I don’t own a zero rated sleeping bag anymore. Instead, I have a 20 degree bag and a 20 degree quilt. Typically I use the quilt for most camping and then when it gets too cool (typically in the under 40 range) due to me moving and causing drafts, I’ll switch to the bag. Then, when it’s even colder (I’ve been down to near zero) I simply use the quilt over the sleeping bag and I’ve been plenty warm – even more so than my old 0 degree. The bulk isn’t much more than what a real 0 degree bag would be. Things like my phone can be placed in the zippered pocket on the outside of my sleeping bag and kept warm enough by the quilt.
Quilts are becoming increasingly popular among hikers, backpackers and mountaineers because they are lighter, less bulky and more adaptable than mummy sleeping bags. Unlike a sleeping bag, a quilt leaves your back in direct contact with the sleeping pad (the bottom of the quilt is open) and doesn’t have any zipper. However, it is typically big enough to be partially tucked under your body. The main argument for using a quilt instead of a sleeping bag is that the insulation on the underside of a sleeping bag gets smashed by your body weight and is thus just an excessive weight to carry (note that smashed insulation provides very little warmth). Typically quilts also feature a foot box for better insulation in the feet area and come with straps so that they can be attached to a sleeping pad. Please note that a quilt is always used together with a sleeping pad – unless you want to have your back on the bare ground.
INSULATION: High quality goose and duck down with fill powers of 800, 850, 900, and 950 provide excellent insulation by weight and are widely preferred by backpackers because they’re so lightweight. In addition to excellent compressibility, quilts insulated with down will last for decades of use if properly cared for. Some manufacturers only offer down that’s been treated with a water-repellent coating, while others prefer to offer it unadulterated. Down is naturally water-resistant so the jury is still out on whether “treated” down lasts as long and insulates as well in the real world vs. a testing lab. Regardless, with a little care and common sense you can keep a down quilt dry by carrying it in a waterproof stuff stack, picking good campsites that don’t flood in rain, and airing it out occasionally in the sun.
The Paria Thermodown 15 quilt is incredibly warm as it features no less than 22 ounces of 700-fill power down. However, with a weight of more than two pounds, it is also the heaviest products in this review. The Paria quilt has a lower limit rating at 15 F and thus it is perfect for backpacking in relatively cold weather. It has a very light and breathable shell and comfortable inner layer. The Paria quilt comes with a stuff sack for easy storage and has two straps to easily secure it to your sleeping pad. It can also be closed up to form a standard mummy sleeping bag in case that temperatures drop too low. The Paria Thermodown 15 quilt is a great option for beginners as well as more experienced backpackers.
Quilts, unlike blankets, are made of at least two layers of fabric with a warmth-inducing filler in between, with decorative stitching to hold the whole quilt sandwich together. Depending on what materials are used, a quilt can either be quite lightweight and breathable (great for warm-weather spots) or extremely warm and cozy. Typically, you can find that information in the product description (usually it’s described as light-, medium- or heavy-weight), but generally cotton is lighter-weight while materials like wool or microfiber will offer more warmth. Here, the best quilts for your needs.