a backpacking test of ultralight camp quilts

Quilts Price ($) Weight (oz) Fill Power (in³) Fill Weight (oz) Down Volume (in³)
Down Vol/Total Weight (in³/oz)
EE Enigma 20 440 18.4 950 13.8 13110 713
EE Accomplice 2P 20 615 33.9 950 24.9 23655 698
HMG 20 Degree Quilt 499 20.1 1000 14 14000 697
Zpacks Solo Quilt 20 429 18.3 900 13.7 12330 674
HG Burrow UL 20 430 20.5 950 13.5 12825 626
Therma-a-Rest Vesper 20 460 19 900 12.5 11250 592
Sea to Summit Ember 25 469 25.6 850 17.6 14960 584
HG Burrow 20 360 23.6 850 16.1 13685 580
Outdoor Vitals Stormloft 15 330 23 800 16.2 12960 563
REI Magma 30 329 20.3 850 11.6 9860 486
Therma-a-Rest Corus 20 310 26 650 19 12350 475

Full Reviews: Best Backpacking Quilts of 2023

Editor’s Choice Ultralight Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20

When optimized with 950 fill power goose down and 7D nylon, The Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 weighs only 18.4 oz, and is the backpacking quilt with the highest warmth-to-weight ratio. It is our go-to ultralight backpacking quilt.

  • Weight: 18.4 oz
  • Price: $440
  • Down: 950 fill power goose down 
  • Fill Weight: 13.8 oz
  • Fabric: 7D Nylon with DWR
  • Pros: Ultralight. Best warmth-to-weight.
  • Cons: Slightly delicate. Down isn’t hydrophobic.

Features

The innovative and iconic U-shaped baffles keep the plumes where they’re needed most. Nobody else does it this way.

This is a simple backpacking quilt with a sewn-closed footbox, which keeps the most possible heat in – extra perfect for those with cold feet. Its only major feature is the neck snap and cinch. Which is actually perfect, because that’s all you really need.

What’s also great is how customizable this backpacking quilt is. You can downgrade slightly less choice to 850 fill power down and 10D Nylon to save $100 and add just three ounces. It also comes in short/regular/long lengths, and regular/wide widths.

This is an exemplary ultralight backpacking quilt, and no other model does the basics quite as well as the Enlightened Equipment Enigma. Because the basics are what matters most, we recommend this quilt highest of all.  As such, the Enigma is a perfect blend of value and Performance.

The regular length version of these quilts (which we used for comparison) are 72”, however, for those who need greater length a “long, 78 inch” version is also available with a minimal .67 ounces added weight.

The Enlightened Equipment website also provides a very good sizing chart if you are in doubt about what is best. With a 51” shoulder girth, this quilt does run on the narrow side.

Verdict

If you want to save the most possible weight and be as warm as possible in the backcountry, no backpacking quilt will serve you better than the best-in-class Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20.

Top Pick Ultralight Quilt

Zpacks Solo Quilt 20

Zpacks Solo Quilt 20F is one of four ultralight backpacking quilts in a class of their own at the top of the performance rankings, roughly in a four way tie. That group is comprised of Zpacks Solo, Enlightened Equipment Enigma, Hammock Gear Premium Burrow, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear 20 Degree.

  • Weight: 18.3 oz
  • Price: $429
  • Down: 900 fill power RDS goose down with DWR
  • Fill Weight: 13.7 oz
  • Fabric: 7D Ventum ripstop nylon with DWR
  • Pros: Ultralight. High warmth-to-weight.
  • Cons: Slightly delicate.

Features

Solo Quilt employs ultralight 7D nylon stuffed with 900 fill power hydrophobic goose down. It is the same minimalist chassis as the others: vertical top baffles and horizontal footbox baffles. The footbox is sewn-in to maximize insulation, and this quilt has one of the very highest possible warmth-to-weight ratios.

At 18.3 oz, it might be the lightest, but there is enough variation between individual products that it’s ultimately hard to say. Compared to Enigma, it has an advantage with DWR down, but uses 900 down fill instead of 950. It’s a bit lighter and a bit less warm than HG Premium Burrow. It’s notably less expensive and a bit lighter and less warm than HMG 20 Degree.

Color matters little to us compared to performance, but it’s worth noting that we love the bright pop colorways. The azure blue, the lime green, and the marigold orange are all bright, beautiful, fun, and would uplift the mood in any tent.

Lastly, we love that Zpacks Solo quilt comes with a complimentary Dyneema dry bag – a $30 value!

Verdict

Zpacks Solo is a seriously premium option and you cannot possibly go wrong with such an excellent ultralight backpacking quilt. Within the very top tier, it’s a good blend of performance, value, and weight.

Top Pick Ultralight Quilt

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 20 Degree Quilt

Our first sleep system with 1000 fill power down, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 20 Degree Quilt is unmatched when it comes to materials performance. And weighing only 20.1 oz, it has an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio. This HMG backpacking quilt is one of four ultralight quilts in a league of their own, far surpassing the competition when it comes to raw performance. Its peers are the Enlightened Equipment Enigma, Zpacks Solo Quilt, and Hammock Gear Premium Burrow, and all four are roughly equal in terms of warmth-to-weight. Read more in our full length HMG 20 Degree Quilt Review.

