On the subject of thru-hiking its necessary to have a sleeping bag (or quilt) that meets both your particular person needs, as well as the dictates of the setting/s into which you’re venturing. The problem is discovering a mannequin that is versatile enough to keep you snug in all kinds of circumstances, because that’s precisely what you’re more likely to encounter over the course of a multi-month thru-hike.
The following article is a compilation of trail-tested light-weight sleeping luggage and quilts, advisable by a few of the most completed long distance hikers in the US; with a token Australian and Englishman thrown into the combination. Following the suggestions there is a Q&A, through which I handle the principal queries aspiring thru-hikers might have with regard to buying a sleeping bag or quilt.
The Regular Suspects
As with the Through-Hikers Gear Listing, Backpacks for Thru-Hiking and Tents for Thru-Hiking articles, in placing together this submit I needed to create a resource that was relevant to a wide range of hikers. With that objective in thoughts, the suggestions under are derived from a diverse group of very skilled ramblers (i.e. with a cumulative complete of more than 300,000 mountaineering miles), ranging in age between mid-twenties to late seventies. Although the chronological spectrum could also be sizeable, all of them backpack in an ultralight to light-weight style and have multiple lengthy distance hikes beneath their belts:
The standard suspects for this text embrace: Justin “Trauma” Lichter, Chris Townsend, Billy Goat, Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, Nancy “Why Not” Huber, Paul “Mags” Magnanti, Christy “Rockin” Rosander, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, Kristin “Lost” Gates, Clint “Lint” Bunting, John “John Z” Zahorian, Amanda “Not a Chance” Timeoni, Renee “SheRa” Kirkpatrick, Erin “Wired” Saver and Heather “Anish” Anderson.
Long Term Funding
Quality, lightweight sleeping luggage aren’t found at the bottom of the REI Discount Bin. A properly made goose down model with high finish fill power (i.e. 800 +) will often set you back someplace in the neighbourhood of $350 to $550. Synthetic fashions and quilts with equal materials usually value much less.
That stated, if you will splash out on one item in your backpacking package, sleeping luggage/quilts are an excellent selection. It’s arduous to put a worth on an excellent night time’s sleep. And trust me, whenever you’re mountaineering via the Smoky Mountains in March or California’s Excessive Sierra in June, and temps have dropped right down to the mid-teens, I guarantee that you may be very glad you spent the extra $100 to $200 on a top quality bag/quilt. The alternative is freezing your you-know-what’s off, while concurrently admonishing your self in no unsure phrases for being such a tightwad – sure, I am speaking from personal experience on this one (New Zealand, 1994)!
With out additional ado, let’s take a look at the luggage (quilts to comply with) which are used by a few of the world’s most skilled through hikers.
Bags are listed in alphabetical order. Temperature scores are from the manufacturers websites, and weights given are for common sized fashions until in any other case said:
Most Really helpful
Feathered Buddies Hummingbird UL 20 – 1 lb 9 oz (0.71 kg) / 900+ Fill / 20°F (-7°C)
Mummy shaped, 900+ down, two approach zipper with locking sliders, semi-water resistant Pertex shell, and like all FF products, superior workmanship. Because of the the bag’s comparatively slim reduce (58″ / 52 “/ 38”), should you’re a tosser and turner or somebody that likes to spread out once they sleep, you might need to contemplate going with the broader Swallow UL 20 (60″ / 56″ / 38″) or Swift UL 20 (64″ / 58″ / 40″).
Triple Crowner and veteran outdoorsy sort, Paul “Mags” Magnanti has owned his Hummingbird for more than 20 years and had the next to say about this trail-tested basic :
“A high-quality bag or quilt is an investment that will serve a backpacker well for many years and nights out in the backcountry The more you use it, the overall cost of the bag becomes more than justified. The Feathered Friends Hummingbird I purchased back in 1997 was, and still is, such a bag.”
