Home / Gear Closet / Section Hiker’s Gear Closet: Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Sleeping Pads

Section Hiker’s Gear Closet: Sleeping Bags, Quilts, and Sleeping Pads

Section Hiker's Gear Closet

I’m very picky about my personal backpacking gear, the stuff I use on personal trips when I’m not “working” and reviewing someone else’s gear. Here are the sleeping bags, quilts, and sleeping pads that I use year-round on a regular basis (90-120 nights/year.) Many of these items are old friends that have withstood the test of time and I’ve been using for years and years. Consider these my “top” gear picks…the stuff that I recommend to friends without reservation.

Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag

Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag

The Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL Quilt Sleeping Bag ($339) is a quilt that can be zipped up as a hoodless sleeping bag, fully opened and used as a blanket, or even hung under a hammock as an underquilt.  It also has a draft collar to hold onto your body heat when you shift around at night. I use it on the majority of my warmer weather trips and like the versatility it provides. That 40 degree temperature rating is conservative and I’ve taken it down to 30 degrees. It’s filled with 950+ fill power goose down and weighs 19 ounces.

See: Feathered Friends Flicker 40 Gear Review

Loco Libre Gear 20 Ghost Pepper Down Quilt

Black-Ghost Pepper

The Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper 20 ($304) is a semi-custom down quilt made with a unique chevron style baffle, which limits the amount of down shift by catching it in the corners that the baffle forms every time it changes direction. This eliminates cold spots and means that the down stays in place, so you can stay warm. My Ghost Pepper has a draft collar and closed footbox, which I prefer when sleeping in cooler weather. It’s filled with 850+ goose down and weighs 24.4 ounces.

See: Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper Top Quilt Review

Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Sleeping bag

Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 Sleeping Bag

The Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 ($499) is one of my oldest gear, purchases although the price has gone way up since I bought mine. I mainly use the UltraLite on early spring and late autumn hikes in cooler weather. It’s quite warm with horizontal baffles so I can move the down where I need it. The UltraLite’s hood is less oppressive than many other mummy-shaped sleeping bags, but still very warm when needed. It also has a chest draft collar. The UltraLite weighs 29 ounces and is filled with 850+ fill power goose down. I’ve hiked across Scotland twice with this sleeping bag and will probably take it with me again next year when I hike the Cape Wrath Trail. It’s more confining than a quilt, but I still like the comfort it provides.

See: Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 Review

NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag

NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag

The NEMO Sonic 0 ($499) is a 850 down fill power winter sleeping bag that is cut wide around the knees and torso making it comfortable for back or side sleepers. It’s a relative newcomer in my “inner circle”, but I really like it. Weighing 42 ounces, the Sonic 0 has zippered vents down the front, called Thermo-Gills that allow you to vent the warmth of the sleeping bag up to 20 degrees without having to unzip the bag and introduce drafts. I mainly use it for winter camping/backpacking when I want more space in my bag for those very long winter nights and when I have to sleep with my water and boots in my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing.

See: NEMO Sonic 0 Sleeping Bag Review. 

Loco Libre Gear Cayenne Pepper Underquilt (40 Degree)

Cayenne Pepper
Loco Libre Gear’s Cayenne Pepper Hammock Underquilt ($110) was a little gear experiment (synthetic fill vs. down) that turned out to be a fantastic success. Filled with Apex Climashield insulation, Loco Libre’s synthetic quilts are quite inexpensive compared to their down underquilts and spec out quite light for warmer temperatures. For example, my Cayenne Pepper UQ weighs 14.3 ounces with suspension and ‘biners. Plus Loco Libre adds optional down draft collars at the ends of their underquilts that prevent warm air from escaping at night when you move around. Rated for 40 degrees, I use the Cayenne Pepper from late spring to early autumn when sleeping in a backpacking hammock, which I do more and more of in warmer weather.

See: Loco Libre Cayenne Pepper Synthetic Underquilt Review

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Inflatable Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
I’ve been using the same Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad ($159) going on 5 years now and have never had any problems with punctures or leaks. The XLite has an R-value of 3.2, more than sufficient for most three season backpacking and camping. It weighs 12 ounces and is 20″ wide. The mattress is quite firm when fully inflated, so I let out some air to get a softer feel. The XLite rolls up quite thin and takes up little pack space. It’s best to store it in a stuff sack however, to protect the fabric from puncture by sharp items in your pack.

See: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad Review

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Insulated Sleeping Pad

Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad
I use a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm ($199) for winter and in cooler weather. It weighs 15 ounces and has an R-value of 5.7 which is sufficient for winter camping. It’s basically identical to the NeoAir XLite although it has a tougher exterior fabric, so it needs a little less babying in my backpack.

