Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: Which is Better?

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When most people think of bedding for camping, they think of a sleeping bag. But many avid camping enthusiasts prefer using a camping quilt. They’re warm, versatile, and can be used even when you aren’t camping.

What’s the difference between camping quilts and sleeping bags?

In general, down insulation traps air to keep you warm. Down sleeping bags have a variety of fill power ranges, from 400, which is medium quality to 750, which is considered excellent and can stand up to frigid cold temps. But as any quilt enthusiast will tell you, in a sleeping bag, your body is compressing the backside of the down fill. This makes it ineffective. With a quilt, all of the function stays on top of your body, which means you’re getting the full level of warmth you’re being promised.

Real warmth isn’t the only reason people prefer camping quilts to sleeping bags. They love the fact that they don’t need to worry about a zipper on a quilt snagging or breaking. They don’t need to deal with a mummy hood, which for some people, can make the sleeping bag too hot. You’re able to cinch a quilt around your body when you’re sitting outside of your tent or not to lay down. Quilts are better for milder weather because they offer more flexibility and can be folded down. And finally, quilts tend to weigh less than sleeping bags.

Quilt vs Sleeping Bag

Another consideration is using quilts and sleeping bags in combination with each other. It’s unlikely you’ll utilize two sleeping bags at the same time when temperatures are bitter cold, but it would be easy and convenient to get into your sleeping bag and put a camping quilt over you for doubled warmth.

In addition to issues with warmth, some people find they prefer camping quilts because they feel claustrophobic in sleeping bags. They don’t’ like to be closed in, especially when sleeping, and the quilt allows them to feel freer. Even if it’s just their arms or legs they want out from under the covers, a quilt offers more options than a sleeping bag.

The idea of using a quilt is so appealing for some campers that camping bag manufacturers are even coming up with so-called “backless sleeping bags” that offer the best of both worlds.

So if you think a camping quilt might be a better option for you, here are a few of our favorites:

Nemo Siren 30 Ultralight Sleeping Quilt

NEMO Siren Down Ultralight Quilt - 30F/-1CThe Nemo Siren 30 has an insulation rating of 850 fill power down (very high and very warm!). It’ll keep you comfortable in temps as lows as 30 degrees. It features a compartment where you can insert a sleeping pad, and it has a foot box. Best of all, this quilt weighs just a little over one pound – much lighter than most all sleeping bags.

Paria Outdoor Products Thermodown 15 Degree Down Sleeping Quilt

Paria Outdoor Products Thermodown 15 Degree Down Sleeping Quilt - Ultralight Cold Weather, 3 Season Quilt - Perfect for Backcountry Camping, Backpacking and Hammocks (Regular)

The Paria Outdoor Products Thermodown quilt can be used in temperatures as low as 15 degrees, giving it the best temperature rating on our list. It features 700 fill power down but is still lightweight at just over two pounds. It’s made from durable 20D ripstop nylon fabric and is known to be one of the longer-lasting camping quilts on the market. This sleeping quilt is versatile and can be closed on colder nights like a sleeping bag or opened when the temperatures are more moderate. It can also be used as a hammock! This quilt comes with a lifetime warranty.

How Do You Choose?

There are so many sleeping bags and sleeping quilts on the market that it can be tough to make a decision. This is true if you are a novice or if you’ve used and enjoyed both quilts and bags, and you’re looking to invest in something high-quality.

When making your decision, ask yourself:

  • What is my tolerance to cold, especially when I’m sleeping?
  • Do parts of my body react differently to colder temps?
  • How much do I move around during the night?
  • Do I prefer to sleep on my side, back, or stomach?
  • Where do I camp the most and what’s the weather like?

How Do You Choose Quilt

These questions combine personal preference and factual information and can help you make the best purchasing decision when it comes to camping quilts and sleeping bags. For instance, if you tend to shift around and move a lot during the night, a quilt is a better option because you can stay under the warmth and still move. If you prefer to sleep on your side or stomach, you’ll likely be more comfortable with a quilt than with a bag.

Keep in mind; a sleeping quilt isn’t exactly like a quilt you’d find on the bed in your bedroom. It’s mostly a modified sleeping bag. From the knees down, when the quilt offers a foot box, it looks a lot like a traditional sleeping bag. But from the knees up, the quilt features a splayed-open design that gives more versatility. If you prefer not to be contained or closed in, a sleeping quilt is likely your better option.

This doesn’t mean sleeping quilts are right for everyone, though. They offer plenty of benefits, but some people are traditionalists and wouldn’t dream of camping without a sleeping bag. They love feeling cozy and contained, and if they are camping with a loved one, they love the intimacy a sleeping bag provides. Some people don’t feel as if they are “truly camping” unless they are in a sleeping bag. And there are many benefits to using a traditional sleeping bag. It’s up to you to decide which option is going to get you the best night of sleep.

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