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Sleeping Bags vs Quilts
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Chris Jones
(NightMarcher) - F
Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 08:16:48 MDT Print View

Besides weight savings, are there any other advantages of using a quilt rather than a sleeping bag?

I was perusing Nunatak's web site, checking out some of their offerings. I came across a sleeping bag and its quilt counterpart:

Alpinist (sleeping bag):

Arc Alpinist (quilt):

All things being equal (size, temperature rating, etc.), there does not seem to be that much of a weight savings benefit (for quilts). For example, a medium-size 20 deg F bag using Nextec weighs in 25 oz, whereas its quilt counterpart weighs in 23 oz (note: the bag is slightly taller and wider than the quilt).

I'm sure the quilters here aren't doing it for just the weight savings alone (or are you?). So, I was wondering are there other qualities of quilts that led you choose them over sleeping bags.

I am aware of the "the down you're laying on is compressed, thus not providing any insulation value" argument. So, I was wondering if there are other arguments for quilts (weather conditions, sleeping style, type of shelter--bivy only, bivy + tarp, tarp only, tent, etc.).

I writhe around in my sleep a bit (alternating between back-leftside-rightside--never stomach), so I am wondering if that should be a consideration.

Also, if there are arguments for choosing a sleeping bag over a quilt, I would be interested in hearing those as well.


Edited by NightMarcher on 03/16/2012 06:17:48 MDT.

Mark Dijkstra
(Markacd) - F
Sleeping bag vs quilt on 03/13/2012 08:42:26 MDT Print View

I prefer a sleeping bag over a quilt because I don't want to risk waking up from a draft every time I turn around during the night.

If I would only go to warm areas where a small draft is not much of a problem, I would definately consider a quilt as you can move more freely in/under one.

Bob Salcedo
(Baughb) - F

Locale: So Cal.
Side Sleeper on 03/13/2012 09:17:42 MDT Print View

I enjoy the quilt a lot more than my bag more for the wiggle room than anything.

My set up is now an Exped UL Synmat7, A Sierra Sniveler quilt, and a sea to summit fleece bag liner that fully unzips to flat. This set up is lighter than my Marmot bag alone, packs just a little bigger and is very flexible and comfortable for me. Admittedly, I've only had it down to 30 degrees a few times but it was plenty comfortable.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 09:57:39 MDT Print View

It's not really bags vs quilts, it's (mass) market preferences that drive production orientation. UL backpackers are merely a very small tail, while the main body of the dog is the broad middle market.

The fat middle not only prefers bags, but they also demand a sturdy value proposition. That means price vs (perceived) quality, with weight perhaps coming in 3rd. In other words, most manufacturers are geared towards producing a decent quality bag, with a limited number of high-end bags maybe looking something like this:

*bag with two full length zippers
*500-800FP down
*30d or heavier fabric

This is where you are getting your 23-25oz numbers - they are constrained by production & market realities. To get a really light bag, you need to look outside the mainline manufacturers. These are the people producing quilts, because (a) they are simpler to make; and (b) dropping zippers and excess fabric saves weight.

But more importantly, some of them produce quilts with 850-900FP down, along with 20, 10 or even 7d fabric. If you look at some of their numbers, you'll soon realize that 20 degree bags can be made that weigh around 16-18oz. This is where the weight savings are - the cottage guys or MYOG people focusing on material, down and design.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
bags on 03/13/2012 12:26:14 MDT Print View

as stated above usually its the construction that affects the weight of a bag, most manufacturers use 20D+ even in their "high end" bags ...

so see what real en-rated bags by a major manufacturer can be done at ... just take a look at the ueli steck sleeping bag ... en-rated to 32F male for < 16 oz ... for a comparison the arc/ghost are between 14-17 oz +1.5 oz for a down hat ... the zpacks are 13.5-14.5 oz + 1.5 oz ... and the katabatic is 17 oz + 1.5 oz

now it does cost ~400 smackaroos, but thats the price range of many of the other quilts as well once you add in the down hat™-32-(Regular)/OU8479_R,default,pd.html

IMO bags tend to be more flexible as you can use em as quilts ... and when zipped up you dont need to worry about drafts ... if i had to own one single bag, a 20F bag is a do it all IMO ... add a light synth quilt for those hot summer months and as used as an overbag in winter, and yr all set without having a million bags in yr closet like some people ;)

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: bags on 03/13/2012 12:37:12 MDT Print View

Eric - you forgot to mention that that MH bag will only fit the narrowest of people.

I like quilts for one primary reason - I can move and don't feel constricted. They are also superior to use when layering, i.e. wearing insulated clothing to bed to push the limits of your sleep system. From this perspective, quilts are far more modular.

