Best Lightweight Backpacking Quilts | Top 6 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Lightweight Backpacking Quilts | Top 6

Favoured by thru-hikers and ultra-light backpackers, quilts are a popular alternative to traditional sleeping bags. Here’s 6 of the best options out there.

‘What the hell is a sleeping quilt?’, I hear you cry. ‘And how does it differ from a normal sleeping bag?’ A sleeping quilt is effectively a traditional sleeping bag, minus the hood, full-length zip and back (the bit underneath your body).

It doesn’t entirely surround your body, like a mummy bag does. Instead it only provides insulation on top of you rather than underneath, leaving your torso in direct contact with your sleeping mat. A quilt, therefore, is more akin to a duvet, with an open, versatile shape, rather than an enclosed, cocoon style.

So, what are the benefits of quilts?

Quilts are not just a flat blanket. Modern-day quilts are sophisticated, efficient and versatile pieces of equipment. They often come with enclosed foot boxes up to knee level, while the upper two thirds of the quilt has a strap or clipping system enabling the user to tighten and seal the bag around their body and sleeping mat for increased warmth. Pretty neat, right?

Quilts have a number of advantages over traditional sleeping bags. First and foremost, they are lighter and smaller – thus they appeal to gram-counting, space-saving backpackers and hikers. Plus there is a clear logic to the omission of heavy and inefficient zips, hoods and backs.

Using a mummy-style sleeping bag, the insulation under your body is compressed by your weight, ruining its loft and rendering it almost pointless – so why not do away with the full-length zip and back altogether? And do you really need a hood when you’ve got a hat in your rucksack?

“Using a mummy-style sleeping bag, the insulation under your body is compressed by your weight, ruining its loft and rendering it almost pointless”

It’s not all about weight, however. quilts are also popular for their flexibility. For many, especially side-sleepers and those who toss, twist and turn at night, traditional sleeping bags are restricting and uncomfortable. Ever found yourself squirming and shuffling in your bag, hindered from settling by the tight cocoon you’re entrapped within? Then mummy-style bags are not doing you any favours. Quilts eliminate this problem perfectly.

Quilts are versatile too. If you feel hot, drape them loosely over yourself like a blanket; if you feel cold, tuck them tightly around your body; or if you feel in-between go for a half-way house. The opportunities are endless. Oh, and quilts are often cheaper than traditional down sleeping bags, which can mean only one thing – more money to spend on your adventures. Result.

What to look for when buying a outdoor quilt

There are a several factors to consider when buying a quilt, depending on whether warmth, weight or price are your priority. Generally, important features to look out for are the temperate rating, which will affect how warm you feel inside the quilt; as well as the presence of a footwell, either sewn or zipped, to help keep your toes toasty, and a strap system – utilising elastic straps, clips or snap buttons – to enable the quilt to be sealed tighter around your body, thus preventing cold drafts.

There’s also the down or synthetic conundrum. That’s a whole other debate but, put ridiculously simply, the former is warmer while the latter is better in wet conditions. Also remember that quilts are designed to work in tandem with a sleeping mat, which provides insulation below the body, and therefore a high quality mat is crucial for warmth. A top-end quilt will be rendered ineffective if combined with a thin, poorly-insulated mat, for example. And, finally, consider carefully whether you want an off-the-shelf quilt or a tailor-made one. Some brands provide a bespoke service, enabling you to build a customisable quilt that’s perfect just for you.

‘But are there any downsides to quilts?’, I hear the cynics question. Well, yes, of course, as with anything. Top of the range quilts have excellent temperature ratings – but, for winter camping in freezing conditions, mummy-style sleeping bags with hoods are far more likely to keep you warm. Furthermore, some thru-hikers, especially those who sleep on their back, may also prefer the cosiness of the cocoon; while side drafts and being fiddly to set-up are criticisms sometimes thrown at quilts. But, all in all, quilts are an excellent alternative to traditional sleeping bags for many outdoor enthusiasts – so why not give them a go?

Enlightened Equipment – Revelation 30F

Best down quilt in test

Price: £280 (including customs charges)
Weight: 544g: (size: regular/regular)
Temperature: -1C Limit
enlightenedequipment.com

This is, perhaps, the gold standard in quilt-making. Enlightened Equipment is a quilt specialist – and it’s easy to see the expertise, care and thought that goes into their designs. For other brands quilts are an after-thought, a side-line, but not for this American firm. It lives and breathes quilts, and this focus has enabled it to build up a dedicated fan-base across the world. It can now count one more fan amongst its ranks too – me.

The Revelation 30F is a high-end, cleverly-designed quilt. Made from Downtek, with 850 fill power, 365g of fill weight, two-inch loft, and a temperature limit rating of -1C, the Revelation is the second warmest quilt on test. But it is not just the down stats that make it warm. The footbox, with a 20” zipper and shock cord combination, enables full closure to keep your feet toasty; the snap and drawcord neck closure lets you fine tune the tightness of your quilt; and, most impressively, the sleeping mat attachment system – using elastic straps and clips to secure the quilt to your mat – is an advanced, intelligent feature for locking out drafts on cold nights. Of all the quilts on test, it is perhaps the best at draft exclusion while simultaneously not making you feel constrained or claustrophobic. That’s a tricky balance to strike – but they’ve pulled it off.

