to bed in the same warm fleece had they were wearing around camp.

Buy a Down Quilt or Sleeping Bag – Skip Synthetics

I am only going to recommend down quilts and sleeping bags. 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. In the last 15 years of backpacking and climbing, no member on my trips has ever got a down bag wet enough to seriously compromise its warmth. Synthetics while initially cheaper are significantly heavier and bulkier than down. In the long term synthetics are likely a worse value than down. They loose loft and warmth quickly—sometimes in a single season. And make no mistake, sleeping in a wet synthetic bag is no fun. Note: for most folks 800 fill power water-repellent duck down is fine. Unless you are flush with $, you can skip the upgrade to goose down and/or 850 & 900 fill power down.


Recommended Quilts

$249 +20°F Hammock Gear Burrow Quilt

Hammock Gear Burrow +20°F Quilt is an excellent value. A +20 Burrow weighs less & costs almost 1/2 of a down bag with similar warmth and performance.

The $250, 18.5 ounce Hammock Gear Burrow 20°F Quilt is an exceptional value in lightweight, high-performance sleeping insulation. It costs far less than comparable down quilts (e.g. the $470 Katabatic Gear Palisade 30°F quilt) or conventional sleeping bags (e.g. $485 Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20°F  sleeping bag). The Burrow is equally adept for use with ground sleeping (use like a conventional sleeping-bag) or as a hammock top-quilt. [Hammock Gear also makes hammock accessories including some Very Nice Tarps.]


Best value: $149 +20°F Hammock Gear Econ Quilt

Save $100 and get the same warmth: Hammock Gear just released its Econ 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 Burrow quilt (above) uses 850 fill power goose down and light 0.7 oz fabric. The same Econ quilt uses 800 fill power duck down, and slightly heavier (but more durable) 1.1 oz fabric. Total weight difference is only 5 oz! (+20 Burrow is 19 oz vs. +20 Econ at 24 oz)


enigma-quilt-blk

$280 20°F Enigma Quilt – Enlightened Equipment

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 some very nice quilts some using pricy 950 fill power down!


Sleeping Bags and Quilts

$260 20°F Ghost Pepper – Loco Libre Gear

Loco Libre Gear is another good source for a value down quilt. The chevron baffles on their $260 20°F Ghost Pepper Quilt not only look sexy, but they do a good job of keeping the down on top (over you) rather let it drift down to the sides overnight. Loco Libre also does some fun stuff with multi color combinations.


The Warbonnet

$275, 19 oz Warbonnet Mamba +20

The $275, 19 oz Warbonnet Mamba +20 quilt is another option for a quilt with entirely longitudinal baffles. Lead time as of writing was a reasonable 1-2 weeks. Warbonnet sells a full line of quilts and hammocks. All are made in the USA.


Off the Shelf Quilt Options

Jacks R Better make the only complete line of on-the-shelf quilts in this group. Their +25 to +30°F  Hudson River Quilt is only 21 ounces and $249 with 800 FP Activ-Dri down. They also make a unique line of wearable quilts Sierra Stealth,  Sierra Sniveller and High Sierra Sniveller. All can be worn in camp as poncho, possibly eliminating the need to bring a down jacket—saving money, weight and pack volume.

And Enlightened Equipment has a limited selection of on-the-shelf quilts.


Other quilt manufacturers

Finally, don’t be upset if your favorite quilt maker is not listed. I know of a fair number and most probably make a good product. I just haven’t had enough experience with them to recommend their products.



Recommended Sleeping Bags

I know that I haven’t convinced all of you that a quilt is what you want. A down sleeping bag is still a great choice. And they do have an advantage for very active sleepers. Campers that thrash around at night and sleep heavily may be unaware that they have thrashed their way out from under a quilt. And down sleeping bags have the advantage that many are available off-the-shelf from major retailers like REI, or Feathered Friends and Campsaver (great online selection of Western Mountaineering bags). Many of the quilts above are not and usually have a 2-4 week delivery (but all are made in the USA).

