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Quilt vs bag, input wanted (Alsek vs Hummingbird)
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Vikram K
(gothamist) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Quilt vs bag, input wanted (Alsek vs Hummingbird) on 07/22/2013 07:17:33 MDT Print View

I'm mainly doing Sierra trips, concentrated in the shoulder & winter season, but am hoping to do one or two summer trips each year as well.

I currently have a -10 degree Feathered Friends bag for all the colder trips, which I like and works well.

I'm looking for something else to cover me May-October, so roughly a 20 degree bag.

I'm considering the Feathered Friends Hummingbird (UL version) vs the Katabatic Alsek.

I've never used a quilt before, but the idea appeals to me intellectually...however, I am a side sleeper, which I think may slightly negate the inherent quilt efficiency advantage (as the amount of down compressed under me is a smaller portion of the total down in the sleeping bag.)

I plan to couple the bag with a Regular size Xtherm (I've never used, nor particularly wanted a wider pad, even on snow--maybe I just don't know what I'm missing.)

If anyone would care to comment please let me know your thoughts.

Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL: 14oz of loft, 25 oz total
= 25 oz

Katabatic Gear Alsek + Windome Hood: bag has 12.4 oz of loft, 21 oz total, plus 1.5oz for the hood
= 22.5oz

Just off of the numbers, I would think the Alsek will be a bit warmer than the Hummingbird, and I'm a little concerned about the skinny profile of the FF sleeping bag. (Note that I'm 5'11, 160 lbs.)

As I said, I've never done the quilt thing before. In talking to Aaron at Katabatic he seems like a great guy, and I had a really good experience ordering my winter bag from FF, so I'm confident the quality of both of these options is high. I'm mainly interested to see if there is something I've not thought of here. In searching earlier threads there seems to be a split opinion about the quilt thing, namely they are more flexible in warmer weather, but possibly a bit drafty in colder weather, unless you go to a wider pad or get a wide quilt...both of which seem to negate the weight advantage in this case.

Lots of people compare the math with the WM Ultralite, which is also in the mix, but is about 5 oz heavier than the Hummingbird, albeit with 2oz more down.

I welcome any thoughts--thanks!

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
A little about quilts on 07/22/2013 07:37:38 MDT Print View

As another side sleeper, I understand your concerns about quilts' efficiency.

I just returned from a two-nighter in the Indian Peaks, which was my first use of a quilt (an Enlightened Equipment RevX, 30 degrees). The quilt worked very well; I had no drafts, no cold spots, etc. When I woke in the mornings, and did my usual "snoozing" routine-- that is, lying around in bed for a good hour while I try motivating myself to start the day :-) -- I did discover a need to remain relatively still, or else the quilt shifted position enough for the cold to seep in on one side.

My point is this: the quilt may be fine for you, if you're a relatively sound sleeper. If you tend to toss n' turn, the bag might be a better choice.

Thaddaeus Wharton
(Thadjw) - MLife
Katabatic quilt on 07/22/2013 08:08:53 MDT Print View

I own a Katabatic 15 degree version and sleep on side often. The interior straps are not as good as the zpacks quilt interior quilt straps and air will get in the sides. This is a preference of design issue too but I hope Katabatic makes a few changes. Thin underside click-in straps work best, especially for side sleepers.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Try before you buy on 07/22/2013 08:22:20 MDT Print View

I converted a $30 sleeping bag into a quilt and found that it wasn't for me. Try using one of your sleeping bags this way. You won't necessarily need to remove the zipper like I did but you can get an idea of what it's like to sleep with a quilt.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Re: Try before you buy on 07/22/2013 08:32:53 MDT Print View

That's what I did last year, I think: I opened the bag's zipper down to just past my knees, draped it over me, and slept a full night as an experiment. Good advice, IMO.

K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
sleeping style on 07/22/2013 08:47:11 MDT Print View

I'm a rotisserie-sleeper (need to do a few 360s to get comfortable) but usually end up sleeping on my sides. I have not had problems with quilts for 3-season use. I rarely use the pad straps, unless I'm close to the lower end of the temp rating. If you're concerned about drafts, order a wide version that you can snug all the way around you. We all sleep under blankets at home--there's nothing complicated about sleeping in a quilt, AFAIC. It's pretty intuitive. I love not getting smothered in my sleeping bag hood, which happens all the time when I use a mummy bag.

