Backpacking Quilt vs. Sleeping Bag featured image

Backpacking Quilt vs Sleeping Bag

As opposed to tents, sleeping bags can be customized to meet your specific needs based on your preferences in terms of the size, weight ratio, and style that you choose. 

They are ideal for ultralight hikers looking for the lightest and most compact pieces of kit. Backpacking Quilts have been specifically designed for this purpose.

If you're confused about the differences between sleeping bags and backpacking quilts, you've come to the right place.

The term "quilt" can be a little confusing if you're trying to replace your old sleeping bag with a new one.

In the next section, we'll discuss the main differences between backpacking quilts and sleeping bags.

We'll also go through the differences between sleeping bags and backpacking quilts in terms of cost, materials, and level of warmth.

Performance Considerations Between backpacking quilt and sleeping bag



Sleeping bags always come out on top when it comes to staying warm. Heat retention in a properly closed bag is nearly impossible to beat during a very cold night.

However, even when attached to a sleeping bag, a backpacking quilt does not guarantee a draft-free sleep nor extends over the head for a complete cocoon.

There is, however, a degree of complexity to the situation that we'd prefer to avoid.

Compared to the 30-degree REI Co-op Magma and Magma Trail, for example, it's typical to see more down fill in the backpacking quilt (in this case, 2 ounces), which translates to more warmth (specifically on the top and sides of the body).

A mummy bag's heat-trapping potential is significantly reduced because of this pared-down design, which can be observed in bags like the Feathered Friends Tanager.

Other features like a hood or draft collar may be sacrificed for weight savings.

Backpacking Quilts do not undergo the same EN/ISO standardized temperature testing as many sleeping bags (for more on this, read our page on sleeping bag temperature ratings), further complicating the comparison.

All in all, a sleeping bag with a similar loft should be warmer than a backpacking quilt, but it's vital to look into the details for a more accurate assessment.

Finally, your sleeping bag is essential to your sleep system, regardless of whether you're using a sleeping bag or a backpacking quilt.

Most sleeping pads are given a warmth rating specified in R-value (range from 1 to 8), which is an excellent place to start considering how well they will insulate you from the ground.

For most three-season trekkers, an R-value of 3 or 4 would be enough, but for those who choose to camp in the colder months, an R-value of 6 or 7 is required.

NeoAir XLite's R-Value of 4.2 and ultralight construction (12 oz.) make it a good choice for three-season camping.

Weight and Packability

Regarding reducing the weight ratio and bulk of their packs, ultralight backpackers are always looking for places to cut corners.

To save weight, backpacking quilts remove all unnecessary elements from a sleeping bag, including a hood and a zipper.

Also, sleeping bags tend to be less cumbersome than other equipment (although, as we mentioned above, it can be challenging to make true apples-to-apples comparisons).

Western Mountaineering UltraLite sleeping bags and Zpacks Solo Quilt are both rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit and can be used in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The UltraLite is significantly heavier than the Solo, which is 18.7 pounds to 29 pounds.

The 30-degree REI Magma backpacking quilt weighs only 0.8 ounces less than the 30-degree sleeping bag, so the weight ratio isn't often that significant.

Temperature Regulation


Both sleeping bags and backpacking quilts have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to temperature regulation.

If it's really chilly out, we love the option to zip our sleeping bag all the way up to our neck, close the baffled collar, and stow away the hood.

The zipper can be undone and draped over our shoulders to create the illusion of a faux quilt on a warm night.

But not all sleeping bags are equal, especially ultralight sleeping bags, and with a zipperless or partial-zip model, you're at risk of overheating on a hot night.

In reality, we've spent numerous nights in the 1/2-zip Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20, tossing and turning because it was either too hot or too chilly (on the inside the bag) (bag draped overtop).

Finally, a full-zip sleeping bag offers the best temperature regulation (on both cold and warm nights) at a significant weight penalty. In contrast, a zipperless or partial-zip sleeping bag offers lower weights at a significant temperature-regulation penalty.

The alternative option is a light-weight quilt, which is ideal for most nights save the coldest.

You can use the backpacking quilt as a light-weight down alternative in hot weather by simply draping it over your body.

With a quilt that has sleeping pad attachments, you can stow your bag in a way that keeps you warm as the temperature drops.

A "top quilt" that is incredibly light does not provide this level of temperature regulation (no pad attachment or rear closure).

