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Quilt vrs. Bag
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Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 07:47:35 MST Print View

Actually, the subject of this thread is mildly misleading. It should read "what is a quilt?" But that seemed like too stupid a question.

What are the benefits, besides weight, of a quilt over a bag?
How does one sleep comfortably in a quilt (this from someone who has only ever slept ensconsed in a tight mummy)?



Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: What is a quilt on 11/10/2009 08:01:08 MST Print View

Take a look at this and skip to 4:18

Should give you a good idea.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Quilt vs. Bag on 11/10/2009 08:04:00 MST Print View

Using a quilt is like sleeping at home, unless you use a mummy bag on your bed. Campers used blankets for a long time before the sleeping bag, let alone the mummy bag was invented.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 08:10:49 MST Print View

The main benefit to me, apart from the weight saving, is that i sleep much better. I dislike restrictive mummy bags. Even using a bag opened up, i always seemed to wake up eating the hood.
Now i just cinch the neck cord of my quilt in snug, and i can move as much as i like under it. I can wear whatever head wear and clothing i choose to suit the temperature expected.

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
Quiilt vs Bag on 11/10/2009 08:12:49 MST Print View

The benefits, AFAIC, are that I won't ever get the zipper stuck again on the quilt because THERE ISN"T ONE. Plus, quilts work as multi-use items - top quilt, underquilt (hammock), serape hanging around camp, coat (if you get one with a head hole for that purpose and add the sleeves ala Jacks R Better). I can wear whatever I want on my head for warmth and not get smothered in the hood. And I don't think I could otherwise get a 20 degree sleeping bag that weighs 20 oz and is true to the rating.

Edited by lori999 on 11/10/2009 08:14:07 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
weight on 11/10/2009 09:01:19 MST Print View

For me, the only benefit is weight. I've never found mummy bags to be constricting, and WM has solved the zipper jam issue that plagued my old TNF bag.

It's funny, but I think the quilt trend has fueled the "wind bivvy" (or "superfluous bivvy") trend, because with the strap or drawcord bottom closure in anything but ideal three season conditions, you need a layer to close out drafts. Seems like a top bag with a bottom layer of nylon would be best.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 10:53:30 MST Print View

A combination of weight, comfort and cost, at least for us.

Since I can't afford super-light ultra-expensive bags, making a two-person quilt was a no-brainer. And using the latest synthetic materials at the time it was about as light as a pair of very expensive down bags with much reduced loss-of-loft problems with long-term use.

And it cost about seven times less than a pair of equivalent down bags!

Note that for many years we used a Marmot semi-rectangular down bag (Grouse) opened up as a two-person quilt with a thin fabric bottom zipped in, but it was getting a little small for us (funny how it slowly shrank over 25 years!).

We found two-person quilts much more comfortable than bags. Recently I used a bag after using quilts for years and was amazed how confining it felt. I later made a one-person quilt and probably will never use a bag again for 3-season camping.

One minor downside is drafts in cold quilts have "draftstoppers", but they don't stop all drafts. I found that if you wear a long-sleeved baselayer shirt and long baselayer pants to bed, drafts are no longer an issue.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Quilt on 11/10/2009 11:56:50 MST Print View

It's just nicer to sleep under a quilt. I don't mind bags, but quilts are more like home. They're easier to get out of if you gotta pee in the night, easier to reach an arm out of for a drink etc.

This can apply to bags too, but if you use your warm clothing to extend the comfort temp of a quilt then it's also nicer to get out of because you don't lose all your insulation when you crawl out. So you don't freeze half naked in the tent while you try to get dressed.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: RE: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 11:57:10 MST Print View

"Seems like a top bag with a bottom layer of nylon would be best."

Amen. This is what we use and it is by far the most weight efficient sleep insulation system.

I think it would have been OK to ask "what is a quilt" though, as it is still a fuzzy idea. Some folks call a flat rectangular quilt like the JRB a "quilt" and in the strictest sense this is correct. However the term has evolved to include tapered quilts, and tapered quilts with sewn in foot boxes. By the time you are talking about a tapered quilt with a sewn in foot box, there is really little difference between that and a "bag" such as most of the WM Extremelite series, except a couple of ounces.

