8 Best Backpacking Quilts of 2019
The Short Version:
Best Overall: Katabatic Gear Alsek
Runner up Overall: Enlightened Equipment Enigma
Best for Ultralight: Zpacks Solo Quilt
Best for Customisation: Nunatak Arc UL
Best on a Budget: Hammock Gear Economy Burrow
Honorable Mention: Therm-a-Rest Vesper
Honorable Mention: Western Mountaineering Astralite
Honorable Mention: REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt
The Long Version:
Down compressed underneath you provides no insulating value. So why not discard it?
Backpacking quilts are rapidly gaining popularity among lightweight backpackers, and for good reason.
The main benefit of a quilt is that it weighs less than an equivalent fully-enclosed sleeping bag.
But a well designed quilt can also be more versatile.
A quilt can easily be opened up flat in warmer weather. Or when cinched in, the girth around your upper body can be adjusted according to the temperature — reduce the girth to remove cold air pockets or increase the girth to allow for more airflow and wiggle room.
In this review we cover the best backpacking quilts on the market. All our entries are high quality, ultralight backpacking quilts that are generally comfortable down to about 35°F (2°F). In other words just above freezing.
The specs we list for the backpacking quilts below are based on a quilt suitable for a 6 foot tall male with average girth (i.e. about 54" width when laid flat). And don't forget to check out our backpacking quilt buying advice at the bottom of the page before making a decision.
If you love this list of Best Backpacking Quilts then you'll likely love reading some of our other gear reviews:
Best Overall: KATABATIC GEAR ALSEK
TEMP RATING: 22F / -6C
FILL POWER: 900 (850 also available)
FILL WEIGHT: 12.4 oz / 351 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 21.0 oz / 595 grams
PROS: Ultralight, Very warm, Comfy draft collar, Great pad attachment system, Elasticated bottom opening
CONS: Slightly pricey
BEST FOR: Those who only use a quilt and are willing to pay for the best
Although relatively pricey, Katabatic Gear quilts are hands down the best ultralight backpacking quilts on the market. They are very well made and with a number of thoughtful design features that dramatically improve warmth and performance.
The Alsek includes a full draft collar which improves warmth retention in cold weather and also gives the quilt a much cosier feel. The opening on the underside of the quilt is elasticated, meaning that there is greater draft control when you are turning over.
Katabatic Gear also use a novel patented pad attachment system that provides much greater draft control than the pad attachment systems found on the quilts of most other manufacturers.
Although it can be a bit fiddly to use, this system is much more effective at securing the edge of your quilt from cold drafts when temperatures really drop. This means that the Katabatic Gear quilts can generally perform better in colder conditions compared with the competition.
If you would prefer a zippered footbox so that the quilt can be opened up flat like a blanket, then check out the Flex range of Katabatic Gear quilts.
Runner Up: ENLIGHTENED EQUIPMENT ENIGMA 20°
TEMP RATING: 20F / -7C
FILL POWER: 850 (950 also available)
FILL WEIGHT: 14.1 oz / 400 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 20.1 oz / 570 grams
PROS: Ultralight, Cheaper, Customisable
CONS: Not quite as feature-rich or warm as some of the competition
BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers, Those who like to customise
If you'd prefer to save a few dollars, then the Enlightened Equipment Enigma is a fantastic buy.
Although it may not have some of the high-end features found on the Katabatic Gear quilts (e.g. down collar, elastic binding around bottom opening, secondary cord clips on the pad attachment system) it is still a well designed, high quality, and ultralight backpacking quilt.
We gave it our runner up award because it excels in terms of weight, customisation and cost. However it doesn’t actually win out in any one of those categories. Zpacks is slightly better for a ounce counter, Nunatak is slightly better for those who love to customise, and Hammock Gear is slightly better for someone on a tight budget. But the Enlightened Equipment Enigma is a very very close second in all of those categories.
The "off the shelf" Enigma Stock is made with 850 fill power down and a 10-denier ripstop nylon liner and shell. If your budget is tight, then the Enigma Stock is going to be one of the best backpacking quilts you can get for your money. The Hammock Gear Economy Burrow is slightly cheaper, but it is also slightly heavier.