  • Weight: 20.1 oz
  • Price: $499
  • Down: 1000 fill power RDS goose down with DWR
  • Fill Weight: 14 oz
  • Fabric: 7D micro ripstop nylon with DWR
  • ISO tested comfort: Unrated | Modeled comfort:
  • Warmth-to-weight:  | Warmth-to-cost:
  • Pros: Ultralight. High warmth-to-weight. 1000 fill power down.
  • Cons: Expensive. 1.5 oz heavier than other top quilts. Slightly delicate.

Features

But the sheer quality of the HMG model distinguishes it from the pack. We haven’t had a quilt with 1000 fill power before, and we’re excited to see this as an optimization in a field previously maxed out at 950. However, this road can only take us so far, is it even possible to source higher quality plumes at this point?

We also have a small concern that higher fill power plumage will be more susceptible to damage from crushing and compression, and that its off-the-shelf performance will quickly degrade back down the level of 900-950 fill power. One thing is for sure though, at $499, you’re definitely paying a premium for all that 1000 fp down.

Down aside, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 20 Degree quilt is a classic minimalist design, and constructed with our preferred 7D ripstop nylon. Like its peers, it has a sewn footbox, vertical baffles running from top to lower leg where it switches to horizontal baffles at the footbox for extra structure. And it’s only features are the neck cinch, clasp, and pad attachment points.

Compared to all three of its primary competitors, this quilt is more expensive for a similar warmth. It’s the third heaviest, but only by a very small amount. We suspect this is because it’s a bit roomier, and the extra materials add an ounce or so of weight.

Verdict

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 20 Degree Quilt is a seriously excellent backpacking quilt made the highest possible quality materials, and is one of the four best ultralight quilts money can by. You will love this quilt!

Top Pick Ultralight Quilt

Hammock Gear Burrow UL 20

Not just for ground sleepers! By a slight margin, the Hammock Gear Burrow UL 20 (formerly known as Premium Burrow) is the least expensive among top performing ultralight quilts. This is a win-win where price meets performance.

  • Weight: 20.5 oz
  • Price: $430
  • Down: 950 Fill Power RDS goose down
  • Fill Weight: 16.5 oz
  • Fabric: 7D Nylon Ripstop with DWR
  • Pros: Ultralight. Very high warmth-to-weight. Good value. Overfill available.
  • Cons: 3oz heavier than other top quilts.

Features

The Burrow UL comes in a 7d nylon chassis stuffed with top of the line 950 fill power goose down. This materials combination is basically as good as it gets and represents a slight upgrade from its predecessor, which was 10d and 900 fill power.

When choosing options we recommend the sewn-closed footbox which reduces weight, and increases warmth-to-weight, relative to zippered foot boxes. The only feature that come with this model are a neck hem cinch and closure snap. Simple gets the job done best!

This is another very customizable backpacking quilt, and what sets it apart from the pack is the ease at which you can add down overfill at $20 per ounce, with up to four extra ounces. We recommend at least 1 ounce of overfill by default, ideally two. This will slightly increase its thermal barrier (aka temp rating), but more importantly, overfilling prolongs the life of the garment. The extra down fills in the gaps to prevent slumping as the plumes degrade over time via repeated compressions.

Verdict

Hammock Gear has been making some of the very best performance backpacking quilts for hammock and ground sleepers, and they absolutely smash the competition when it comes to value. The Burrow UL is truly exceptional, and especially appealing to those who want overfill.

Best Backpacking Quilt Under $400

Hammock Gear Burrow 20

If you want the most possible bang for your buck, Hammock Gear Burrow 20 (formerly the Econ Burrow) is the best possible value, and the singular best performing backpacking quilt (or sleeping bag) for under $400.

  • Weight: 23.6 oz
  • Price: $360
  • Down: 850 fill power RDS down
  • Fill Weight: 16.1
  • Fabric: 20D nylon taffeta DWR
  • Pros: Incredible value. Good warmth-to-weight. Ultralight
  • Cons: Heavy side of ultralight.

Features

HG Burrow uses the same minimalist design as other top backpacking quilts, and exactly the same as its sibling the Burrow UL. The horizontal footbox baffles provide structure, while vertical torso baffles prevent cold spots and down migration. There are no other features besides a hood cinch and clasp. The optimal configuration is wide width and a sewn footbox.

The Burrow 20 is a slight notch below the four best ultralight quilts. Like, by roughly 2-3 ounces of weight, 100-150 in down fill power quality. The end result is about $100 in savings – not bad!

Verdict

The Hammock Gear Burrow 20 costs only $360, but outperforms most sleeping bags in the $500+ range. It smokes the competition in terms of value, and we recommend it highly.

Best Backpacking Quilt Under $350

Outdoor Vitals Stormloft 15

Choose the Outdoor Vitals Stormloft 15 Topquilt because it is the best value under $350, and a legit excellent ultralight quilt for backpacking with nice features.

