Sleeping Bags & Quilts

Your sleeping bag is your home on the trail. Your home within a home. Okay, maybe the bed inside the home. However you see it, your sleeping bag or quilt is the one piece of gear that you carry with you and offers a safe and (hopefully) warm place for you to retreat to, where you can recuperate in comfort. Even if you hike 16 hours a day, only stopping to sleep at night, you will still spend one third of your hike in your bag, asleep.

When one piece of gear gets that much use, provides that much value, and has you spend that much time inside of it, it is worth a small investment. High quality down and cutting edge synthetic fills have gotten size and weight way down, while improving performance.

Your shelter, sleep system, and backpack will be your three big investments. Any of the three from any trusted brand or cottage manufacturer can run you $300 and up. Four season winter gear for serious alpine adventures can start eclipsing the $1000 mark. I am all for saving money where I can, but can also justify the extra expense of high quality, made from high-end-material gear, when those pieces make up what is going to be my home for several months at a time.

Lightweight bags or quilts can get quite expensive, but with proper care, they will last for many miles, providing you with many warm and restful nights.

The following are the stats and my humble opinions of sleeping bags or quilts I’ve used and liked (or not) on the trail:

 

 

Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit Quilt 48° – $245

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Weight: 336 g / 11.9 oz
Material: ClimaShield Apex synthetic insulation
Temperature Rating: 35° to 48° F / 0° to 9° C

MLD Recommends these pairings:
NIGHT TEMPS OF 48° F | 9 C: Long sleeve shirt, 16.5 micron merino wool thong, socks
NIGHT TEMPS OF 40° F | 4 C: Lightly insulated clothes, balaclava, bivy, enclosed shelter
NIGHT TEMPS OF 35° F | 0 C: More insulated clothes, 4.0 oz MLD APEX Balaclava, real nice socks, and the SuperLight Bivy or enclosed shelter”

The Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit Quilt 48° is my go to quilt for Super Ultra Light camping and all warm weather trips in general, when synthetic is preferable to down. Using synthetic over down, in this case, saves me 3 ounces but sacrifices compactability.

My favorite thing about the MLD Spirit Quilt line is the option to have a head slit built into the center of the design. This allows you to wear the quilt like a poncho, when not sleeping under it. The quilt becomes your insulation layer, allowing you to leave an extra article of clothing at home, saving you even more weight.

Obviously, this ultra light piece of gear will only keep you warm in the upper temperature range, but can be paired with warmer clothes, a bivy, etc., to take it down to lower temps. Mountain Laurel Designs also makes lower rated temperature models, with more fill and, therefore, weight.

 

 


 

 

 

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 850 Fill DownTek treated Down, 40° – $265

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Weight: 423 g / 14.93 oz
Material: outer: 7D, 10D, or 20D Ripstop  /  insulation: Zero PFC DownTek treated down
Temperature Rating: 40°+

The Enlightened Equipment “Enigma” quilts are my choice for Ultralight Down sleep options. Compared to the synthetic Spirit Quilt above, the Enigma weighs 3 ounces more, but, because it is down, it can compress to the size of a large grapefruit. In warm to hot conditions with UL or SUL kits, if I expect dry conditions, I’ll take an EE down quilt. If there is precipitation in the forecast, I’ll take the MLD Spirit Quilt.

The 40° version of the ‘Enigma’ that I have is pretty much the most stripped down, options wise, though EE does now offer a 50° model that, stripped down, weighs even less.

Enlightened Equipment uses DownTek treated down, to increase performance in wet or humid conditions, as well as offering heavier/more water repellent nylon options for outer fabrics and foot boxes. These upgrades keep the down performing better for longer, but remember, once down becomes saturated with moisture, it will not insulate at all.

Check out Enlightened Equipment’s page to see all of the cool color and fabric options, with real time weight data depending on your choices!

 

 


 

 

 

 

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 850 Fill DownTek Treated Down Quilt, 20° – $310

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Weight: 559 g / 19.71 oz
Material: Outer: 7D, 10D, or 20D Ripstop  /  Insulation: Zero PFC DownTek treated down
Temperature Rating: 20°+

I took the Enlightened Equipment 20° Enigma on my 2017 Florida Trail Thru Hike which was from January to February. Luckily, though researching the hike, I discovered that Florida, especially in the north and up in the panhandle, can get pretty cold. I switched my plan from the 40° Enigma to the 20° and I am glad that I did.

Even with the much warmer rated 20 degree bag, there where still quite a few nights where it was cold enough to interrupt my sleep. It got down into the 30’s several times and hit 29 degrees once. Even though those temps weren’t close to the 20°+ rating of the bag, the lowest temperature rating on a bag typically describes its lowest possible range, and that usually doesn’t correlate with its comfort rating, which, at its low end, is a considerably higher number. To use the bag down to its lowest temp rating, you typically need to pair the bag with warmer clothes and/or a bag liner to sleep comfortably.

On top of me pushing the bag to its limits, I neglected to account for the moisture in the air in Florida. Florida gets cold, but the cold is different from what I grew up experiencing in North Carolina, where the cold is relatively dry. The Florida cold is a wet cold. It feels like it cuts right through you. After your insulating layers or sleep system get saturated from the moisture in the air, the cold literally does cut right through them to chill you to the bone. If you are going to use down in humid and cold environments, be prepared to supplement your bag’s low temp rating somehow, or use synthetics.

Enlightened Equipment does use DownTek treated down, to increase performance in wet or humid conditions, as well as offering heavier/more water repellent nylon options for outer fabrics and foot boxes. These upgrades keep the down performing better for longer, but remember, once down becomes saturated with moisture, it will not insulate at all.

Check out Enlightened Equipment’s page to see all of the cool color and fabric options, with real time weight data depending on your choices!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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