The quilt craze does seem to have driven a bivy culture, as reducing drafts is alway a challenge when you can't completely seal your system up. Unlike a quilt you may use at home protected from wind, UL quilts and bags are a lot smaller and lighter, and it doesn't take much of a breeze to lift an edge and give you a chill. So some thought must go in to preventing this with wings, straps, drafts stoppers or a bivy bag. Lacking a hood you also have to make provision for your head.

Our top bags actually have a zipper and hood, so don't qualify as quilts in any way shape or form. But they DO allow us to use a bag that is 26 oz and conservatively rated to 15F before even adding in extra clothing layers, headwear or bivy bag. Likewise with our summer top bags that are accurately rated to 30F and 15oz without any additional accessories. So a quilt may be more comfortable for many, but it is not the lightest or most efficient system available.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: weight on 11/10/2009 17:25:16 MST Print View

"It's funny, but I think the quilt trend has fueled the "wind bivvy" (or "superfluous bivvy") trend, because with the strap or drawcord bottom closure in anything but ideal three season conditions, you need a layer to close out drafts. Seems like a top bag with a bottom layer of nylon would be best."


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: weight on 11/10/2009 17:39:31 MST Print View

"because with the strap or drawcord bottom closure in anything but ideal three season conditions, you need a layer to close out drafts"

My layer is the bottom quilt on my hammock!

Jamie Shortt
(jshortt) - MLife

Locale: North Carolina
re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 18:53:23 MST Print View

Tim, Quilts come in several different forms. The simplest is a rectangular shape. Most backpacking quilts add features. These might include:

* taper down to the foot box
* draw cords at the top and possibly the bottom edge
* straps on the sides
* side extensions without insulation to assist with sealing
* a partially sewn footbox...typically ~18" long
* velcro strips to form a footbox
* snaps to form a seal around your neck

How do you use them?
* You can drape them over you in camp, like a blanket
* can can lay under it if the night is cool
* most have some type of foot box (sewn or can be formed) to keep your feet warm if it gets cooler
* if it gets cold tuck the sides under you, this is where straps are helpfull
* if it gets colder, pull the draw cord tight around your neck (now your quilt is fully sealed around your body)
* If it gets real cold you will can add cloths, the quilts girth can expand to handle more cloths. A zippered bag once zipped has a fixed girth (hence the name variable girth)
* if you have a long quilt and the temps really drop, pull the quilt around your head
* note on sleeping pads, the quilt & your body can go completely on top of the quilt or if it has straps they can run under the pad so that the pad is in the quilt with you

What makes them special?
* Simplicity, Simply shape and no zipper to mess with or fail (weight saved). Because they are simpler you can make your own more easily than a sleeping bag
* Versatiliy, depending on style many quilts can be laid flat (see JRB quilts for examples) or formed and sealed around you. Many people who sleep on sides on stomach have found quilts to be better solutions compared to bags.
* Efficiency, as you can see this is a debated topic, but I have found quilts to have a high warmth to weight ratio. Why? no insulation wasted under you, no fabric weight directly under you, no hood weight, no zipper weight, which means no need for a draft tube
* Cheaper, quilts can typically be made at a lower cost. Why, less materials (less down, less fabric, no zipper, etc) Golite Ultra 20 costs $225 vs the Golite Adrenline at $325.

I have found that if you can properly "seal" your quilt under you that a bivy really doesnt add anything beyond what it does for a sleeping bag. When sleeping under a tarp I use a bivy with a bag or quilt (though now I only own quilts). A bivy adds some warmth, it protects against windblown rain, and greatly sheds wind equally well for both bags and quilts. This statement is solely based on my experience other users may have different opinions. Check out Ray Jardine's sight for examples of bivyless quilting under a wide range of conditions. Ray doesn't use a bivy with his quilts.

If you want to see quilts in action take a look at some of the cottage sites like JackRBetter, Nunatak, Ray-Way.come, and of course this sight has multiple examples too.


Edited by jshortt on 11/10/2009 19:09:16 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/10/2009 19:44:18 MST Print View

I think Jamie summed it up really nicely. Keep in mind that using a bivy, or straps, or velcro or even 'wings' to prevent drafts from entering your system means you lose a lot of the flexibility to toss and turn and easily get out to pee etc...Since none of my bivies have ever had full length zips I find sleeping in a bivy bag (with quilt or bag makes no difference) to be much more claustrophobic than just sleeping in a plain fully zipped mummy bag. Trying to wiggle in and out of a bivy with a small entrance is not fun!

