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Winter Bag or Winter Quilt?
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Robert Burke
(coastiebob) - MLife

Locale: Wishing I was Backpacking
Winter Bag or Winter Quilt? on 01/05/2013 11:16:17 MST Print View

Hey all,

The wife and I received some Christmas money and we were told to buy ourselves something really nice! She is getting the awesome rice-maker that she will have me cooking with. I am sure I will have fun cooking with that....

For me, I was looking at my first winter bag/quilt! What are your thoughts on the winter bag vs. quilt dilemma. I normally use a Go-Lite 20F Quilt (and 20 is pushing it with the Tarp set up!).

First, I want to tell you what winter looks like to me. I was looking at using this piece of equipment in the PNW, specifically Idaho/Montana. Temps can get down to -10F at higher elevations. Normal lows during Jan from 10-20F. However, I was also thinking of purchasing one of Hendrik Merkol's trips in Northern Finland -

I have two winter kits I am thinking about for deep winter (I have all pieces, but the quilt/bag):

1) Tarp and bivy setup with warmer bag/quilt, WM Flight jacket and pants, down booties, hat over balaclava.

2) Bibler El Dorado (heavy but bomber & free standing for tall guys) with same gear, but maybe not as heavy a bag/quilt.

As far as a winter quilt, I was intrigued by the Katabatic Backwelder, but am nervous about leaks, et al in the dead of winter with the tarp setup. Plus no head covering. Of course, with the Bibler it would be easy.

As far as the bag is concerned, Kevin was nice enough to post a WM second's sale. They have Puma, Kodiak, Antelope, and Versalite's for 20% off, which is a darn good deal.

Any other suggestions for 4th season bags/quilts? 4th season kits in general?

I am 6'4", normally a side sleeper.

Tom Deal

Locale: Northern Idaho
quilts on 01/05/2013 15:39:40 MST Print View

I have gone from BA bags to quilts recently just for the weight savings. I live in Northern Idaho and just recently we have been down in the lower digits and I can vouch for Hammock Gears 20deg 950 fill down quilt.Sleeping in just a base layer and using a pad I was warm to 19deg it might have got colder but I never woke up.For me the quilt wins hands down.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: quilts on 01/05/2013 15:47:30 MST Print View

I am just moving into winter camping, and so far I have taken a quilt down to 15F (maybe less?) a couple of times with no problems. I am a pretty restless sleeper, but by cinching a wide quilt tight, the process has been relatively easy for me.

I like quilts for their versatility and ease of use, and maybe if I go lower, I'd prefer an actual bag. But so far, so good for me.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Winter Bag or Winter Quilt? on 01/05/2013 16:02:18 MST Print View

I tried a quilt out last winter and found it too much of a faff as I roll over a lot, I reverted back to using a winter bag instead (Phd Hispar 800)
For an overnighter in a few weeks time I am tempted to use my 3 season bag (Wm Alpinelite) with a down jacket and trousers and booties, the total down will be about 1000g.

Do let us know how things go on the trip with Hendrik if you go.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Winter Bag or Winter Quilt? on 01/05/2013 16:10:52 MST Print View

Bags are much simpler below about 20F, which is where dealing with drafts really comes in to play. Of course if you're sleeping in a double-wall tent, drafts aren't likely to be much of an issue. But then you probably wouldn't be looking at quilts in the first place. :-)

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Bag\Quilt Combo on 01/05/2013 17:07:39 MST Print View

My setup:

1. Bag - WM Ultralite (20F)
2. Quilt - Enlightened Equipment Revelation (20F)
3. Mat - Exped UL7 Downmat
4 Bivy - Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Soul

This set up with two merino base layers and no VBL has taken me to -15C comfortably, and breathed well - minor condensation on bivy but bag and quilt completely dry - but I was venting the bag to avoid getting too warm. In colder temps (sub -25C) where venting wouldn't be possible it would undoubtedly create some condensation issues and require a VBL.

This set up is amazingly warm and also gives me 2 functional summer sleeping kits. Each piece of equipment is first rate by itself and works wonderfully combined.


Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
For winter? A sleeping bag on 01/05/2013 17:07:45 MST Print View

Quilts have their place, but for actual winter use; Montana, Idaho, Finland kind of winter, I would definitely go with a sleeping bag. I have camped out in Montana when it got down to -20. And that was technically fall.

Look at gear lists for Denali for example. There are practical reasons why they list sleeping bags and not quilts. Personally I don't know anyone who uses a quilt for camping in the winter here in Alaska.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Tom? Clayton? No sleeping bag hood in the winter? on 01/05/2013 17:56:16 MST Print View

Tom and Clayton, are you guys cinching your quilt around your pad or around yourself? I'm very tempted to try a quilt because of the price (enlightened equipment)and especially the weight savings.

What do all of you cold weather campers do for insulating your head and is your head and neck sometimes an issue? I usually have a Serius fleece cap with me that has a neoprene mask.

