backpacking quilts vs sleeping bags which one is better


There it is, folks, the lowdown on choosing between quilts and sleeping bags for your outdoor snoozes. It’s not just about picking gear; it’s about choosing the companion that’ll make your nights under the stars the best they can be. Whether you veer towards the traditional cuddle of a sleeping bag or the lightweight simplicity of a quilt, remember this: pack weight and comfort is key. Solo adventurers and through-hikers might lean towards quilts for their minimalism, while those who feel the cold or treasure a bit more comfort might stick with sleeping bags.

Alright, here we go diving into the world of catching Zs in the wild. Now, if you’re out traipsing through the woods or climbing mountains, you’ve gotta sleep, right? Choice number one: you could cocoon yourself in a sleeping bag, all snug and cozy like a butterfly waiting to pop. Or, you might go for a backpacking quilt, which is kinda like taking your bed cover on an adventure, minus the bed.

Quilts have been picking up fans, mainly ’cause they’re light and don’t force you to sleep like a mummy. But hey, can a quilt keep you as toasty and protect you from the creepy crawlies like a good ol’ sleeping bag?

Now, I’ve heard folks argue both sides. Some swear by the freedom of a quilt, saying it lets them turn and toss without feeling like they’re wrestling an alligator. Others can’t get over the warm hug a sleeping bag provides, not to mention keeping that chilly air on the outside where it belongs. But let’s break it down a bit more, see what’s what.

Consider this, using a quilt is kinda of like sleeping with the window cracked open – you get a bit of a breeze. That’s great for those who feel like a furnace at night. On the flip, sleeping bags are your fortress against the cold.

They’re like, “Hey cold air, you’re not getting in here!” But then, there’s the whole thing about weight. Quilts usually weigh less, making your back thank you after a long day’s hike. So, what’s the better pick? Stick around, and we might just figure it out together.

Finally, there’s the thing about sprawl. Some folks love to stretch out under the stars, and quilts are like, “Go ahead, make yourself at home.” Sleeping bags, though, keep you in check – no wandering legs. It’s a bit of a dance, deciding which partner to bring to the campsite, huh? But whichever you choose, you’re in for an adventure. So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.

Backpacking Quilts

Alright, diving into backpacking quilts, they’re like the cool, less fussy younger sibling of the sleeping bag. These guys are all about cutting down on what you don’t need. Think about it – when you lie down, whatever’s under you gets squished. That squished part isn’t doing much to keep you warm, right? Quilts get this. They say, “Why bother with all that extra fluff underneath when it ain’t doing nothing for ya?” So, they ditch the bottom part. Smart, huh?

Backpacking quilts are like that friend who’s always up for a quick trip with just a backpack. They’re light, easy to pack, and give you the freedom to move around. You can twist, turn, and find that perfect spot to dream about more outdoor adventures. Plus, they’re a favorite for folks looking to lighten their load. Every ounce counts when you’re hiking up a steep hill or covering long distances.

But here’s a heads-up – quilts aren’t just for the ultralight fanatics or hammock sleepers anymore. Anyone looking to shed some pack weight or craving those flexible sleeping positions should give them a look. Just imagine, no more feeling like a wrapped-up burrito if that’s not your thing. Backpacking quilts invite you to sleep however you dang well please, under the stars or in a tent. They’re about freedom, comfort, and keeping your backpack as light as a feather. Well, almost as light as a feather.

Sleeping Bags

Moving onto sleeping bags, these are the OGs, the tried and true companions of many a camper. You might already be picturing those mummy bags, all snug and shaped like an Egyptian tomb artifact. These bags are designed to wrap you up tight, keeping every bit of warmth close. They start narrow at your feet, get a bit roomier at the shoulders, and often cap it off with a hood. It’s like your personal insulation system, keeping warm air in and cold air – yep, you guessed it – out.

Now, for those who want to push the boundaries, ultralight sleeping bags take the mummy concept and dial it to eleven. They trim down everything – thinner materials, less fluff, smaller zippers. Some even ditch the hood. It’s all about achieving that perfect warmth-for-weight ratio. You wanna stay warm without lugging around a sleeping bag that feels like you’re carrying a small bear on your back.

And here’s the thing about sleeping bags that keeps folks coming back: that draft-free design. By fully wrapping you up, they create a cozy bubble that keeps the shivers at bay. It’s especially clutch when the mercury drops and you’re out there in the wild, counting sheep. So, if you’re all about that warmth and don’t mind a bit of a snug fit, a traditional sleeping bag might just be your ticket to a good night’s sleep under the stars.

backpacking quilts vs sleeping bags Performance

So, let’s talk turkey about how these sleep systems stack up in performance. With a quilt, you’re looking at a setup that’s more like your bed at home. You’ve got room to move, and you don’t feel like you’re in a straitjacket. Enlightened Equipment and Nunatak Arc are a couple of names that come up a lot, making ultralight quilts that pair nicely with a sleeping mat. These setups aim for that sweet spot of coziness without drowning you in sweat if it’s a bit warmer out.