  • Weight: 23 oz
  • Price: $330
  • Down: 800 fill power RDS duck down with DWR
  • Fill Weight: 16.2 oz
  • Down Volume: 12960in³ | Down Vol/Total Weight: 563 in³/oz
  • Fabric: 10D Toray ripstop nylon
  • Pros: Ultralight. High warmth-to-weight. Very affordable, relative to quality. Draft collar. Comes with dry bag.
  • Cons: Heavy end of ultralight. Duck down slightly inferior to goose.

Construction & Features

Part of what makes this quilt such a steal of a deal is the ingenious use of duck down instead of goose down. And its really comes down to it, 800 fill power is still 800 fill power, no matter the bird. That being said, duck down plumage is thought to have a slightly shorter lifespan (in terms of loft degradation), and is smelly when wet. But we think that’s a very generous trade off for such great cost savings.

The chassis of this quilt is similar to most others in the ultralight space – vertical torso baffles transitioning to horizontal footbox baffles. However, there are two notable differences OV has widened the shoulder girth for extra drape to prevent drafts. Furthermore, they’ve added a boxed baffle draft collar to further reduce heat leakage. And like all others, it also has a top cinch for max warmth.

Despite the use of “topquilt” this is very much a design intended for ground sleepers, first and foremost. Lastly, we nod to the 10d ripstop nylon fabric, which lands right in the sweetspot. UL enthusiasts may prefer 7D, but this is a happy medium for most folks.

Verdict

The Outdoor Vitals Stormloft Topquilt is a killer value for a mid-tier ultralight quilt that smokes any sleeping bag and is only topped by the best of the best. Dang though, what a great price-to-performance ratio.

Best Backpacking Quilt at REI

Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt 20

Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is an excellent ultralight backpacking quilt with a high warmth-to-weight ratio from a mainstream brand, and the best performance backpacking quilt sold at REI at time of writing.

  • Weight: 19.0 oz
  • Price: $460
  • Down: 900 fill power RDS goose down with Nikwax DWR
  • Fill Weight: 12.5
  • Fabric: 10D ripstop nylon with DWR
  • Pros: Ultralight. Good warmth-to-weight. Widely distributed.
  • Cons: Slightly underfilled with down. Overuse of horizontal baffles. Very narrow footbox.

Features

Vesper is made with premium ingredients that we would describe as great-not-best. That is, 900 fill power down with a name-brand Nikwax DWR hydrophobic treatment, 10d ripstop nylon. While you can definitely get a better quilt for $460, you can’t get a better quilt at REI, Backcountry, or anywhere outside the cottage industry.

As it should be, this is a minimalist design with few bells and whistles. It has the usual neck snap and cinch, as well as sleeping pad connectors, and that’s about it. We question the use of horizontal baffles along the torso which can lead to cold spots as down drifts away from high points.

But the product information notes “efficient box baffled construction with mesh walls,” so we presume there are interior blockades to keep plumes from drifting off the top center while in use.

Weighing only 19 oz, it’s actually lighter than two of top performers, and the third lightest overall quilt on our list. However most of our top ultralight quilts are comfortable into the 20s, and Vesper is much less warm because they did not fill it with enough down. We do not feel that this is a 20 degree quilt, and we think its comfort maxes out at freezing. It would definitely benefit from a couple extra ounces of additional down fill. It would be more accurate to call this quilt Vesper 25.

The underfilled baffles leads to a lower warmth-to-weight ratio than is optimally possible, and we suspect this quilt would lose loft after its first season, as the plumes receive a bit of use-damage from their first compression cycles and there is no extra down to backfill.

Of course, 900 fill power down is very expensive, so the fill amount as-is keeps the product below $500, which we are thankful for.

Verdict

But all in all, Vesper is an excellent product, and we commend Therm-a-Rest on a bang up design to help spread the gospel of backpacking quilts. It’s second only to the very top tier of cottage industry quilts.

Next Best Backpacking Quilt at REI

Sea To Summit Ember Ultralight Quilt 25

Sea to Summit Ember Ultralight Quilt 25 is a great all-around backpacking quilt from a major outdoor brand that is well-made and widely available. We love that it’s overfilled with 17.6 oz of 850 fill power dry down, and built in a classic minimalist style chassis without bells and whistles.

  • Weight: 25.6 oz
  • Price: $469
  • Down: 850 fill power RDS goose down with DWR
  • Fill Weight: 17.6 oz
  • Fabric: 10D ripstop nylon with DWR
  • Pros: Ultralight. Widely distributed.
  • Cons: Expensive. Overuse of horizontal baffles. Not quite ultralight.

Features

It’s hard to find any major faults in this quilt, but we can call out a couple areas for improvement. Compared to top tier ultralight quilts from the cottage industry, Sea to Summit uses great-not-best materials. 10D nylon could be 7D. 850 fill power down could be 950. But it’s always a balancing act with cost, and we’re glad they kept the whole thing under $500.

As you see in most quilts, horizontal baffles are used for the footbox, and vertical baffles are used on the torso.

This design strategy prevents plumes from drifting sideways and downward exposing cold spots on the top. A critical feature especially for side sleepers. While that is mostly true with the Ember 25, we notice that it is about a 50-50 split with horizontal baffles transitioning to vertical at the waist instead of the knees like most other quilts in this guide.