With that in mind, a backpacking quilt can't wholly compete with a sleeping bag to protect you from the elements. 

Ease of Setup


Sleeping bags offer a distinct advantage when setting up your sleep system.

It's so easy to set up that you can just take your sleeping bag out of its stuff sack, lay it on your sleeping mat, and jump right in.

However, if you plan to tie your backpacking quilt to your sleeping pad or close it using the back closures, it will take more time to dial it in.

These attachments also allow you to customize the level of comfort, temperature regulation, and draft protection to meet your specific needs.

It's a good idea to "geek out" on your ultralight sleeping bags and tailor them to your personal needs. 


Quilts are generally less expensive than sleeping bags because they use fewer materials (such as fabric, hoodless sleeping bags, and zippers).

The average price of a sleeping bag is $370, whereas the average price of a quilt is $324.

These prices do not include the cost of additional items such as the Katabatic Palisade quilt or the Marmot Micron sleeping bag.

Even though quilts are cheaper than sleeping bags, keep in mind that purchasing from a large retailer like REI (read: sleeping bags) frequently provides stronger return policies and warranties. 

What is the difference between a backpacking quilt and a sleeping bag?



In general, quilts are lighter than comparable sleeping bags by around a quarter of their weight.

Quilts reduce weight by reducing the need for additional insulation and fabric beneath the sleeper.

A user's body weight compresses down or synthetic insulation, which does not produce warmth. Instead, the bottom is left uncovered.

This unneeded down fabric weighs less when it's taken out of the equation. Your sleeping pads keep you warm on the bottom of your torso.

Full-length zippers and hoods can also be eliminated from quilts to save weight.

A quilt uses less fabric than a throw. 850 fill down weighs about 16 ounces in a 20° ultralight quilt, for example. 850 fill weights about 18 ounces in a similar 20° ultralight sleeping bag.

The sleeping bag requires more stuffing and fabric; thus, it is heavier even if it has the same heat rating.

Saving 5 ounces is a considerable amount of weight for many hikers.

To a large extent, the weight of a sleeping bag or quilt is determined by the kind and volume of filling used. The heavier and warmer the bag, the more filling it has.

Synthetic stuffing is heavier than down filling. The most frequent fill grade of down is between 750 and 950 fill. Higher is always preferable.

Volume/Bulk and Compressibility


Quilts are smaller than sleeping bags because they contain less insulation and material.

Using a quilt instead of a sleeping bag could free up about a liter of space in our pack. This has several advantages.

Your quilt can be stored more easily in a more relaxed state. When you're ready to go to sleep at night, this allows it to loft faster. It could take just one or two minutes for a quilt that has been squeezed loosely to loft.

It could take up to 10 minutes for a compressed sleeping bag to inflate fully.

When you're weary and cold, and all you want to do is burrow inside your tent and fall asleep, this will come in handy. Quilts endure longer when they're not crushed as firmly.

In part, this is because both down and synthetic insulation degrades over time due to the compression and decompression of the materials. 

Some of its insulating properties are eventually compromised over time.

You'll save money in the long run by not having to replace your equipment frequently. Using a quilt can also allow you to pack lighter.

This is a great option if you frequently travel to your hiking destinations or prefer a smaller backpack. Using a quilt may necessitate a larger bag because it takes up more space.

Tip: Make sure to put your sleeping bag or quilt in the bottom of your backpack before adding the rest of your gear.

Any spare space can be efficiently filled by compressing it. This method has less compression than if you'd put it in a stuff bag.



If all else is equal, sleeping bags are often warmer than quilts. Because of this, there are several causes.

As a first step, sleeping bags are fully encased. Moving about at night won't result in a draft of warm air getting into your room.

In addition, many sleeping bags come equipped with a hood to keep your head toasty as you sleep.

Close the sleeping bag by zipping it up all the way, then pulling the hood over your head and securing the drawstrings. This ensures that you stay warm and toasty all day long.

On the other hand, ultrasound gear manufacturers have made significant advancements in quilt design in recent years.

In terms of warmth, modern quilts are on par with sleeping bags. Improved attachment systems keep the quilt in place and keep out drafts.

The neck collars of cold-weather comforters are designed to keep out warm air.

Freedom of mobility can be achieved through a broader range of possibilities. These new design adjustments have substantially enhanced warmth. They are shaped to limit the amount of dead air space.