The Revelation is extremely versatile too, enabling you to alter your set-up depending on the conditions. The footbox can be fully opened or fully closed and everything in-between. And it’s the same with the rest of the quilt: use both the snap buttons and adjustable straps for the tightest, cocoon-like set-up, or use just one clip on one strap to effectively secure the quilt to the mat but maintain an airy, blanket-like system. It’s amazingly customisable, permitting tweaking for all variety of weather and temperature variations. There are a few downsides, naturally: at 544g the Revelation is not the lightest on test, while the cost – after factoring in customs charges – is on the higher end of the spectrum. But can you put a price on being enlightened? This is a premium quality quilt and it’s worth every penny.

Pros: Warm, excellent strap system, highly versatile
Cons: Relatively expensive, not the lightest on test

Full Specifications

Type: down / fill power: 850 / fill weight: 365g / stated temperature rating: limit -1C / length: 167cm / width: 137cm / foot width: 101cm / stuff sack and storage sack included / durable water repellent (DWR) finish / custom designs available with a huge range of sizes and temperature ratings / The Enigma, a lighter version of the Revelation with a sewn, non-adjustable footbox, is also available.

Thermarest – Vesper 20F

Price: £364.99
Weight: 550g (size: regular)
Temperature: 0C Comfort / -6C Limit
thermarest.com

New for 2019, Thermarest’s Vesper 20F is the warmest quilt on test, making it the perfect choice for anyone who sleeps cold or is planning adventures in colder environments. Made from 900-fill Nikwax hydrophobic down with a fill weight of 350g, the Vesper 20F has the best temperature stats we’ve seen: a comfort rating of 0C and a limit rating of -6C. I put these claims to the test in Scotland in temperatures hovering just above 0C and it kept me far warmer than I’d expected. I had no complaints. According to Thermarest, the Vesper’s warmth is optimised by its ‘box baffled construction, using mesh walls to maximise loft and minimise cold spots’ – and the technology seems to work.

Another nice feature of the Vesper is its ‘synergy link’ system, a strap with clips which enables the quilt to be integrated closely with your mat in a similar manner to Enlightened Equipment’s Revelation. This, along with the snap neck closure, perimeter side baffles and insulated, sewn footwell, is effective at eliminating unwanted drafts; features I found crucial when wild camping on the side of a blustery Scottish Munro. Perhaps the Vesper’s best feature is its packability: using the compression sack, it condenses down incredibly small, which is ideal for backpacking adventures where space is at a premium.

There are a few downsides: the sewn footbox can’t be adjusted, for example; it isn’t quite as versatile as the Revelation 30F; and it is expensive. But make no mistake – this is a very, very good quilt, with superb warmth.

Pros: warmest on test, packs down incredibly small
Cons: expensive, not the lightest on test, footbox not adjustable

Full Specifications

Type: sown / fill power: 900 / fill weight: 350g / stated temperature rating: comfort 0C, Limit -6C / length: 191cm / width: 147cm / foot width: 94cm / compression sack and storage sack included / also available in a Vesper 30F version.

As Tucas – Sestrals Apex 167

Best synthetic quilt in test

Price: £220
Weight: 565g (size: regular/medium)
Temperature :0C Comfort
astucas.com

Offering an excellent alternative to down, the As Tucas Sestrals quilt is easily the warmest and best synthetic quilt we’ve tested. Made from Climashield Apex synthetic insulation, with a whopping 425g of fill weight, the Sestrals has a 0C comfort rating and therefore offers an excellent choice for colder conditions. The sewn, insulated footwell keeps your feet warm, and can also be used to accommodate the base of your sleeping mat for closer integration of quilt and mat; while the longer length enables you to cover your neck and head if the temperature drops. Two snap buttons also enable a tighter fit around your body for when excluding drafts is important. The Sestrals doesn’t have the more advanced strap and clip systems of other quilts, and consequently isn’t the most versatile on test. But As Tucas has kept the design simple and effective – and, put simply, it still performs very well.

Another positive feature of the Sestrals are the materials used. Climashield Apex retains its loft well after compression and the quilt certainly feels very thick with insulation. And, as with all synthetic materials, it retains its warming properties better than down during wet conditions. Meanwhile the Schoeller exterior is light, strong, breathable and comfortable to the touch. As Tucas, which means ‘The Summits’ in Aragonese, handcrafts its quilts in the Pyrenees. It states that its products are ‘designed, tested and handcrafted with passion’. A noble approach – and one that leads to high-end results.

Pros: excellent value for warmth rating, synthetic materials perform better when wet
Cons: not the lightest on test, not the most advanced draft-exclusion system

Full Specifications

Type: synthetic / insulation type: Climashield Apex / fill weight: 425g / stated temperature rating: comfort 0C / length: 195cm / width: 130cm / foot width: 100cm / storage sack included / custom designs available with a huge range of sizes and temperature ratings.

