“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know.”
– Ernest Hemingway
Perhaps the most beloved item in a backpacker’s kit. After a long day on the trail, there aren’t too many things I enjoy more than slipping into my sleeping bag/quilt and drifting off to the land of Nod.
I made the full-time switch from bags to quilts in 2011. I had tried various models over the previous decade, but was never entirely satisfied with the accompanying attachment systems, until I started using quilts from Katabatic Gear. More than 700 nights in the wilderness later, I suspect there is no going back.
Seven Reasons Why I Prefer Quilts
Quilts are generally between 20 and 30% lighter than their sleeping bag equivalents. Why? Quilts provide insulation on top of the sleeper where it matters, but not underneath where the user’s weight will negate the benefits of loft.
2. Less Volume
A quilt takes up less space. This equates to less compression (see Tip below), which in turn means that when I remove the quilt at day’s end it doesn’t take as long to re-loft. No small matter if it is freezing cold, I’m exhausted and the only things I really require are warmth and seven to eight hours sleep.
As a bonus, it is worth noting that by minimizing compression over an extended period, you are potentially improving the longevity of your quilt/bag.
*Tip: When loading my backpack, I use my quilt as a “filler” for the outer section of the pack’s interior, as opposed to putting it in a stuff sack at the bottom (see How to load a backpack).
3. Just as Warm (well……almost)
This wasn’t necessarily true in days past. However, in recent years lightweight gear companies have upped the ante in regards to design and workmanship. Top quality quilts now come with neck collars, width options and improved attachment systems, meaning that those bracing drafts that were once the bane of quilt users around the backpacking universe, are now largely a thing of the past.
“How will I keep my noggin warm?” Wear a beanie; chances are you are carrying one anyway.
“Still not warm enough?” Layer up. Utilize the hoods you likely have on your jackets (i.e. windshirt, down and/or rain) and even throw on a bandana “pirate-style” if you’re really desperate.
4. No Zipper Issues
Nothing to snag or break.
5. Less Restrictive
Quilts provide greater freedom of movement; particularly if you are a side sleeper.
“Can’t an open sleeping bag do the same thing?” Yes, however your sleeping bag won’t have an attachment system underneath to keep out the drafts if you happen to turn over.
6. Less Moisture
With your head outside rather than inside, there is less chance your bag will be compromised by moisture buildup from respiration.
If you are using a sleeping bag and have a tendency to toss and turn in your sleep, you may flip over during the evening and end up face down in the hood; this is not an issue if you are using a quilt.
No zip and less materials generally equate to a more affordable night’s sleep.