Here are a few recommended down sleeping bags. For most trips a down bag with a rating of around freezing, 32°F and a weight of 1.5 pounds or 24 ounces should be about right. 


Feathered Friends

A very WARM winner: The 23 oz Feathered Friends Merlin UL 30 Sleeping Bag. With 12 oz of 900+ fill power down (vs. the 8 oz in the WM SummerLite), it’s likely to be closer a +20 F bag but weighs less than 1.5 pounds! (Although Feathered Friends conservatively rates it +30 F.)

Don’t overlook Feathered Friends. For years Feathered Friends has been quietly making high quality, super warm down bags and jackets.  For most 3-season use you’ll likely want the 23 oz Feathered Friends Merlin UL 30 Sleeping Bag. With a generous 12 oz of 900+ fill power down, it’s likely to be closer to a +20 F bag but weighs less than 1.5 pounds (Although Feathered Friends conservatively rates it +30 F.) The Merlin is a fairly narrow cut for a mummy bag but there are plenty of options if you want a roomier bag. Medium bags here and wider bags here.


Western Mountaineering

wm-summerLite

The Western Mountaineering SummerLite +32°F is the gold-standard, do-it-all lightweight sleeping bag for most trips

Lighter than the FF Merlin UL,  the 19 ounce Western Mountaineering SummerLite +32°F is the gold-standard, do-it-all lightweight bag for most backpacking trips. WM has impeccable design and construction and uses the highest quality down that will retain its loft over many seasons. Downsides are that the WM SummerLite bag costs almost $400, and its trim profile to save weight (59″ circumference at the shoulder) may be confining to some. And if you run a bit cold: for the same price and just a few ounces more you can get the warmer 23 oz Feathered Friends Merlin UL 30 Sleeping Bag.

The 29 ounce Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20°F  is standard lightweight down sleeping bag for those expecting below freezing temperatures. You could take this bag pretty much anywhere. Downsides are that the WM UL bag costs almost $500, and its trim profile to save weight (59″ circumference at the shoulder) may be confining to some.


Most Readily Available at Major Retailers – Mountain Hardwear and Marmot

While a simdge heavier, the

While a smidge heavier than bags from smaller manufacturers, the the 22 ounce, Mountain Hardwear Phantom Spark 28 Down Sleeping Bag is likely the most readily available at major retailers like REI.

REI carries the 22 ounce, +28 °F Mountain Hardwear Phantom Spark 28 Down Sleeping Bag. This bag is similar in weight, size and performance to the Western Mountaineering SummerLite. It is likely the most readily available at major retailers of the bags listed here.


A very similar performance bag at is the Marmot Phase 20 Sleeping Bag

marmot-phase-20-800

The +20 °F Marmot Phase 20   is just over 23 ounces with 850 fill power moisture resistant down. It’s lower temperature rating might be attractive to folks that tend to sleep cold.


By | 2017-06-05T20:25:57+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Beginners, Recommended Gear, Sleeping Bags & Quilts|55 Comments

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55 Comments

  1. Carlos December 23, 2015 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Very interesting point of view that you only get with experience.
    A hammock underquilt will work too?
    What kind of pad(foam or air and R-value) would you recommend to complete this sleeping setup?
    Do you still use baselayer for sleeping clothes?
    Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon December 23, 2015 at 3:37 am - Reply

      Hi Carlos,
      A hammock underquilt would work as a top-quilt in a pinch for sure. But it’s not designed for that so it would be less than ideal. It might be a little tight on girth and would not have a footbox or a snap-seal around your neck/shoulders. So it would be more like a blanket. Probably OK in warmer weather. Not so good if it was cold and/or windy. As to a sleeping pad and R-values see my 9 Lb Full Comfort Gear List. I like the T-Rest NeoAir X-lite “Women’s” mattress with and R-value of 3.5-3.9 depending on inflation level. It works down to at least +20F for me. And yes, I usually sleep in my hiking pants and hiking shirt (I very often do not bring a baselayer). If it’s colder I will put on my fleece shirt. And if there is an unusual cold snap, I will put on my down parka. But only when it’s 10-20 degrees below the rating of my quilt. Hope this helps, -alan

