The Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700/35 is a down quilt rated to 35 degrees that combines all the advantages of an ultralight down quilt with a hood, ideal in colder weather when you need extra thermal protection for your head. The unique hideaway hood on this Sierra Designs Quilt is magnificent in the cool weather that this quilt is rated for, regardless if you sleep on the ground in a tent or in a hammock.
The hood doesn’t prevent you from sleeping on your side or in a hammock like a traditional mummy bag and I wish more manufacturers would offer it as an option since it works so well, especially in a hammock in cooler weather since the back of the hood cradles your head like a puffy, warm down pillow. I stumbled on using Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilts in hammocks quite by accident two years ago and think they make a great insulation system in cooler weather when more head and neck insulation is required. (See my post on Hammock Forums.)
The Backcountry Quilt 35 is cut wide (58″) and very long (80″) compared to other lightweight backpacking quilts, something to be aware of when sizing one and making weight comparisons with other products. It also doesn’t come with any straps to keep it attached to a sleeping pad, which can be useful if you sleep on the ground and toss and turn at night. On the flip side, the width does allow you to pull the quilt underneath your sides, minimizing the need for straps, which are easy to misplace in my experience. Furthermore, you don’t want sleeping pad straps when sleeping in a hammock.
The foot box is closed to prevent drafts and comes up to the knee (approximately.) The quilt taper is generous (42″) and should be wide enough to fit most mummy style, inflatable sleeping pads.
The other thing that’s great about the Backcountry Quilt is that it’s rated using the EN13537 sleeping bag temperature rating standard, so you know how warm it is compared to other rated sleeping bag options, a useful comparison if you’re interested in converting from a sleeping bag to a quilt-based sleep system. Note: When buying a quilt made by cottage gear manufacturers, conventional wisdom suggests buying a quilt that’s an extra 10 degrees warmer than you expect to make up for any exaggeration in the vendor temperature rating. With the exception of the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt, most quilts can’t be tested using the sleeping bag standard, which requires an integrated hood as part of the test.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700/35 is a good sleep insulation option if you’re a side sleeper and hate the confinement of a mummy-style hood or you want a quilt that can be used for sleeping in a hammock and on the ground in a tent. Weighing 31 ounces (1 pound 15 ounces), it’s lighter weight than many high-quality 20 degree down sleeping bags. With an MSRP of $219.95, it is comparatively expensive and heavier compared to a custom-made quilt (minus the insulated hood), but becomes more price competitive if you can get it on sale.
Disclosure: Sierra Designs provided the author with a sample quilt for this review.