Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Quilt 101

This shall be the ultimate quilt post, your one-stop shop to see all quilt manufacturers "en una vez". Are you ready?

Sleeping bags are for Ultraheavy wimps which don't know better. The real UL Follower is sleeping under his quilt at night, warmer, lighter, better. A modern UL quilt is slightly different from the above description, in that they often use down as an isolator and a baffle construction, made of very fine, down-proof, synthetic shell and inner materials. Round it out with innovative extras like head holes, sleeping pad attachments, water resistant or recycled outers & inner linings and you got a tool in your UL box which you'll learn to love.

I made the switch to a quilt last year. The logic for my move was that compressed down (and synthetic) insulation on the bottom of a sleeping bag has no insulation value whatsoever - it is compressed and hence can not store warmth. Might as well then leave it out, right? Right! After all, I carry a good sleeping pad with me for insulation to the floor so compressed aka useless bottom insulation in a sleeping bag is unnecessary weight carried.

"But what about drafts?" I hear you ask. No, no, no! There's plenty of smart ways to keep drafts out, and if you use a bivy, then drafts are not a problem at all. I only can think of benefits in the quilt versus sleeping bag discussion, but then I might be biased =)

Benefits are that there's as much room as you want. Easily feel trapped in a sleeping bag? Not gonna happen in a quilt. Overheating? Easy airing with a quilt, just pull a side away to cool down. Absence of a hood? Your down pullover or jacket has one, right? How about multi-using it?! Problems drying a sleeping bag from the inside after a sweaty night? No problem with a quilt. Getting into a sleeping bag can be a hassle, that won't be a problem with you-know-what. Getting stuff stuck in the sleeping bag zipper? Guess what, a quilt doesn't have a zipper, so no getting stuck. Afraid of a wide opening at the head and critters joining you under your quilt? Most quilts come with a cinched top to trap all heat inside and leave the unwelcome guests outside. Did I mention the weight savings? Yeah, because there's no zippers, no bottom, no hood there's a sweet weight saving to be had.

My GoLite Ultra 20 has seen a lot of action, and is still as awesome as on day one.

I got you all psyched about quilts, I see, and you are ready to go and try them. STOP! Before you go dish out your hard earned cash, how about taking your sleeping bag, opening the zipper and just using it as a quilt on your next trip? That way you can test if a quilt is something for you, even if you won't get the full set of quilt benefits. After you've done that, browse this list of quilt manufacturers and find the one that suits your needs & wallet.

The Quilt Makers List: I tried to collect all backpacking quilt makers here, but might have missed some. If so, please leave a comment and I will add them!

Nunatak is named first, for the reason that they're pretty long around, make a variety of superduper awesome quilts in a wide variety of materials and are often named as number one if it comes to quilts. All quilts are custom made, so you'll pay a lot. If that doesn't scare you off and you decide the best is just good enough for you, check them out. Go-to quilt: Arc Alpinist.

Next are Jacks R Better quilts. The two Jacks are making quilts since 2004 and have a few innovative first next to their name - head holes to wear a quilt, for example. High quality and a favourite among UL backpackers and hammock folks alike, and with excellent value for money you can't go wrong with a JRB. Go-to quilt: The Sierra Sniveller.

Katabatic Gear is a newcomer, though they have likely at the moment the most innovative quilts with the best price/ quality ratio on the market. They looked at quilts, thought what could be improved and came out with two topnotch quilts. They round out their offer with superb accessories for quilt users like down balaclavas and bivys. Go-to quilt: Palisade 30°. Additional win: Most user-friendly and best looking website of the quilt makers.

Hammock Gear is a quilt maker for hammock quilts, though no doubt they will be fine for ground dwellers as well. They make top and under quilts, and the top quilts are interesting for ground sleepers (under quilts are wrapped around the underside of your hammock to keep out the cold and you buttocks warm). They're reasonably priced and the have some good options available. Go-to quilt: 3-Season Burrow.

