Quilts for Tent Campers – Quilt vs Sleeping Bag:

When I first thought of an article 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. 

Change of plans and now I’m re-jiggering the post as an Ode to My Quilt. 

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

Quilts for Tent Campers – What’s so great about a quilt:

All kidding aside, I made the switch to a quilt a year and a half ago and haven’t looked back. 

Check out our video on how a quilt can be used for a tent camper and some of the benefits or you can keep reading below.

Quilts came about thanks to hammock campers, and many tent dwellers discovered the benefits. Most quilt manufacturers now offer top quilts in wider widths to pull around a sleeping pad, and straps to keep it in place. 

Why I Hated My Sleeping Bag:

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.  A sleeping bag doesn’t completely turn with you as you move, 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. 

Why I Bought My First Quilt:

I 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, so I kept lugging around the bag and researching options. 

It all came to a head on a trip on the Appalachian Trail from Max Patch to Hot Springs. My pack was heavier than most everyone else, I was sweating at night, and I was mad at the sleeping bag. 

When we got back, I pulled the trigger and ordered a quilt.  After my first outing with the quilt, I was sold.

Quilts for Tent Campers – My Happily Ever After:

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:

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. 

It takes a bit of trial and error to get the straps securing the quilt to your sleeping pad right.  The first night, you may feel cold as air leaks in because the straps aren’t the right tension.  It doesn’t take long to get them adjusted perfectly. 

Most companies allow you to choose the inside and outside colors.  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. 

That’s not to say there aren’t any issues with the quilt.  Your head isn’t covered by down so you’ll need either a down hood or a hat to keep warm.  I use a wool hat but had to try a couple to find one that stayed on.  Honestly, that’s the only negative I’ve found and it’s not a big issue.    

Final words:

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. 

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  1. Alison, great article. Very informative – thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    What would you recommend as the “best” R-value to use for a sleeping mat for a 10 or 20 degree quilt? Or do you have recommendations for a specific mat?

    1. My pleasure and thanks! It depends on how cold you’re going to get. Some companies don’t use R values since there isn’t a standard which makes it harder. I’ve used the Klymit V insulated (r value 4.4) down to 15 degrees with a quilt and it was fine. There’s a ton of info out there but most people agree that spring-fall an R value of 2-3 should work, as you head into late fall/early winter you’ll want 3-4. To save cost, pick the coldest temp you think you’ll be out in and buy for that. I use the 4.4 in the summer and it’s fine. I don’t overheat on it. You can also add a bit more insulation by throwing one of those accordian pads underneath. They weight almost nothing and are multi-use.

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