Down Backpacking Quilts Versus Sleeping Bags

camping quilt

Have you ever considered a down camping quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag for your backpacking and camping sleeping system? Maybe it’s about time you did. The basic idea in the quilt vs sleeping bag debate is that down efficiently uses trapped air to keep you warm. Down sleeping bags are rated on the basis of “fill power”. 400 to 450 fill power is considered medium quality, 500 to 550 good, 550 to 750 very good and fill power of 750+ is considered excellent. But, the argument goes, zipped up in your sleeping bag your body compresses the down on your back side reducing the loft and making it ineffective. So why include a “bottom” to the sleeping bag in the first place? It should be noted that a quilt relies more on a quality sleeping pad with a high R-value than a sleeping bag of corresponding quality.

Here are some of the qualities of a camping quilt versus a traditional sleeping bag

  • Eliminates the zipper
  • Eliminates the mummy hood
  • A quilt can serve as a simple blanket
  • A cinch cord closes the blanket around your neck and shoulders
  • Some quilts have a feature that allows them to be attached securely to a sleeping pad
  • Can be open and loose in mild weather
  • A camping quilt is lighter than a sleeping bag

Some outdoor gear designers and manufacturers are coming up with a backless sleeping bag with an envelope that accommodates a sleeping pad.

Here’s what Finnish photographer and visual artist Mark Roberts says about his choice between a quilt and a traditional sleeping bag in his blog Backpacking North

“For me, the choice between a mummy bag and a camping quilt is far simpler and has little to do with insulation: I’m an active side-sleeper, and I hate getting twisted and caught up in a mummy bag as I thrash around at night. Under a quilt, my body moves, but the bag stays in place. The end result? I actually sleep instead of working up an unpleasant night sweat trying to reposition the bag around me for hours on end. A quilt eliminates my sleeping issues, and saves me weight, and keeps me warm. It’s also easier to throw off part of the quilt if you get too warm.”

Here are 5 top-quality camping quilts that are worthy of being evaluated as an addition to your sleeping system:

siren ultralight sleeping quilt

Pictured: Siren Ultralight Sleeping Quilt

Nemo Siren 30 Ultralight Sleeping Quilt

  • Insulation: 850 Fill Power Down
  • Temperature Rating: 30º
  • Key Features: Sleeping pad can be inserted in a compartment in the quilt, or can be secured to pad
  • Footbox: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb 3 oz

sierra-design-sleeping-quilt-700

Sierra Designs Backcountry Camping Quilt 700 3-Season

  • Insulation: 700 fill duck down
  • Temperature Rating: 15º F
  • Key Features: Insulated hand and arm pockets, hide-away hood
  • Footbox: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb 15 oz

thermarest apogee quilt sleeping bag for camping

Therm-a-Rest Apogee Quilt

  • Insulation: Synthetic eraLoft
  • Temperature Rating: 45º
  • Key Features: Loop kit lets quilt and mattress function as one unit
  • Footbox: Yes
  • Weight: Regular 1 lb 13 oz, large 2 lb 3 oz

big agnes pitchpine ul45 camping quilt

Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45

  • Insulation: 850 fill water repellent down (DownTek)
  • Temperature Rating: 45º
  • Key Features: Half pad sleeve keeps you attached to sleeping pad. Built in pillow pocket
  • Footbox: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb 4 oz

termodown quilt 15

Thermodown 15 Degree Down Sleeping Quilt

  • Insulation: 700 fill down
  • Temperature Rating: 15º
  • Key Features: Straps attach quilt to sleeping pad to create a unified sleeping system
  • Footbox: Yes
  • Weight: 2 lb 3 oz

The choice of a quilt over a sleeping bag is a highly personal choice. It includes how a quilt relates to your individual sleeping habits.

  • What’s your tolerance for cold and do various parts of your body react differently to cold temperatures?
  • Do you move around a lot at night?
  • Are you a side sleeper?
  • What’s the climate where your most frequent backpacking and camping experiences take place?

Depending on the answers to those and other questions, It may be time to move beyond the traditional sleeping bag and give a quilt a try.

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