Jamie's comments about using a bivy under a tarp also apply to bags, as in this case the bivy is there mainly to keep your bag/quilt dry and sometimes to keep insects at bay.

The benefits of quilting versus traditional bags are as Jamie outlined, but you should think carefully about how and where you sleep. For instance, for me I tarptent rather than tarp, so don't need a bivy to keep my bag dry or insects at bay, therefore I don't really want to carry a bivy just to keep drafts out of my sleep system (as I said, they can be a real pain in the A$$ to get in and out of). I also don't typically carry a down balaclava, but found when we went quilting that this was another additional piece of gear I had to carry. Suddenly my sleep system went from one piece to three, and also ended up heavier and more complicated than just carrying a bag that I could use as a quilt on hot nights and zip up on cold nights. But if you already carry a bivy bag (for instance you tarp camp), and you already carry a warm balaclava, then a quilt might save you a few ounces over a quilt with a zipper and hood (in other words a traditional bag).

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
GG - SleepLight Down Sleeping Bag on 11/11/2009 01:59:43 MST Print View Has anyone tried one of these?

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: GG - SleepLight Down Sleeping Bag on 11/11/2009 10:56:38 MST Print View

Defective post

Edited by retropump on 11/11/2009 11:09:31 MST.

Timothy Reynolds
(magrenell) - M

Locale: New England
Re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/11/2009 11:07:01 MST Print View

Jamie and Jason,

Thanks so much for your analysis and information. I really feel I've got a much clearer insight into what quilts are, and how to use them.

I've been using a 0˚ mummy bag for hiking in colder seasons, and I've never been very comfortable, as I'm a stomach/side sleeper. Plus, zipper-snagging and the general getting in and getting out hassle (particularly if you forgot to do that "one last thing") can be annoying.

I've one further point I'm not all that clear about. Jamie, you mentioned cutting down on wasted cloth beneath you when you sleep. I would have thought that, especially in cold and extreme cold weather, having insulation (besides your pad) beneath you would be a benefit that merits the extra weight? Does sleeping on a pad alone really keep you insulated and warm (when strapped up, etc.)?


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/11/2009 11:08:58 MST Print View

That GG bag is much like the bags we use (WM PODs), but our bags have a zipper. I would struggle without a zipper, and to be honest (not dissing Glen's bag, just a heads-up) if you could track down a WM POD 30 you would have a warmer AND lighter sleep system (and a half zipper). The PODs can also be adapted to attach firmly to any pad of your choice so you can't roll off it and expose the downless bottom of the bag.

POD 30 with Velcro attachment to torso-sized Ridgerest:

POD bottom

Total weight of POD with excess fabric removed: 15oz, 2 inches loft, solid 30F bag, 62 inch circumference at shoulder (so plenty of room for layering).

Also note, as an addition to my previous post these are some of the other situations in which we have found quilts work well without a bivy. Any good fully double skinned tent would work as the drafts are already eliminated. We found a double quilt in our Nallo2 worked well as the walls of the tent kept the edges of the quilt in place. In a single walled tent the quilt would have been soaked from condensation. Also, as already mentioned, quilts work well in hammocks for a similar reason, ie it's easier to keep the edges tucked and exclude drafts. Quilts work really well in huts!

Edited by retropump on 11/11/2009 11:55:55 MST.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/11/2009 11:14:27 MST Print View

"I would have thought that, especially in cold and extreme cold weather, having insulation (besides your pad) beneath you would be a benefit that merits the extra weight?"

Thin nylon has very little insulation value, and compressed down is not much better.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: re: Quilt vrs. Bag on 11/12/2009 10:38:17 MST Print View

Lots of good feedback so far.

Some points: I think most people consider Nunatak quilts to be representative of the category, ie narrow-cut mummy shaped. If you look at the similarities and differences between mummy bags and quilts, it's very hard to see a significant advantage in terms of weight or other advantage to a quilt... other than personal preference. (In many of the instances we tend to compare... at the fringes, absolutely some differences. To me, the point of a quilt is to absolutely minimize weight. The only way to do that at a certain point is to use less material. The only way to really make a quilt significantly more weight, lighter... than a bag is to make a really skinny-cut quilt. More to follow...) And personal preference is a very significant factor in finding your happy sleep space.