Hypothetically speaking, side sleepers with wide hips might cause a cold spot to form mid-body. This could have been prevented if the vertical baffles carried all the way down to the lower leg. Is this a major issue? We doubt it, but time will tell with further testing.

One unique feature we do appreciate is the hand pocket in the top corner, a great feature for side sleepers and perhaps enough user-experience boost to make up for the aforementioned horizontal baffle question.

Lastly, we want to applaud the fact that it has 17.6 oz of down fill. That’s quite a bit. If you’re shopping at REI and deciding between Sea to Summit Ember and Therm-a-Rest Vesper, here’s what to keep in mind. Ember is warmer and heavier. Vesper is lighter and less warm, despite having the lower rating number in its name.

Verdict

When it comes down to it, the Sea to Summit Ember Ultralight Quilt 25 is widely-distributed, top notch backpacking quilt with great materials for a premium price.

Best Value Backpacking Quilt At REI

Therm-a-Rest Corus Quilt 20

The Therm-a-Rest Corus Quilt is an excellent value for a solid backpacking quilt from a mainstream outdoor brand stocked by mainstream outdoor gear distributors like REI and Backcountry.

  • Weight: 26.0 oz
  • Price: $310
  • Down: 650 fill power RDS Nikwax Hydrophobic Down
  • Fill Weight: 19 oz
  • Fabric: 20D polyester taffeta with DWR
  • Pros: Good value. Lightweight. Good warmth-to-weight. Durable.
  • Cons: Overuse of horizontal baffles. Shallow footbox. Not quite ultralight.

Features

It’s built with 650 fill power Nikwax hydrophobic RDS down and 20d polyester. These are both good-not-great, but get the job done effectively. Polyester is an uncommon choice for a quilt fabric, but we acknowledge that it’s got a comfy hand-feel, even if it’s a bit heavy and less durable than nylon

The full quilt lands at 26 oz, which is lightweight not ultralight. But again, that’s all to be expected because the price is medium not high.

From a warmth-to-weight perspective, the Corus is on par with far more expensive sleeping bags, and but fairly average for performance backpacking quilts.

No major flaws with this one, but there are some areas for improvement. First even though the “box baffle construction uses mesh walls to maximize own loft and minimize cold spots,” we still think vertical baffles on the torso are a better solution for preventing cold spots.

We also note that the backside of the footbox is fairly shallow and won’t insulate feet quite as well on a very cold night. They seem to imply you could place the end of the sleeping pad inside the footbox, but we’re not sure why you would ever want to do that. In fact, don’t do that!

As with most backpacking quilts, there are very features, which is a good thing! We never bother to attach our sleeping pad and quilt, but if we wanted to, we like the look of the “Removable SynergyLink™ connectors. Though what’s best of all is that they’re removable!

As budget quilts go, this one is slightly inferior to the Hammock Gear Economy burrow in terms of price and performance, but the best value/performance blend you’ll find from mainstream retailers.

Verdict

The Therm-a-Rest Corus is a medium price for a pretty decent quilt, which makes for a great overall value proposition. As backpacking quilts go, this one is mid-tier, but because quilts are so effective, it is still comparable to a high end sleeping bag.

Most Versatile At REI

REI Co-op Magma 30 Down Trail Quilt

The REI Co-op Magma 30 Down Trail Quilt is a versatile, fully-featured quilt capable of shifting between blanket mode and hood-less sleeping bag by way of a zippered footbox. It’s a good performer, a solid value, and ready to buy at the Co-op right now.

  • Weight: 20.3 oz
  • Price: $329
  • Down: 850 fill power goose down 
  • Fill Weight: 11.6 oz
  • Fabric: 15D Nylon with Nonfluorinated DWR. Good price.
  • Pros: Lightweight. Zippered footbox for full blanket conversion. Inclusive sizing.
  • Cons: Excess zipper weight. Only offered in 30F temp rating. 15d shell is less choice than 10d

Construction & Features

Here’s a quilt design with an emphasis on versatility. The zippered, cinching footbox can be fully opened up to convert the entire quilt from hoodless-sleeping-bag mode to a full on down blanket. This is great for use in moderate-to-warm conditions, for car camping, or anytime you wish to pack portable warmth for laying about outside.

The chassis is constructed with a 15d recycled nylon. Not bad, but you know we would have preferred 10d from an ultralight performance perspective. Compared to the lightest models in our guide, Magma 30 uses 2x the fabric weight.

Its variable baffles are filled with 850 fill power DWR down, which is solidly good, but never exciting. REI has correctly run horizontal baffles on the lower half with vertical baffles the torso. This reduces down drift and cold spots.

A few other notable features include the insulated top draft tube, pad attachment cords, and a complimentary stuff sack. Lastly, the size offerings available are inclusive to a wide array of body types. And unlike other brands, REI has generously not cranked the prices up for longer or wider fits, despite the fact that they are much more expensive to manufacture. As such, this is a particular good by for larger campers who may otherwise expect to fork over an extra $20-$40. Thanks, REI!

Verdict

For a versatile, lightweight trail quilt, this seems like a pretty dang good, readily available option, at a reasonable price, from a beloved brand.

