Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Katabatic Gear Sawatch Quilt

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That I prefer quilts shouldn't surprise you. That I prefer them even in the depth of winter shouldn't either. Now if you're looking for winter quilts, you got two options:
  • Combine a three-season down quilt with a synthetic quilt to create a flexible system which can be adapted to the circumstances
  • Buy a dedicated winter quilt
I decided to combine both approaches to find out what works best for me.

Inevitably Katabatic Gear came up on top for me (no surprise, really, as I did interview the owner, Aaron Martray from Katabatic Gear not too long ago) and off I was checking what they had on offer. Back then the Katabatic Gear Sawatch quilt was their warmest quilt (the Blackwelder came later in 2011) and soon after a 2011 model with the new attachment system arrived on my doorstep, just in time for some Wilderness Guide Winter Expedition fun.

Hover over the photos to see smart descriptions!

While that trip didn't end well, it was an exceptional awesome opportunity to test my winter sleep system. Katabatic Gear advertises the Sawatch as their three-season workhorse, which is fine to about -10°C (or 15°F in some illogic system). The first night we had -31°C, and then -36°C for a couple of nights. I'm happy to report that with a smart system the Sawatch was keeping me toasty in those temperatures (Before you ask: I was wearing a 200er Woolpower Baselayer, the BPL Cocoon Hoody and pants, two Buffs, 800er Woolpower Socks, on a Multimat CCF and inflatable pad cocooned up in a Laufbursche Tyvek bivy, in a big Finnish Army tent - don't ask!). Lets take a look at the Sawatch then.

The Sawatch has 425 gram of 850 cuin down (nowadays you get 900 cuin down!), filled in continuous baffles which allow you to shift the down around as you please. The Shell Material is Pertex Quantum Ripstop .85oz/yd and the lining material is Pertex Quantum Taffeta 1.0oz/yd, which results in the following measured weight for my regular length Sawatch:
  • 695 gram Sawatch quilt
  • 009 gram two cords
  • 015 gram webbing
  • 017 gram stuff sack
Trail-weight (includes cords and stuff sack) is thus 721 gram.

Features & Function
The Pertex outer is "snowproof" which means a light dusting of snow (as seen in the video, for example) doesn't go through and wets the down. You can blow or brush it off simply. The inner lining is nice soft, does not irritate my skin and warms up quickly. It lofts quickly and overall feels better than the GoLite Ultra 20° I have used for well over two years now. The Sawatch has lost little down, sometimes one looks through the shell material, but they're easy to pull back in.

Onwards to details: Aaron has developed a Cord Clip Attachment System, which means you wrap two cords around your mat (it works with 2 cm thick inflatables and 9 cm thick winter mats - the cord is plenty long) and then clip the Sawatch in. The clips come with two settings: One lose one, in which you can move the quilt as you want, and a tight setting, in which you move the clip system one notch further and it sits tight. This eliminates drafts in real life situations, but clipping them into the tightest setting, while in the quilt, is sometimes rather hard: You're laying down and then try to push the clip system in the tightest notch next to you, while being under the quilt. With the lower one I just clip it in before I slid in, but the upper one is amusingly hard. But better that than drafts. I was worried that I would find the cord annoying while sleeping, but even with just a thin baselayer on I didn't notice it.

The real benefit of them clips is that they keep the quilt in place, which is especially useful if you belong to the tossing and much-moving-in-your-sleep category of sleepers. It minimizes, if not even eliminates the possibility of the quilt moving to the side, allowing for drafts to make you cold. I find it much preferable to the tuck-the-quilt-underneath-you technique which I employed with the Ultra 20°, because if you move with such an arrangement then I somehow always let some cold in/ warmth out.

Then there's those clip rings thingys a bit further up the side of the quilt. If you're such a tosser at night that you manage to unclip the cord from its super-tight setting, then Katabatic Gear recommends you clip the cord into those clip rings thingys. They don't lock down and are free running, but you create a rather thick puffy barrier between the mat, quilt and yourself that getting drafts should be impossible. Well, unless go sleep walking. In practice I never managed to unlock the cord from the clip once tightly secured

You also can use it without the cord system, as the Sawatch comes with two webbing straps. These you could wrap around the pad if you're inclined, but I prefer to just lay on the mat with the webbing underneath me, pulled tight. This works especially well if you're sleeping in huts, where drafts usually are less of a problem. It also has a third strap a bit above where the footbox ends, which can't be removed, except with scissors. As it has not much function in my opinion, that might be its logical end.

The bottom opening of the quilt (the hole!) has an elastic band sewn in around it, which should prevent gaps and drafts at the sleeping pad level. It is a bit of extra attention to detail and innovative thinking, which makes Katabatic Gear stand apart from its competitors.