Whenever I've pushed my 25 degree bag (decade old EMS bag) below its limit I really appreciate the ability to cinch the hood around me......even though I use a 2nd bag draped over me like a quilt when I sleep in the single digits in northern Michigan. I just feel like the total mummy effect with the hood allows me to create a total mini-climate. It even makes the breathing warmer because you are basically breathing out of your "mini-climate" that you have created.

I would not be too excited about having to buy another expensive down hoody especially because this would only be needed on my coldest trips and even on those trips it would basically only be used at night. The Mask/hat and my jacket's hoods suffice for on the move hiking. I guess that I could us emy down or primaloft jacket that normally serves as my pillow at night.

Edited by chinookhead on 01/05/2013 18:06:27 MST.

John Reichle
(mammoman) - M

Locale: NE AL
Winter Quilt vs. Bag on 01/05/2013 18:51:27 MST Print View

I agree with Buck, and I am a quilt lover. If you COULD run into below zero temps, I wouldn't risk using a quilt without a LOT of quilting experience and comfort with usage. The potential for death would make me cautious. Also, if you went with the Blackwelder, you'd need a good down hood as well.

If you DO decide to go with a quilt, make sure it's wide enough to allow movement and layering. I am shocked at how well my Sawatch (15 degree) wide not only allows this yet prevents drafts.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: For winter? A sleeping bag on 01/05/2013 19:10:06 MST Print View

I have used both quilts and sleep bags in the winter. Sleeping bags are certainly easier, and there is something really nice to feel completely cocooned in feather. That said, quilts can work. Drafts are a big issue as the temp drops. In the winter I wouldn't use a quilt unless I either had a bivy or a solid walled mountain tent.

If you are using a quilt in the winter you will really want / need something warmer than a typical fleece hat / baklava. When the temp is below 30F I wouldn't take my quilt unless I had a high loft jacket with hood or a down baklava with me.

As to strapping the quilt to the person or the mat... my experience is that the straps around me rather than the pad tends to make a better seal.

One bit win is that if you are going to be standing around a lot then you are already going to be carrying some pretty darn warm clothing which is easier to combine with a quilt.


Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Re: For winter? A sleeping bag on 01/05/2013 19:47:13 MST Print View

"If you are using a quilt in the winter you will really want / need something warmer than a typical fleece hat / baklava."

I prefer down or syn hat / quiche. Higher spinach content.

Robert Burke
(coastiebob) - MLife

Locale: Wishing I was Backpacking
Great Insight Thanks on 01/05/2013 20:51:11 MST Print View

Excellent insight by all. Thank very much. I will receive my Feb schedule on the 9th for work and I will see if I can work something out with Hendrik.

This sight changed my life for 3 season packing! A lot of folks here have awesome experience and share that in their personal blogs/sites as well. I certainly enjoy that. One thing I have definitely learned is that what works for some, may or may not work for others. We are all wired a little different, so the variety of opinions and thoughts is so valuable!

Living on the East Coast, I use a tarp all the time. Even in a cold snap in the Mid-Atlantic, it seldom stays below 30F for more than 24 hours. I have found that when things do go above freezing for even a little while, it makes a big difference in the performance of my gear overnight.

I grew up in Idaho, but did little Winter Packing there. The El Dorado (just a larger/heavier version of the Firstlight) is my security blanket. But it is heavy! It would be really awesome to complete my MYOG tyvek bivy and Tarp out. I just haven't done it and was somewhat inspired by Roger C's article on pegging. But with Tarping you need more insulation as the wall on the El Dorado is worth a good 10 degrees.

Hence my questions to all of you. Regardless, the down jacket, pants and booties are coming with as the they are long nights in North Idaho this time of year.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Quilt or bag? Why not both... on 01/06/2013 03:22:28 MST Print View

I've been using a 'shoulder season' down bag AND a synthetic summer quilt in winter for a couple of years with some success:

Two items cover most situations that I will find myself camping in.

Tom Deal

Locale: Northern Idaho
Re: Tom? Clayton? No sleeping bag hood in the winter? on 01/06/2013 11:48:29 MST Print View

Tom and Clayton, are you guys cinching your quilt around your pad or around yourself? I'm very tempted to try a quilt because of the price (enlightened equipment)and especially the weight savings.

Michael, My Hammock Gear quilt has Baffles and a snap/cinch at the neck area and the same at the foot box. I cinch everything up and tuck the quilt beneath me. I haven't had any problems rolling off my BA air core pad yet.When I'm solo I take the hammock with an uderquilt and I haven't gotten cold yet.

What do all of you cold weather campers do for insulating your head and is your head and neck sometimes an issue? I usually have a Serius fleece cap with me that has a neoprene mask.

I wear a fleece balaclava with a wool cap and I have no complaints to date. I'm a warm sleeper and usually end up taking the cap off just to vent a tad sometime in the night.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re: Tom? Clayton? No sleeping bag hood in the winter? on 01/06/2013 14:35:42 MST Print View

I am cinching the quilt around me. I have an EE Revelation 20° with overstuff. I have also taken my GoLite Ultra 20 into the high teens. Both times, the quilt was around me, not the pad.