      • Alan Dixon December 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

        Oh, and in case I misunderstood your question. An underquilt would work very poorly as under-insulation when sleeping on the ground. They are great for hammocks tho! Intro to Hammock Camping Article

  2. sack January 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    good point of view with the compressed air, but if you have that little extra under your backside it is not going to hurt you a bit, it would definitely keep some warmth and feel softer. when i go camping i usually take wool blanket so i can sit over fire n stuff like that, but the point is that you have to tuck yourself in really good and dont move so no air flow can get in, even when i sleep in home and my quilt raises or something i can feel colder air flowing in. sleeping bags may be a little bit heavier but definitely warmer than a quilt and you will have no worries about turning around. you can also use a sleeping bag as a quilt, just leave the zippers and use it as a form as a quilt shown in your pictures. ofc if you care about every single ounce… but for me i dont feel much difference whether its 17 or 20 pounds going long distances.

  3. Chris Ryan March 23, 2016 at 2:58 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    A few years ago I made a synthetic double quilt for my wife and me. Our experiences regarding the benefits of quilts compared to sleeping bags are similar yours, although I think the benefits accruing toa double are significantly greater (more bottom layer removed and the benefit of a radiator to share warmth with, so long as I avoid her cold toes).
    We are looking to move to a down quilt, and wondering whether you have any experience and/or recommendations about manufacturers.
    Regards, Chris

    • Alan Dixon March 23, 2016 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      Amen to double quilts Chris! By far the most practical and weight efficient way to go for a couple. Alison and I have been sharing a quilt going on 15 years. See our recent Torres del Paine W Trek and Circuit Trek – Quick and Easy Guide to Essential Trip Planning for info on our new double quilt. Our shared down quilt was Hammock Gear Match Burrow at around 24 oz (700 g) for 2 people. We love it to pieces! BTW the quilt is relatively new (I helped design it) and it is not up on the HG site as an item. Go ahead and contact Hammock Gear and they can build one for you. Let me know how it goes. All the best, -Alan

      • Chris Ryan April 4, 2016 at 7:57 am - Reply

        Hi Alan,
        It may be more appropriate for this to be taken off line, but I am not sure how to PM you – feel free not to post and (hopefully) respond directly.

        I tried to contact Hammock Gear about a week ago, but no response. I was wondering if you know whether they have ceased business or on holidays?

        I was trying to find some information to compare options, and while I appreciate its not responsibility to respond to such a request, you may be familiar with this information given your design role.

        Information I was looking for is:
        Width of the quilt at the shoulder / top of quilt
        For 20F and 30F temperature ratings:
        loft/thickness
        total weight
        shell weight
        fill weight
        cost
        stuff sac size

        Also interested in how the head end seals out drafts. Does it have a baffle / flap between the two of you similar to Enlightened Equipment Accomplice ?

        Thanks in advance,
        Chris

  4. jeff May 26, 2016 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    hi alan
    Does a 85 inch length,59 inch width quilt, say, the jack r better, mt rogers quilt suffice for two people(around 5-8 foot)?
    What r value at a minimum would you recommend for an air mattress if temperatures in 40s?
    best,jeff

    • Alan Dixon May 26, 2016 at 9:02 pm - Reply

      My wife and I stated with a semi-rect Western Montaineering bag of that size. Works fine if you snuggle a lot 🙂 Spooning is great. Good way to see if double person quilt works for you two. Two NeoAirs strapped together (z-packs makes good straps) is the way to go. Almost everyone I know uses the “women’s” NeoAir regardless of gender. Happy snuggling. -a

      • Jed June 17, 2017 at 9:04 pm - Reply

        Hi Alan,

        +1 for the couple bags! My wife and I used an EE Accomplice on our trip to the Redwoods in December last year. We love the weight efficiency but had problems with drafts and cold coming between our NeoAirs. The EE straps are elastic, so that problem may be solved by using the rigid ZPacks straps. Do you have additional suggestion about how to stay warm and happy? We’re headed to the Winds in August, where the “drafts” will be greater!