Sleeping bags, however, tend to be less insulated than quilts. With the same temperature rating, it's not uncommon to find that the quilt provides two more ounces of warmth.

The quilt can retain more heat on the top and sides of your body because of the additional insulation.

In general, quilts are prone to draughts. A space between the mattress and the sleeping pad or quilt usually causes drafts. Heat escapes, and you become chilled when the draft forms.

Quilts and some ultralight sleeping bags lack hoods to keep your head warm, which is a downside. The answer is to bring a warm knit cap to wear while sleeping.

You can also wear a hooded jacket to sleep if you're still cold. Whether you go with a quilt or a sleeping bag, you'll need a nice sleeping pad.

You'll get cold if the ground sucks the heat out of you. Because there is nothing between you and the ground when using a quilt, this is an especially crucial consideration.

R-values are used to measure the warmth of an insulated sleeping pad—one to about seven of them. The sleeping pads get warmer as the number on the sleeping pad rises.

Ease of Use


Sleeping bags are significantly easier and quicker to set up than traditional mattresses.

Unroll your sleeping pad on top of your sleeping bag and climb in when you're ready for bed. No straps or clips are required to wear it. The zipper secures the bag. You won't have to go through any sort of training.

Attachment systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most designs use snaps, clips, or hooks to keep the closure in place.

Some may be more effective than others. Some are difficult to set up and have a tendency to fall loose. Cold air can enter the gap if one of your attachments breaks loose in the middle of the night.

It takes a little more time and works to set up a quilt, though, because it must be fastened to the sleeping bag.

Quilt camping has its own set of challenges. You must master the art of quilting attachment. You should also ensure that the straps are tightened properly to avoid drafts while allowing you to move freely.

Camping Quilt is a learning experience that necessitates a fair amount of trial and error.

There's a learning curve involved in setting things up properly. When it comes to quilts, user mistake is also a possibility.

Quilts have the advantage of being more user-friendly to get into and out of. This is an excellent option for individuals who have to get up at night to use the restroom.

The quilt is held in place by the sleeping pad's attachment. There isn't even a zipper to fiddle with. There is a large aperture through which you can climb.



Quilts are less expensive than sleeping bags, all things being equal. This is for a couple of reasons.

To begin with, making a quilt requires fewer resources. In general, they are less bulky and don't feature zippers.

As a result, the designs are less complicated because there are no hoods on the quilts. This helps to speed up the process of making quilts. This reduces the manufacturing cost of quilts, allowing for a lower retail price.

Sleeping bags are more affordable than quilts at the lowest end of the pricing spectrum.

Big box stores sell sleeping bags for $20-$50 if you're short on cash and don't mind the weight or size.

Additionally, major outdoor manufacturers' mid-range sleeping bags are less expensive.

Because cheap sleeping bags are mass-produced, they can be sold at such low prices, as opposed to the higher-end quilts, which are almost always made by hand by small cottage producers.

The price of a sleeping bag or quilt is influenced by various factors, including the quality and type of insulation, the design's complexity, and the construction's quality.

For a sleeping bag or quilt, think about how long you'll be able to use it before making your purchase.

Buying a more expensive model now could save you money in the long term.


Comfortable for persons who sleep on their sides or who move about a lot. This is because they impose fewer limitations. They allow for a lot more mobility.

When you toss and turn to shift positions, your quilt will stay in place because it is attached to your sleeping pad.

Since the quilt does not follow your every motion, you won't have to stress about it slipping off your mattress at night.

My main gripe with sleeping bags is that they cause me to fall asleep on the floor. The ability to unzip up sleeping bags allows for greater mobility.

The concern is that you'll become cold because there is no way to keep the sack attached to your body.

This is especially true when I'm pitching my tent on a gentle incline.

Because the sleeping bag rolls with me rather than staying in position, I wind up with the hood on top of my face when I roll over.

Comfort, of course, is a subjective matter. Certain campers prefer quilts.


Sleeping bags are more prone to wear and tear than quilts. Mostly because they don't have zippers and instead rely on straps, clamps, and shock cords to keep them closed. If your clips and straps break, you may easily repair or replace them.

It's a lot more challenging to work with zippers. The zipper is the most vulnerable part of many sleeping bags.

Using the zipper to zip and unzip the garments can catch the fabric. Over compressing, zips might result in kinks.

Zippers break after a long period of use. Zippers are not commonly used in quilts. It's a relief to have that burden lifted.