One other long-time fan of the Hummingbird is Kristin “Lost” Gates, who has used the Nano version of the FF bag (i.e. similar as the UL, however with a special material know-how) on multiple thru-hikes, together with her traverse of Alaska’s Brooks Range in 2013.
Observe: For people curious about Feathered Buddies Bags, observe that the “Nano” (brief for Nanosphere) fashions are cheaper than the Pertex versions by virtually 20%. The catch is that they are slightly heavier and not quite as waterproof.
Marmot Helium – 2 lb 1 oz (zero.94 kg) / 15°F (-9°C) / 800-Fill
This bag has been round since cocky was an egg. I used an early model of it periodically between 2003 and 2009. It’s not the lightest or most compressible bag on this compilation, but to my mind-set it has all the time represented good worth, run’s near its temperature score (perhaps a number of levels on the high aspect), and because of a generous girth and taper, seems to be a type of luggage that fits most hikers. If the Helium’s 15°F score appears a bit too toasty for your thru-hiking wants, Marmot also do a nicely regarded and competitively priced 30°F bag; the 800-Fill Hydrogen.
Erin “Wired” Saver used the Helium on her PCT hike of 2011. Though she has subsequently made the change to quilts, Wired describes the bag as “heavenly” and that she nonetheless enjoys “the luxury of it on trips where pack weigh isn’t a primary concern.”
(Notice: Getting right down to brass tacks, the Helium and Hydrogen are good luggage, but they’re a step down in quality from the other models on this listing from Western Mountaineering, Feathered Pals and Montbell. That stated, they’ll undoubtedly do the job, and in case you are on a finances, it’s value noting which you could typically decide them up at REI or different on-line retailers at a significantly discounted worth (e.g. Low $300’s), which to my way of thinking makes them wonderful worth).
Montbell Down Hugger 900 #2 – 1 lb 8 oz (zero.68 kg) / 25°F (-4°C) / 900 Fill
Now for something somewhat totally different. Montbell luggage are recognized for their Super Spiral Stretch Know-how. In layman’s phrases, a patented stitching system which permits the bag to stretch/move/give with the natural actions of the consumer. This has been a real boon for hikers who toss and flip or simply wish to spread out once they sleep. It’s common to hear long-time users price the Down Huggers as probably the most snug luggage they’ve slept in.
Two such hikers are the very completed Justin “Trauma” Lichter and Heather “Anish” Anderson. The latter makes use of her ZPacks 35° bag in the course of the peak of summer time, but prefers the Montbell Down Huggers “during edge or shoulder season hikes. (During this period) I use either a 0 or a 20 degree depending on conditions, and find them to be properly rated for a very cold sleeper like me.”
As for Trauma, he has used Montbell luggage all all over the world for close to a decade, together with on his 2014 Winter PCT Traverse with Shawn “Pepper” Forry. He had the next to say concerning the Down Hugger collection:
“I find them warm beyond their rating. I do sleep warm and I also roll around a lot in my sleep. I got used to the Super Stretch bags and didn’t realize how much I actually used the stretch system until one night I slept in a regular sleeping bag and felt confined.”
Patagonia 850 Down Sleeping Bag – 1 lb 9 oz (zero.71 kg) / 19°F (-7.2°C) / 850 Fill
Patagonia’s first ever sleeping bag has been receiving largely constructive critiques since its launch in 2017. Serial lengthy distance hiker and prolific backpacking writer, Chris Townsend, rated the Patagonia 850 as one among his favorite items of drugs in 2018:
“I particularly like the centre zip for ease of getting in and out and sitting up in the bag and also for using your hands with the hood up. The zip has three sliders, which means short sections can be opened anywhere – for ventilation and to stick your hands out to cook or read.”
Western Mountaineering Ultralite – 1 lb 13 oz (0.82 kg) / 20°F (-6.7°C) / 850+ Fill
Over the previous few many years, Western Mountaineering and Feathered Buddies have represented the gold commonplace with regard to top quality down sleeping luggage produced in the USA. I used their Summerlite mannequin between 2007 and 2011, and it was one of the best luggage I’ve owned; light-weight, didn’t clump, and true to it’s 32°F score.