        • Alan Dixon June 19, 2017 at 1:24 am - Reply

          Sorry for the late reply Jed. Super busy weekend and I’m just getting to answering comments. This is an good Q.

          We use the rigid Z-packs straps with Women’s NeoAirs. They work fine. Also when under a tarp or just cowboy camping we generally use a 2-person bivy. Totally solves any draft problems, and doesn’t weigh much more than the groundsheet it replaces. Also adds bug protection for light mosquito pressure. It’s a great pice of gear. Mountain Laurel Designs makes 2-p bivies. And O’ware has one as well http://shop.bivysack.com/BivySack-Two-Person-1BivyDouble.htm.

          Have a great hike in the Winds. Warmest, -alan

  5. Gunnar June 27, 2016 at 6:07 am - Reply

    Alan, in your pictures of the WRHR it looks like you are pretty bundled up (warm clothes) most of the time, which has me thinking twice about my sleeping bag. Can you give me a best guess as to day and night temperatures in August? Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon June 27, 2016 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      Yup Gunnar, it can be pretty cold even in nice weather. If you scan through the discussion at the end of the WRHR Trip Guide you can see some photos from an early September trip I took in the Winds with a full-on two day blizzard. Below freezing is always possible even in July or August. Wishing you a great trip, -alan

  6. Derek Walker July 9, 2016 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    So just going for my first overnight excusion and have been looking for bags/quilts. I have leaned towards quilts and specifically the Jacks R Us quilts. Sorry for my ignorance but Im a bit confused in regard to over vs under quilts. Im going to be sleeping on a sleeping pad along the PCT so I was wondering what you recommend. Is it an over quilt? Does that mean Im directly on the sleeping pad or is there a thin batch of material underneath. Thanks!

    • Alan Dixon July 10, 2016 at 5:57 pm - Reply

      Another good Q Derek. Under quilts are just for hammock use. So what you want for the PCT is a top quilt, which can be used for both ground sleeping and in a hammock. The Jacks make great stuff I and I own every one of their Sierra Quilts. For you on the PCT I would recommend the “Sierra Sniveller Quilt” paired with a warm down jacket with a hood (just in case it you get an unusual cold snap). Dunno if they still offer a sewn foot-box but that would be my first preference. But a gathered end is fine too.

      And with a Quilt you will be sleeping directly on your pad. If it’s a foam pad or a NeoAir a thin layer of clothing (your trail shirt and pants are fine) will keep you from “sticking” to the pad 🙂 Have a great hike on the PCT. -alan

  7. Kenneth July 12, 2016 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I am totally sold on the idea of transitioning from 40 years of sleeping bag use to a quilt…however, unfortunately for me I cannot use down products due to allergies. So I’m stuck with seeking out a good synth quilt. I know you’re a down man through and through, but was just wondering if you’ve heard any good feedback about any synth quilts? I’m looking at some interesting products from Locus Gear, Enlightened Equipment, and Mountain Laurel Designs. EE and MLD use Climashield Apex insulation, while Locus uses PrimaLoft One. The Locus is the lightest and longest so I’m leaning that direction. Do you have any info to share on any of these products?

    Thank you!

    • Alan Dixon July 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Kenneth,
      Quilts are indeed great even in synthetic! I am very familiar with MLD synthetic quits and have used them on a number of trips in Alaska–so like 2-3 months of use in the field with them. I am a huge fan of MLD’s stuff. I am pretty sure that MLD can make you a quilt of whatever dimensions you want, so you might want to check with MLD. That being said, I also own down EE quilt which is very nice. I would guess that their synthetic stuff is equally good. I have no familiarity with Locus quilts. Hope this helps, -alan

      • Kenneth July 14, 2016 at 9:38 pm - Reply

        Great, thanks Alan! This is good to hear. In the interest of going as light as possible I ended up springing for the Locus Gear quilt…now on its way. I’ll report back how it works out once I’ve had a chance to try it. If it ends up not meeting my needs I think the idea of contacting Mountain Laurel Designs is a great idea. Thanks again!

