“Once you’ve tried a quilt, you’ll never go back to a sleeping bag.”
That was the promise, made to me by many, many fellow hikers. Well, I tried a quilt, and I’m not so sure.
The quilt I chose was the Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller. Their website calls the Sniveller a three-season quilt, and it also says that they have “…a two inch baffle, are overstuffed to achieve 2.5 inches of loft, and are comfortable down to about 25° to 30°.” That was just about the low temperature I experienced.
The experience was mostly a positive one. The best feature is the way you can treat the quilt much as you would a regular blanket on your bed at home. I sleep on my left side, my right side, my back, and occasionally on my stomach. My wife has never accused me of sleeping while standing on my head, but given all the rolling around I do at night I wouldn’t reject the possibility. Combining a quilt with a comfy sleeping pad is just about as close as one can get to an “at home” sleeping experience. Besides the obvious advantage of not being in a confining mummy bag, the great thing about the quilt was that I could start with it pushed down to my waist and bring it farther up my body as the night wore on (and the temperature dropped). When I was warm enough, I slept better than I ever have on the ground.
It is also wonderfully light. At 26 ounces it shaved a couple of pounds off the down bag I usually carry, and it compresses down to something smaller than your average honeydew melon. If I would have decided to pack my other, heavier, sleeping bag, I would have had to carry a larger backpack. That means double the weight savings.
The only problem: I got cold.
But here’s the thing: I never felt that the cold was coming from the ground, despite the fact that there was no quilt below me. My sleeping pad (an REI Flash) was more than up to the challenge. The chill came from two places: the sides, which would open up as I rolled from one side to the other, and from my neck/head area. The drafts are what made me uncomfortable.
My response was to add layers. On the coldest night, at Lake Virginia, there was a little ice in my 1 liter Nalgene bottle when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. Based on weather reports, my altitude, and the amount of ice, I would guess that it got down to around 30 degrees for a few hours. While in my tent I wore silk-weight underwear and an Arc’teryx insulated layer below my waist, and silk-weight underwear, a fleece vest, and a fleece jacket on top. I also wore gloves and a sleeping cap. With all that I still woke up quite uncomfortable in the morning.
So where do I go from here?
After having a little fun at the expense of my fellow hikers who claimed I would never go back to my mummy bag, I’m forced to admit that they may be right. Even if I couldn’t solve the “cold” problem, I might stick it out just because I sleep so much better before the temperatures reach their lowest. If I can pawn this quilt off on my wife, who is a lot smaller in every dimension (which makes the quilt much larger, comparatively), I think I will try again. The second time I’ll probably go with larger quilt with a bit more stuffing.
One last thing: those Arc’teryx insulated bottoms are warm, warm, warm. I highly recommend them.
Good hiking, Ray