I also like the fact that there are no zippers to snag and nothing to break. Apples to Apples (same fabrics and down fill) a quilt will always be lighter.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
room on 03/13/2012 12:49:50 MDT Print View

the MH bag seems to have more or less the same room as the summerlite according to the listed measurements ...which is used my many here ... id be interested to hear from yr experience trying on the bag ...

as to layering under a bag, i do it just fine with my cats meow ... personally i think layering under a down bag in certain conditions is not the best idea ... yr bag becomes the last layer and possibly subject to condensation

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: bags on 03/13/2012 13:03:46 MDT Print View

It's a weight savings issue (and freedom of movement). The insulation on the bottom of a bag gets compressed by your body. When compressed it is barely more than useless, so it's become dead weight. Remove the bottom and you save weight with out necessarily decreasing warmth.

What people fail to mention is that without any bottom (which is a quilt, a top bag still has a bottom just no insulation in it) drafts become an issue. Not too bad in warmer weather but definitely becomes an issue in sub freezing temps. You also have no head warmth, which again is an issue in sub-freezing temps (above freezing you probably don't need a full down hood and a simple beanie you'd already have could work). So for drafts you crawl into a bivy to keep wind off and for warmth you add a down hood or beanie (which depending on selection increases total weight by at least 6 oz over just a quilt). So even the weight savings isn't that valid of an argument.

What happened is BPL posted an article on the merits of using alternative sleep systems and at the time bags were universally much heavier than quilts (quilts came from cottage with lighter fabrics/down then what the big names were using). So this was an apples to oranges comparison. Now that lighter materials are being used, bag weights are dropping. As you clearly showed, and many ignored, a bag and a quilt from THE SAME COTTAGE MANUFACTURER only have a 2oz weight difference. Now looking at the specs I would question either the weight, size, or the temp ratings (adding 1 oz of fill to cover two sides of your body in a bag vs just one side in a quilt should not equate to an equivalently warm garment). If you compare GoLite to GoLite their 3 season bags are 7oz more than their quilts but their 1 season bags and quilts are equivalent in weight.

Now the quilt setup does provide some flexibility. It's easier to regulate temperatures, if rain is unlikely you can cowboy camp in a bivy even if bugs are present (you can kind of do the same with a bag but it's less protected from the elements and slightly less convenient using a mosquito head net). A quilt also isn't as confining.

So here are the reasons:
Philosophical: it doesn't make sense to bring an item where you'll crush/negate up to 35% of it's insulating value, that's dead weight.
Versatility: increased by some metrics, works if you like actually sleeping in quilts.
UL credibility: Perception is everything on the internet (even though I use a 20F bag and have no problem getting under 10lbs base weight).
Weight: significant if comparing a standard manufacturer's bag to just a quilt. Potentially a savings of a quilt+bivy to just a bag but depends on gear selection.
MYOG: much easier to make a quality quilt than a proper differentially cut sleeping bag.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: bags on 03/13/2012 13:20:16 MDT Print View

I don't have issues with drafts because I use a quilt with a differential cut that widens to 58". I simply suff the sides and use the pad straps in cold weather (too many people cut them off in my opinion).

It is your pad that provides warmth protection from conduction anyway. With the advent of pads like the NeoAir, more and more people are able to use quilts in sub freezing temps. Easily because they can also layer in effectively.

Eric- I don't fit in a Summerlite. In fact, based on the width of my shoulders, I can't actually zip the bloody thing up. I need a minimum of 64" in girth.

Having used a quilt exclusively for some time now, I just can't use a mummy bag. In fact, I just sold my last one off a couple of weeks ago.

"So for drafts you crawl into a bivy to keep wind off and for warmth you add a down hood or beanie (which depending on selection increases total weight by at least 6 oz over just a quilt). So even the weight savings isn't that valid of an argument."

Nope. I always wear a synthetic hoody around camp and use this as part of my sleep system. I am not adding anything extra because I already have the hoody. Don't forget the that one of the primary tenets of employing an UL approach is using gear that doubles in use. So for me, at least, this IS a valid argument and a strong one at that.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Quilts and Drafts on 03/13/2012 13:21:40 MDT Print View

Quilts need not produce a draft. Take a look at the Katabatic Gear quilts. They are the best on the market IMO at the moment. They feature a clip attachment system that keeps the quilt on top of your sleeping pad and thus hold the heat in. That attachment system is optional. As has already been mentioned, if you are a side sleeper, quilts are much easier to move around. Try pulling your knees up in a conventional mummy bag.

Another advantage of quilts is by having your head outside the bag and using a cinched draft collar you do a great job of preventing exhaled moisture from entering the inside of your bag. Far more moisture compromises bags from breathing than sweat so that isn't a small detail.