Big Agnes – Kings Canyon UL Quilt

Price: £132
Weight: 454g
Temperature: No rating
bigagnes.com

At just 454g, the Big Agnes Kings Canyon UL Quilt is the lightest quilt on test, making it a great choice for summer adventures where weight, rather than warmth, is your priority. It’s not only ultra-lightweight; it packs down really small too, so it’s clearly designed with the minimalist backpacker in mind. There are a host of other handy features: a sleeve in the base of the quilt accommodates your sleeping mat, ensuring closer synergy between pad and quilt; a rather basic, but still effective, shock cord can be laced through six webbing loops to minimise drafts and cocoon the quilt around your mat and body; and top corner hand pockets enable you to wrap the quilt around your body while sat at a campfire or enjoying a sunset. At 203cm long and 152cm wide, the Kings Canyon UL is also the largest quilt on test, making it suitable for taller and larger customers.

Made from Primaloft synthetic insulation, there is no stated temperature rating for the Kings Canyon UL and the quilt does feel pretty light and thin, so it’s best to consider it a one-season bag for warm, summer nights only. I certainly wouldn’t want to rely on it in colder conditions. But that’s not what the Kings Canyon UL quilt has been made for. Instead, it is a versatile, breathable quilt with a range of uses. As Big Agnes puts it: the Kings Canyon UL ‘works well as an extra layer over your sleeping bag to provide more warmth’ and ‘is ideal for hut trips, couch surfing, or warm summer nights outdoors’.

Pros: very lightweight, good value, synthetic materials perform better when wet, versatile
Cons: only suitable for warmer nights, shock cord system is not the most sophisticated

Full Specifications

Type: synthetic / fill power: Primaloft Silver / fill weight: 241g / stated temperature rating: none / length: 203cm / width: 152cm / foot width: 53cm / includes stuff sack.

Rab – Neutrino Quilt 200

Price: £240
Weight: 475g
Temperature: No rating
rab.equipment

The Rab Neutrino 200 quilt is a lightweight, packable, versatile and warm quilt. It is a solid all-rounder, performing well across all categories. Made from hydrophobic down, with an 800 fill power and 200g fill weight, the quilt is pretty warm, despite the lack of a stated temperature rating. Rab states it’s suitable for ‘hut-to-hut touring or lightweight warmer bivis…in warmer, dry environments’. The boxwall chambers help to maintain loft and warmth, while an elasticated base will both keep your feet warm and help secure your sleeping mat. Like the Big Agnes Kings Canyon UL quilt, there are hand inserts making it easy to wrap the quilt around your body when you’re not sleeping; and there are also lashing points for securing the quilt to your sleeping mat, but you need to provide your own cord.

The Rab Neutrino 200’s quilt-to-mat integration system is not as sophisticated as the Enlightened Equipment Revelation; and it’s not as warm as the As Tucas and Thermarest offerings, but as with other sleeping bags in the Neutrino range, the Pertex Quantum fabrics offer an excellent quality, weather-proof outer. All-in-all, the Neutrino 200 is a good overall performer at a mid-range price. It also comes with the rubber-stamping of the Rab logo, a well-respected brand with a dedicated and loyal following.

Pros: lightweight, warm, versatile
Cons: relatively expensive for specification

Full Specifications

Type: down /fill power: 800 / fill weight: 200g / stated temperature rating: none / length: 180cm / width: 140cm / foot width: 70cm / includes stuff sack and mesh storage sack.

Alpkit – Cloud Cover

Price: £99
Weight: 520g
Temperature: No rating
alpkit.com

You get a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to most of Alpkit’s products – and the same is true of the Cloud Cover quilt. At under £100, this is ridiculously good value for a versatile down quilt. It might not be the warmest, lightest or most sophisticated quilt on test, but you really can’t complain for £99. And, in fact, this is a high-quality product belying its low price tag.

Made from hydrophobic single goose down quilt, with 750 fill power, 200g fill weight and 12 baffles, the Cloud Cover will ‘keep you cosy in summer months and warmer climates’, as Alpkit puts it. It’s certainly not thick or warm enough for colder conditions, but at this price the Cloud Cover is an ideal add-on to beef up another sleeping bag, adding approximately one season to its rating. After all, why fork out for both a summer and winter sleeping bag, when you could pair up your everyday 2-3 season bag with a Cloud Cover to create a winter system?

It is remarkably versatile for a no-frills quilt too. There are seven snap buttons up the length of the quilt, enabling you to close it into more of a cocoon on cold nights; while drawcords on either end permit tightening the quilt around your feet and neck for increased warmth and improved draft exclusion. But, if it’s a warm night and breathability is key, the quilt can be completely opened into a basic rectangular shape and used like a duvet or mattress. But my favourite feature is the way the Cloud Cover can be packed into an internal, zipped pocket, negating the need for an additional stuff sack – clever stuff. And, remarkably, you get all of this for just £99. It’s a steal at that price.

Pros: superb value, versatile
Cons: not the lightest or warmest on test

Full Specifications

Type: down / fill power: 750 / fill Weight: 200g / stated temperature rating: none / length: 180cm / width: 130cm / foot width: 95cm / internal, zipped pocket for packing the quilt away.

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