If the default shell or fill power isn't exactly to your tastes then the Enigma Custom allows to customise. Lighter 7 denier (for additional weight savings) or heavier 20 denier (for increased durability and water resistance) fabrics are available as well as a higher 950 fill power down.
In colder weather secure the quilt around your body in one of two ways. Either directly around your body using the elastic straps or to your sleeping pad using the pad attachment system. However the pad attachment system doesn’t include secondary cord clips like on Katabatic Gear quilts. So isn't quite as effective at keeping out drafts in seriously cold weather.
The Enigma contains a fully-enclosed footbox. This ensures there is no possibility of cold drafts in the footbox and provides some weight savings. However, if you prioritise versatility then consider the Enlightened Equipment Revelation.
The Revelation is similar to the Enigma, except the foot box can be unzipped so that the quilt can be laid flat like a blanket. If you choose the Revelation you should size up about 6" since the length measurements are taken when the quilt is laid flat.
Best for Ultralight: ZPACKS 20F SOLO QUILT
TEMP RATING: 20F / -7C
FILL POWER: 950
FILL WEIGHT: 13.7 oz / 387 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 19.1 oz / 542 grams
PROS: Ultralight, Comes with a free dry bag
CONS: No draft collar, No zippered footbox option
BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers
Zpacks make some of the best ultralight backpacking gear around and the Zpacks 20F Solo Quilt is no exception. It is one of the best quilts for ultralight hikers and those trying to minimise their pack weight.
Zpacks redesigned their quilt and sleeping bag line in 2019 in response to feedback from users. Their redesigned quilt is both warmer and roomier, and uses hydrophobic down. They offer all of their quilts in 10F, 20F, and 30F ratings, as well as a variety of lengths and widths.
The features of this quilt are focused on weight savings. The footbox is sewn in (and there isn’t a zippered footbox option available). The 950 fill power down provides the best warmth-to-weight ratio possible. Ultralight 7 denier ripstop nylon is used for both the inner and outer shells.
The quilt has a flat clip to secure the collar when it is cinched in. But you won’t find a draft collar — if you want those kinds of finer details then look at Katabatic Gear or Nunatak quilts instead.
There is however a flat clip on the centre of the underside of the quilt — which is handy for securing the sides of the quilt and stopping drafts when the temperature drops. The quilt also comes with a standard pad attachment system as well.
Another awesome feature is that Zpacks ship all their quilts with an ultralight roll-top dry bag!
Best for Customisation: NUNATAK ARC UL 20°
TEMP RATING: 20F / -7C
FILL POWER: 900
FILL WEIGHT: 15.0 oz / 425 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 22.1 oz / 625 grams
PROS: Ultralight, Very warm, Draft collar, Customisable
CONS: No obvious ones
BEST FOR: Those who like to customise their gear
For more than 15 years Nunatak has been making down equipment for ultralight backpackers.
Don't be fooled by their relatively lo-fi website… these guys mean business when it comes to ultralight backpacking gear. Their products are high quality, their designs are innovative, and their customer service is great.
I also love that almost every feature on their quilts can be customised. Check out their quilt comparison chart for a full description of their quilts and customisation options. You are able to choose between normal or hydrophobic down, liner fabrics ranging from 10 to 20 denier, shell fabrics ranging from 7 to 15 denier, down overfill, elasticated openings, and more.
The Nunatak Arc UL 20° is part of their ultralight quilt series. If offers a generous quantity of 900 fill power down and a cosy draft collar to maximise warmth. The Arc UL 20° has a sewn in footbox to maximise warmth and weight savings. However the 30° and 40° rated quilts in the ultralight series allow the choice between a sewn in or zippered footbox.
The quilt can be secured directly under your body with the supplied straps or attached to your sleeping pad using the simple pad attachment system. The pad attachment system is basically the same design as found on the Enlightened Equipment and Zpacks quilts with two flat clips on each side. It works well in all but the coldest temps (when small drafts begin to matter).