The cut then is what Katabatic Gear calls a "Differential Cut". What that means is that the outer is cut wider than the inner liner fabric, resulting in a larger circumference of the shell than of the liner. The result is that when you pull the quilt tightly around you, you do not crush the down from the inside on, as it has enough space to loft. Add in continuous baffles - they go from side to side, or down in the footbox they go all the way around. The benefit is that you can move the down around. The question here is if this is an advantage or a disadvantage: In non-continuous baffles the down stays where it is, but in the here used continuous baffles the down can - voluntarily and in-voluntarily - move around. Obviously it is annoying if the down move in-voluntarily away from where you want it, but on the other hand it gives you the chances to use the quilt in varying conditions: On a warm night in low elevation you can move the down to the side, making it less warm, while if you go up a mountain and have a cold night coming, you move the down evenly around. Obviously if it is warm enough you just could pull the quilt down as well, but that works only to some extent.

Another feature of the Sawatch is its down collar. It is awesome, one of the best details on this quilt. A nice, thick puff around the collar eliminates drafts on the hole of the quilt which most often lets cold in and warmth escape; the hole where your head sticks out. To keep that puffy collar in place there's two buttons to connect the opening, practically closing it. And to top things off, there's a drawcord which allows you to tighten the collar so that it fits well around your neck. The buttons are a bit hard to open and close when you close it around your neck, but it's not a major issue (close them first, easy, and stick your head through the hole). The drawcord would be better located on the side in my opinion, as with it being on top the cord tends to slide in your face/ neck which is annoying; though you can just pull it inside after you have closed it and it is out of the way.

The Sawatch has a trapezoidal shaped footbox which has overstuffed baffles. That means even without a pair of GooseFeet down booties you still should have warm feet; which can be like feet should be without decreasing the loft (by pushing it inside, the trapezoidal shape is somewhat ergonomic/ anatomically). I do prefer to have my down booties on, though, and they fit well in there. The footbox is otherwise closed and can not be opened, and as discussed above has continuous baffles.

As mentioned in the video, the Sawatch comes with a proper, massive organic cotton storage sack. It is sweet to see that there's a relatively new cottage which pays attention to all the details: A big storage sack to store your fine quilt uncompressed; and to top things off made of organic cotton, which shows that the outdoors in which we hike, ski, packraft and bike are valued. Thumbs up. That'd be it on the details.

Technical Innovations & Quality
I think it is great to see that there's a new (less than three years old) cottage, which comes to market with a very well developed product, which in my opinion beats the offerings of many other quilt manufacturers out there - just read through the features above. Not only that, but Aaron also listens to his customers and improves on the design where needed. The end result is one of the most well-thought-out quilts currently on the market, perfectly made. I probably should notice that the craftsmanship is superb and the Sawatch makes an overall superior impression than the Ultra 20° which I have used previously (still using it, btw). It is Made in Colarado, USA.

Sustainability & Recyclablity
Shall think and add in.

I used the Sawatch last year over two weeks in the field. Three nights with temperatures well over -30°C, and I was toasty. I had, thanks to pulling a Fjellpulken pulka, also my BPL Coccon synthetic quilt with me, in case the Sawatch on its own wouldn't proof warm enough. That concern was unfounded, and I didn't need to combine the two quilts yet to create the über-winter quilt system. In those cold winter nights there was also no problem with dew freezing inside the quilt, something which rather surprised me. Or at least not enough to make the down collapse, something some of my classmates couldn't say. But remember that this is a three-season quilt, so don't be stupid and take this to Siberia in January.

I'm taking it in February for a week to the North and in March on a one-week skiing/ snowshoeing trip. I will add further findings to this review, should there be any.

Competing products
Nunatak Arc Alpinist. $426, a bit less warm, a bit lighter.
enLIGHTened equipment Epiphany. $410, a bit less warm, a lot lighter, VBL integrated.
Having used the GoLite Ultra 20° and having seen its follower, the 3-Season quilt, I'm not confident to include it here. While cheaper it is not in the same warmth class as the Sawatch or the two above.

What others say
BPL reviewed it and gave it a Highly Recommended. It's written by Roger Caffin, which is in my opinion the best and most credible BPL Reviewer, so it are high acclaims.

The Sawatch quilt packs down small, lofts quickly, is toasty warm, has a bunch of well-thought-out details, and comes in a range of sizes from Small to Long Extra Wide. Get yours if you're in the market for a three-season quilt which can be pushed with a well-thought-out system well into winter.

Where to get it
At Katabatic Gear directly. $420 in Regular length.

- 15.02.2012 - added a Video

Future Updates
---VIDEO coming in the first Update of this Living Review---
---Filling in the gaps---
---Also in the next update: Possible fixing of my rubbish English (as in grammar and spelling and syntax)---

Disclaimer: You can find it there on the right in the side bar. Read it. Additionally I don't recommend going out in the blistering cold without sufficient back-up - that'd be moronic. So be smart. Finally, this quilt was provided free of charge to me and I was held at gunpoint to write a honest review, with all the good, bad and ugly details. I succeeded.