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 fantastic and they’ve grown rapidly by word of mouth as the popularity of quilts has grown. The Bandit is their premium top quilt and 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. The quilt we review below is a Custom 10-degree top quilt.
Why Go Custom?
Buying a custom top quilt lets you include features that are unavailable in the Fast Track models, such as draft collar and 950 fill power goose down. This can be a real benefit if you have specific needs or just want to treat yourself to a little extra luxury, especially if you sleep cold or plan to use your gear in cold weather where premium features can enhance your comfort. This kind of two-tier, economy and premium product model is pretty standard with smaller cottage industry quilt-makers.
However, it can be a little intimidating to spec out a custom quilt if you’ve never done it before, especially since custom quilts can get pricey and they aren’t returnable. Even if you just want to explore it, I’d recommend taking a look at the customization options that UGQ offers on its website because they’re quite educational even if you don’t end up buying a quilt from them.
Specs at a Glance
- Product reviewed: Custom UGQ Bandit 10 Degree Top Quilt
- Width: 55″
- Length: 72″
- Temp Rating: 10F/-12 C
- Down: 950 fill power goose down, untreated
- Taper: full (gradual)
- Inner fabric: M10 Black
- Outer fabric: MRS20 Moroccan Blue
- Footbox: Zipper and drawcord
- Draft Collar: Yes
- Sleeping pad attachment cords: 3 included
- Weight: Measured at 23.9 oz without the sleeping pad cords
- MSRP: $352.95
UGQ offers lots of custom options for the Bandit; from materials to colors, temperatures to footbox styles, as well as different lengths, widths, and tapers. For a full list, check out the product page https://ugqoutdoor.com/top-quilts/bandit/#top.
UGQ quilts have a kind of “personality” that exemplifies the “approach” UGQ takes in terms of the insulation they use, baffle design and premium features that were fairly unique to the brand before other vendors started copying them. That is the challenge that all of cottage quilt companies face: they don’t have a lot of unique proprietary features that they can patent and protect from competitors, like other cottage companies in the tent or backpack segments of the industry. The solution is to keep innovating, which UGQ does quite well.
Here are the key options we selected when we ordered this 10 degree Custom Bandit top quilt.
High fill power, untreated down
UGQ offers three grades of down in their quilts, all based on fill power, which measures the compressibility of down and its insulation potential. In translation, that means that a piece of gear with 900 fill power down will compress down smaller than one with the same weight of down at 700 fill power, all other things being equal. 800 fill power and up are considered high fill power, and the 950 fill power we chose for our Bandit 10 is about as premium as you can get.
UGQ has made the decision to use untreated (non-DWR) down in all their products, after having offered DWR treated down in the past. Several high-end, highly reputable companies have made this same decision, some offer the buyer the choice, and some swear by DWR down. Opinions run strong, but the jury is out on the long-term durability of DWR down as it is too new to the market.
All of the down used by UGQ is RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified, which means it is responsibly-sourced, not taken from live birds or those that have been force-fed. This is quickly becoming the industry standard, but there are many budget companies that still don’t adhere to it.
All UGQ Bandits are fully baffled (not sewn-through) to prevent heat loss through the seams and use horizontal baffles in the foot area and vertical baffles for the rest of the quilt. The vertical baffle design prevents down from shifting to the sides of the quilt and leaving the top under-insulated, as well as, according to UGQ, reducing dead air space over the torso by allowing the quilt to drape better. Less dead air means your body has to heat up less space and makes for a warmer quilt.
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 as well as to cushion your neck from the drawcord.
The Bandit’s neck drawcord tightens with mini cordlocks, one at each end. In a hammock, this is less convenient to adjust than a drawcord whose cordlock is centered below your chin. However, the drawcord is elastic, so you can tighten up the drawcord, fasten the snaps, and then pull it over your head. The puffy draft collar helps seal up any gaps and means you don’t have to make the drawcord overly tight to get a good seal.
Ultralight shell materials
Quilts save weight over sleeping bags by eliminating several things: the extra insulation under you that would normally be crushed by your body weight, a hood, and a long zipper. Premium quilts cut even more 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.
The Bandit quilt we received has a convertible footbox which opens up completely flat like a comforter, or zips closed and cinches up at the end. There is a robust snap at the top of the zipper to take the tension off and prevent it from being pulled open as you move in the night. Even cinched fully, there is a small gap at the end where heat can be lost, so it’s important to plug this up with extra clothing. Most users transition to a sewn footbox at around 20 degrees and colder to maximize heat retention.
I tested our Custom Bandit 10 in a hammock because UGQ is coming out with some awesome new features for ground sleepers that Philip will cover soon in a subsequent review.
The advantage of a wider quilt on the ground is that it can eliminate the need to use a sleeping pad attachment system, particularly in warmer weather. I appreciated the 55” width in a hammock, tucking the extra area around me, even when I turned in the hammock to lay on my side. I found the fabrics silky soft and the draft collar significantly aided in the comfort and warmth around my neck. If you look at the top quilts made by Sierra Designs (Nitro Quilt) or Therm-a-Rest (Vesper) for ground use, they use wide widths to prevent drafts instead of a narrower width that relies more heavily on a pad attachment system. If you are just using a Bandit in a hammock, you won’t need the attachment cords at all. In fact, they’d be a nuisance if you did.
Pairing with appropriate bottom and head insulation
This may sound obvious, but while hammocking it’s important to ensure that the bottom insulation is as appropriate for the temperatures as the top insulation. One night that dipped below freezing, well above the Bandit’s temp limit, I was pushing my underquilt to its limit and felt a little chilled in the pre-dawn. Luckily I had a torso-sized piece of closed-cell foam that I slipped under me to augment the insulation, and then I slept warmly. It doesn’t matter how warm your top quilt is if you’re not well-insulated below, too.
Additionally, unlike most sleeping bags, most quilts lack head insulation. To stay warm, the user will need a hat, balaclava, stand-alone down hood, hooded jacket, or a combination of the above to complement the quilt.
A custom-made UGQ Bandit Top Quilt is a high-quality option for the hammocker who wants lots of custom options and top-of-the-line materials and is willing to pay for them. Plus the build quality is just superb. The draft collar significantly improved the cold weather capability and neck-cinch comfort for me, and the light weight and footbox convertibility make this a top quilt you can take with you across a broad range of temperatures.
Disclosure: SectionHiker.com received a quilt 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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