Best on a Budget: HAMMOCK GEAR ECONOMY BURROW
TEMP RATING: 20F / -7C
FILL POWER: 800
FILL WEIGHT: 14.6 oz / 414 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 24.6 oz / 697 grams
CONS: About 4-5 oz heavier than the competition
BEST FOR: Those on a budget
The Hammock Gear Economy Burrow is a well designed and quality built quilt that is available at a bargain basement price. This is the perfect quilt for those on a budget.
The only sacrifice here is a 4-5 ounce weight penalty, attributable to the use of a slightly lower fill power duck down (800+) and slightly heavier (20 denier) outer shell material. However these are specific design choices made by Hammock Gear so that they can offer this quilt at an unbelievably low price.
Hammock Gear offer plenty of options for customisation. This includes colours, temperature ratings, down overfill, and the choice between a zippered or sewn footbox.
If you are planning to sleep with the quilt on the ground (i.e. not in a hammock) then select be sure to select the “wide” width (55 inches). The standard width for Hammock Gear quilts is tailored for hammock use and not ground sleeping.
If you are willing to pay extra to save a few ounces of weight, then Hammock Gear also offer a premium quilt range. The Hammock Gear Premium Burrow is made with either 850 or 950 fill-power goose down and a 10 or 15-denier outer shell.
Choosing the Premium Burrow instead of the Economy Burrow will save you about 4-5 ounces depending on the model you choose. This puts the Hammock Gear Premium Burrow on par with the competition in terms of weight. However, as you would expect the higher fill-power down leads to an increase in cost. Meaning the Premium Burrow doesn’t have the same “Best Buy” status as its sibling the Economy Burrow.
So if you are looking for the best buy on a budget, then the Hammock Gear Economy Burrow is the way to go. Otherwise, if you are looking for a premium backpacking quilt, compare the Hammock Gear Premium Burrow to the other quilts on our list before making your purchase.
Honorable Mention: THERM-A-REST VESPER 20
TEMP RATING: 20F / -6C
FILL POWER: 900
FILL WEIGHT: 12.3 oz / 350 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 19.4 oz / 550 grams
PROS: Ultralight, Cosy draft collar, You can see it in person at retail stores (including REI)
CONS: No zippered footbox option
BEST FOR: Ultralight backpackers
The Therm-a-Rest Vesper 20 is an awesome backpacking quilt manufactured by a company renowned for their comfortable and innovative sleep systems. We don’t really have a bad word to say about the design or comfort of the Vesper. It didn’t quite make our top pick overall (the Katabatic Gear Alsek) or top pick for ultralight hikers (the Enlightened Equipment Enigma) but it sure wasn’t far behind in either of those categories.
The Vesper is filled with 900 fill power hydrophobic down. Only a few of the manufacturers in our list use 900+ fill power down. Such high fill power is great because it provides the best warmth to weight ratio, however it also drives up the cost of the quilt since the fill material is a major cost component for high-end sleeping bags and quilts. Nonetheless the Therm-a-Rest Vesper still remains reasonably priced. The hydrophobic (i.e. water resistant) treatment applied to the down might also be beneficial if you plan to use your quilt in seriously damp environments or sleeping out under the stars a lot.
The Vesper is made with 10-denier shell fabric. Although seriously ultralight, this is actually a slightly heavier material than most of the other competing ultralight quilts on our list, so we don’t have any worries about durability. Of course we always recommend being as caring as possible with ultralight gear to maximise its lifespan!
Therm-a-Rest have designed the Vesper with a sewn in footbox to minimise weight and maximise warmth. They have chosen not to offer a zippered footbox option, which may be a deal breaker for some who value the versatility of a zippered footbox. However the Vesper is offered in two temperature ratings. The quilt we have chosen to review here is rated to 20°F / -6°C, making it suitable for most 3-season trips. But if you plan to use your quilt in slight warmer weather then consider the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32°F / 0°C.