Warbonner Outdoors is another hammock maker which produces top and under quilts. Their Black Mamba is, well, black, and hence looks might fine and should even be more thermal efficient, and dry quicker in the sun. Go-to quilt: Mamba 3-Season.

Arklight Design from France makes quilt/ top bag hybrids, as they aren't open underneath as a real quilt but have a piece of fabric between the wings of the quilt, no insulation in there, though. For those who're afraid of drafts, probably a good piece of kit. Go-to quilt: Walden 400.

enLIGHTened equipment should be making your quilt if you're looking for the lightest quilt on the market. Tim makes down quilts (and also synthetic quilts!) and the Epiphany uses cuben fibre as a shell & liner material, making it the lightest quilt on the market. It also will allow you to leave a VBL at home in winter, thus the ultimate down quilt for winter use.
Go-to quilt: Epiphany.

[Edit] Titanium Goat also entered the quilt game this year, with the Cyanocitta bag-quilt. It is zipperless and hoodless like a quilt, but has an attached draft panel that can be closed up to work more like a bag, check the photos on their site to see what I mean. Filled with 900 cuin down and weighing in at 510 g, this is a very light quilt, but comes at a high price. Thanks to jephoto for pointing this one out!

[Edit] Therm-A-Rest also has a quilt-bag, the Haven. It has a hood, it has a footbox, it has 700 cuin down and weighs 624 g, but the back seems to be open so it is also a kind of quilt-bag. It looks certainly interesting, and available for as low as 190$ a cheap entry into the world of quilts. Thanks to Mark for pointing this one out!

Finally, GoLite. The Ultra 20 was a favourite among thru-hikers as there weren't many options in the early 2000s, and its price/ quality ratio was great. The new line of quilts from GoLite uses recycled materials for the shell and lining, something I welcome very much, and 800+ down. Being now also more realistically rated to -7°C, its a good three season quilt. Go-to quilt: GoLite UltraLite 3-Season.

A few synthetic contenders we have as well.

The Backpacking Light Cocoon quilt is probably the benchmark which other synthetic quilts need to reach, being raved about by almost everyone who has used it. The UL 240 is the latest and greatest in synthetic quilts, and has been designed by Ryan Jordan himself - Nuff said!

Another well-known synthetic quilt, DIY style, is the Ray-Way quilt. Sold as a One-Person and Two-Person version with a variety of options, it is the way to go for those of you who like to make their own gear. You can choose between two different types of insulation material, a whole bunch of ludicrous colours (Pink, anyone!?!) and some more. Go-to quilt: Choose your own (but make it black!)!

Mountain Laurel Designs also offers quilts again, and their synthetic quilt for 2011 is the Spirit quilt. Andrew Skurka used one on his Alaska Yukon and said it is excellent - the man knows what he talks about, so no need to worry. Great price as well.

The Kick Ass Quilts sold by Arrowhead will make bushcraft and military folks smile - they have camo patterns! Arrowhead sells under and top quilts, as well as a DIY kit, so should be something the winter hammocking person should look at. Go-to quilt: Owyhee Top Quilt 3S.

Quilt tricks: Read the benefits of quilts above, there's some useful hints in there already. Buy a three season down quilt for spring - summer - autumn action, and get a synthetic quilt as an addition for the winter. You want to buy the synthetic quilt a bit bigger in oder to layer it over the down quilt - in this way the perspiration will condense in the synthetic quilt, keeping your down quilt longer alive (crucial on trips longer than two nights). Its also warmer! Get a good pad with your quilt. Consider a down pullover or jacket with a hood to multiuse it with the quilt at night, or if you want to not get a down pullover or jacket get a quilt with a head hole and a down balaclava to wear them at camp. Afraid of getting your down quilt wet? Get a synthetic one. Camping a lot with your partner? Get a Duo quilt, which can be even lighter as you'll benefit from shared body heat (and is lighter as two solo quilts)! Got more tips? Leave them in the comments!

Oh, if you now think I am a racist quilt user, calm down. In that Finnish winter of ours I like to go into my serious winter sleeping bag just as much as others (once in a while!) - stay tuned for a winter gear special sometime soon!