Above freezing, I have used a wool beanie for my head; though, I would like to get or make something like the ZPacks Goose Hood to try as well. For that low with the GoLite (which has far less down than the EE Revelation) I wore my WM Flash jacket to bed. It helped me take the quilt lower and kept my head warm.

I just got the EE Revelation, so I've only had it out one night. I gave myself a few inches of shock cord for all but the last loop and slid into the bag. Then I snapped the top together and cinched the drawcord tight around my neck. The Revelation was too warm for me to wear the Flash to bed (I sleep warm), so I put just the hood of the jacket on and tucked the edges into the bag. That worked okay enough, but it won't be a long-term solution. I did start the night with just my usual wool beanie and some fleece ear warmers, and that wasn't enough (clearly). Thus the reason I'd like something along the lines of the goose hood for the long term.

I'm still not sure how low I can take my Revelation 20°, and I'm surprised how well quilts have worked for me at that temperature. I was initially skeptical and thought a true bag for 20° F and lower would be better. But I couldn't afford a WM or similar bag, and I had taken my GoLite pretty low with some success, so I gave it a shot.

Frankly, this is where time and experimentation come in. I am not totally sold on quilts below freezing, even though they have worked well for me. Being a larger guy (wide shoulders, broad chest, etc.), they are a lot lighter and easier to use for me than traditional mummy bags. But as I push my skills and gear deeper into the winter, that may have to change. I want to keep my kit relatively simple, and three or four bags feels excessive. Right now, this makes sense where I'm at. If further experimentation changes that, then I'll adjust. Part of learning something new is allowing for new knowledge and information as things progress.

While I am trying to avoid spending excessive amounts of money on what is--let's really be honest--a first-world hobby, I also don't want to have too many specialized or unused possessions. All that gear unused for most of the year weighs more than any used gear ever will.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Winter Bag on 01/06/2013 15:34:33 MST Print View

It got down to -19.8F earlier this week and I was very glad to have a good bag. Quilts are awesome, but better suited for > +20F temps.

Edited by dandydan on 01/06/2013 15:35:21 MST.

Robert Burke
(coastiebob) - MLife

Locale: Wishing I was Backpacking
Good Feedback, but a few questions on 01/06/2013 19:17:09 MST Print View


May I ask what type of winter bag and degree rating you are using?

Joe, interesting concept of bringing the quilt as an overbag. How does it do with condensation?


joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
@Robert on 01/06/2013 21:47:14 MST Print View


The synthetic quilts ability to cope with moisture better than down was the theory behind me using this system. It seems to work very well. My down bag stayed dry and lofted over a six day ski tour, except near my mouth where moisture from my breath condensed. There was a small build up of moisture inside the very outer layer of the quilt where I presume any moisture my body was giving off was condensing. It was easy to dry the thin synthetic quilt on the sunny days towards the end of the trip.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
synth on 01/07/2013 00:21:35 MST Print View

the synth overbag concept is a time proven way to protect your down bag from internal and external moisture ...

its also a very flexible system in terms of being able to use the overbag/quilt in the summer as well ... or around camp

it can also be cheaper than buying a dedicated winter bag you rarely use ...

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Winter Bag vs quilt on 01/07/2013 07:49:38 MST Print View

It got down to -19.8F earlier this week and I was very glad to have a good bag. Quilts are awesome, but better suited for > +20F temps.

Hmmmm, there's a lot of room for "Your Mileage May Vary" between -20F and +20F!

0F is the coldest I have used quilts but am hoping to find the opportunity to test colder. There's a 0F Enlightened Equipment Revelation in the production queue as I type this!

Some thoughts from my experience:

  1. Start out answering the questions? "Do I get cold easily? "When I get chilled, is it hard to get warm again?" If the answers are yes then cold weather quilting might not be for you. But I can only guess about that (my answers are no most of the time)

  2. +1 regarding a bivvy, mainly as a wind shield. I zip it up only to shoulder height to allow breath to escape.

  3. +1 (many times over) for a very warm balaclava when quilting in Real Cold. That's one area where synthetic insulation is a real winner (because of condensing breath moisture)

  4. I also like to layer a merino wool balaclava under the warmer one and pull it up over my nose. That balaclava is useful during the day too (when very cold)

  5. +1 that a pair of quilts provide for a very wide range of temperature. However, I've found it to be a bit of a hassle managing two layered quilts.

  6. +1 (in my experience) that attaching the quilt to the pad is not as warm as having it snug around me.

  7. However, attaching the outer quilt of a two layer quilt system to the pad reduces the above mentioned management hassles.

  8. Wearing puffy clothing inside a quilt reduces the shock of drafts when I toss and turn

  9. It will be colder between your puffy clothing and the quilt than it is between you and the clothing. Be sure to supplement your hand and foot insulation in that situation unless you can sleep easily with chilled extremities (I cannot)

If you do try cold weather quilting don't forget to report your impressions!

Edited by jcolten on 01/07/2013 07:52:41 MST.