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Hoodless Ultralight Sleeping Bags: Pros and Cons

Hoodless Ultralight Sleeping Bags - Pros and Cons

Hoodless ultralight sleeping bags, also called rectangular sleeping bags, share some of the same advantages as backpacking quilts and are a great alternative if you want to switch from a mummy bag to something less confining, but you’re not that enthused about using a (top) quilt.

Now, I’m not trying to convince you that quilts are inferior to hoodless sleeping bags. What you end up using is a matter of personal preference. I just want to point out some of the advantages of using a hoodless sleeping bag that you may not have considered. Given that the backorder queues on quilts can be as long as 3-4 months, you might want to consider trying a hoodless sleeping bag as an alternative.

Personally, I prefer using a hoodless sleeping bag over a quilt when sleeping on the ground because I don’t have to worry about any drafts or fuss with a quilt’s pad attachment system, which I find awkward and claustrophobic.

The Feather Friends Tanager 20 in early spring
The Feather Friends Tanager 20 in early spring


But there are other advantages to using a hoodless sleeping instead of a backpacking quilt that I outline below.

No Learning Curve

The nice thing about a hoodless sleeping bag is that there’s no learning curve like there is with a quilt and its pad attachment system. You’re also not dependent on the quality of your quilt’s pad attachment system, which can be pretty dismal if you buy a quilt from the wrong manufacturer.

Zipper Orientation

Most hoodless bags have zippers, so you can open them up and use them like a blanket in warmer weather or unzip them partway to create a footbox like a quilt. Hoodless sleeping bags are sometimes called “quilt-style sleeping bags” by their manufacturers for this very reason. If they do have a zipper, you can usually position it where you want it at night, on the left or right, on top of your body, or underneath you, which gives you a lot of flexibility that’s not available with a mummy bag, because the hood forces you to use the zipper in one orientation.

Sleeping Pad Compatability

Hoodless sleeping bags are also compatible with every kind of sleeping pad including inflatable, self-inflating, foam, including grooved Klymit sleeping pads. They’re also a good option in hiker hostels and bunkhouses when you want to avoid coming into direct contact with suspicious sheets, mattress covers, or stained mattresses that have who-knows-what living in them. That’s a lot harder to do with a backless quilt.

Temperature Regulation in Cold and Warm Weather

Many experienced quilt users add a bivy sack to their sleep system when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or less and drafts from their pad attachment systems become more noticeable. A bivy sack isn’t necessary if you use use a hoodless sleeping bag since it already provides 360-degree protection when it’s zipped up.

Since they don’t have a hood, it’s common practice to wear a fleece cap or an insulated hoodie when sleeping in a hoodless sleeping bag, just like you would with a backpacking quilt.

Some hoodless sleeping bags are available with draft collars to keep heat from escaping around your neck when you move around in cold weather and you can also find ones with drawstring foot boxes, which give you more control over your warmth level through the night. The Feathered Friends Flicker 40, I use has both.

Elephants Foot Bags

Some hoodless sleeping bags are also available without a zipper, like the Feathered Friends Tanager 20 I own, which can limit their temperature range to cooler weather but helps to cut down on their weight. Some are also available in 3/4 and 1/2 lengths instead of full length and are sometimes called called “Elephant’s Foot” bags because they resemble the lower part of an elephant’s leg. This is more of a mountaineering “thing” that you’d use with a down parka to save weight and gear space on a big climb but it isn’t that flexible for general purpose use.

No Backorder Queue

If you’ve tried to order a backpacking quilt between November and July, either a stock model or a custom-made one, the backorder wait time to receive one can be pretty extreme. That’s rarely a problem with ultralight hoodless sleeping bags because there’s less of a demand for them.

Selection of Ultralight Hoodless Sleeping Bags

Make / ModelTemp RatingZipper
Enlightened Equipment Convert Sleeping BagMultipleFull
Feathered Friends Flicker UL Quilt Sleeping BagMultipleFull
Feathered Friends Flicker YF Quilt Sleeping BagMultipleFull
Feathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL Sleeping Bag20FNone
Therm-a-Rest Ohm 2020FFull
Therm-a-Rest Ohm 3232FFull
Zpacks Classic Sleeping BagMultipleFull
Western Mountaineering EverLite45Full
Western Mountaineering MityLite40Full
UGQ Outlaw Hybrid QuiltMultipleFull


The chief disadvantage of a hoodless ultralight sleeping bag over a quilt is that it’s potentially heavier because you lie on a portion of the insulation and don’t get any benefit from it because it can’t trap hot air. I say potentially because some manufacturers make hoodless sleeping bags with very lightweight fabrics and high fill power down insulation that weigh in the same ballpark as a quilt. For example, my Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL weighs 18.3 oz, while my Feather Friends Tanager 20 weighs in at 19 oz, which is quite comparable to similarly rated quilts.