One final thing to think about is how you feel about the material of your *sleeping pad*. Can you tolerate the feel of it directly next to your skin? Not usually a problem if sleeping in a full set of baselayers, but in summer temps, I really can't stand the feel of a CCF pad sticking to my skin (and some inflatables are pretty plasticky). I often slip a silk sleeping bag liner over the pad to serve as a sheet. Someone else may have a more UL solution...?

Tanner M
Re: Quilt vs bag, input wanted (Alsek vs Hummingbird) on 07/22/2013 10:20:16 MDT Print View

> ...I am a side sleeper, which I think may slightly negate the inherent quilt efficiency advantage (as the amount of down compressed under me is a smaller portion of the total down in the sleeping bag.)

I do see what you are saying. As far as perceived need to move to a quilt to remove/reduce the wasted insulation...

However, I believe crushed insulation is less effective. It can be a lot less effective. I don't think it is ineffective. With a 3/4 mat, I much prefer to have crushed insulation between my legs and the tent floor. Maybe my skinny legs don't got enough crush power :^)

I think the quilts weigh less. They are really easy to get and out of. I leave the neck secured and slip it over me in a sitting position and then lie back. That is a really nice thing for me. There is nothing to get twisted under me as I turn. Sometimes a bag would get tight on me (roll, shuffle to recenter on pad, bind). If sleeping bags don't bind on you, there is no advantage to quilt. I haven't had troubles with drafts... My arms lie at my side on the edge of the quilt. When I sleep on my side, it takes a little work to get the 'back' side tucked in. After that, I am a pretty still sleeper. I can imagine a quilt would be extra work if I turned often.

The Katabatic is not a blanket formed around your body. It is shaped to want to go around you. This helps.

It is possible much of your time you may not need the quilt battened down? I slept with the Alsek just pulled over me, t-shirt, 3/4 Thermarest, and a (quite thick) wool cap in low 40's F or so. I really wish I had checked the temp... Plus I recognise the inanity of mentioning 'it was good for this temp for me...'.

Anyway, point is if you like to sleep in some other clothes in addition to t-shirt, the quilt may be warm enough to not require 9/10 of its warmth/sealing for some of the times you will use it. Any advantages you assign the quilt might offset times with drafts or whatever negative things you assign to quilts. Depending on how often you think you will really be pushing the quilt.

Also, as far as hood, if you do like to sleep in other clothes and will have a hooded jacket when it gets colder, you might not need the additional hood..? Not arguing on dual use or saving weight or whatever. The jacket hood could save a little money and work just as well.

Edited by Tan68 on 07/22/2013 10:22:28 MDT.

Vikram K
(gothamist) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Thanks for all the insight on 07/22/2013 10:58:45 MDT Print View

Really appreciate the rapid, thoughtful, and detailed responses to my question. I'm not sure I'm any closer to a decision although I think I may have to satisfy my curiosity and try the quilt thing...there is always Gear Swap if it doesn't pan out for me.

Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
Side sleeper on 07/22/2013 13:07:11 MDT Print View

If you move at all while sleeping and are a side sleeper, you can't go wrong with a quilt. Just make sure it's wide enough to cover you. You won't realize how confining a bag is until you can move around without your bag moving with you.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Quilt vs bag, input wanted (Alsek vs Hummingbird) on 07/23/2013 03:26:01 MDT Print View


If you are on the fence you should take a look at the zpacks sleeping bags. They are a bit of a hybrid. They cover to your shoulders, or are intended to do so, but they zipper up "underneath" in a pinch without the straps and such. They open up wider that many sleeping bags, but have a foot box. The bag I just got from them is 20 deg for a recommended 5"10" person in wide version(I toss and turn a lot) is about 18.5 oz.

Edited by millonas on 07/23/2013 03:35:07 MDT.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Quilt vs bag, input wanted (Alsek vs Hummingbird) on 07/23/2013 08:45:35 MDT Print View

I love the theory behind the quilt. And they are obviously popular with some. I pondered the ol' question, "quilt or bag" for ~2 yrs. The final nail in the quilt coffin was driven in after a lengthy discussion with a guy who custom builds both bags and quilts. I decided a quilt wasn't for me and my active sleep habits.

