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10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Quilts of 2018

More and more backpackers are switching from sleeping bags to backpacking quilts because they’re lighter weight, more compressible, and more comfortable, especially for side sleepers. While top quilts have always been popular with the hammock crowd because they’re easier to use in the confined space of a hammock, they’re also a great sleeping system option for ground sleepers, when coupled with a sleeping pad. Backpacking quilts are ideal for summer and warm weather since they’re so easy to vent if you’re too hot. But in freezing temperatures, starting at 30 degrees and below, most backpackers still prefer a sleeping bag because the wraparound fabric is less drafty.

Here are our choices for the top 10 best backpacking quilts based on price, insulation, temperature rating, weight, features, versatility, sizing, and availability (see below for detailed explanations of each criteria.) All of these quilts are made and sold by so-called cottage manufacturers, which range in size from one-man shops to medium-sized businesses that employee dozens of people. All of them produce very high quality products that are significantly lighter weight and better performing than the quilts produced by mass-market gear companies like ENO, Therm-a-Rest, Kammock, Sea-to-Summit, and Sierra Designs.

The advantage of buying a custom-made quilt from a cottage manufacturer is that you can personalize it with added features, higher quality/lighter weight insulation, or custom fabric colors. An increasing number of quilt makers also offer budget quilts made with a limited set of options that are much less expensive and often available immediately. These are a great option if you’re trying a backpacking quilt for the first time and overwhelmed by the customization choices available.

1. Katabatic Gear Flex Quilt

KB Flex 40
The Katabatic Gear Flex is a quilt that can used in a hammock or on the ground, coupled with a sleeping pad. Weight varies by temperature rating, but a standard-sized Flex 40 weighs 16.9 oz. It’s available with regular or HyperDRY waterproof goose down and comes with a sleeping pad attachment system to help prevent side drafts. The’ Flex also has a very desirable draft collar that snugs around your neck and prevents heat from escaping when you move around at night. The Flex footbox can be zippered closed and has a draw-string vent, or you can  unzip it completely and use it as a blanket. Katabatic Gear has a well-deserved reputation for making quilts that exceed their temperature rating. Price range $260.00-$435.00.

Read SectionHiker’s Katabatic Gear Flex 40 Gear Review

Buy at Katabatic Gear

2. Hammock Gear Burrow Econ Quilt

Burrow
The Hammock Gear Burrow Econ is a quality top quilt that’s available at a very aggressive discount because it’s only available in a limited range of colors, sizes, and temperature ratings. For example, a 17.26 oz, regular-sized Econ 40 quilt only costs $120.00, which is a great deal. It comes with 800 fill power durable water-resistant duck down, which is just as warm as 800 fill power goose down (see explanation.) The Burrow can be used in a hammock or with a sleeping pad using a ($5) pad attachment kit. It’s also available with a vented snapped foot box or one that’s sewn shut, which is better for colder weather. Price range $110.00-$165.00.

Buy at Hammock Gear

3. Loco Libre Ghost Pepper

LL Ghost Pepper
The Loco Libre Gear Ghost Pepper is a 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 on top, where you want it, so you can stay warm. The Ghost Pepper is available in a wide range or widths and lengths, color choices, insulation types, and foot box styles. You can even add a sleeping pad attachment system. This can all be very confusing for first time quilt buyers, but they are very patient and happy to explain “the why” before you buy. Some of the of the key options offered are 800 duck or 900 goose fill power water-resistant down, a draft collar, different taper styles, a drawstring vented or closed footbox, and added insulation. A basic Ghost Pepper 40 weighs in at 14.5 oz. Price Range: $154.00-$474.00

See SectionHiker’s Ghost Pepper 20 Review

Buy at Loco Libre

4. UGQ Outdoor Bandit

UGQ Bandit

The UGQ Bandit has a unique baffle design that separates the torso insulation from the foot box insulation so you can put extra insulation where it’s needed most. The Bandit is also highly customizable and available in a wide range of widths, lengths, and temperatures. You can choose untreated 800 fill power duck, 850 goose, or 950 goose down, several different fabric options (in a multitude of colors) with different breathability and DWR characteristics, a draft collar, full or no taper, and three different foot box options. A sleeping pad attachment system is also included for free. A basic Bandit 40 weighs 14 oz. Price Range: $160-$400.

Buy at UGQ Outdoor

5. Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller

JRB Sierra SNIVf
The Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller is a 25-30 degree (24 oz) quilt can be used for sleeping in a hammock or on the ground and includes perimeter tabs for a ground attachment system. It’s unique because it can also be worn as an insulated garment, with a non-snagging, mixed hook & loop re-sealable head hole in the chest. The hole seals tightly when not used so there’s no heat loss through it. You can also choose between a drawstring or sewn in foot box. The Sniveller is available in two lengths and filled with 800 fill power goose down, either treated or untreated. Price Range: $270.00-$280.00

Buy at Jacks ‘R’ Better

6. Enlightened Equipment Revelation

Revelation 2
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is a quilt that can be used in a hammock or for sleeping on the ground. It’s available in a wide range of different  length, widths, colors, temperature ratings, and fabric weights. The Revelation comes with a pad attachment system and a zippered/ drawstring footbox and half taper. You can also choose from three different grades of treated, water-resistant down: 850 fill power duck down and 900 or 950 fill power goose down. A basic made-to-order Revelation 40 weighs 14.32 oz. Price Range: $225.00-$510.00