Best 2 Person Backpacking Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Accomplice 2 Person Quilt 20

Reclaim the lost camping snuggle and maximize warmth-to-weight with an Enlightened Equipment Accomplice 2 Person Quilt! Compared to two individual quilts, it weighs less and is significantly warmer, thanks to fewer side walls and shared body heat.

  • Weight: 33.9 oz
  • Price: $615
  • Down: 950 fill power RDS goose down
  • Fill Weight: 24.9 oz
  • Fabric: 10D nylon with DWR
  • Pros: Best warmth-to-weight possible. Lowest total weight per person. Snuggles.
  • Cons: Expensive. Not DWR down.

Features

Sharing is not just caring, it also leads to the highest possible warmth-to-weight ratio. This is the most efficient system for two backpackers, and our preferred quilt for heading out with a partner.

It is plenty spacious, so you needn’t worry about constantly bumping each other or blanket stealing – there’s plenty to go around with the 86″ girth. That said, if either sleeper is more restless than average, you may prefer separate quilts.

While we normally prefer minimalist quilts, we love the features that come with the Enlightened Equipment Accomplice. That includes the proprietary draft blocker which prevents heat from escaping from gap in between shoulders.

It snaps closed and cinches around the neck for maximum heat retention, or can be opened up by either camper for individualized climate control. We also use the sleeping pad connectors to turn two individual pads into one super pad.

Verdict

This is the backpacking quilt we always recommend to couples, and it delivers an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio, above and beyond what is possible with two individual quilts.

Full Reviews: Backpacking Quilt Accessories

Best Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Sleeping Pad

New for 2023, the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite NXT (shop now) is currently the undisputed best performance sleeping pad for backpacking that money can buy, and it has no equal. It is statistically superior in almost every way and across all measurements when compared to all other sleeping pads. Read more in our full-length Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT Review.

  • Price: $210
  • Weight: 13 oz
  • R-Value: 4.5 | R-Value/Weight: .35
  • Thickness: 3”
  • Fabric: 30d
  • Sizes: Regular Short, Regular, Regular Wide, Large
  • Pros: Comfy. Thick. Ultralight. Very High R-Value-to-weight.
  • Cons: Expensive.

Features

NXT’s R-Value of 4.5 is one of the highest among three season pads, and with a weight of only 13.0 oz, it’s also one of the very lightest. It’s so far ahead of the pack, that compared to the second best sleeping pad, its R-value-to-weight ratio is 24% higher.

XLite NXT is no slouch on comfort either. Now with an additional half inch of thickness compared to the original, XLite NXT is 3” thick, which means you can basically ignore small roots and divots in the ground, and side and back sleepers will be happier. And what’s more, compared to previous editions, it’s designed to be much quieter.

While it’s definitely still a bit crinkly, we’d describe the overall volume as average and acceptable. At time of publishing, Therm-a-Rest states it is six times quieter than the original XLite on their homepage. While it did get noticeably quieter, our experience did not indicate 6X.

Inflation with NXT can be a bit of a chore considering how thick the pad is. But the “winglock” valve is excellent, and you don’t have to constantly tighten it in between breaths or pumps. The 30D fabric is very durable, and you shouldn’t have any problems so long as you aren’t using it on scratchy surfaces.

Verdict

This is the best overall sleeping pad for backpacking that has ever been manufactured, and we can’t wait for you to try it out! Enjoy!

Best Pillow

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow

We love the 9L Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sack Pillow for dry gear storage and improving quality of sleep.

  • Weight 1.7 oz
  • Price: $59
  • Size: 12×17″
  • Fabric: DCF 8, 100 weight-fleece lining
  • Pros: Comfy. Doubles as dry bag stuff sack. Ultralight.
  • Cons: Doesn’t work if you’re wearing all of your layers to bed.

Features and Verdict

A great 2-for-1. Constructed with waterproof durable Dyneema, zipper access, and a reversible fleece interior lining for pillow-mode. It gives a lot of utility for 1.7 ounces.

The large size fits a puffy jacket and/or some extra layers. We find it is comfier than inflatable pillows. Grab one of these, you will not regret it!

Best Dry Bag

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Roll Top Stuff Sack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Roll Top Stuff Sack is a classic dry bag made out of Dyneema. The DCF11 fabric is extremely durable, lightweight, long lasting, completely waterproof, and just feels indestructible and high quality.

  • Weight: 2.0 oz
  • Price: $79
  • Materials: DCF11
  • Volume: 43 L
  • Pros: Ultralight. Ultra durable. Best-in-class. Voluminous.
  • Cons: Expensive.

Sizes

The 25L size L is probably the most universal, but we love the 43L XL, which is . 4oz heavier and big enough to store a 4-season sleeping bag, puffy, and all extra clothes without over compressing.

If you’re going to spend that much on one dry bag, you might as well get the one size that fit’s all. And it’s compatible with winter camping bulk.

Verdict

This is an excellent ultralight dry bag fit for an ultralight backpack. For less expensive (but less durable) ultralight dry bags, turn to the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bags.

Best Down Wash

Nikwax Down Wash Direct

When you notice your down sleeping bag or jacket starting to look a bit less puffy than it used to be, it’s time to use Nikwax Down Wash Direct. By cleaning the plumes, you reinvigorate the down’s loftiness, re-puff the baffles, and ultimately increase the warmth retention of the garment.

