After reading Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking, I have started to reconsider some of my gear choices. Because I have a great deal of respect for him, I am taking his recommendations very seriously. First up: Sleeping bags.
I currently use the REI Halo 25, and I love it for 3 reasons. 1) The down is very thick and comfortable and the insulated foot box keeps my toes warm. 2) It was on sale when I bought it, so it was fairly cheap. 3) We have emotionally bonded on a number of trips when I have been one of the only warm person in my group.
However, Trail Life has me thinking about using a quilt. The biggest payoff seems to come for couples sharing the quilt, but Erin and I are not that good of friends, so that option is out.
(She will nod enthusiastically when she reads this.)
But there do seem to be several benefits for the solo user as well.
Here they are:
1) Added ventilation
I have several times woken up in my sleeping bag covered in sweat from being too hot, but have never been able to comfortably sleep with it unzipped because the shape doesn’t work well for that. It seems like a quilt might offer more versatility in how you use it. (Although I’m not fully sold on this idea).
2) Freedom of movement
I sometimes get a little claustrophobic in my sleeping bag, particularly when I am half-awake, really have to pee, and can’t find the zipper. I can see how a quilt might help with this situation.
3) Lighter weight
Jardine writes, “Our quilt design eliminates the needless part of the sleeping bag flattened beneath the person, and therefore it saves unnecessary weight and bulk.” I have personally grown attached to the needless part of my sleeping bag flattened by my body weight, because it is comfy, but I might be able to give that up for the pack weight savings.
4) Customizable options
The last benefit I learned about sleeping systems has less to do with the actual quilt and more about my feeling empowered to make my own gear. I like that Jardine and his wife Jenny have created gear that works for them. For myself, I am a petite 5’4 female, and even women’s short bags (when they are available), end up having more space than I need. If I were to tailor make a quilt for myself using one of Jardine’s kits, I could shed a little more weight and add comfort.
Jardine uses synthetic filling for his quilts, and it will take a little convincing for me to go along with this. He claims that down bags lose their loft too quickly, but mine have held up pretty well in the past. I do like the idea that a synthetic sleeping bag might keep me warmer on a wet night and dry faster during the day. This is important because I live in Oregon, which has constant rain most of the year. But my down bag is so comfy that it may have to be yanked out of my freezing, wet hands before I give it up.
Since I’ve never used a sleeping quilt, I’d really like to try one out. If anyone out there has used a synthetic or down backpacking quilt, or has thoughts about them, I’d love to hear from you.