Backpacking quilts are versatile pieces of gear that can come in handy in a variety of situations. The most obvious is to add some extra warmth when sleeping out in frigid temperatures, serving as a comfortable and soft supplement to your sleeping bag. They’re also just great for wrapping yourself up in around the campfire, or to keep warm while enjoying that first cup of brew on a chilly morning, before hitting the trail. In more dire situations, a camping quilt could even save your life – keeping you warm after getting your clothes wet or getting caught out in a storm.
Many ultralight backpackers are ditching their sleeping bags all together in favor of heavy-duty down quilts, shedding the extra weight and freeing up some space in the backpack. Down doesn’t offer much warmth and insulation when its compressed underneath your bodyweight, anyway, and so you don’t lose much by switching to a quilt (provided you have a good sleeping pad, of course; sleeping on the cold ground is an easy way to get too cold for comfort – or safety).
The Difference Between A Backpacking Quilt and Sleeping Bag
If you’re looking at some of the backpacking quilts out there, you might ask yourself – what is really the difference between the two?
It depends on the style of quilt. Many are just like down or synthetic sleeping bags, with a quilted construction instead of one-sided shape instead of an enclosed bag. But lighter weight ones are more akin to blankets than they are full down sleeping bags.
Which One Do You Need?
That’s all about personal preference and style. If you’re an ultralighter who likes the versatility and light weight of a quilt and think you can get away without a fully-enclosed, heavily-insulated sleeping bag, then you might like a quilt just fine. If you don’t care about weight but want to be warm at all times, stick with a sleeping bag.
The Best Cheap Backpacking Quilts
The problem that many of us have with backpacking quilts is the same that we have with a lot of backpacking gear; good ones are expensive. And since backpacking quilts aren’t quite as ubiquitous as sleeping bags, for example, there just aren’t a lot of good budget options out there to choose from.
But, they can be had.
ENO Spark TopQuilt: Top Quality, Light Weight
Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO) Spark TopQuilt is a great choice for lightweight warmth in chilly – but not cold – conditions. Insulation comes courtesy of synthetic fill and is rated down to 40F. Water-resistance is provided by the DWR finish found on the nylon ripstop shell, and the nylon taffeta lining inside means it’s super comfy on your skin.
Again – the Spark TopQuilt isn’t designed for extremely cold weather, as it’s only one piece of a hammock camping setup. But ENO quality is some of the best, and the light weight this quilt offers (it weighs only 27 ounces) makes it a great option for ultralight backpacking. It stuffs neatly into a nylon compression pouch for storing in your bag. If you’re using it with a hammock, you’ll want to pair it with the Ember 2 UnderQuilt for more serious warmth.
The Down Option: Double Black Diamond Down Throw
For half the price, you could also opt for the Double Black Diamond Packable Down Throw. It’s got 700-fill down in a poly/nylon shell, unfolds to a massive 60”x70” but packs down neatly into its own included stuff sack, and clocks in at one pound. It’s also machine-washable. Like the ENO Spark, it’s not the warmest quilt in existence, but if you’re on a budget – there’s no other choice.