Lots of of individuals have used WM luggage on their thru-hikes, and they persistently obtain glowing critiques. Two such completed hikers are Renee “SheRa” Kirkpatrick and Liz “Snorkel” Thomas. The latter used the WM Ultralite on all of her Triple Crown hikes (to date!). Take it away Snorks:
“The ultralite is a classic. It’s versatile, well-made, and WM has some awesome customer service. It’s a painful price to cough up, but it’s one of the best gear investments I’ve made as it grew with me as my skills got better and my trails got harder. It’s one of the only gear decisions I made early on that I never regretted later on.”
“Which WM bag should I choose for my upcoming thru-hike?”
For many thru-hikers the Ultralite hits the temperature sweet spot. Heat sleepers might need to take a look at the Megalite (30°F) or Summerlite. For cold frogs, you guys are in all probability higher off opting for one in every of Western Mountaineering’s 10 or 15°F luggage, such as the Versalite or Badger.
The following compilation is not at all exhaustive. Different corporations that aren’t talked about intimately under, however who nonetheless have a status for making properly regarded light-weight quilts embrace UQG and Loco Libre:
Enlightened Gear Enigma – 20°F (-6.7°C) / 18.9 oz (0.54 kg) / 850 Fill
In recent times, Enlightened Gear have earned a status for making a few of the greatest worth for money quilts available on the market. For thru-hiking functions, most people seem to be nice with either the Revelation (zippered footbox) or Enigma (sewn footbox) 20°F fashions. Nevertheless, when you’re a chilly sleeper you’re better off opting for one of many 10°F versions. For thru-hikers that would like artificial quite than down fill, EE additionally produces some nicely regarded made to order quilts that sport CLIMASHIELD™ APEX insulation (i.e. Revelation Apex 30°F & 20°F).
With regard to Enlightened Equipments temperature scores, based on a lot of the reviews I’ve heard through the years, they are typically a tad optimistic. By a tad I imply anyplace between 5 and ten levels Fahrenheit for an “average” sleeper. (Observe: In November, 2017, EE announced that they are “adding 5% more down to all of their top quilts and bags.” Feedback since then seems to verify that EE quilts at the moment are somewhat hotter than what they beforehand have been).
An extended-time fan of Enlightened Gear quilts is serial thru-hiker Clint “Lint” Bunting, who might nicely have put extra miles on their merchandise than anyone else in the climbing world:
“I’ve been using Enlightened Equipment quilts for many years now. The vertical baffles keep more down on top of your body instead of letting it fall off to the sides like a regularly baffled quilt. At least in my experience. I have four EE quilts now, including a two person model for when I camp with my partner. Nothing is quite as snuggly as sharing body heat and the occasional flatulence with the ones you love.”
Jacks R Better Sierra Sniveller – 24 oz (zero.68 kg) / 25° (-Four°C) / 800 Fill
The Sierra Sniveller is a nicely made multi-purpose quilt that may also be used as a poncho/serape (see photograph under). It features hydrophobic down and is available in common and long sizes. In accordance with Paul “Mags” Magnanti, who has used the Sniveller since 2012, it runs true to it’s temperature score and at less than $300 represents good value (Notice: Mags is a heat sleeper). Relating to backpacking gear, Mr. Magnanti is about as meat and potatoes as they come, and sums up the Sierra Sniveller as follows:
“If you want the absolute lightest quilt, there are others brands. Many of fine quality. But if you want a good, solid and well-made quilt with a few ounces weight penalty that won’t break the bank, the Jacks ‘R’ Better Sierra Sniveller is working very well for me.”
Chilly sleepers might need to take a look at the Excessive Sierra Sniveller mannequin, which weighs in at 29 oz, but is sweet right down to 5-10°F. This mannequin still comes in at lower than $300, which strikes me as being wonderful worth for one thing so heat.