I can't think of a single function that a traditional mummy bag performs better than my Katabatic Gear quilt.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
use on 03/13/2012 13:27:20 MDT Print View

i can ... bivies on a poor ledge ... but then thats beyong the scope of BPL

thats something a quilt isnt that useful for as you may be scrunched up or at an angle ... or sleeping sitting down..

but then thats beyong the scope of BPL ...

the point though i believe by the OP ... is that comparable quilt/bags from a particular highly regarded manufacturer do not have that great a weight difference ...

id like to hear about yr experiences randy using quilts at temps below 0F ...

Jonathan Rozes

Locale: Pacific Wonderland
Re: Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 13:38:27 MDT Print View

I've been on the fence with this myself, but I'm leaning toward the bag because my primary use will be in temperatures at or below freezing, and it just feels like quilts require too many compromises at those temperatures to work effectively (namely, you wind up trying to turn them into something resembling a bag).

If my primary use were summer temperatures with occasional dips to freezing, I'd be solidly in favor of the quilt.

And this may be a minor quibble, but regarding down on the bottom of a bag, it's really only an issue for bags that have side block baffles, not a problem intrinsic to all bags.

Lawson Kline
(Mountainfitter) - M

Re: on 03/13/2012 13:59:56 MDT Print View

I personally prefer an over-sized mummy style bag with a draw cord box and no hood because it can be used as a sleeping bag, quilt or center zip bag. I also prefer synthetic over down, especially for warmer weather (+40 degrees).

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Quilts and Drafts on 03/13/2012 14:11:07 MDT Print View

Never touched the Katabatic, so just only have the photos on their website as a guide. It seem they are fully enclosed to about the top of the leg and then clips which go under the mat from top of leg through to the shoulder? If that photo is right its got hardly any quilt features at all, e.g. the legs are still inside a mummy?

Does anyone do a hybrid approach? A non-enclosed something over a less-insulating inner mummy bag? That way you own 2 items and mix them to the seasons/conditions?

I ask because I just last week laid down $300 for a with-zip bag to go over my zipless (for weight reasons) 3-season bag.


Over/around this (which I owned already):

I figured between these 2 I'd go from a quilt-like with the unzipped down to a full-only mummy in the combinations.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Quilts use below zero on 03/13/2012 14:37:13 MDT Print View

I have personally never camped at or below 0 F temps and doubtful I will ever intentionally do that. I have camped in temps in the 20's in a quilt, no issues. I take my Katabatic Gear 40 degree quilt down to about 30 with no issues as long as I wear my Down jacket and Balaclava. That's more a function of the fact that KG is conservative on their temp ratings.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Quilts and Drafts on 03/13/2012 14:40:38 MDT Print View

"If that photo is right its got hardly any quilt features at all, e.g. the legs are still inside a mummy?"

The most important aspect of the quilt for me at least is the extra room in the torso/shoulder. Freedom of movement. The other major quilt feature is the lack of an integrated hood.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 15:17:37 MDT Print View

I've switched to quilts entirely. I reguarly camp down to the low 20s and occasionally dip a little lower. I use Katabatic quilts and haven't had an issue with drafts; the strapping system and adjustable neck collar seal up the quilt very well.

The advantages to this system, for me, are the improved freedom of movement and temperature regulating flexibility. I toss and turn in my sleep, swithch from one side to another, from stomach to back, etc. In a traditional mummy bag, I inevitably end up twisted up in the bag with the hood in my face, etc. I also struggled with mummy bags that were quite snug; perhaps I picked the wrong bags but ones like the Mountain Hardwear Phantom that had a shorter half-length zipper drove me crazy because I couldn't adequately open up the bag when I was hot.

With the Katabatic quilts, the quilt attaches to cords that run around the sleeping pad, so the quilt stays put (on top of me) and the pad stays put under me while I can move around in between. If it's hot, it's easy to just drape the whole quilt over me or hang a leg out and if it's cold, I can cinch it up close around me and "lock" it in place so I stay nice and warm, and so far haven't had an issue with drafts. A seperate down hood that moves with me is really nice too as I had trouble using built-in hoods on mummy bags because of my tossing and turning.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 15:26:09 MDT Print View

You can also wear a bunch of clothes under a quilt without squishing the insulation.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Quilts on 03/13/2012 15:35:23 MDT Print View

Like bivys, are something that's most about street credibility than any functional advantage. Unless you feel physically constrained by a mummy bag, which some people do. A sleeping bag can be used as a quilt, or a mummy bag, and as you pointed out only clock in at 2oz difference. I don't totally get the quilt fetish around here, personally.

Nigel Healy
(nigelhealy) - F

Locale: San Francisco bay area
Re: Sleeping Bags vs Quilts on 03/13/2012 15:45:29 MDT Print View

"With the Katabatic quilts.....hang a leg out "

How do you do that when it looks like its a mummy quite high up on the leg? I guess it depends on the model?