  • Weight: 0 oz | Price: $13
  • Technology: Down-safe soap.
  • Pros: Renews loft. Cleans. Safe. Biodegradable.
  • Cons: Never quite restores 100% of original loft.

Features and Verdict

We tend not to get our down pieces very dirty in the first place, but still like to wash them about once per year of heavy use, or every other year with moderate to light use. Down washing is an important and underrated aspect of gear maintenance and most people do it too infrequently.

Nikwax recommends using this detergent in the tub for large garments like sleeping bags, or a large professional-grade front loading washing machine. Dry it out afterwards by tubmle drying on low heat settings. It even works on DWR-treated hydrophobic down. The only bummer is that even a thorough washing and drying will only restore the down to about 90% of its original puffiness.

The wear and tear caused by bodyweight and compression storage will slowly degrades the plumes, and you will never quite get a full factory reset.

But that’s not Nikwax’s fault, and we highly recommend Nikwax Down Wash Direct to get the most out of your down products.

 

Best Down Wash

Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patch

For small to mediums sized rips and tears, we prefer using a Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patch, precut in a hexagonal shape.

  • Weight: 0.1 oz (once applied)
  • Price: $5
  • Technology: Tenacious Tape
  • Cons: Long lasting. Works in backcountry. Very adhesive. Waterproof.
  • Cons: Requires smooth surfaces

About

When applied to a smooth, relatively clean surface, the repair patches are incredibly long lasting and durable. The adhesive is significantly stickier than duct tape. The patch itself is waterproof and will prevent leaks. We recommend the hex shaped patches because the corners are less sharp than rectangles, thus less prone to catching and peeling.

These repair patches work on tents, backpacks, rain jackets, hiking clothes, and pretty much any other fabric item that can be laid flat and smoothed out. However, they won’t work well on textured surfaces, like shoes or mesh.

Verdict

Nonetheless, Gear Aid makes a best in class product that should be a staple in every hikers repair kit, especially those who use ultralight tents with thin fabric. We always carry them and you should too.

 

Video Overview on Backpacking Quilts and Sleeping Bags

What makes it an ultralight quilt?

For the sake of this guide, we consider any backpacking quilt that is comfort-rated down to freezing and weighs 23 oz or less in standard/medium/regular sizing to be an ultralight quilt. However, there is no technical definition, and weight benchmarking is also relative to the temperature rating that you are shopping.

For 30 degree bags, we might consider the cut off to be 20 oz, and for 10 degree bags, closer to 30 oz, since they require more down, more fabric to contain the down, and extra interior space to layer.

a quilt setup in the desert

How to sleep warm in a backpacking quilt when its cold

People are sometimes worried about sleeping cold in their backpacking quilt, but we find this to be a non-issue, even when using ultralight quilts in temps well-below freezing in the depth of winter. Most people quickly master the ability to move around inside a quilt without letting gaps form, or recognizing the occasions when they do and adjusting accordingly.

Choose a backpacking quilt that is warm enough

Unlike sleeping bags, quilts are not given EN/ISO warmth ratings, so we highly suggest you refer to our modeled comfort rating to understand the true comfort range in which you can expect to use a particular quilt. But if you can’t find the quilt you’re looking for in our guide, assume the comfort range is approximately 10 degrees lower than what it says in the product name.

The REI Magma 30 trail quilt, for example, isn’t comfortable at temps below 40. For people with cold feet, we recommend choosing a sleeping bag with a sewn closed footbox, rather than one that can be opened with a cinch or zipper. The sewn closure means no cold spots. Plus, it is the best option for maximizing warmth-to-weight.

Choose a backpacking quilt that is wide and long enough

To prevent drafts and warm air leaking out, you must choose a quilt that is wide enough to drape and pool at the ground on both sides of you. This creates a draft-free seal.

Carefully read the manufacturer’s size guide and always size up in the event that you are unsure or in between sizes. Many quilts also have sleeping pad attachment points that can be utilized to keep the edges of the quilt tucked neatly around you, though we rarely even find the need for this. It is also important to choose a quilt that is long enough.

When sized properly, you should be able to stretch out fully and still have the quilt coming up around your face without pulling it taught. This allows for spare room to wiggle and shift without creating gaps.

Choose a sleeping pad that is warm enough

Because quilts are backless, it is important to use a high R-value sleeping pad. While the back of a sleeping bag is one of the least hard working parts of the entire garment, it still adds a small insulation boost, and quilt users need to compensate for this loss.

To ensure we sleep warm on three season trips, we prefer the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT, which has an R-Value of 4.5. In winter, we may even use its warmer sibling, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT, which has an unprecedented R-value of 7.3

Wear a hat to bed, and/or choose a mid-layer and puffy that both have a hood

To insulate your head on cooler nights, backpacking quilt sleepers need only wear a warm hat to bed. We actually find this to be comfier and more freeing than a sleeping bag hood. In truly frigid conditions, you may want to wear a fleece or down puffy to bed and can pull the hood up around you to further insulate your head and neck. If you are still concerned, you might even purchase a modular down hood. This is effectively a puffy balaclava, and we start to consider using them when camping in temps below 20 degrees.