  8. Jim November 28, 2016 at 1:18 am - Reply

    NICE!! About time we see some cottage vendors featured in a gear review! Hammock Gear, Loco Libre and Warbonnet all exceptional companies run by really great people! GET SOME!!! 🙂

    • Alan Dixon November 28, 2016 at 1:22 am - Reply

      Indeed!

  9. Jane December 11, 2016 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Want to thank you for this article, Alan–it got me started on quilt buying, and then I looked for reviews some other places afterward also. I ordered one from one of the companies you recommend, and it didn’t seem to me the down was well distributed in the vertical baffles (even with my attempts to even it out) as well as I’d want for warmth over body, too much seemed to me to be in the side baffles rather than middle ones, so I returned it. I could just see a whole lot of daylight when I looked from under/inside it. (Don’t want to name the company, as it may have been just that one quilt.) Then I ordered from another of your recommendations–this time Loco Libre, because of the chevron baffles. It came a few days ago and is absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to try it out — a 20 degree Ghost Pepper. And you can’t get the down to move around if you try, with those zig-zag baffles. I think it’s going to be amazing to sleep under this.

    I love that all these are custom made so you get to choose so much–the colors and weights of outside/inside, width and style of footbox ( I got drawstring and snaps for versatility), and of course the warmth rating and if you want duck or goose, and any extra. I went with the 800 fill duck, which both you and George have said is fine–one extra ounce of weight was worth the dollar savings, for me. Both companies were very nice, but George at Loco Libre is just extraordinary, I’ll add.

    Can’t believe how light and soft and beautifully made this new quilt is. My old goose down sleeping bag was still working fine, but I’m looking for ways to save weight and space in my pack, and am completely sold on the concept. Your site is just all kinds of helpful to someone trying to figure this out on her own. (I also found out about the whole-fat dried milk from you. Got the PEAK brand and it is more than amazing.) So, wanted to come back and say thank you.

    • Alan Dixon December 12, 2016 at 3:03 am - Reply

      Hi Jane. So glad that George took care of you. Yeah, the Ghost Pepper is a winner. Here’s to many warm nights in it. Best, -a

  10. Matt Schroeder February 3, 2017 at 3:48 am - Reply

    Alan – really diggin the site. Thanks for putting so much effort into helping out so many with simple straight forward info!

    On the topic of down quilts, I really want to pull the trigger on one and stop using my 55oz mummy bag (ugh)…but I am hesitating because I HATE to get cold when I sleep. In general, I’m an average sleeper (not overly cold and not overly warm). I sleep on a closed cell foam pad (R2.6) with potential for nights down to 20F in the Rockies. Is there any reason to think a 20 degree long/wide down quilt + my pad + light clothes wouldn’t be adequate? (I’m 6’4″…hence the long/wide)

    Most nights on the trail are 30F – 50F, for what it’s worth.

    Thanks again.
    Matt Schroeder

    • Matt Schroeder February 3, 2017 at 3:49 am - Reply

      one more thing…I camp in a tent and not a hammock.

      • Alan Dixon February 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

        OK Matt. The key to staying warm in a quilt is to not “gap out.” That is, frequently let a lot of cold air in from the side. It is an easily learned skill, to check and re-adjust the quit as necessary when you turn at night. It’s been years since I consciously thought about this when I do it. If you are ground sleeping, I suggest you get your quilt a bit wider (than “hammock width”) so that it drapes nicely to the ground with a bit extra to make sure you get good coverage and no gapping. I and most men and women I know use this pad: Therm-a-Rest Women’s NeoAir XLite. It’s quite warm (R 3.9), light, and about the right size. The quilt makes a nice seal draping down along the sides of the pad. Finally I do bring a down jacket with a hood. The vast majority of the time it’s my pillow when I sleep. But on the rare nights that I am not warm enough, I put it on under the quilt. Then I am toasty again. I would say that this combo should get you down to +20. Personally I’ve gone down as low as +12 with just such a quilt/clothing combo (+20 fairly trim quilt, and 10 oz down jacket). And I slept well.

