UGQ Outdoor is a cottage quilt manufacturer that makes top quilts, underquilts, and tarps for backpackers and hammock campers. The quality of their products is excellent and they’ve grown rapidly by word of mouth as the popularity of quilts has grown. The Bandit is their most popular top quilt and is offered in two forms, as an economical Fast-Track Top Quilt with a limited set of options, or a Custom Top Quilt, available with a much larger range of premium features and materials.
When shopping for a top quilt you’ll quickly discover that there are two types of backpacking quilt manufacturers: those whose initial focus was on hammock sleepers, like Hammock Gear, UGQ Outdoor, and Loco Libre Gear, and those that were originally focused on ultralight backpacking and ground sleepers like Enlightened Equipment and Katabatic Gear. They, in turn, helped spearhead the development of quilt-to-sleeping pad attachment systems and bivy sacks specifically for ground sleeper use. However, this distinction between manufacturers is starting to collapse as the companies originally focused on hammock users add features and capabilities to their product lines that also target ground users.
Better Features for Ground Sleepers
While we reviewed a Custom UGQ Bandit for hammock use fairly recently, UGQ has brought out some additional custom options that make the Bandit far more competitive for ground sleepers, including a strap and wafer buckle pad attachment system and what they call Dynamic Tension Control, a feature first pioneered by the quilt-maker Mid-Atlantic Mountains Works, which has since gone out of business. We examine these further below.
Wafer Buckle and Elastic Pad Attachment Straps
There are a variety of pad attachment systems on the market but we’ve always felt that Enlightened Equipment has the best because it uses wafer style buckles and wide elastic straps that are easier to manipulate in the dark. UGQ has added that capability as an option on the Custom Bandit. The static cord and toggle based system, which UGQ also offers, is much more difficult to manipulate and adjust on the fly while you’re lying on top of a sleeping pad.
If you select the wafer buckle and strap option when you order the Bandit (UGQ calls it the “Deluxe Pad Attachment Option”) your quilt will come with three sets of wafer clips along each side of the quilt’s back opening, a single continuous 1/2” elastic strap loop with wafer clip connections, and a single 1/2″ elastic flat strap. If the quilt is wide enough to fully encircle you, the wafer clips on the quilt can be fastened together to close the back of the quilt. Or the wafer clips on the quilt can be fastened to the continuous loop ½” elastic strap placed around your pad and the 1/2″ elastic flat strap placed under your back to provide an effective functional connection. UGQ also gives you the option to order a third elastic strap for a small fee. This is essentially identical to Enlightened Equipment’s Pad Attachment System and works equivalently in use.
But the problem with pad attachment systems, in general, is that they can leak drafts between the points where the wafers or toggles meet the sleeping pad. To prevent this, you need to narrow the quilt’s back opening along the entire length of the quilt. That’s where UGQ’s new Dynamic Tension Control feature comes into play.
Dynamic Tension Control
UGQ’s Dynamic Tension Control makes it possible to shrink the rear quilt opening to bring the sides closer together to prevent heat-robbing drafts. It doesn’t completely replace the need for a pad attachment system, but it makes one much more effective on cold nights. If you select this option, elastic webbing is sewn into channels running lengthwise along the left and right edges of the quilt in the torso. The elastic webbing is completely concealed in the edge of the quilt and unnoticeable when you lie inside it. It’s tensioned with two small cord locks located at the bottom of the rear opening near the snap at the top of the footbox.
On colder nights you can tension the elastic webbing to compress the edges of the quilt and draw them under you. This has the effect of drawing the sides of the quilt closer together to seal out the cold night air. When used in conjunction with the pad strap system it also provides for a better seal between the quilt and your sleeping pad.
Adding the Dynamic Tension Control System to a quilt only adds 0.5 oz of weight to it. But if there’s a downside to using it, it’s that the quilt becomes narrower and you might want to add a few inches of width to your quilt if you prefer a roomier fit.
Other Bandit Features
While we’re bullish about the Bandit’s new sleeping pad straps and Dynamic Tension Control System, there are a lot of other reasons to like a Bandit Top Quilt for ground and hammock use. Many of these are increasingly available on competitor’s quilts, but we still feel that they’re important from a functional standpoint if you want a high-quality backpacking quilt.
For purposes of explanation, here is the spec of the UGQ Custom Bandit Quilt we tested in this review.
- Fill Power: 850
- Temperature Rating: 20*F/-6*C
- Width: 55″ (140 cm)
- Length: 72″ (183 cm)
- 850 Overstuff ($10): 1 oz 850FP
- 850 Overstuff Footbox: No Thanks
- Inner Shell Color: M10 Black
- Outer Shell Fabric: M20 Green Tea
- Taper Style: Full Taper
- Draft Collar Neck Line ($20.00): Yes
- Foot Box Style: Zipper and Draw
- Dynamic Tension Control: ($10.00): Yes
- Pad Attachment Options: ($5.00): Yes
- Spare Strap (1)($3.00): Yes
- Down Fill Amount: 13.36 oz
- Total Weight: 23.2 oz (weighed)
All UGQ Bandits are fully baffled and not sewn-through to prevent heat loss through the seams. They also use horizontal baffles in the foot area and vertical baffles for the rest of the quilt to prevent down shift and keep the down on top of your torso and feet. They work great.
A key feature of this Bandit quilt is the draft collar. A draft collar is a horizontal baffle across the top of the quilt beyond the drawcord, which serves to both prevent the escape of heat at your neck. We view them as an indispensable element of any serious cold weather quilt or sleeping bag for that matter. There’s a cord lock on the front of the quilt to tighten the draft collar, which is easily accessible for hammock or ground sleepers.
Ultralight shell materials
Premium quilts reduce weight by using ultralight fabrics. The Custom Bandit we tested uses M10 for a liner, a 0.66 oz/square yard, 10 denier calendered nylon taffeta fabric; and MRS20 for the shell, a 1.1 oz/square yard, 20 denier calendered nylon mini-ripstop fabric. Both have DWR (durable water repellent) coatings while also being breathable. They feel silky smooth to the touch and are very comfortable.
The Bandit quilt we received has a zipper and drawstring footbox which opens up completely flat like a comforter, or zips closed and cinches up at the end. This is a great option to extend the utility of a 20-degree quilt for warmer weather use if you can only afford to purchase one quilt for your gear closet. Most such footboxes leave a small hole in the middle that can let drafts enter, but UGQ includes an extra snap at the end to help block the hole and enable maximum heat retention.
While UGQ Outdoors makes excellent top quilts for backpacking, we’re excited to see them offering more performance enhancements for ground sleepers including the wafer-based sleeping bad attachment system and Dynamic Tension Control System we review above. While these new features help position the Bandit as one of the most sophisticated backpacking top quilts available for ground sleepers, it should be noted that they are only available on UGQ’s Custom Bandits and not on the company’s Fast Track Quilt models. If you check the quilt spec listed above, these options add surprisingly little cost to the Bandit and are well worth the extra price.
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