Use the snap closure to form a seal around your neck.

It sounds obvious, but don’t forget to use the snap closure to seal out drafts at your neck and shoulders. This is the easiest step to take and every quilt has one!

a couple relaxes in cozily in their backpacking quilts above a lake

Why focus on 20 degree backpacking quilts and sleeping bags?

For ease of comparison, this buyer’s guide focuses exclusively on 3-season backpacking quilts and sleeping bags with 15-20 degree ratings in their product name. This translates to a 25-30 degree lower comfort limit, which we feel is the most useful, all-purpose insulation level which provides a few degrees of buffer below the lowest temperatures most backpackers will experience in a season.

However all of these sleeping bags can also be purchased in 0, 10, and 30 degree versions, and the same recommendation qualifiers apply when comparing models. Unsurprisingly, the best overall 20 degree sleeping bag is also the best overall 30 degree sleeping bag.

Warmth-to-weight ratio is key for an ultralight quilt

Sleeping bags have one main job – keep us warm. And so long as they’re doing that, the next most important thing is not to weigh down the backpack when carried. That’s why our guide focuses on warmth-to-weight ratio as the ultimate measure of performance for backpacking quilts and sleeping bags.

We’ll pass on all of the bells and whistles, so long as you give us a high warmth-to-weight sleeping bag at a good price.

Most features are nice, but not necessary

While significantly less important than having a good warmth-to-weight ratio, other features are worth considering to evaluate the entire user experience. Zipper snag guards, and the ability to cinch down around your head or neck are the two most important. But beyond that, which are worth their weight is fairly subjective.

Convertible blankets are very nice, especially in summer. We usually prefer sewn footboxes to ventilated ones for maximizing warmth-to-weight, but an exception would be made for 30 degree summer bags. Internal pockets are generally unnecessary, and we rarely go for draft collars except when winter camping.

Down and fill power for a backpacking quilt

High quality down plumes are the most important part of a sleeping bag’s ability to loft and insulate. Down plumes are rated according to the amount of square inch volume taken up by one ounce. 900+ fill power is considered the loftiest, highest quality, most expensive down, and what is used in ultralight quilts and sleeping bags.

Fill powers ranging from 700-900 are considered good. Fill powers from 500-700 are low-to-mid-tier. We’ve even noticed 1,000 fill power down being used recently. While we believe this is a strict performance upgrade, we’re worried that the most voluminous plumes would also be most susceptible to damage with use over time. Will theyquickly degrade to a 900 fill power level, thus making paying extra for it a bad long term investment.

Will higher fill powers continue to be offered as we get better at sifting the best plumes to the top? We will report back if we learn more.

the hyperlite mountain gear 20 degree quilt

Down vs synthetic for backpacking quilts and sleeping bags

As of 2023, high fill power down (900+) still outperforms synthetic insulation in warmth-to-weight, which is why all of the best performing backpacking quilts and sleeping bags are still filled with plumes. But technology creeps forward, and every year brings us closer to the day when synthetics surpass down in terms of performance.

At time of posting, top tier synthetic insulation appears to be edging out 650 fill power and is creeping towards 800 fill power. And when manufactured with recycled materials, synthetics are beginning to appear as the more ethical choice too. We’re keeping our eye on the development of synthetic insulation for backpacking quilts and sleeping bags, and will report back as developments occur in this niche.

Fabrics for backpacking quilts and sleeping bags

The best ultralight backpacking quilt fabrics are the lightest ones that reliably encase down, and are just durable enough for backcountry use. To maximize warmth-to-weight, it is important to minimize fabric, as it is a low contributor of insulation. Ripstop nylon still reigns supreme here, and we prefer it in 7 denier (7D). If you’re hard on gear, we recommend you find a sleeping bag with a 10D+ Ripstop nylon.

Backpacking quilt and sleeping bag baffles

From a performance perspective, it is preferable to sew vertical baffles (paralleling the body) along the chest and legs of a sleeping bag. This is compared to horizontal baffles (running perpendicular to the body) in which gravity will slowly cause down plumes to drift off the top center of the body and down to the lower sides. This exposes a cold spot directly on top of the sleeper and must be prevented.

Backpacking quilt > sleeping bag

It is our long-held belief that the best ultralight quilts outperform the best sleeping bags in terms of warmth-to-weight, value, and overall user experience. Quilts are composed only of the three hardest working parts of a sleeping bag (top, sides, footbox) and cut the three least hard working parts (zipper, hood, back).

Compared to down and nylon, zippers are relatively heavy. Compared to fully lofted down on the top and sides of a sleeping bag, down that is compressed by the weight of your body and hood is relatively ineffective. By doing away with zippers, backs, and hoods, camp quilts reduce production cost, save weight, shave inefficiency parts, and increase warmth-to-weight ratio.

When not testing sleeping bags, we always carry backpacking quilts. But we understand why people love sleeping bags. The sensation of fully zipping up and tucking into the hood is cozy and hits just right. That’s why we fully endorse bags in our guide to the best sleeping bags for backpacking. But you are at home here if you want only the best warmth-to-weight ratio.

