Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: The Ultimate Comparison Guide
If you’re a backpacker or a camper, you have a choice: sleeping bag vs quilt.
A sleeping bag is the traditional option that most amateurs are familiar with, but is it the best option?
As you’ll read below, quilts are becoming more well known and a popular option for campers and backpackers alike.
Both have their unique pros and cons, so each option is well worth exploring if you’re in the market for something to keep you warm as you sleep under canvas.
No piece of camping kit is ever perfect. There are always upsides and downsides to any purchase.
However for the purpose of this article, we will explore the pros and cons of getting a backpacking quilt vs sleeping bag across various dimensions, that include:
- Ability to pack down
- Temperature Regulation
Quilt vs Sleepingbag
Ability to pack down
If you want something that will take up minimal room in your pack, quilts are the better option. They tend to be more compressible because they contain less insulation than sleeping bags.
They’re also generally easier to set up once you reach camp. A compressed sleeping bag can sometimes take ten minutes to loft, while a backpacking quilt is often ready to go in a couple of minutes or less.
Because quilts don’t need to pack down so tight, they also tend to last longer. The insulation material inside them comes under less stress every time you stuff it back into its sack, allowing you to take quilts out with you time and time again.
While sleeping bags might offer more insulation, camping quilts tend to perform better in terms of temperature regulation. On warm nights, you can open the side of the quilt and use it like a blanket. It can easily shift around your body, covering more or less, as temperature dictates.
On colder nights, you also have options. You can place the quilt around your feet while inside a sleeping bag to prevent loss of warmth via the footbox. You can then tighten the neck collar around your upper body to provide additional warmth.
Sleeping bags don’t tend to be as versatile. Typically, they are too hot on a 70 degree F night and don’t unzip far enough to act as a blanket.
Hikers generally want their packs to weigh as little as possible. That’s why many are now choosing quilts over sleeping bags. Quilts tend to weigh around 25 percent less than sleeping bags without loss of performance.
Remember, insulation on the underside of the sleeping bag is often redundant. Synthetic down loses its ability to retain heat when compressed under the weight of the camper. It doesn’t serve much of a function, other than to provide a bit of padding.
Quilts take advantage of this fact, only providing insulation where it will be effective. Therefore, backpackers who choose quilts can look forward to some substantial weight savings.
Quilts also have the advantage of getting rid of many of the fastenings and zippers that add weight to sleeping bags. There are no full-length zips required for getting in and out of your sleeping bag.
Typically, a lightweight synthetic down sleeping bag will weigh between 25 and 30 oz, which is pretty good. But a down camping blanket might weigh as little as 20 oz – even though it has the same downy material and warmth rating as the bag.
Warmth is where sleeping bags excel. Generally, they are more suitable for cold conditions because they wrap the entire body in insulating material. They eliminate cold drafts from all angles, preventing icy air from affecting your sleep.
Sleeping bags often have embellishments that improve insulation further. Four-season mummy sleeping bags, for instance, might come with a hood that goes over the top of your head and a pull cord for additional insulation when things get really cold. Many also have additional insulation and padding around the feet so you don’t end up sleeping in a fetal position when things get really cold. Some bags also offer multiple layers of insulation for better heat retention when temperatures outside fall below 32 F.
Quilt brands are trying to make their products warmer for hikers and campers who need it. However, because of the design, drafts remain a significant issue. Possible causes of heat loss include rolling over during sleep, gaps around the bottom or the foot box, and poor attachment systems for your sleeping pad.
Most people find quilts more comfortable than sleeping bags. That’s because quilts allow more freedom of movement. They are less restrictive than their sleeping bag brethren.
In the past, people worried that quilts would move around too much while they slept, allowing heat to escape. But because quilts now attach to sleeping pads, that’s less of a worry. You’re able to toss and turn how you please during the night and the quilt won’t slide around.
Of course, if you drift off your sleeping pad, that can be an issue. Unlike a sleeping bag which is a bit like a straight jacket, there is nothing about a quilt that stops you moving laterally around your tent.
Comfort is a subject matter, though. Some campers may prefer sleeping bags because they like the sensation of being cocooned while under canvas. Others will prefer an experience that feels similar to being in a regular bed.
Quilts tend to be around 25 to 40 percent cheaper than sleeping bags, so they are popular among budget-conscious campers. They require less material to make, and manufacturers don’t have to go to the expense of building in zippers, hoods or other features. Overall, quilts are easier to sew and require less specialist equipment.
However, prices aren’t uniform across the range. Interestingly, ultra-budget sleeping bags tend to come in slightly cheaper than equivalent quilts. That’s because sleeping bags have higher sales volumes, so retailers can take advantage of bulk discounts.
Quality is also a consideration. Inexpensive sleeping bags will survive for a couple of seasons before requiring replacement. However, quilts tend to last slightly longer because fewer things can go wrong.
Check Out This Detailed Comparison Of Sleeping Bags vs Quilts
Overall, quilts offer a better value proposition to most campers than sleeping bags. They pack down better, weigh less and are more affordable. However, those looking for warmth for cold-weather hiking will still want to seriously consider sleeping bags.