        BUT everybody is different… so final test and assessment is with you. Best, -alan

        • Matt Schroeder February 3, 2017 at 10:39 pm - Reply

          thanks Alan. that helps. i think i’ll take the chance on the quilt and upgrade to a higher R-value pad (like the XLite) when i have a colder weather trip coming.

  11. jeff March 17, 2017 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, Who makes a good non-down quilt? I can’t seem to google any up! My gf is a vegan, so she won’t sleep in down.
    I am too, but got a used katabatic anyhow. 😉

    • jeff March 17, 2017 at 9:35 am - Reply

      Never mind, I just had to find the right word: “synthetic” wouldn’t come to mind earlier. 😉

      • Alan Dixon March 17, 2017 at 2:07 pm - Reply

        Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX would be a good start. Best, -alan

  12. jeff March 26, 2017 at 5:52 am - Reply

    You left out by far the best quilt maker, katabatic. Pricy, but perfect.

  13. jeff March 26, 2017 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Haha.. Didn’t realize I was commenting on an article I’d already commented on earlier. Doh!

  14. Daniel March 27, 2017 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    First, glad that I stumbled upon your site. Lot’s of great information for somebody just staring out backpacking. You mentioned that you learn to to move a bit more quietly when you shift during sleep.

    My issue is that I am a side sleeper and tend to “open up” the bag when sleeping or take the whole bag with me and expose the my back to the cold.

    Any recommendations for a side sleeper?

    • Alan Dixon March 28, 2017 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      I think you can do it Daniel. And for what it’s worth, I am a side sleeper too. I change sides about every 30 to 60 minutes.

      The key to staying warm in a quilt is to not “gap out.” That is, frequently let a lot of cold air in from the side. It is an easily learned skill, to check and re-adjust the quit as necessary when you turn at night. It’s been years since I consciously thought about this when I do it. If you are ground sleeping, I suggest you get your quilt a bit wider (than “hammock width”) so that it drapes nicely to the ground with a bit extra to make sure you get good coverage and no gapping. I and most men and women I know use this pad: Therm-a-Rest Women’s NeoAir XLite. It’s quite warm (R 3.9), light, and about the right size. The quilt makes a nice seal draping down along the sides of the pad. Finally I do bring a down jacket with a hood. The vast majority of the time it’s my pillow when I sleep. But on the rare nights that I am not warm enough, I put it on under the quilt. Then I am toasty again. I would say that this combo should get you down to +20. Personally I’ve gone down as low as +12 with just such a quilt/clothing combo (+20 fairly trim quilt, and 10 oz down jacket). And I slept well. Have a great year hiking. -a

      BUT everybody is different… so final test and assessment is with you. Best, -alan

  15. Sven May 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    Alan, I’m curious what setup you use in winter, let’s say around 0F? And combining a quilt with a down jacket, what’s the lower limit you find comfortable?

    • Alan Dixon May 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      I find that a +20 quilt (possibly with +2 oz of down in the torso area) along with a down jacket like the Feather Friends Eos (or Helios) does me down to about zero. If I am sleeping under a tarp (no tent) then I might use a 6-7 oz bivy sack. Note that since I need a ground sheet anyway the additional weight for the bivy is only a few oz. [And as always there is significant individual variation on how warm people sleep.] Best, -alan
      Wating out the storm

  16. Alex Gipe May 5, 2017 at 1:53 am - Reply

    Hey Alan,

    First off, great website, you have really inspired me to get my base weight down and leave the kitchen sink at home. I’m starting to think about moving to a quilt from sleeping bags. I mostly backpack in the WA Cascades, and have just started getting into Snow camping, but most of my trips are 3 season temps ranging from 40-80 F. My question is about the foot box configuration on quilts. I’m looking at the Hammock Gears Burrow and Econ line, thinking about a 20 or 30 bag. Which Foot box do you suggest, sewed or snap? Oh, Im a side sleeper if that maters much.