Backpacking quilt maintenance

While unpacking from your trip, make sure to dry out and re-fluff your backpacking quilt. We recommend running it through a front loading dryer on low for 10 minutes, or until dry. Store it in the big cotton bag it came with rather than compressed in a dry bag. If you notice that your sleeping bag is slowly losing loft, try washing it with Nikwax downwash.

With use over time dirt and body oils will slowly start to penetrate the fabric and build up on the plumes. This degrades their loftiness, thus decreasing the insulating ability of your sleeping bag. We find that washing resuscitates down up to 90% of its original off-the-shelf performance, and we try to do it about once every other year for high-use backpacking quilts.

a man holds up a hyperlite mountain gear 20 degree quilt

In conclusion

The best backpacking quilt is such because it has a high warmth to ratio, and a low total weight. The ultralight quilts in this buyer’s guide have the highest warmth-to-weight ratios according to our predictive model. All of the best ultralight backpacking quilts are manufactured by the cottage industry, but we know see some high performance and value quilts from mainstream brands. Any backpacking quilt on this list would make for an excellent next backcountry sleep system.

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10 replies
  1. brian
    brian says:

    Interesting read. For me, seems like everyone defaults to EE, which doesn’t coincide with my real world experience. EE is good, I still have an Enigma that still sees occasional use. However, comments wrt Katabatic are counter to personal experience. KG may not compete wight wise to HMG; however, the quality of construction is there, KG uses baffled construction, not sewn thru (as does HMG), and, due to lower 900 FP down, is cheaper than the HMG. I have owned and used bags and quilts from many different mfg including EE, UGQ, Zpacks, Feathered Friends, Western Mountaineering, …. For bags my go to is WM (FF a close 2nd), and with the quilts, I have yet to find anything I like better than my KG (current fave is the Flex 22), which served me perfectly on AT and BMT thru’s.

    We are all different; we sleep different, we walk different, we experience different; I get that. However, I stll find it hard to believe that KG would be left off your list. But again, my experience is different than someone else and does not and will not match to some theoretical model. Take away, know yourself and research, talk to actual end users and don’t rely on “top 10” lists. A good starting point but…..

    Reply
  2. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    Alan, wondering if you have looked at or reviewed the Feathered Friends Flicker UL? I would be curious to see what warmth to weight and warmth to cost numbers were. As well as the modeled comfort temp. The engineering side of me is also curious in your system of comfort rating the bags. As you eluded to in other comments, it may have something to do with down volume/bag size? Last note I have is, it would be great if we could see all the bags tested, even if they don’t make the list to see where they fall. Maybe not consuming your website, but linked to a google spreadsheet or something. Thanks for all the work you put into doing unbiased reviews. Looking forward to following your WR High Route in August!

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      The Flicker UL 20F is mediocre/middle of the pack. Modeled comfort temp of 27 F. And W2C of 2.8 and W2W of 3.5. This is where the top Quilts are 5.0 or better.

      Reply
  3. Brandon
    Brandon says:

    I don’t know how you’re finding your numbers; but every backpacker I know who has tried Nunatack and Katabatic quilts greatly prefers them to the enigma and/or burrow, myself included (Katabatic). I would think that if the two most widely respected quilts/brands don’t make it on my list, there’s a good chance I created a bad model…

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Thanks for you comments Brandon. It’s simple physics, less down volume in the same size quilt equals a colder quilt. And our model accurately predicts the comfort temp of all tested sleeping bags and quilts to within a few degrees. So the model is good. If Nutatak and Katabatic wanted to clear things up they could always test their quilts at KSU’s testing facility — it’s not very expensive. Finally, when you add in the higher costs for Katabatic and Nunatak quilts they are not a great value. That being said, I’m happy for you if you like your Katabatic quilt. Enjoy yourself out there! Best, -alan

      Reply
  4. Phil
    Phil says:

    Did you end up testing the UGQ bandit 20? How did it compare? I was surprised to not see it listed at least for comparison’s sake.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Good Q Phil. The UGQ BANDIT 20*F does OK, with a comfort temp of 27 F, a W2W of 4.3 and a W2C of 3.6. So decent but below our top picks for Performance Quilts. What gets them is the lower down fill amount for a similar price. Thus the 27 F rating, and lower W2W and W2C numbers. Best, -alan

      Reply
  5. Nole
    Nole says:

    Alan I wonder why you’re missing what are widely considered the best quilts on the market from Katabatic Gear and Nunatak Equipment? These are he benchmarks for high quality quilts in the ultralight community and their performance is a bar other competitors have to equal. This is how Enlightened Equipment ended up with so much overstuff in their quilts.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Nole,
      Excellent question. While we agree that Nunatak and Katabic are “are widely considered the best quilts on the market,” that does not necessary mean that they are the best. We ran the Nunatak and Katabatic quilt thru our model, and while they did decently, they were not competitive with our top picks for the “Best Performance Quilts.” In summary, they scored OK for Warmth to Weight but were about a point under our top pics. And their high prices and low Warmth to Cost numbers, make them not a great value. That is you can pick up a better performing quilt for about $100 less.

      We have added a Nunatak and Katabatic quilt to the end of our ratings table so you can see. Hope this helps clarify the issue. Warmest, -alan

      Reply

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