Nunatak's Arc Specialist has a girth of 55" and footbox of 38", mass of 16-17oz (depending on shell). Add an ounce for longer length (as suggested for shrugging into if cold). You're looking at 17-18 ounces for the quilt. Nunatak's down balaclava adds 4 oz. By comparison, Western's Summerlite weighs 19oz, for a 59" girth and footbox of 38", but it comes with a hood and zipper. The Nunatak, even without considering the weight of a bivy, is an ounce lighter for the quilt itself, but about even or a bit heavier if you consider head insulation (since you can lose over 50% of your heat through your head, an important consideration).

Of course, if you have a down hood separate from the sleeping bag, you can then also use the hood with your jacket around camp. I don't find that particularly useful in 3-season use, because a poofy down hood is simply too warm for moving around camp. But for straight-up winter camping I could see it handy. In fact, I designed my last down jacket/quilt to work with such a system. But I found that I stayed warmer with less fuss with a more conventional system.

If you considered the Ghost instead, with a girth of 46" and footbox of 34", then it only weighs 14-16 oz, + 2oz for going up a size in length, versus the full-girth, zippered, hooded sleeping bag.

If the point of a quilt is to use less materials to get a lighter product, then it doesn't make sense to buy a longer quilt and a heavier bag. If you got a Ghost in medium, let's call it 15 oz (split diff. between the two lightest shell materials). Most people will still add some kind of head insulation. And from what I can tell, most people who use quilts do also carry a bivy... but assume no bivy. After adding some kind of balaclava, you've added at least 2 ounces to your sleep system... at which point, you're still 2 ounces lighter than a Summerlite. But the Summerlite is roomier and will therefore be easier to layer under, plus you won't have any drafts to deal with.

The quilt/bag I designed and used for my last trip was a finished girth of about 56" with a footbox of 34". I found that the size of the footbox kept my size 9 feet kind of locked into position in the footbox... in other words, when I rolled over the quilt would roll over with me, because it stayed in alignment with my feet. To roll over without taking the quilt with me, I had to first pull my feet up out of the footbox. I also found that the 56" girth was not quite adequate for side sleeping... if I rolled over, an edge would pull up quite easily and create a draft. Yes, I was usually able to cinch that closed. But in a sleeping bag, I just roll over with the bag. It never comes out of position, it doesn't restrict me in any way. I actually have more room inside the bag to move around than I would under a quilt... which makes sense, since quilts are narrower cut and have to be locked into position on your pad to keep the heat sealed in and the drafts minimized or out.

Regarding layering under a quilt versus a bag, if you buy a larger-girth quilt to allow for layering, you might as well buy a bag. My Summerlite at 59" allows plenty of room for my relatively stocky build and a down jacket or vest if needed.

In short, if you buy the absolute smallest quilt possible and don't carry any head insulation or a bivy, you can get a system that weighs a quarter-pound less than a full-on sleeping bag... simply because you're using less material. However, the weight of a #3 zipper (full-length, about 0.75oz IIRC) and hood (about 2oz) can be a few ounces well worth it... perhaps even more efficient in terms of weight. And in terms of versatility, I regularly use my Summerlite as a quilt, but you can never use a quilt like a sleeping bag... ie I can drape a sleeping bag over me just as I can with a quilt, but I can also zip the sleeping bag up to maximize warmth when necessary, stick my head in the hood.

Edited by 4quietwoods on 11/12/2009 10:48:17 MST.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
It seems that the quilt carries a lot of limits on 11/12/2009 10:54:25 MST Print View

I like to sleep under the stars when I can. If it is windy and cold the kind of things you have to do with a quilt would seem to practically turn it into a sleeping bag.

The argument that you don't need insulation under you would seem to be a bit misleading. We are not shaped like a piece of lumber. There are all kinds of air spaces under us when we sleep. I would think that filling those with insulation would make for a warmer bed.

If you are a tosser and turner like me how do you keep a quilt wrapped around you?

I guess I will stick with a bag. They just seem more adaptable to a wider variety of situations. And the weight savings doesn't seem to be enough to justify a quilt.

Of course everyone is different and has different priorities.