Quilts vs sleeping bags

When it comes to reducing your pack weight, reducing weight on the big three often has the biggest impact with just a few items. The big three is the backpack, tent/shelter system and the sleep system (sleeping bag and sleeping mat).

One thing that saves a lot of weight and bulk is to choose a down sleeping bag instead of a synthetic one. Down weighs less for the same insulation, compresses better and have a longer lifespan without loosing loft. A way to save even more weight is to switch from a sleeping bag to a quilt.

In the ultralight community quilts have become more or less the standard. A quilt, as opposed to a sleeping bag, doesn’t have a hood, and is also open in the bottom, where your sleeping pad insulates you from the cold.  This saves weight as it uses less material. For colder weather a down hood can be used, which add warmth but is more flexible than a sewn hood on a sleeping bag. Another great feature with quilts are that it’s easy to regulate temperature and they’re easy to get in and out of.

Quilts come in different versions. There are ones without the sewn in foot box. These can be opened up like a regular rectangular quilt at home, which gives great ventilation and an easy way of regulating temperature. The foot box can be closed with zippers, buckles and draw stings. One negative thing about these quilts is that in theory the foot box doesn’t get as warm as a sewn in foot box since it’s not completely sealed.

The other version is a quilt with a sewn in foot box. The bottom of the quilt looks like a sleeping bag, which makes it a bit warmer than an open quilt, but you also loose ability for configurations and ventilation.

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The quilts can be used as a regular quilt at home, where you just wrap it around you, but for colder weather you’d want to prevent drafts. To do this most manufacturers have straps that you wrap around your sleeping pad and then secure to your quilt. This will make the quilt stay in place when you move around in your sleep.

Quilt modification

I switched to quilts for three season use in 2016, but it took a while for me to get used to it. My quilt was a Cumulus Quilt 350, and I had a hard time getting the straps to work good without getting cold drafts. I was close to selling it and go back to using sleeping bags when I finally found a way that works; Using the lower strap around the pad, with the quilt above it, move the upper strap to the middle of the quilt, securing it under the pad with the quilt down to the sides.

Since I got it to work without drafts I started to really like quilts. Especially since I toss and turn a lot at night, and also like to sleep on my belly. Having a quilt, that doesn’t have a hood and that you don’t get tangled up in, works very well for this.

Manufacturers

Below is a list of some of the most known quilt makers.

Cumulus is a polish brand that makes sleeping bags, quilts and down clothes. They make high quality gear at a reasonable price, and their products are common in Sweden. I’ve bought several items from them over the years and I’m very happy with both the products, the service and the price. They recently (2018) updated their line of quilts, so they now come without a sewn foot box and with an updated strap system.

Katabatic Gear is by many considered to be the best in the industry, with very high quality on their products. There are a number of different configurations you can do, with both width, length and fill. They are, however, a very pricey.

Hammock Gear is another company that often gets recommended. Especially their Econ quilts when it comes to recommendations for getting ultralight on a budget. For us Europeans customs and sales taxes would probably push the price up a level where it’s not price worthy anymore.

Enlightened Equipement is an American cottage brand. Unlike most other companies Enlightened Equipment uses vertical baffles instead of horizontal. I’m not sure if there’s any benefits with the design, but if I remember correctly it’s designed like that to be able to push the down up and down to where you’d want the most warmth. There is a bit of a lead time to get the quilt, but they regularly go on sale on Massdrop.

As Tucas is a small European cottage brand founded in 2013. As Tucas makes both synthetic and down quilts, as well as bivy bags and clothes.

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