However, don’t think quilts are just about playing it cool. With the right sleeping mat and maybe a Sea to Summit or a Nunatak Arc under you, you’re pretty set against cold air. Even more, if you’re the type to toss and turn – they call those folks restless sleepers – a quilt won’t make you feel trapped.

It’s like having the freedom to find your cozy without the constraints. But, here’s a kicker – a quilt needs a bit more setting up, figuring out how to keep it snug against colder temperatures, which brings us to sleeping bags…

Sleeping bags, especially those with a good 10-degree bump for colder nights, are like your personal Arctic fortress. Brands like Sea to Summit Rock at making enclosed sleeping bags that wrap you up and keep drafts at bay. No cold air messing with your warmth. And for those who get a bit claustrophobic, remember you can always unzip the bag a touch to manage sleeping comfort. Sleeping bags are about locking in that warm air, even when Jack Frost is prowling.

So, whether it’s a quilt or a bag, think about how you sleep, what kind of weather you’ll face, and how much backpacking gear you’re willing to haul. Each has its perks and quirks; it’s about finding what fits your outdoor bedtime routine.

backpacking quilts vs sleeping bags Temperature Regulation

Gearing up with the right sleeping setup is kinda like picking your outfit for the day; it’s all about what the weather’s gonna throw at you. If you’re someone who runs hot at night, a quilt might just be your best bud. Enlightened Equipment’s offerings, for example, give you that bit of air circulation, letting you adjust on the fly. It’s like having a built-in thermostat for your bed in the woods. You feel a bit warm; you stick a leg out. Chilly? Wrap up a bit tighter. Flexibility is the name of the game here.

But suppose you’re venturing into the great chilly unknown, where temperature regulation isn’t just nice to have; it’s essential. That’s where a good sleeping mat comes in – pair it with a Nunatak Arc quilt or a solid sleeping bag, and you’re golden.

These setups aim to keep you at just the right temp, whether it’s warding off cold air or letting you vent a bit when you’re feeling like a baked potato. It’s all about having the right gear for the right conditions, making sure you wake up refreshed, not frozen like a popsicle, or sweating like you’ve run a marathon in your sleep.

The warmth of a quilt vs Sleeping bags

When the sun dips and the temps follow suit, the big question is: which will keep you warmer, a sleeping bag or a quilt? It’s a bit like comparing apples to, well, slightly different apples. A quilt, especially when paired with a solid sleeping mat and maybe even a sleeping bag liner for extra oomph, can hold its own.

You’ve got setups like the REI Co-op Magma or the infamous Nunatak Arc that come with warmth ratings fit for a snow queen. These babies are designed to trap your body heat, acting like a thermal bubble around you.

Now, on the flip side, sleeping bags, especially those geared for hammock camping or with an R-value of 4, are like wearing a full-body sweater. The idea is that by creating a complete wrap-around, you get consistent heat retention, top to bottom.

A quilt with the same temperature rating can compete, but remember, the system’s efficiency might take a hit if you’re a restless sleeper. Tossing and turning can introduce drafts. So, if you’re planning some serious winter camping, consider how each sleeping system – a quilt for flexibility and lightness, a sleeping bag for consistent warmth – might serve your chilly night needs.


Now, let’s weigh in on… weight. Ultralight is the buzzword that gets every backpacker’s heart racing. Both quilts and sleeping bags vie for the title of “lightest bedtime buddy.” Quilts generally tip the scales on the lighter side, thanks to ditching extras like hoods and bottom insulation. It’s all about efficiency; carry what you need, and nothing you don’t.

Take the Zpacks Solo Quilt and the Western Mountaineering UltraLite, both rated to 20 degrees. The quilt can be a featherweight champion compared to some sleeping bags, but not always by a knockout. Every ounce counts when you’re counting miles.

But here’s the rub – while quilts might have the edge on paper, real-world use is a bit more complex. You’ve gotta factor in things like the sleeping mat, whether you need a liner for colder nights, and how you’re gonna use the quilt or bag.

So, when it comes to deciding based on weight, think about the full kit and kaboodle. A few ounces here or there could make a difference, sure, but it’s the overall pack weight, comfort, and warmth that’ll have you either singing praises or wishing you’d made a different call. In the end, it’s about finding that perfect balance that suits your style and your back.

Buying process

Alright, let’s chat about getting your hands on one of these sleep systems. Now, you might think, “A buy’s a buy, right?” But nah, there’s a bit of nuance when it comes to snagging a sleeping bag or quilt. With quilts, you’re entering a world of customization and, often, direct communication with the makers. It’s not just picking one off a shelf; it’s finding the right fit, warmth, weight, and sometimes even the color that screams “you.”

On the flip side, sleeping bags are a bit more straightforward. You walk into your favorite outdoor store or hit up their website, browse through options and boom, you’ve got yourself a cozy cocoon ready for shipping.

It’s a no-fuss process, designed to get you out there sleeping under the stars with minimal hassle. So, think about what you value – customization and potentially a longer wait, or convenience and the simplicity of a traditional purchase. Both paths lead to a good night’s sleep; it’s just about how you want to get there.