Katabatic Alsek – 21 oz (0.6 kg) / 22°F (-5.6°C) / 900 Fill
Over the past decade, Katabatic quilts have turn into the yardstick by which other mild and ultralightweight quilts are measured. The rationale? A mixture of high-end materials, differential reduce, overstuffed neck collar, roomy foot box, conservative temperature scores, draft-busting attachment system, and a meticulous consideration to element. It’s no coincidence that in recent times a few of the most completed ramblers in the US mountaineering world, reminiscent of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva, Liz “Snorkel” Thomas, John “John Z” Zahorian, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, Shawn “Pepper” Forry, Amanda “Not a Chance” Timeoni and Joshua “Bobcat” Stacy, have all made the change to Katabatic quilts.
Over the previous 5 years, John Z has hiked greater than 12,000 miles on lengthy distance trails around the US. He had the next to say regarding the quilts he has tried throughout that interval:
“I have used EE, Zpacks, and Katabatic quilts. The Zpacks is real constricting when zipped up and the footbox was flat and especially cold. The rating is pretty optimistic when you look at the loft height and in practice. The reason it seems so light in comparison is because of the inaccurate temp rating and slender size. The EE I used was in their early days with open baffles and that system just didn’t work with all of the down falling from the top to the sides within a few hours (Ed’s Note: Since redesigned). Katabatic just sort of does everything right. Footbox is shaped well and the down is where it should and the fit feels perfect to me.”
Which Katabatic quilt ought to I choose for my upcoming thru-hike?
I’ve listed the Alsek above, as a result of I feel like it hits the sweet spot for most lengthy distance hikers. That stated, I might simply have simply gone with the Palisade 30°F, which I personally took on the PCT and CDT in 2012 (Word: I’m an “average” sleeper). By basic consensus, Katabatic temperature scores are conservative, so in reality, the Alsek is extra like a 15 -17°F quilt, and the Palisade ought to hold most people heat right down to low to mid-twenties. Chilly sleepers might need to upsize to the Sawatch 15°F.
“What about the Katabatic Flex series?”
In recent times, Katabatic have launched a line of blanket fashion quilts, often known as the “Flex” collection. These models have a zippered relatively sewn footbox, and run about 20% cheaper than the Elite collection. Amanda “Not a Chance” Timeoni’s, a serial through hiker that has hiked some 14,000 miles on long distance trails since 2009, has used the Flex 22°F mannequin extensively in recent times. Take it away, Probability:
“I love my Katabatic! It has proven its worth on warmer desert hikes in Arizona and Death Valley, and in colder mountainous terrain like on the Great Divide Trail or the San Juans in Colorado. If it’s a warm night I can use it as a blanket, if it’s a cold night I can wrap myself in it like a burrito. I haven’t had a sleepless night since I got it because I can regulate my temperature more with a quilt.”
MLD Spirit Quilt 28°F– 21 oz (zero.6 kg) / 28°F (-2.2°C) / ClimaShield Apex Synthetic Insulation
In the FAQ section under I look at the for’s and towards’s of synthetic Vs down luggage. For thru-hikers that choose the former, there are some strong, properly made light-weight options available on the market, including the Enlightened Gear Revelation Apex 20°F (see above) and the MLD Spirit 28°F. Each of those luggage use ClimaShield Apex insulation.
In regards to the MLD mannequin, uber-hiker Liz “Snorkel” Thomas has taken on it numerous lengthy distance trails over the previous five years, and had the following to say concerning the Spirit 28°F:
“A great balance of quality, weight, and price. I got it at a time when I couldn’t afford to buy the same quality ultralight bag in down, but having one synthetic bag has become a handy tool in my gear quiver. A soaking wet Allgood, POD, and I opened it into a blanket and huddled under it during a snow storm on the Sierra High Route when their down bags would’ve wetted out or at least taken a while to dry.”
