UGQ Bandit Quilt Review (with Improved Features for Ground Sleepers)

UGQ Outdoor Bandit Quilt Review

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.

UGQ Bandit Quilt

Warmth
Weight
Comfort
Features
Versatility

Premium Top Quilt

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. These new features help position the Bandit as one of the most sophisticated backpacking top quilts available for ground sleepers.

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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.

Wafer Buckle and Elastic Strap Pad Attachment System
UGQ has added a Wafer Buckle and Elastic Strap Pad Attachment System option

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.

UGQ Outdoor's Dynamic Tension Control
UGQ Outdoor’s Dynamic Tension Control

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.

Here's are two UGQ quilts: the to pone has Dynamic Tension Control and the bottom does not.
Here are two UGQ quilts: the top one has Dynamic Tension Control and the bottom does not. Notice how the opening on the upper quilt pulls itself closer together.

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)

Baffle Design

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.

The Bandit uses vertical baffles to keep insulation on top of your chest and prevent if from falling down to your sides
The Bandit uses vertical baffles to keep insulation on top of your chest and prevent it from falling down to your sides

Draft collar

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.

UGQ plugs the hole in the zipper and drawcord footbox with an additional snap
UGQ plugs the hole in the zipper and drawcord footbox with an additional snap

Footbox

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.

Recommendation

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.

Disclosure: SectionHiker.com received a quilt from UGQ Outdoor for this review.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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8 comments

  1. Hi Philip ! Do you know if it’s possible to retrofit an older Bandit quilt with this new dynamic tension control ?

  2. Their sizing tool suggests for “Ground” use and “Average” build get 60 wide which is an XL. They have another method of measuring for side sleepers to decide on a width. Presumably at 72/55 you ordered the quilt size they recommend? How did you find the fit?

    Also any thoughts on the no taper option or is the taper generous enough?

    Why did you choose 850 rather than 900 fill power and 1oz overfill but not for the foot box?

    Amother quilt I am considering is a FF Flicker 20. I think you have a 40. Any thoughts on how they compare in use.

    Thanks

    • I just ordered a 55″ inch because that’s what I always order and because I use quilts on the ground and in a hammock. The dynamic tensioning does make things a bit more snug though so you might want to size up but I’d suggest you contact them and ask their opinion.

      Taper was fine for me.

      I chose the 850 because I try to minimize the cost of the free samples that vendors send me, while focusing on the specific features required for
      the review. They put the overfill into the bag. It wasn’t something I requested.

      Calling the Flicker a “quilt” is marketing. It’s actually a hoodless sleeping bag with a draft caollar, full length zipper, and a drawstring foot box that can be opened up and used like a quilt. I love my 40 degree Flicker and its definitely a great option if you want all the benefits of a quilt without the hassle of sleeping pad straps to block drafts.

      • Speaking of quilt pad straps, I am a little concerned about them. I lent my almost new Xlite pad to someone who used a Katabatic quilt. I would say they are competent and careful but somehow they managed to puncture the pad and they think it was some fixture on the quilt straps. They were able to patch the pad and finish their trip but!!!…Not sure if this was a fluke, something specific to Katabatic, or a general problem with pad straps. Do you see anything about the clips used by UGQ that might have that problem?

        Thanks

      • Never heard that happening before. But no, I don’t see that as an issue with either of UGQ’s pad attachment systems.

      • I have a Katabatic Flex and their pad straps have what I would describe as “rounded, yet mildly pointy” corners. I’ve worried about them puncturing my quilts lining, but never my pad. I have never had an actual issue, but it’s something I’ve noticed before. I like the KG pad strap system. I think it works pretty well at keeping the quilt tucked under you.

        If that caught the pad just right or they leaned into it the wrong way, that could’ve been what happened.

        As Philip said, the waffle clips that the UGQ uses are much different than the KG connectors though.

  3. I got a 30* Bandit with 3oz overfill, DTC and zippered footbox for Christmas this year and I love it. I’ve only used it two nights so far but the Dynamic Tension Control is a really great feature. I just cinched both sides up and it tucks you right in. It took me a minute to figure out the pad strap but it worked as intended. Bonus points for being made in my home state.

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