Honorable Mention: WESTERN MOUNTAINEERING ASTRALITE
TEMP RATING: 26F / -3C
FILL POWER: 850
FILL WEIGHT: 10.5 oz / 298 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 16.0 oz / 454 grams
CONS: Not as warm as others in our list, No zippered footbox option, Quite expensive for the warmth and fill power
Western Mountaineering have a long standing reputation for making some of the best quality and warmest sleeping bags on the market. But it is only recently that they have made a foray into the world of backpacking quilts. They have started with two models: the Nanolite (rated to 38°F / 3°C) and the Astralite (rated to 26°F / -3°C).
The Nanolite is only going to be warm enough for summer use and in warmer climates, so here we focus on the Astralite since we believe it will be the more realistic investment for most 3-season hikers. However, although the Astralite is the warmest of their two offerings, it still may not cut it for all 3-season outings. Nonetheless, if you are looking for a seriously ultralight quilt for use in relatively predictable climates then the Astralite might be worth considering.
The Astralite uses a 7-denier shell fabric with a 10-denier liner. This shell fabric is amongst the lightest used in the sleeping bag industry, so to increase durability Western Mountaineering add an acrylic kiss coating. Some of the novel design features on the Astralite include it's unconventionally shaped draft collar, that is intended to hug around your neck regardless of whether the top of the quilt is laid flat or cinched in.
The footbox on the Astralite is sewn closed, which means this quilt cannot be opened up as a blanket (and Western Mountaineering have chosen not to offer a variant with a zippered box). We find this an interesting, and potentially undesirable feature of a quilt that is only going to be sufficient for warmer climate use anyway. Nonetheless, it allows Western Mountaineering to push the weight savings and warmth rating of this quilt to their limit.
Overall, the Astralite is a worthy entry for Western Mountaineering into the world of backpacking quilts. It is seriously ultralight and very well made, but it is also expensive (especially for the warmth rating and fill power) and doesn't really pack enough warmth for all-round 3-season use.
Honorable Mention: REI CO-OP MAGMA TRAIL
TEMP RATING: 30F / -1C
FILL POWER: 850
FILL WEIGHT: 10.5 oz / 298 grams
TOTAL WEIGHT: 19.0 oz / 539 grams
PROS: Ultralight, You can see it in person at REI stores
CONS: Not as warm as others in our list, No zippered footbox option
REI is another manufacturer to recently make a first foray into the world of backpacking quilts. Their initial — and only — entry so far, is the Magma Trail Quilt 30.
It is a lightweight and well-designed backpacking quilt. Filled with 10.5 oz of 850 fill-power goose down, the Magma Trail has been rated to 30°F. This should be sufficient for use in milder overnight temps (e.g. 45°F / 7°C or higher), but is unlikely to be warm enough for use in alpine areas or deep into the shoulder season. Nonetheless the quilt does also include a draft collar to help keep you cosy when the temperature drops.
It is also worth mentioning that the footbox on the Magma Trail 30 is sewn in and REI do not offer an option with a zippered footbox. This limits the versatility of the quilt, since it cannot be laid flat like a blanket. We find this slightly frustrating on backpacking quilts with higher temp ratings since we are only likely to be using them in milder climates anyhow.
Like the other quilts in our list the Magma Trail 30 can be attached either directly around your body or to your sleeping pad using the included shock cord straps. In addition a flat clip is used to secure the collar of the quilt.
The Magma Trail Quilt 30 is a nice initial offering from REI… it is lightweight, has a small pack size, and is relatively inexpensive. However, with a temperature rating of 30°F it likely won’t pack enough warmth for all-round 3-season use. And although it is lightweight, it’s warmth-to-weight ratio doesn’t quite compete with the other (more established) quilt manufacturers in our list. Lastly, although the price tag on the Magma Trail 30 is pretty reasonable, we believe that other manufacturers — such as Enlightened Equipment or Hammock Gear — offer better value for money.
BUYING ADVICE FOR BACKPACKING QUILTS
Buying your first backpacking quilt can be somewhat daunting, especially if you have always used a hooded mummy style sleeping bag.
You might be flooded with questions like…
Will it be warm enough?
How do I stop drafts?
Won't I stick to my sleeping pad?
Where is the hood?
But never fear! For the most part, buying a backpacking quilt involves many of the same considerations as buying a sleeping bag.