    • Alan Dixon May 5, 2017 at 2:05 am - Reply

      Definitely sewed. Warmer, and easier to deal with. Snap is only if you think you would ever want to spread it out square, like a normal quit. I.e. no foot-box. Have fun in the Cascades! Best, -a

  17. Kayla M May 6, 2017 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Hi Alan!

    Great article, you’ve absolutely got my curiousity buzzing. I have a couple questions- I can’t be the only one who feels this way- I find the weight of a blanket on top of me very comforting in helping get to sleep, indoor or out- but particular outdoor. In your opinion (or report from a friend) do you find the quilt warm, but lacking a sense of ‘security’ or leaving you feeling a bit more exposed? Do you find any major difference between single and 2-person quilts? How do you attach a 2 person quilt to your sleeping pads? Thanks again for a meticulous review!

    • Alan Dixon May 6, 2017 at 7:38 pm - Reply

      Kayla,
      Weight of a quilt will be close to that of a sleeping bag of similar warmth. That is the same amount of down/fabric above you equals similar warmth. The quilt is a lot less confining and claustrophobic. Not entirely sure about your “security” Q. I would say they are similar for me. No difference.

      If 1 person quilts are great, 2 person quilts are incredible. Not only is the quilt warmer but you get the shared warmth of two people, which equals maximum warmth! My wife who sleeps incredibly cold is quite warm and happy snuggled against me under a shared quilt–down even to the single digits under a 2 lb shared quilt. The pad issue is solved with pad straps like these here.

      Warmest, -a

  18. Mindy May 6, 2017 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Great article! I think I will be moving on to a down quilt. I have the women’s NeoAir and have found that I often unzip my -10 bag and roll around at night just like you described with a quilt. Has kept me more comfortable and warmer in -20, on the ground in a tent, where I would usually be a bit cold all zipped up. Thank you.

    • Alan Dixon May 6, 2017 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      Mindy, sounds nice. You might even be ready for a +0 or +20F quilt 🙂

      Best, -alan

  19. DGray May 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, I agree with so many who appreciate your site. I also greatly appreciate the class you show in responding to comments, and always with an affirming positive attitude.
    I was curious about the direction of the baffles on quilts. I understand that vertical baffles (from head to toe) would keep the down from shifting and falling to the sides, and I see that most companies you list use this construction. I don’t understand, however, why a couple of the models shown here (EE and Hammock Gear) would switch to horizontal baffles for the footbox area. Is this just for aesthetics, or is there a function that I’m missing? Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon May 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      DGray, excellent Q’s about quilt baffling. I had my own thoughts but thought it would be better to get it from Adam, the owner of Hammock gear. Here’s his response (which by the way I agree with 100%):

      There are a couple of reasons the Hammock Gear Burrow 2.0 transitions the baffle direction from horizontal to longitudinal and then back to horizontal again.

      • The head end of the quilt has at least one horizontal baffle because I think it feels nicer against the face. If you run the longitudinal baffles all the way up to the head end near the face, all the stitch lines can create an uncomfortable feel next to the skin.
      • Having at least one horizontal baffle at the head end also gives us the opportunity to offer fabric options. Some cold weather campers like the top of their quilt to be built with waterproof material so that it is less likely to absorb condensation from the user’s breath during the night.
      • We switch back to horizontal baffles in the leg area because it makes the transition to constructing the footbox much cleaner. Again, aesthetics are important in this area. We also don’t mind doing this because we notice much less down migration in the leg section of the quilt anyway.
      • Another reason for the back and forth baffle direction is that it breaks up the long chambers to further stabilize the down.

      These are just some of the reasons that Hammock Gear does it that way. Other gear makers might have different reasons. 🙂

      • Andrew May 12, 2017 at 4:53 pm - Reply

        Hi there, great info on your site. I’m looking to buy my first ever quilt and am in the same boat as DGray.

        Maybe I’m missing something, but when I look at the Hammock Gear Econ Burrow 20 on their website, it looks like the whole thing has horizontal baffles, not just the top and footbox area. As you have mentioned, vertical baffles help prevent the down from falling towards the sides. Is a quilt with all horizontal baffles a terrible idea to consider then?

