Sleeping bags are great. They keep you warm and snuggly once you’re in a tent. However, they are a pain to get into if you’re using a small backpacking tent. They’re an equal pain to get out of in the morning too.
Last year I heard about backpacking quilts so I thought I’d give one a try during the summer on the basis that during warm weather I wouldn’t get hypothermia inside a tent if things went horribly wrong. I used a Travelproof Vario 3 sleeping bag that opens into a quilt. I was impressed. As a side sleeper, a sleeping bag is not a nice way to sleep but the quilt was just like getting into bed at home. It covered my body but was really easy to get in and out of. No more zip fighting and I could lay on my side without a hood constricting me! I also used a Woobie aka USGI poncho liner with similar results. You can see my review of a Woobie else were in my blog. So, I decided quilts were the way to go.
I was lucky enough to hunt down an Enlightened Equipment Draft Dodger quit. It has a down filling, packs very small and weighs a mere 700g but will keep the sleeper warm down to -6C. On hotter nights you can use it exactly like the quilt on your bed at home. But, in Winter you can form a foot box and clip the quilt around your neck and tighten a draw cord to dodge those drafts! It’s a great design and just works!
Good as the Draft Dodger is it is a bit warm for the summer months so I decided to get a proper backpacking quilt for temperatures above about 12C. I was lucky enough to find an unused Golite RS +1 quilt that fitted the bill. It weighs 660 g, has a synthetic fill, a permanent foot box but it’s possible to clip the quilt around your neck if the temperature drops a little too much. The Golite quilt is supposed to be good to 40F but I think that’s optimistic. Without wearing anything other than boxers and a base layer tee shirt I found circa 10C/50F was the limit. However, that’s ok for what I want.
All backpacking quilts have some sort of strapping mechanism to attach the quilt to your sleeping pad. They Enlightened Equipment and the Golite have a similar way of working. Basically a thin belt fastens to the pad and this then buckles into the quilt. Dead simple and effective.
It’s true that quilts are a bit lighter than a comparable sleeping bag and take up less space in the pack. However, the weight savings aren’t that much because you have to carry a hat to replace the hood of a bag in cold weather. In effect, I reckon you’re probably going to save 50-100g- useful but not dramatic. The real benefits of using a quilt are comfort as they allow great venting options to control temperature and convenience in getting in and out of your bed.
I can’t see me returning to bags. Quilts make my pack more ultralight/ultra lite and give greater comfort.