Quilts for Tent Campers – Quilt vs Sleeping Bag
When I first thought of highlighting quilts for tent campers, I had this great idea to write an article where I would do a section on the benefits of a quilt, and a friend who prefers a sleeping bag would write about the great offerings of the bag.
The plan hit a snag when I couldn’t find anyone that really loves their sleeping bag and would never consider a quilt. I’m sure these people exist, I just couldn’t find one.
How Does A Quilt Work? – Video
Check out our video on how a quilt can be used for a tent camper, including how it attaches to your sleeping pad and the different ways it can be used.
Quilts came about thanks to hammock campers, and, as backpackers do, some industrious tent campers figured out how to make it work for them.
Now that it’s more common, most quilt manufacturers offer top quilts in wider widths to pull around a sleeping pad, and straps to keep it in place.
Why a Quilt Over a Sleeping Bag?
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I’m a side sleeper and a rough one at that. I have a tendency to move all night as pressure builds up in one body location or another.
With a sleeping bag, it was difficult to turn and, in the morning, I’d be stuck in a twisted mess with no idea where the zipper was.
Despite what a lot of people think, if you’re a rough sleeper, the sleeping bag doesn’t completely turn with you as you move. What often happens is part of the bag turns as you do, but the rest either remains static or moves in the opposite direction.
I also found the bag made me sweaty at night even if I was cold. After trying everything, including unzipping the bag at the leg, I realized it was due to all the carbon dioxide I was expiring that built up inside the bag and made it a slip and slide.
To top it off, all this discomfort and I was carting around three pounds I didn’t want and it was bulky and taking up a huge portion of my pack.
Why I Finally Bought a Quilt
The idea of a quilt had been a long time coming. I continually whined about my sleeping bag over several trips and fellow backpackers kept suggesting a quilt.
I didn’t want to buy more equipment and wasn’t sold on the idea of a quilt yet, so I kept lugging around the bag and researching options.
It all came to a head on a weekend trip hiking the Appalachian Trail from Max Patch to Hot Springs. My pack was heavier than most everyone else, I was sweating all night, and I was mad at the sleeping bag.
When we got back, I pulled the trigger and ordered a quilt. After my first night, I was sold.
A Happily Ever After With My Quilt
I now have three quilts and even my ten degree is less than a pound. The straps keep it secured around the sleeping pad and I can toss and turn all night without having to continually unwrap or readjust.
Without the mummy hood, I get better air circulation and can control my body temperature more easily by using a hat if I need one.
Overall I’m much more comfortable and happy. The lighter weight and less pack space are just bonuses.
Things to Know About Quilts
I have duck and goose down quilts and honestly, there isn’t much of a difference if you’re in more temperate areas.
Goose down is better if you need a really warm quilt. I would likely purchase goose down if I was looking at a zero degree or warmer option.
There is a bit of trial and error to get the straps securing the quilt to your sleeping pad right. You can expect some cold air leaks on the first night as you figure out the right tension for the straps.
Hang in there though. It doesn’t take long to figure it out.
Most companies allow you to choose the inside and outside colors of your quilt. This is great because you can customize and tell them apart.
My ten-degree quilt is gray and blue, twenty is gray and black, thirty is yellow and red (long story – bad idea). You can also add extra down if you want additional warmth.
Now I’m not saying quilts are perfect and there aren’t any compromises.
Your head isn’t covered by down so you’ll need either a down hood or a hat to keep warm. It took me a couple of tries to find a wool hat that would stay on my head as I moved.
Honestly, that’s the only negative I’ve found and it’s not a big issue.
As a side sleeper that moves a lot, I’m more comfortable and sleep better with a quilt. My backpacking buddies are also happier because I don’t whine about the sleeping bag.
Ode to My Quilt
Ode to my Quilt
Oh gentle quilt how I love you so
You keep me warm and dry
I toss and turn throughout the night
and yet you keep me tight
In the morning as I wake
I sit up tall and straight
No zipper to confine me
No twisted mess to unwind
Oh my happy quilt
How I adore you so