Moisture Control


Sleeping bags absorb moisture, whereas quilts do not. The drawstring or neck collar on the quilt keeps it snug around your neck, ensuring that your head stays out of the blankets.

This helps keep the quilt dry and warm by keeping your damp breath out. A sleeping bag's hood might easily trap your face if you roll over when trying to fall asleep.

Breathing into the hood directs your breath into the bag. When you're cold, it's easy to tuck your head into your sleeping bag.

Keeping your breath out is essential since you'll produce a surprising amount of moisture through the process of respiration.

Moisture accumulates throughout the course of the night if you breathe into your quilt or sleeping bag.

In the long run, this will reduce the down's ability to insulate you. Once damp, down tends to congest and lose its loft.

Because there are fewer air spaces inside, it has a lower heat-trapping capacity. In the worst-case scenario, you could end up in a wet and freezing sleeping bag.

Temperature Regulation


You can use a quilt to keep warm even when it's raining or snowing. Attaching the quilt to your sleeping pad and securing its foot box and neck collar snugly will help you keep as much heat in as possible when it's severely chilly outside.

You can use the quilt as a blanket on a warm night by unfolding it and draping it over yourself. It keeps you warm and dry at the same time, thanks to the many vents it has.

A warm environment quilt can be worn easily in a cold one, and you won't get too hot doing so. This feature will come in handy if you're planning a long-distance hiking excursion.

You don't have to go back and forth between warm and cold weather comforters. A single cozy quilt can cover every excursion.

A warm-weather bag and a winter bag for camping in the winter. However, sleeping bags are only useful in a limited number of weather conditions.

On a 70° night, a 0° mummy sleeping bag with a half zip is simply too hot. Zippered or unzipped, it's fine. Many hikers bring two sleeping bags because of this.

For example, a 20° and 40° bag may be necessary if your travel plans include a wide range of temperatures.

This is a typical occurrence on long-distance treks like the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail.

When the temperature drops to the point where your sleeping bag's insulation stops working, it's better to use a sleeping bag instead of a quilt.

With a sleeping bag, you can zip yourself in, cinch the hood around your face, and settle in for a good night's sleep.


Having a quilt is wonderful since you can use it for other things when you're not asleep.

Wear it as a shawl when relaxing over a campfire or on a chilly autumn morning. Wear it like a down sleeping bag on a frigid morning for extra warmth.

Your quilt can be put to a variety of uses. To make a flat blanket, just unbutton or zip the foot box on most blankets. Just throw it over your bed like a normal blanket when you go home.

In contrast, a sleeping bag's sole purpose is to be used for sleeping. It's unlikely that you'll make use of it daily.

On the other hand, a $400 ultralight quilt or sleeping bag is probably not the best choice for usage at home. It's better to keep it for camping and use a less expensive throw instead.



Small cottage industry firms create the majority of quilts. In many cases, they are made-to-order and offered just online.

Because you may design your own quilt to your exact specifications, you save money by only purchasing what you need and without having to pay for extra insulation or features you don't require.

You get to choose from a variety of options when you order a custom quilt:

Warmth rating/Amount of down insulation

Choosing this is the most critical step. A wide range of temperature settings is available.

Most manufacturers provide bags with a temperature range of -20° to 50° in 10-degree increments. There are usually two options: 850 or 950 fill-down sleeping bags.

Length and width/Size

Sizing charts are available online from the manufacturer to help you select the proper quilt for your height, shoulders, and feet. 3 or 4 width and length variations are common with most manufacturers. You can mix and match up to 20 different sizes.

Custom-made quilts can be made to your exact specifications by some vendors. Using this method, your quilt will fit like a glove around you.

You won't have to lug about any extra weight or bulk if you have the ideal-sized quilt.

For example, if you're only 5 feet tall, you don't need a 90" long quilt. Short and long sleeping bags are the most common options.

Foot box style

It's your choice whether you want the foot box to be sewn shut, zippered, or drawn. There are usually a few distinct foot box options available from most manufacturers.

However, you can't lay out the quilt flat like you can with a blanket when using a sewn-foot box. Snaps or an 18-inch zipper are commonly used in quilts.

Fabric color and type

Different textiles are available in a variety of models from the same manufacturer.

Denier (thickness), weight, durability, and water repellency are only a few of the features of the many fabrics.

Most blankets are constructed of nylon and coated with a durable water-repellent coating (DWR) to keep them dry.