Backpacking quilts are similar to sleeping bags in that most manufacturers provide a temperature rating.
However many sleeping bag manufacturers send their sleeping bags for independent and standardised testing and then publish the “ISO comfort rating” so that consumers can compare apples with apples when purchasing a sleeping bag.
But no such industry standard yet exists for backpacking quilts, and so manufacturers simply determine their own temperature ratings.
This leads to inconsistencies across brands as well as providing little clarity for consumers as to what temperatures their backpacking quilt will actually be good for.
To make things even more difficult, some people are “hot sleepers” and others are “cold sleepers” and gender also makes a difference — women generally sleep colder than men.
We’ve found that most backpacking quilt manufacturers are overly optimistic with their temperature ratings. They often provide a temperature rating that can be considered a "lower limit". But that lower limit won’t be a comfortable scenario for most people!
If you are interested in a “comfort” temperature rating for backpacking quilts then we suggest adding 20°F to the manufacturer’s temperature rating.
For example, a 20°F (-7°C) degree rated bag is likely to be comfortable down to about 40°F (4°C) degrees. At that temperature we believe most people would sleep comfortably in just base layers.
Below that temperature we believe you would need to be adding warmth by wearing an insulating jacket, for example.
Hopefully in the coming years, with the growing popularity of backpacking quilts, an industry standard will be developed so that manufacturers can then send their quilts for independent testing and temperature rating. That way it will be much easier for consumers to compare across brands.
Most of the best backpacking quilt manufacturers offer options for either a zippered footbox or one that is “sewn in”.
A zippered footbox can be unzipped and the entire quilt laid flat like a blanket. When it is zipped up, the bottom of the footbox is usually cinched in with a drawstring. Some quilt manufacturers also provide a down-filled "dog bone" — this is a small piece of down filled material shaped like a bone that can be stuffed into the small centre hole when the footbox is cinched in. This means zero chance of cold drafts entering the footbox.
A “sewn in” footbox is permanently closed. In other words it is not possible to unzip the footbox so that the quilt can be opened flat like a blanket. Having a sewn in footbox helps to maximise warmth, as well as being slightly lighter than an otherwise equivalent quilt with a zippered footbox.
There is no best choice for the design of the footbox. Rather, you need to decide whether you want a zippered footbox to maximise versatility or a sewn in footbox to maximise warmth and weight savings.
Note however that the additional weight savings from having a sewn in footbox are usually pretty minimal.
DOWN FILL vs SYNTHETIC FILL
Goose (or duck) down provides much better warmth for weight and compressibility compared with synthetic insulation.
In fact high quality down is so superior to synthetic insulation in terms of warmth for weight that we only included down-filled quilts in our best backpacking quilts list.
DOWN FILL POWER
Higher quality down has better insulating properties (i.e. provides better warmth for weight) than lower quality down.
The metric used to measure the quality of the down is known as fill power.
Fill power is actually a measure of volume. It is the space — measured in cubic inches — that one ounce of down will occupy. So a higher fill power means that each ounce of down will occupy more space.
More space being occupied = More loft & more trapped air = Better insulating properties!
High fill power goose down is also more compressible. That is, your backpacking quilt will pack down smaller when not in use. So for two (otherwise comparable) backpacking quilts the one with the higher fill power will pack down smaller.
Of course the higher the fill power, the higher price tag! And down is a significant component of the manufacturing cost for high end backpacking quilts.
So aim for the highest fill power that falls within your budget.
DOWN FILL WEIGHT
The quantity of down used in a bag can be a useful metric for assessing warmth and comparing between manufacturers.
But remember that the quantity of down (i.e. the fill weight) must be viewed relative to the quality of the down (i.e. the fill power)!
Fewer ounces of high fill power down can provide the same warmth as more ounces of a lower fill power down.
Also, differences in design (tapered vs non-tapered cut, length and girth, zippered vs sewn in footbox, etc) mean that fill weight alone is not sufficient metric for comparing the warmth of different quilts.
Nonetheless it is a useful and important metric to consider.