Buy at Enlightened Equipment

7. Warbonnet Mamba

Warbonnet Mamba
The Warbonnet Mamba is primarily designed for hammock use, but is available in a wider XL width (55″) which is more suitable for sleeping on the ground. It has a mummy-style footbox, is available in multiple lengths, and three temperature ratings, including 40, 20, and 0 degrees.  The Mamba is made with a black, 20d DWR ripstop shell fabric and overstuffed with 850 Fill Power Hyper-Dry Goose down. A regular sized 40-degree Mamba weighs 13.81 oz, while a wide weighs 16.3 oz. Price Range: $245.00-$330.00

Buy at Warbonnet Outdoors

8. Nunatak Arc UL

Nunatak arc-ul
The Nunatak Arc UL is a quilt designed for long distance hikers. It’s available in four different temperature ratings: 40, 30, 20 and 10 degrees, in a wide variety of lengths and widths, with or without a draft collar, with or without a pad attachment system, and several different outer shell and liner fabrics that emphasize breathability or water repellency. One of the unique options available on the Arc UL, is the installation of external snaps that allow you to layer a synthetic quilt with it for cold weather use. The Arc UL is also available with 900 fill power HyperDry goose down, treated or untreated. A basic, regular sized Arc UL 40 weighs 14.8 oz. Price Range: $290.00-$550.00.

Buy at Nunatak

9. Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20

Marcy 20
The Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20 is three season quilt available in a multiple widths, lengths, tapers, shell fabrics, and colors. It has a unique side draft elimination system for ground sleepers that relies on perimeter shock cord rather than sleeping pad straps, which are easy to lose or forget at home. The Marcy 20 has a vented footbox and can be insulated with 850 fill power HyperDry goose down or 800 fill power, untreated duck down. A basic, regular Marcy 20 weighs 23 oz. Price Range: $235.00-$350.00.

Read SectionHiker’s Mid Atlantic Mountain Works Marcy 20 Quilt Review

Buy at Mid-Atlantic Mountain Works

10. MassDrop Revelation Quilts

Massdrop Rev 2
The MassDrop Revelation Quilt is a ready-made budget backpacking quilt of their own design, manufactured in China on a contract basis by Enlightened Equipment. If you’re not familiar with MassDrop, they sell small batches of a specific product called “drops” over a multi-day period, giving increasingly deeper discounts when higher volumes are sold. While the specs of the quilts they sell can vary from batch to batch, they’re usually one-step down from the custom or on-the-shelf quilts sold directly by Enlightened Equipment, with slightly heavier shell fabrics and lower fill power down insulation. Despite the differences, they’re high quality backpacking quilts and priced to move!

Read the SectionHiker MassDrop Revelation 20 Quilt Review

Check Availability at MassDrop

Backpacking Quilt Selection Criteria

Here is a list of factors to consider when selecting an ultralight backpacking quilt.

INSULATION: High quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers because they’re so lightweight. In addition to excellent compressibility, quilts insulated with down will last for decades of use if properly cared for. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down lasts as long and insulates as well in the real world vs. a testing lab. Regardless, with a little care and common sense you can keep a down quilt dry by carrying it in a waterproof stuff stack, picking good campsites that don’t flood in rain, and airing it out occasionally in the sun.

TEMPERATURE RATINGS: The introduction of standardized sleeping bag temperature ratings by the outdoor industry substantially improved their reliability. Many manufacturers had overstated their temperature ratings by as much as 10 degrees before that standard was introduced. No such testing standard exists for backpacking quilts, so you’re forced to rely on their reputation and customer reviews. When buying a backpacking quilt, the current rule of thumb is to purchase one rated for 10 degrees below your needs to ensure you’ll be warm enough. There is enormous incentive for ultralight quilt makers to quote low gear weights, so read their customer reviews carefully.  Women may want to add 15-20 degrees of insulation because they sleep colder than men due to lower body mass. No one makes women’s specific quilts yet, although there is an obvious need for them.

WEIGHT: While gear weight is important, be careful not to sacrifice your comfort by selecting a quilt that won’t keep you warm in the conditions you need it to. In fact, insulation is usually the lightest weight component of a quilt, where the bulk of its weight comes primarily from the fabric used to make it. When choosing fabrics, consider their breathability and whether they have a DWR coating, which can be important if the foot of your quilt gets wet regularly  If you plan on using your quilt heavily, consider getting a heavier inner shell fabric as this is where the greatest wear and tear occurs over the long-term.

FEATURES: Most ultralight backpacking quilts are pretty similar when it comes right down to it. But there’s something unique about each of manufacturer’s quilts listed above that improves their performance in a unique way. For example: the use of continuous or chevron-shaped baffles, draft collars, zoned insulation, closed foot-boxes and external snaps for quilt layering, all improve cold weather performance. A strapless pad attachment system is far more convenient and comfortable than ones that rely on straps, while a head-hole enables multi-use as a garment. Look for these differentiators because they can have a profound influence on your backpacking experience.

VERSATILITY: Some backpacking quilts can be used in a wider variety of ways than others, which may be an important factor based on the way you like to backpack. For example, quilts that can be fully unzipped can be used as a blanket in a wider range of temperatures that those with closed foot boxes. Wider width quilts can be used for hammocks and ground sleeping, something to consider if you plan on doing both.

SIZING: When sizing a quilt, it’s important to understand whether the length includes the foot-box or not, since several inches of fabric are lost when forming a foot box. Quilt makers often provide recommended heights for users when quoting sizes, so look for these. Hammock users can usually get by with narrower quilts than ground sleepers, because they use underquilts which wrap around their sides and insulate them. Ground sleepers need the extra fabric and insulation to tuck under their sides to prevent drafts.

AVAILABILITY: Many of the quilt makers who specialize in highly customized quilts often have very long backorder times (2 months or more)  during periods of high demand. If you need a quilt and can’t wait, you’re probably better off buying a less customized, off-the-shelf model. This one factor, more than any other, can often determine which quilt you select.

Written 2018.

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