        Thanks.

  20. Alex June 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I am looking for a good two person quilt for my wife and I for a backpacking trip in Hawaii in July and then later in Canada in August/September. Recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

    • Alan Dixon June 7, 2017 at 6:42 pm - Reply

      Alex Enlightened Equipment makes one, the Accomplice. Hammock Gear also makes a beautiful and very light (the quilt Alison and I use — based on my design and refined by Adam) but they haven’t put it into official production. You can always ask…

  21. Adam A June 15, 2017 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    What are the volumes of the quilts in their stuff sack compressed? I currently use the North Face snow shoe mummy bag, which has been great. I have used it unzipped just like a quilt as long as I have had it. I am thinking about getting one of the HG quilts, because I am looking to save a little weight but mostly reduce volume…

    • Alan Dixon June 16, 2017 at 6:48 pm - Reply

      Adam, sorry for the delayed response. Your comment came in while I was in the midst of site upgrades.

      Just as guess I’s say that a +20 down quilt would be in the range of 1/3 to 1/4 the volume of your TNF Snowshoe bag, which is both +0 and has much bulkier (vs. 800 fp down) Climashield insulation. The exact difference would depend on the size and temperature rating of your quit. BUT it will be a lot, lot less volume! Warmest, -alan

  22. Trey June 21, 2017 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Alan,
    Thinking I want to get a quilt, but I’m curious about the width. As a bigger guy with a bit of a beer belly, it need a little more space than your average backpacker. Because these are designed for use with hammocks, are the wide sizes going to be equivalent to a normal width sleeping bag? Do you think the wide size from HG (55″) is enough for a bigger guy when used on the ground, or should I look at the wider EE bags? Like the price of HG, but they are narrower. Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon June 21, 2017 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      Trey, no worries about “ground sleeping version” or a larger size. Hammock Gear does custom sizes* and will do a custom size for you if the 55″ if you think may not be wide enough. You can even talk over the phone with them and get recommendations on the right dimensions. * I get all of my quilts from them to my spec’ed dimensions. Warmest, -alan

      Oh, and you might want to try and use bed sheet as a measuring device to get an idea of how much width you might need in a quilt. -a

  23. Jonathan C June 26, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Alan,
    Nice overview of quilts. I’ve just recently gotten my first (a synthetic summer quilt), but I’ve been enjoying it so far and am likely going to pick up a warmer down quilt for spring/fall.

    One benefit of quilts that you may considering mentioning is that two quilts or a quilt and bag can be fairly easily combined as layers to further extend your sleep system range at no additional cost. As an example, if you had a 50F synthetic quilt for summer and a 30F down quilt for spring/fall, you could combine them for a roughly 10F rated sleep system if you felt inclined to do some winter camping. See here for additional info (https://support.enlightenedequipment.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002770588-Quilt-Layering).

    Thanks again for all the great info!

    • Alan Dixon June 27, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Yup Jonathan, quilts are hugely flexible and adaptable vs. sleeping bags. And the other warmth extension option that I point out in the post: they are far more accommodating and flexible to allow you wear a lot of clothing under them vs. a sleeping bag. Supplementing with a warm down jacket is usually first choice to extend the temperature range of a bag, as I am already carrying it. Best, -alan

  24. Greg O November 14, 2017 at 10:17 pm - Reply

    You mentioned several times that you and many other men sleep on the Women’s version of the NeoAir XLite. Assuming you’re taller than 66″, are your lower legs not supported by the mattress? If not, what do you place under your legs to keep them warm and at the same level with the rest of your body?

    • Alan Dixon November 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Greg, apologies for the delayed reply. My climbing partner is 6’5″ and also uses the W’s. Mostly it’s your feet that might stick off the end if you are lying straight out on your back. Many people don’t mind this, in fact I prefer not having my heels pressing into the ground. But yes you can stick something under your feet if that is a problem. And when I side sleep, like most people I am semi-bent so that all of my body including my feet are on the pad. For me I would not want a pad any longer. Warmest, -alan

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