When you're backpacking deep in the wilderness, you have to carry everything you might need, which means that every ounce counts. One way to minimize the weight you have to lug around is to opt for a quilt instead of a sleeping bag. However, you want to make sure that you get the best backpacking quilts for the money. Here are some things to consider when shopping around:
Backpacking quilt vs sleeping bag
Before you start shopping, it's a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of quilts versus sleeping bags to make sure it's a good choice for you. Here's a brief summary:
- Backpacking quilt: The most obvious advantage to quilts is that they're considerably lighter and more compact than sleeping bags. On top of that, they provide better freedom of movement and don't have zippers or other components that can break or tear. The downside is they're not as warm and can even feel drafty.
- Sleeping bags: While slightly heavier and bulkier, a full-sized sleeping bag is almost always going to be the warmer option. That means if you're backpacking in cold climates they're usually your best bet.
The qualities you want in a backpacking quilt
Once you've decided to opt for a quilt, the next thing to do is to compare the important qualities side by side to determine which is the best backpacking quilt for the money. These include:
- Weight: Obviously, the lighter the better. My picks below range in weight from as little as 1 pound to just under 2.
- Packed size: The smaller it packs down, the more space you have for other important items. One of the quilts on my list packs down to just 6 by 6 inches with the help of an included compression sack.
- Quilt size: Take your height into consideration when looking at quilt dimensions to make sure you have enough coverage.
- Temperature rating: This is an indicator of the minimum suitable in which a quilt will still keep you warm. If you know you'll be backpacking in areas that stay warm, even at night, a low temperature rating may not be as important for you.
It's also helpful to look at the insulation type. Real down is usually the warmest, though it tends to be the most expensive, too — and it's also slightly heavier. Synthetic options such as Primaloft have gotten increasingly warmer and often offer the comparable temperature ratings at a fraction of the price.
Lastly, look at the design. Ask yourself if you prefer a mummy-style blanket that wraps around you, or a regular flat sheet style. Some have added features like snaps, hooks, and loops to wrap it around your body or attach it to your sleeping pad.
Given these qualities, here are the best backpacking quilts for the money, arranged in order from the most expensive to the least.
1. The best investment
Weight: 1 pound, 4 ounces
Packed size: 7 by 13 inches
Quilt size: Fits up to 6 feet, 3 inches
Temperature rating: 35 degrees Fahrenheit
What's great about it: Made with real duck down, this high-quality Sierra Designs backpacking quilt is a premium option at a mid-range price. It's insulated with a technology called DriDown that coats the individual plumes with a hydrophobic treatment. That means that, unlike regular down, it is water-resistant and quick-drying. The 800-fill power insulation is not only warm but exceptionally lightweight, too. The exterior features 15-denier nylon ripstop that's ultra-durable, and inside it has cozy arm pockets to prevent it from getting drafty. As a bonus, it has a hideaway hood for added warmth. The included bag only packs down to 7 by 13 inches but it can get much smaller with the purchase of a compression sack.
2. The best quilt under $200
Weight: 1 pound, 4 ounces
Packed size: 7 by 10 inches
Quilt size: 79 by 49.5 inches
Temperature rating: 32 degrees Fahrenheit
What's great about it: The Corus backpacking quilt is similar to the previous selection in that it's made with real down that's been treated with a hydrophobic coating (this one is called Nikwax). The loft isn't quite as thick (it's 650 fill power instead of 800), however, the two quilts boast the same weight and virtually the same temperature rating. It has a roomy foot-box that's big enough to slip around your sleeping pad, and a soft, ultra-cozy feel. I have the ultralight version of this quilt and can personally attest that Therm-a-Rest makes fantastic backpacking quilts.
3. The most lightweight
Weight: 1 pound
Packed size: 4 by 9 inches
Quilt size: Fits up to 6 feet
Temperature rating: 45 degrees Fahrenheit
What's great about it: If you hate lugging around extra weight, this ultralight backpacking quilt is the lightest, most compact option on this list. I've tested it out myself and, though I haven't had the chance to go backpacking with it, I can vouch that it feels extremely soft and smooth with a cozy feel. It's made with Primaloft synthetic down and features a tuck-around design with webbing loops and a shock cord you can use to lace it together. At 45 degrees, the temperature rating isn't quite as low as the previous two picks, so it's better for backcountry huts or warm summertime excursions. Still, it's an exceptional quilt for the value. Plus, for the temperature tradeoff, you save $30 while still getting a lighter product.
4. The best for hammocks
Weight: 1 pound, 8 ounces
Packed size: 7.5 by 12 inches
Quilt size: 84 by 54 inches
Temperature rating: 55 degrees Fahrenheit
What's great about it: If you're into hammock camping — which saves weight in your bag because you don't need a tent — this Kammock backpacking quilt is one of the best options. Designed to work with your own hammock, it's built with EcoLoft, a quick-drying synthetic insulation made from recycled plastic that's warm and lightweight. Outside, it showcases snag-proof, 20-denier nylon ripstop that's coated in DWR to make it water-resistant.
This quilt is heavier than some of the other options, however, it's also well-built and designed to last. The temperature rating is higher than others, too, but given that you'll most likely be using it as an under-quilt to line your hammock, that's less important. Just keep in mind that if you go hammock backpacking, you'll need to be camping somewhere with trees.
5. The best flat quilt
Weight: 1 pound 2 ounces
Packed size: 5.25 by 14.5 inches
Quilt size: 75 by 57 inches
Temperature rating: Not specified
What's great about it: This high-quality backpacking quilt is cheaper than the first few selections and also incredibly lightweight. Rather than a mummy design that you tuck around your body, it's shaped like a simple blanket and roughly the dimensions of a queen-size sheet. It's filled with synthetic microfiber polyester loft that will keep you warm, though this one doesn't have a temperature rating, so it's best suited for warm weather adventures or as an extra blanket to go on top of your sleeping bag. It has snap loops around the perimeter and a convenient drawcord at the bottom.
6. The best budget option
Weight: 1 pound 9 ounces
Packed size: 6 by 6 inches
Quilt size: 76 by 64 inches
Temperature rating: 45 degrees Fahrenheit
What's great about it: If you are looking for a truly affordable option, this budget backpacking quilt is a solid choice. Constructed with lightweight synthetic insulation, you can pack it down tightly and it will still rebound to fluffy, full-sized insulation. It's rated down to 45 degrees and comes with a compression sack that squeezes it down to an impressive 6-by 6-inch size. This affordable quilt is water-resistant, quick-drying, and anti-bacterial. On top of all of that, it's vouched for by more than 700 positive reviews on Amazon. "Super soft and cozy!" wrote one fan. "The light weight was good because I was on a week-long backpacking trip. I opted to use this in lieu of a sleeping bag. No regrets."
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