Have you ever used a quilt instead of a sleeping bag on a backpacking trip?
I confess, I haven’t. But I took my first tentative step in that direction on my last backpacking trip. Instead of a quilt, I used the 50 degree rectangular sleeping I carry in summer, a 13.5 ounce Montbell UL Thermal Sheet, and unzipped it so I could drape it over myself like a quilt. Like a backpacking quilt, I kept the bottom part of the bag zipped together to form a foot box for my feet. I used my sleeping bag like this, together with a 14 ounce Therm-a-rest NeoAir sleeping pad and a 6.8 ounce Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy Sack that has a head net over the face. The entire system worked very well and I expect to use it again on future summertime trips.
Before this trip, I really questioned whether bringing the bivy sack was necessary and had some concern that I’d be too hot using it at night. In the end I reckoned that I could lie on top of the sleeping bag and use the top of the bivy bag like a thin sheet. Being too hot didn’t turn out to be a problem however and I realize now that the bivy sack is really the glue that makes this entire sleep system work. In addition to providing bug and rainsplatter protection (I was sleeping under a tarp), the bivy keeps all of the components together, including me, no matter how I thrash around at night.
For the most part, I slept warm and comfortably on my trip, although I woke up a little cold during the wee hours of the morning on two days. This was easily rectified by wrapping the light synthetic jacket I use as a camp jacket and pillow around my neck and chest to create a virtual draft collar, like you find on a cold weather bag. This is a trick I learned for winter camping and helps prevents your body heat from escaping through the top of your sleeping bag.
Even though this quilt-like system worked well, I still not tempted to switch to a backpacking quilt. The rectangular sleeping bag I already own is perfectly adequate draped over me and I can still use it like a sleeping bag if I choose. That seems like a more flexible alternative than switching to a quilt all the time. It’s also a lot less expensive, if you compare the price and the weight of a 40 or 50 degree rectangular sleeping bag to a backpacking quilt. Food for thought if you want to save some money.