You can also pick a different color for each side. Dark colors are my preference because they readily absorb heat from the sun—this aids in the quilt's drying process.

Pros and Cons of Backpacking quilt



  • Comparable sleeping bags might weigh anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces less than Lighter-Quilts.
  • Less bulky and more compact: Because quilts use less material, they are more compact.
  • Cheaper- Quilts are less expensive than sleeping bags since they require fewer materials to create.
  • Quilts are custom-made to order- There are a lot of people who sew their own quilts at home. You have complete control over the details, including the size, fabric, padding, and other components.
  • More freedom of movement- Quilts can be attached to your sleeping bag so that they don't fall out of place when you snooze.
  • Better moisture control- You're less likely to introduce moisture into a quilt because it doesn't have a sleeping bag hood. It's also possible to open up the quilt if you start to get too hot.
  • Better temperature modulation- You can either use a quilt as a blanket or close it up to create a fortress-like environment. As a result, you'll be able to utilize your quilt in a wider range of climates.
  • More efficient-In terms of warmth-to-weight, quilts are more efficient.


  • Colder-Quilts are renowned for letting in cold air.
  • Because quilts do not have hoods, you must sleep with a hat on.
  • It's a pain to attach your quilt to your sleeping pad, which isn't necessary with sleeping bags.
  • To avoid drafts, you must understand how to properly attach and put up your quilt.
  • Because most quilts are custom-made, shipping can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks.

Who Is It For?

Everyone isn't a fan of a quilt. What works for one individual may not work for another, and gear is no exception.

Before making a major investment in light-weight backpacking gear, do as much research as possible to determine what you'll need in the wilderness.

With this in mind, I sought out a garment that was both light-weight and comfortable.

The most important thing you can obtain on the route is a good night's sleep!

When I worked as a wildland firefighter, I spent a lot of time sleeping in sleeping bags and realized that I needed a better choice for my sleep.

I've decided on a light-weight, compact traveling quilt to meet all my requirements.

Pros and Cons of Sleeping bag



  • Warmer- Sleeping bags eliminate drafts because they are enclosed. They also have a Sleeping bag hood to keep your head warm.
  • Easier to use- There is no learning curve. Just unroll your bag on your pad and climb in.
  • Sleeping bags can be cheaper- Mid-range and low-end factory-made sleeping bags are cheaper because they are mass-produced.
  • No wait time- Sleeping bags are sold off the shelf.


  • Heavier- More material is used in sleeping bags since they enclose the user. A Sleeping bag hood and full-length zipper are also included. All of this adds up.
  • Larger- Because sleeping bags are made of more fabric, they take up more room in your bag.
  • Quilts are more expensive to construct because of the required materials.
  • Sleeping bags are more confining and less comfy. It is more difficult to get up and move about while you are sleeping.
  • Fewer options for personalization: The majority of sleeping bags on the market are pre-made. In other words, they're not made to order.
  • There is a problem with the hood's moisture management.
  • Suitable for a narrower range of weather conditions, you may require two bags. Warm weather and cold weather versions.

Who Is It For?

When it comes to sleeping, a sleeping bag acts as an insulator to keep you warm at night.

A sleeping bag, unlike a blanket, is designed to surround your body completely. Therefore, it is for Individuals that desire the product description.

Our Sleeping Bag and Quilt Picks

On your sleeping bag debate, if you prefer a sleeping bag or a quilt, we've compiled a list of the best of each.

Please check out our selections of sleeping bags and quilts for additional information.

Sleeping Bags

  • Western Mountaineering Ultralite Sleeping Bag
  • Western Mountaineering SummerLite 32 Degree Sleeping Bag
  • Western Mountaineering Flylite Platinum Limited Edition Sleeping Bag


  • Therm-a-Rest Corus 20F/-6C Backpacking Quilt
  • Enlightened Equipment Revelation 850DT 10° Purple/Black Regular/Wide

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Staying warm while camping can be accomplished using either a quilt or a sleeping bag.

As an ultralight alternative to a heavy, bulky sleeping bag, quilts are swiftly catching the hiking world by storm, despite the widespread popularity of sleeping bags.

People have different preferences when it comes to quilts. Make a list of the things you need before you go out and spend money on a new quilt or sleeping bag.

It's also a good idea to test out your new quilt or sleeping bag in moderate conditions before you venture into a more harsh setting.

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