Backpacking quilts, while growing in popularity, are still relatively uncommon. So if you’re looking at backpacking quilts, more than likely you have either experienced or predicted possible issues with the more common mummy bags and are looking for an alternative. There are quite a few manufacturers of backpacking quilts, and Enlightened Equipment is one of the smaller manufacturers, with a focus on quality and extra effort in the little details, making them among the best backpacking quilt manufacturers out there.
I have two versions of the Enlightened Equipment Enigma Pro.
A 40 degree and a 20 degree.
Both are amazingly light for the heat retention capabilities they have.
I used several mummy sleeping bags of various sizes and heat ratings. But they were almost always a problem for me primarily because I toss and turn while sleeping, and tighter fitting mummy bags, essential for reducing air pockets and drafts, make movement rather difficult.
Discovering quilts was quite an eye opener.
Quilts designed for backpacking have some unique properties and features designed to work in conjunction with a sleeping pad, have a tendency to be lighter, and accommodate side sleepers and stomach sleepers a little better.
Unlike sleeping bags, quilts achieve their ultra-lightness by reducing the material below, relying on the sleeping pad to provide insulation. This is a gret way to reduce weight while still providing warmth in all the right places. Many quilts also have a wraparound foot box to keep drafts out. They’re not really designed for footbox pass-through, so if hot feet is a problem, many backpacking quilts might not be a great fit, though an open bottom can be ordered.
Also, many quilts have ropes or bungee cord to tie it to the sleeping pad instead of a zipper that further saves weight. Zipper are among the heaviest parts of ultra-light sleeping bags, and rope closures can keep everything together while you sleep.
What’s more, this kind of “open closure” rope system means that heat regulating is a little easier. Especially in summer camping, night time temperatures can be finicky, with some nights being rather cool and some being very hot. Quilts are essentially a blanket with a wraparound footbox, so regulating is much easier around the torso and shoulders.
For those who are side sleepers, I would recommend getting a quilt that is about the right size for the top edge to come up a little passed the neck when fully stretched. For stomach sleepers, a longer quilt might be a better fit as this would allow better neck protection and minimize drafts a little better, especially as stomach sleepers often have a tendency to have their arms extending further out beyond the upper edge of the quilt.
Enlightened Equipment’s Enigma Pro line is among the lightest quilts available and work very well.
They are also highly customizable, with either open or closed footboxes, zippers or rope closures, additional velcro for more secure locks, and a variety of widths and lengths. you can also choose between at least two different fill options, and the down is water resistant.
For the 20 degree, I purchased all the options, and not surprisingly, the weight savings and bulk savings is not as dramatic as getting a no frills quilt. For the 40 degree, I got the closed footbox, the 3/4 length zipper (top edge of quilt to top of footbox), extra secure velcro closure, better down option. This quilt has proven very good to about 45 degrees without any extra layers. And layering allows into freezing temperatures.
However, with all the options included, the bulk of the quilt doesn’t differ much from ultralight sleeping bags of the same temperature rating. It’s rather amazing to realize just how much the zipper adds to the bulk of the quilt. Of course, the down itself plays a major role, but the no frills version packs down even smaller.
For the 40 degree, I selected a no frills option, and while the decreased amount of down was the primary factor in the smaller size, the thin rope closure had a considerable effect as well, and this quilt squeezes down to about the size of a large grapefruit. With the right bag, it would probably squeeze down to about the size of a softball. Pretty impressive.
For anyone who tosses and turns while sleeping on the trail, and finds the extra material of the mummy sleeping bag to be rather wasteful in material, try a quilt. They can be rather expensive, but it might surprise you to learn just how much lighter a quilt can be. Just don’t waste money and oz and bulk on the a zipper.