BOTTOM OPENING & SECURING YOUR QUILT
The so-called “bottom opening” is a trademark feature of the backpacking quilt. We believe that a true backpacking quilt does not have a full length zip along the bottom opening.
Note: Some products sold as “quilts” have a full length zip along the bottom opening. Although the manufacturers might refer to those as “quilts”, we do not. Instead we refer to them as hoodless sleeping bags — since we believe that more accurately reflects what they are.
The bottom opening on a true backpacking quilt is usually secured using elastic straps or shock cords that pull the two edges of the quilt together around your body.
Using this method the quilt is secured around your body, but it isn't attached to your sleeping pad in any way.
This system is easy to manage (because you aren’t strapped to your sleeping pad!) but it isn't particularly secure in terms of preventing cold drafts. For this reason, backpacking quilts also have the option of using a pad attachment system (described next).
PAD ATTACHMENT SYSTEMS
When the temperature really drops, securing a backpacking quilt directly around your body doesn’t do a particularly good job of preventing cold drafts.
Let's not forget there is a big gaping hole on the underside!
For this reason, most quilt manufacturers also provide a “pad attachment system”.
The exact design of the pad attachment system differs across manufacturers. In general though a “pad attachment system” involves securing two straps around your sleeping pad. The edges of your quilt can then be attached to these straps using some form of clip or fastening.
This means that the quilt is secured down against your sleeping pad rather than just strapped around your body.
This method is much more effective at preventing cold drafts, since the quilt stays in place when you toss and turn during the night. But it can also be more fiddly to set up and adjust. Hence, we only tend to use a pad attachment system when we know the overnight temperatures are going to be really cold.
Also note that not all pad attachment systems are created equal!
Katabatic Gear quilts, for example, use a pad attachment system with both primary and secondary clips to provide even better draft protection. However having twice as many clips makes things even more fiddly to use.
Nonetheless in cold weather when even the smallest of drafts can ruin your night's sleep, having the option to use a more secure pad attachment system can really make a difference.
At the end of the day, whether you use a pad attachment system or not just comes down to personal preference.
SECURING THE COLLAR
When it gets cold, you will want to secure the collar of the quilt around your neck. And when it gets really cold, you will want to cinch it in tight around your neck.
Most quilts have a flat clip or snap button for securing the collar and a drawstring to cinch the collar in tight.
You want to make sure the device used for securing the collar (i.e. the clip or snap button) is not going to be uncomfortable if you lay on top of it during the night.
A draft collar is a down filled baffle along the collar of the bag that stops warmth escaping when the top of the bag is cinched in around your neck.
A draft collar makes the quilt cosier when it is cinched in around your neck. It also helps with heat retention.
However in minimising weight some manufacturers of ultralight backpacking quilts decide not to include a draft collar. Its not a deal breaker, but we do prefer having a draft collar rather than not.
WHERE IS THE HOOD?
One possible fear when transitioning to a backpacking quilt from a traditional sleeping bag is the lack of a hood.
Personally I hate sleeping bag hoods. I am a front and side sleeper and so I just get tangled in them. The lack of a hood is liberating.
The other potential issue without a hood is the texture of your sleeping pad against your face. To solve that issue you can consider using a backpacking pillow or even a Therm-a-Rest sheet (although the latter is a bit of a luxury).
Many of the best backpacking quilts are made with innovative ultralight fabrics for the outer shell and inner liner.
Look for quilts made with a ripstop nylon in the range of 10 to 15 denier. These fabric weights should provide enough durability for a quilt that is well looked after whilst also providing significant weight savings.
If you really want to maximise weight savings then consider a manufacturer who offers a 7 denier shell material (e.g. Enlightened Equipment, Zpacks, Nunatak).
However 7 denier is getting pretty thin, so durability may become a concern and you may also experience more down loss through the fabric.
If durability or water resistance is a concern for you — e.g. you regularly sleep out on rough terrain — then consider a bag with a slightly heavier outer shell fabric, e.g. 20 denier.
Where possible look for shell fabrics that are either water resistant by design or treated with a water resistant coating, e.g. a DWR treatment. These can help with preventing the down fill getting damp in places like the footbox (which can touch condensation on the tent wall during the night).