Re the warmth of the two options that you mentioned, it could be that the Hummingbird would be the winner having less air to heat and maintain...particularly as you move around (no chance for drafts).

Not wanting a quilt or a hood, I finally settled on a custom overfilled Feathered Friends Vireo.

Vikram K
(gothamist) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
How do you find the Vireo? on 07/23/2013 09:28:48 MDT Print View

I do love reading the threads with the custom overstuffed Vireos, my one concern is that I think I'm looking at a temperature range of 25-45 degrees...have you found the Vireo is too warm at the upper end of that range? (Seems like it would be harder to dump heat?)

Also, as a second followup to everyone, I'm planning to use a bivy sack as well, has anyone found any tangible differences between condensation amounts generated by quilts and bags (of similar rating)? I don't think there would be much of a difference but don't have the quilt experience to know.

Thanks again to all, this is very helpful advice.

Tanner M
Re: How do you find the Vireo? on 07/23/2013 09:50:13 MDT Print View

Mmm, while you wait:

They get to bivies.

There seems to be a thought that a bivy is more prone to condensation than a tent (all things equal). That a too breathable bivy is more prone to condensation. That there can be a right benefit from a net strip down the middle (still protected from most drafts at the side). They are or aren't good for above or below freezing. And etc.

Lots of stuff said about bivies! I happened to have the link I provided up because I am reading about shell materials in general. I don't bivy.

PS - but haven't happened upon an answer to your specific question, about diff. btwn. quilts or bags in bivies w/ all else equal.

Edited by Tan68 on 07/23/2013 09:52:55 MDT.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: How do you find the Vireo? on 07/23/2013 10:13:10 MDT Print View

Hope I didn't come across as trying to sell you on the idea of the Vireo. Just sharing what I finally did. :-)

I've only used my custom Vireo a couple of times...once above freezing and once at just below. I couldn't be happier so far...but can't opine from lots of experience. However, if I could only have one bag, a Vireo wouldn't be it. It, or mine with over 6" of loft head to toe, would be uncomfortable during the summer months. However, I had it made specifically for spring and fall trips when temps would be in the 20's and low 30's. I have a lighter bag for summer usage.

Re finding the Vireo, it's under "specialty" on the FF site:

And, in case you didn't see it and are interested, here's the thread about mine:

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
vireo on 09/08/2013 09:16:54 MDT Print View

Rusty if you could have only 1 bag and the vireo isn't it, what would it be?
I'm about to buy a vireo, talk me out of it.

Edited by anthonyweston on 09/08/2013 09:17:28 MDT.

Shawn Peterson
(afterdarkphoto) - MLife

Locale: Nor Cal
Nunatak on 09/08/2013 10:28:57 MDT Print View

I went with a Nunatak Arc Alpinist with some custom work since I'm built broad.

I used it for this past 8 day trip in the Sierra's and a few nights in the 30's and 20's.

Side sleeper.....toss and turn all night....I'll never go back to a bag again...quilt for life for me now...

Just know you have to beware when you toss around you might get a draft here and there....better than sweating to death in a mummy bag and not being able to move.

Jeffrey McConnell
Borrow mine on 09/08/2013 14:38:11 MDT Print View

Hey Vikram, I have an EE Revelation 20 degree wide quilt you can try out. Looks lke we're both in SoCal. Only catch is its sized for me at 5'6". If you're short and want to, you're welcome to try it out.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: vireo on 09/09/2013 08:08:41 MDT Print View

I really don't know, Anthony. Hadn't thought about it....though it would likely be something custom....maybe a Vireo with a 3/4 zip and a drawstring bottom.

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
Feathered Friends on 09/09/2013 21:29:52 MDT Print View

They make great stuff, my summer and winter bags are FF. but I always unzip the summer bag and use it like a quilt.

In a bivy sack if I zip up the sleeping bag and bivy I always freak out in that zone between sleep and awake and have a mini panic attack. Too many closures holding me in. Im saving my many many pennies for another Nunatak quilt.