See: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad Review

Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Foam Sleeping Pad

Therm-a-Rest Zlite Sleeping pad
Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pads ($34) make good secondary insulation in hammocks and for winter camping when used with an inflatable insulated pad. They’re relatively inexpensive and the accordion shape makes them easy to strap on the outside of a pack. I have a bunch of Z-Lites that have been cut up for various uses such as sit pads, hammock insulation, packraft floor insulation, door mats, dog sleeping insulation, and so on. I use Z-Lites with and without a silver reflective coating interchangeably, depending on what I have lying around. An “unmodified” Z-Lite has an R-Values or 2.2/2.6(silver) and weighs 14 ounces.

See: Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad Review

Gossamer Gear 1/8″ and 1/4″ Thinlight Foam Insulation

Thinlight Foam Insulation
Gossamer Gear sells rolls of closed-cell foam that have a lot of uses, much like the Therm-a-Rest Z-lite pads I use, but better suited for hammock insulation because they’re wider, thinner, and more malleable. They’re available in 1/8″ and 1/4″ thicknesses. Their weight varies depending on how you cut them up.

More

I’ll be publishing more of my gear closet top picks in the coming weeks since so many of you have contacted me about the gear I use. In the meantime, if you have any questions about these items or need clarifications, just ask. I’m happy to help out.

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11 comments

  1. You’re not helping. Well you are but you are making it harder.

    I’ll be spending 10 days canoeing with Boy Scouts in northern Maine this July. I was looking for a summer sleeping option because my 0° winter bag and 20° fall spring bag are too hot. I was thinking an Enlightened Equipment Revelation but now you have added the Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper Down Quilt into consideration. Do you have any thoughts?

    • I sold an EE Revelation to make way for the Loco Libre Quilt if that’s any indication. For Maine in July, I’d probably take my Feathered Friends Flicker 40.

    • Personally I way prefer the revelation for summer because you can open the footbox. Those come in both climashield and down.

      I never use anything with a closed footbox in the summer because it’s an easy way to sweat in your bag and make it dirtier faster. The venting of the revelation’s design is one of its major strengths, IMHO. For winter it wouldn’t matter as much really. In fact it may be worse :)

      • Which is why I’d take the Feathered Friends Flicker 40, since it has an open foot box and can open up like a blanket. I thought I said that.

        But I admit, I have a definite bias towards Loco Libre over Enlightened Equipment because they come from the hammocking world and leverage the innovation that’s occurred in that market segment. I also like the owner, George, who’s more focused on building unique products than ramping up his volume. He does great custom work and is good to brainstorm with on design options – good for people who want something a little more personal.

        I’ve owned two EE quilts and sold both. They’re perfectly good products, but don’t really stand out anymore from every other quilt you can buy. The price of commercial success, I guess.

  2. I just bought a Loco Libre Ghost Pepper 30. I did a test run in my back yard when temps got down into the 30’s and it worked great. This article is good confirmation of the purchase. I think my wife is going to get a 20 degree next.

  3. I use the Gossamer 1/8″ foam under my Xlite pad. Protects from punctures and helps up the R- Value. Both essental part of my sleep system these days.

  4. I bought an Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt supposedly rated to 10 but can’t use it below 45 or I freeze. Would be interested to know how the temp ratings of cottage quilt shops stack up against each other and big retailers. Hard to trust them and even harder to trust reviews these days since everyone seems to be getting incentives to write positive ones. EE makes it impossible to post a negative review. What a shame. Pretty sure I’m going back to heavier but traditional sleeping bags after my bad quilt experience but good to know of the other options. Thanks!

    • Can’t publish a bad review on their website? That’s just dishonest!

      There is no way to compare temperature ratings between quilts because there’s no standard test methodology. The rule of thumb is to get a quilt rated 10-20 degrees lower than you expect to need to compensate for manufacturer “optimism” unless it’s a well established manufacturer or you know you can trust the rating.

      For example, Feathered Friends has a world-wide reputation as a sleeping bag, down jacket, and quilt manufacturer and tests their sleeping bags (regularly) using the sleeping bag standard test methodology. That experience gives them transferable experience in what works in quilt construction, where such a standard does not exist.

      Sorry you had a bad EE experience. I’m surprised they didn’t try to satisfy you somehow afterwards. That in itself speaks volumes to me.

  5. All very interesting Philip however these items other than the Neoair is not available here in NZ.

    I am surprised that as a light/ultralight backpacker you do not mention the dual use (or more) of the items.

    I have now only two sleeping bags, one ultralight goose down (500g) for summer which fits inside a heavier down bag (1350g) for winter low temperatures. Both can be used as quilts and the heavier has a separate foot box zip for the interchange seasons cooling. With these I have one 3/4 self inflating sleeping mat and use a reflective blanket beneath in colder temperatures. One other point for me is the use of an “Uber Light” down jacket (200g) Great for any time it is cool or a stop for food etc plus it provides extra warmth in the light down bag at night if the weather turns.

    Thanks for a great site and the vast information source that you have collected.

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