Nunatak Arc UL 20 – 22.9 oz (0.65 kg) / 20°F (-6.7°C) / 900-950 Fill
Since being founded in 1999, Nunatak have established a status for producing premium lightweight down clothes and sleeping luggage. Together with Katabatic Gear, their quilts are persistently rated prime of the class by the Ultralight backpacking group. They receive high marks for their workmanship, correct temperature scores, materials high quality, and particularly, their customisability.
The Arc UL is out there in 4 totally different temperature scores – 40, 30, 20 and 10°F. For thru-hikers which are “average” sleepers, the 20°F model is your greatest all-around choice. For chilly frogs, or people that take pleasure in heading out for late season or even delicate winter excursions, it is suggested to go together with the 10°F version.
Zpacks 20 degree – 19.2 oz (zero.54 kg) / 20°F (-6.7°C) / 900 Fill
Zpacks sleeping luggage are usually not exactly sleeping luggage. They’re not precisely quilts either. What they’re is a hoodless hybrid with a zipper.
With regard to efficiency, they appear to evoke the complete gamut of opinions in the long distance mountaineering group. Some hikers love them, others not a lot. Personally I’ve by no means used one, but through the years I’ve observed that impressions appear kind of divided alongside the following strains: numerous females, smaller sized guys, and those that don’t move round a lot of their sleep give them a thumbs up, whereas folks typically find them a bit too restrictive; notably in the footbox space (see John Zahorian’s comment above). The moral of the sleeping bag story appears to be that in case you determine to go together with a ZPacks bag, you might need to think about sizing out (width), sizing up (warmth) or both.
Completed ramblers that have rocked the Zpacks luggage on a number of thru-hikes embrace Billy Goat, Joshua “Bobcat” Stacy, Heather “Anish” Anderson, Nancy “Why Not” Huber and Christy “Rockin” Rosander.
Observe: As of 2019, there at the moment are solely three choices with regard to ZPacks down luggage – 35°, 20° and 5°. In regards to the validity of these temperature scores, the consensus seems to be that they are somewhat exaggerated for an “average” sleeper. For the needs of thru-hiking, their 20 degree bag – in all probability extra like 25 to 30 in actual phrases – is an effective guess for most people. For chilly frogs, you’re higher off up-sizing to the 5°F model, which ideas the scales at 23.8 oz and in actual terms is more like a 13 – 15°F bag.
Q&A – Sleeping Bags and Quilts for Through-hikers
Under are a number of the principal questions that aspiring thru-hikers have with regard to buying a sleeping bag or quilt:
Down or Synthetic?
Artificial luggage are cheaper than their down equivalents. Additionally they perform higher when wet. Nevertheless, down fashions have a superior heat to weight ratio, as well as being lighter, extra compressible and extra durable.
“So when should a thru hiker consider picking a synthetic model over a down bag?”
Individuals who choose artificial models often achieve this for ethical, budgetary or environmental causes. In regards to the latter, if your through hike is usually in the course of the summer time months, and a there’s a real risk of a good deal of rain (e.g. Appalachian Path, Te Araroa, Pacific Northwest Path), then artificial insulation just isn’t a nasty solution to go.
Personally speaking, I like synthetic fashions for warm and humid environments and even to double up with a down bag in excessive chilly, nevertheless for the whole lot else I feel down is a better choice.
“But aren’t down bags useless when wet?”
I’ve all the time felt this backpacking “truism” to be overly dramatic. The very fact is, it takes quite a bit to utterly soak the insulation of a sleeping bag. We’re talking getting slam-dunked during a river crossing. The occasional bit of transferred moisture from the inside wall of your tent or tarp doesn’t do too much harm, and will usually dry out pretty shortly if you lay your bag out within the solar throughout a midday break.
The secret is merely to take some primary precautions so as to hold your bag dry. Line the inside of your backpack with a rubbish/trash compactor bag. If you understand you’ve some pretty critical river fords arising, put your down gadgets (together with electronics) in a separate dry bag inside your liner. Prevention is best than remedy.