Try comparing the quilts and hoodless sleeping bags made by Enlightened Equipment or Zpacks at different temperatures for additional examples. I think you’ll be surprised at how slim the weight difference is. Does that weight difference offset the benefits of using an ultralight hoodless sleeping bag over a quilt? That’s a decision you’ll want to consider carefully.

Drying off on the Cape Wrath Trail
Drying off on the Cape Wrath Trail

Wrap Up

If you’re in the process of switching from a mummy sleeping bag to a backpacking quilt or you’ve tried a quilt and decided it isn’t for you, I’d encourage you to give hoodless sleeping bags some consideration. They have a lot of advantages over quilts, with a minimal weight penalty, and they are vastly more comfortable than most mummy sleeping bags with hoods.

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  1. Kelty Galactic. Great for starter backpacker gear, can be used in so many other ways afterward if you decide you hate backpacking. Can be zipped with a second one for a 2 person system. CHEAP!

  2. Unless it’s really cold, I love my FF Flicker UL 40!


      Also Zpacks and other companies make very light down hoods that you can take if you need additional head warmth. A lot more efficient than sleeping in a puffy with a hood.

      • IMO, a single purpose down hood works against the idea behind a hoodless sleeping bag, which is to use a piece of gear you likely already have, in this case the hoody jacket or a warm hat, to protect your head and neck from the elements.

  3. And the best thing about hoodless bags is, there isn’t a top or bottom. The bag just rolls with you when you turn over.

  4. I love a quilt in a hammock, but on the ground, I have had better luck with a sleeping bag also. My wife is 5′ tall and has successfully used the Western Mountaineering Tamarak for years. It is a good option for shorter people.

  5. Love my Tanager. It has more flexibility then I thought it would, peeling it down or just laying it on top of me. And like the simplicity. Thanks for the great recommendation!

  6. Have you used the Thermarest Ohm? Was considering getting one but haven’t been able to find much on them. I’m a cold sleeper (and a rotisserie sleeper) so it might be pushing my temp limits. Wish it came in a 20*.

  7. Nunatak has a hoodless/zipperless bag as well, the Sastrugi. Quite customizable and affordable.

  8. Very happy to find this, as I am considering this exact question, hoodless bag vs quilt – thanks for your perspective! I have a couple of WM hooded mummy bags, which are excellent, but I have concerns about the edges of the hood getting wet from breathing when snugged up tight on cold nights. Not an issue for the shorter trips I generally do but could be an issue for some of the longer trips I have in mind if opportunities to give the bag a good airing are limited. I move around a lot during the night, so I suspect that a quilt would not be a good option due to drafts.

    How do you find the hoodless bags in terms of neck/shoulder warmth in cooler temps, say 25-35F? I’m wondering how much warmth retention is lost when using a hat/hoodie instead of a hooded sleeping bag.

    • Just get a hoodless bag with a draft collar. That will keep your shoulders warm and prevent warm air from escaping around the neck. the feathered friends flicker is my bag of choice in that department.

  9. I just sold my EE Enigma and Revelation quilts. I just don’t like how drafty they are when I do the “rotisserie chicken” each night. You spend the entire night just trying to pull the quilt edge down to stop the cold. I guess quilts wold work fine is someone just slept on their back and never moved.
    I’m also done with synthetic fill. Just too bulky and heavy.
    I just bought a 20 degree Zpacks Full-Zip from their bargain bin. CRAZY light at 23 oz for broad/long. I’ll use that for summers (I’m a cold sleeper)
    I also have a WM Alpinlite, but that’s like 36 oz and is just my winter bag, but WAY too much for summer.

  10. Tanager 20 CFL Sleeping Bag: suggest a person purchase the 74″ length, gives you the option of keeping your shoulders warm. 5’9″ person. PaipoBill

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