Arguments Against Quilts
One argument against quilts is that they have no hood for colder temperatures. Most quilt users solve this problem by wearing extra warm head gear or a parka to bed.
The main argument against quilts is their draftiness in colder and windier conditions, especially for side sleepers and those who move around a lot. A related issue is not being able to sit up without a draft.
negates the potential weight advantage of the quilt.
Final Thoughts on Quilts
Quilts are definitely for those who have patience and are willing to experiment. I experimented with many combinations before I found one that would work. They certainly take some getting used to. If I valued simplicity more than reducing my pack weight and if I didn’t like experimenting with gear options so much, I would have spent my backpacking bucks instead on an ultralight down bag (weighing only slightly more than my quilt with a similar temperature rating) and called it good.
Arguments For Quilts
There are several arguments in favor of using quilts in the backcountry:
Solving the Problem of Drafts
Since the draftiness of quilts is a big issue, let’s examine some solutions. Following are most of the ways quilt users solve the draft problem:
As you can see, dedicated quilt campers have gone to considerable lengths to make their sleeping system work. A common and relatively effective combination of draft control tactics: wear an insulated parka to bed using a variable girth quilt with adjusting straps threaded underneath a sleeping pad all enclosed inside a bivy sack.
An obvious compromise to a pure sleeping quilt is a sleeping bag with a full-length zipper to allow it to be used either as a quilt or as a traditional bag. However, this option negates the potential weight advantage of the quilt.
Learning From the Author’s Experience With Sleeping Quilts
I now own two quilts: a 18 ounce, 3.0 inch loft down quilt (with a 30 degree rating) and a 12 ounce, 0.75 inch loft synthetic quilt insulated with Polarguard (with a 50 degree rating). Each quilt has adjusting straps underneath, but no hood. I bought the quilts in order to experiment with different light and ultralight weight sleeping systems.
I use the quilts singly or in combination depending upon the expected temperatures. The synthetic quilt is new and I am looking forward to experimenting with it when temperatures are well above freezing. I sometimes carry the 12-ounce quilt for emergency purposes on winter day trips.
Draftiness, when sleeping out in the open or under a tarp, can be a problem with sleeping quilts. When the temperatures are on the cold side, I solve the draft problem by:
(1) placing the adjusting straps underneath a fairly wide (25 inches) air mattress with raised side tubes;
(2) wearing a quilted parka to bed with an integrated hood;
(3) using a highly breathable bivy sack outer covering;
(4) sleeping under a tarp-tent that can be lowered to ground level in stormy conditions to reduce drafts.
My quilt based sleeping system is truly an integrated system of component parts. My 3.0-inch loft down quilt supplemented with a bivy sack and extra clothes will allow me to stay warm into the mid twenties. Sleeping in an enclosed tent and adding a down parka and pants will take me down into the single digits.
One interesting problem I have encountered using my 900-fill power down quilt is that the bivy sack tends to compress the down when I was wearing all of my clothes to bed for warmth. The best solutions for this problem are to:
My current solution is the latter: leave the bivy at home and bring higher loft insulated clothing to supplement my 900-fill quilt for colder temperatures.