In case you are nonetheless involved about your down bag wetting out, considering going with a mannequin that has hydrophobic down fill.
What about temperature scores?
Most hikers trying the Triple Crown Trails within the US, will probably be effective with a sleeping bag or quilt precisely rated between 15 and 25°F. That being stated, heat sleepers can in all probability get often get away with a 30°F mannequin, whereas cold frogs may have to go right down to a 10°F bag as a way to be snug (Word: As a common rule of thumb, ladies normally sleep 5 to 10 degrees colder than males.
“How will I know where I stand (or lie) on the sleeping warmth spectrum?”
Before shelling out huge bucks on an expensive sleeping bag, it pays to have an concept where you’re located on the size of heat to cold sleepers. Your personal experiences might be your greatest information. For example, if winter is approaching and you’re nonetheless sleeping in shorts and t-shirt while everyone else round you has broken out the heavy-duty thermal underwear, likelihood is you are a warm sleeper.
“How will I know the accuracy of X company’s stated temperature ratings before I purchase?”
Do your analysis. This text is an effective place to start out, however there are different websites such as the Ultralight sub-reddit and Backpacking Mild, from which you also needs to be capable of derive a good idea of the veracity (or lack thereof) of the principal bag/quilt producers’ temperature scores.
Ought to I deliver a sleeping bag liner?
No. Make the most of your beanie and layers when needed. You’re carrying them anyway, chances are you’ll as nicely put them to make use of at night time, in addition to through the day.
What’s the cope with “Fill Power”?
One issue that provides a clue as to a sleeping bag or quilt’s quality is its fill energy. Principally, a excessive fill power (e.g. 800+) equates to raised high quality down, which suggests superior insulation and warmth to weight ratio. In actual terms, upgrading from a down bag with 600 fill-power to at least one with 800 fill-power, both of which have the identical temperature score, can imply a weight saving of up to 300 grams (10.6 ounces). The catch? Bags with larger fill powers are costlier.
How necessary is insulation from the ground?
Regardless of how warm and toasty your sleeping bag/quilt may be, should you don’t have enough insulation from the bottom you will be chilly and uncomfortable. For a daily season thru-hike of one of many US triple crown trails, a sleeping mat with an R-Worth of two to three ought to suffice for most hikers. For late shoulder season or winter excursions, you will in all probability need one thing with an R-Worth over 5 (e.g. Therm-a-Relaxation NeoAir XTherm). See the Sleeping Mat section of the web site for more details on choosing a pad that’s proper for you.
Should I’m going with a bag or a quilt?
Quilts are lighter, more versatile, take up less area and often value less than sleeping luggage. Nevertheless, they aren’t essentially for everyone. Should you determine to offer quilts a attempt, be sure to decide one which isn’t too slender, has a heat neck collar and an excellent attachment system. For more details about quilts, see Why Select a Quilt over a Sleeping Bag?
In closing, I’d wish to thank all of the hikers who have been sort sufficient to contribute to this text. I understand that today the web is filled with blogs and Youtube movies extolling the virtues of all types of drugs (“these are the top backpacks of 2019!”, “these are the perfect sleeping luggage for the Appalachian Path!“), and it can be troublesome for people which might be comparatively new to lengthy distance mountaineering to separate the wheat from the chaff, the BBC from the BuzzFeed.
And that in a nutshell is the primary cause I am placing these gear posts together. To create a credible useful resource for aspiring thru-hikers, based mostly on the opinions of a diverse range of experienced ramblers, all of whom have literally walked-the-walk (and used the gear) for hundreds and hundreds of miles.
Disclosure: This submit accommodates some affiliate links, which suggests ‘The Hiking Life’ receives a small fee if you are going to buy an item after clicking on one of many hyperlinks. This comes at no further value to the reader, and helps to help the web site in its persevering with objective to create high quality content material for backpackers and hikers.