Setup of Sleeping Bags

Getting cozy for the night in the great outdoors, setting up your sleep spot should be as painless as popping a squat by the fire. Sleeping bags have got ease in their corner. Just unstuff your bag, roll it out on your sleeping mat, and voila, you’re pretty much done. It’s as easy as making instant noodles – minimal steps, maximum satisfaction.

But here’s a pro tip for you: even though it’s super simple to get your sleeping bag ready, don’t skip on making sure it’s nicely fluffed and evenly laid out. This way, you ensure that warm air gets trapped in all the right spots, keeping you toasty from head to toe. No fuss, no muss, just straight-up comfort ready for you in no time.

Temperature regulation’s a breeze too, unzip a bit if you’re hot, and zip back up if the chills start creeping in. It’s like having a personal climate control system at your fingertips.


When diving into the world of outdoor sleeping gear, your wallet might feel a little nervous. Now, the thing with quilts, they’re like the budget-friendly cousin in this family. They’re often a tad cheaper than sleeping bags because they’re like minimalist art—less material, no fancy zippers or hoods.

On average, you might see quilts chilling at around $404 while sleeping bags strut around the $422 mark. But hey, there’s always an exception to the rule. You’ve got the Marmot Micron sleeping bag throwing a curveball at $179 and the Katabatic Gear Palisade quilt starting its game at $385.

But here’s the kicker: dropping your cash at big retailers, the giants like REI could snag you a sweet deal on a sleeping bag, not just in price but with a cherry on top, like a solid return policy or a warranty that’s got your back. Expect this: a good ultralight (UL) sleeping bag or quilt will ask you for about $300, maybe even more. But remember, it’s not just about the price tag—it’s about the adventures waiting for you.

backpacking quilts vs sleeping bags which one should you buy

Alright, here’s the deal. After a long day of hitting trails, are you gonna crash in a cozy sleeping bag or sprawl out under a quilt? It’s like choosing between a snug hug or the freedom to kick about. Quilts are kinda the new kids on the block, winning hearts for being lighter and giving you room to move. But then, can they stand up to the snugness and draft-blocking mojo of a sleeping bag?

I have to tell you, sleeping bags have been the go-to for a reason. They wrap you up tight, keep the cold at bay, and let’s face it, there’s something about zipping up that feels like you’re in a cocoon of warmth. But don’t throw the quilt out with the bathwater just yet. These lightweight champs allow for more than just a good night’s sleep; they offer the freedom to move and groove in your sleep, however you like.

Talking about quilts, they’ve come a long way. Picture this: you’re out there, miles into the wilderness, and your quilt is not just a blanket, it’s your ticket to dreamland. With the right sleeping mat, you won’t even miss your bed. Quilts pair up nicely with various sleeping mats, ensuring you’re insulated from the cold, hard ground. So if lightweight gear and a broad frame for tossing and turning are your jams, a quilt could be your bedtime hero out in the wild.

Yet, the choice comes down to what feels right for you. Like choosing between sneakers and boots, it’s personal. Are you the type to bundle up and brace against the night’s chill in a bag? Or does the idea of drifting off under a quilt, with the stars peeking in, sound like your kind of night? Either way, there’s an option tailored just for your kind of adventure.

Sleeping comfort

Now, let’s talk about catching those Zs in comfort. You’ve got two choices: wrapped up tight like a mummy or free-floating like you’re in your bed at home. If you’re someone who loves stretching out, turning this way and that, a quilt might just be your ticket to a good night’s sleep. It’s spacious, and you can pretty much sleep in whatever pretzel shape you find comfy.

On the flip side, if you’re the type who likes feeling secure and cozy, almost like you’re getting a hug all night, then you might lean towards a sleeping bag. Think about it – fully enclosed, keeping all the warmth in, and that snug feeling? It’s like a portable bed that whispers, “Don’t worry, I gotcha” when the night gets cold.

Pros and cons of backpacking quilts vs sleeping bags

Diving into this, it’s like setting up for a friendly match: sleeping bags vs quilts. On the one hand, sleeping bags are old and reliable. They’re your fortress against the cold, with zippers that lock in warmth and a design meant to keep you as warm as a sleeping bag can. The deal with them is their warmth-to-weight ratio, a golden ticket for those braving colder nights. Sure, they might be a tad heavier than quilts, but for maximum warmth, they’re your go-to.

Quilts, though, they’re agile athletes. Lighter than sleeping bags, they’re for the backpacker looking to shave off pack weight without sacrificing good sleep. These bad boys offer substantial warmth and comfort, especially in warmer climates or seasons. Their design reduces pack weight, making them ideal for ultralight backpacking. Quilts are lighter, hands down, but remember, they might invite cold drafts if not paired correctly with your sleeping mat. So, it’s about balancing lightness with the desire for a draft-free sleep. In the end, whether it’s the classic embrace of a sleeping bag or the freedom and lightweight charm of a quilt, your choice should cater to your comfort and the type of adventure you seek.


But don’t forget, the choice of gear is like picking a dance partner—it’s got to match your moves. And with cottage brands offering a variety of options, tailor-made for your outdoor slumbers, there’s a perfect fit for everyone. So, gear up and get ready to make those overnight trails your home away from home, under the open sky, or wrapped up in the embrace of the wilderness. Safe travels, folks!