Are you someone who spends most nights in temperatures well above freezing? Have you found that your sleeping bag is causing you to overheat, sweat and then catch a chill? If so, a camp quilt may be right for you. However, you also know will spend a few nights winter camping or below freezing each year.  It can be hard to justify buying a brand new 0-degree down sleeping bag for just a few trips a year. In that case, a camp quilt may be the right call as well.

shaking out camp quilt

The Camp Quilt Philosophy

A camp quilt is basically half a sleeping bag. Allowing it superior freedom of movement and temperature regulation than a full sleeping bag. Designed to drape over you and attach to your sleeping pad, a quilt provides a top layer of insulation, while letting the mattress insulate your backside.

But what about the cold seeping in from the ground, you may wonder?

Consider this: the insulation in the bottom of your sleeping bag, whether it’s down or synthetic fill, is compressed by your body weight. This means that the fill can’t properly do its job because the compression eliminates most of the air pockets that the insulation uses to trap warm air. Which leaves your pad to be the part of your sleep system that insulates you from the ground. The measure of how much a pad insulates is its R-value. So in other words, camp quilts eliminate the bulk and weight of having a full-zip sleeping bag, without drastically changing the temperature rating.

To be clear, a quilt will not be as warm as a well-sized sleeping bag because sleeping bags eliminate drafts more efficiently once you’re zipped inside. However, quilts aren’t without draft protection. Our quilts utilize side baffles and snap neck closures to minimize drafts; a quilt is much more than just a blanket. While a camp quilt may not match a conventional sleeping bag in terms of draft protection, it outperforms it in terms of ventilation flexibility. Thermal efficiency is paramount to getting restful sleep in the backcountry, and a quilt’s flexibility make it a powerful tool in that regard. 

Therm-a-Rest quilts use SynergyLink™ Connectors to ensure tight integration with your pad and minimize drafts.

two person camp quilt

In sub-freezing temperatures, full-zip sleeping bags are the way to go. It’s just safer.  However, the warmest camp quilts we make are rated to 20F/-6C, making them optimal for camping in temps above freezing. If most of your nights outside are spent above the freezing level, it’s actually more efficient to be equipped with a camp quilt. You’ll be carrying the appropriate amount of insulation, less total weight, and eliminating the overheating cycle many campers experience on warmer nights with traditional sleeping bags.

But perhaps you do camp in below-freezing temps sometimes. Should you eschew the camp quilt option altogether? Not if you are interested in building a versatile and adaptable all-season sleep system.

layering sleep system with camp quilt

The Adaptable Sleep System

Often quilts are considered highly specialized, ultralight-purist-only pieces of equipment. But a huge feature of camp quilts is the ways they integrate with and augment your existing sleep system. What exactly is a “sleep system” you may be asking?  Your sleep system is the total combination of gear that allows you to get a good night’s rest outside.  So while camp quilts may seem specialized, they actually give you the ability to create a versatile, adaptable sleep system.

Take deep winter camping for example. Say you have a four-season sleeping bag that is rated to 0F/-18C, but you really want to get the first descent of this Alaskan peak before the masses hit it. You’re determined to head out anyways, despite the forecast showing a sharp dip into negative temps. You have two options (without borrowing your roomie’s gear) if you want to stay warm: buy a new (and expensive) ultra-warm sleeping bag, essentially giving you two very warm (and bulky) sleeping bags, OR you could purchase a camp quilt, layer it on top of your existing bag thereby adding warmth. Then, when the warm weather rolls back through, you have the perfect sleep solution for summer nights spent under the stars.

Maybe you’ve been hunting for the perfect sleeping bag for a long time to no avail? Maybe you’re craving more freedom of movement and temperature control? Or, perhaps, you’re looking to add versatility to your existing sleep system to make it “perfect?” You could be one of these, all three of them, or non at all and we still recommend you consider the often underestimated yet efficient and adaptable camp quilt.

Check out our selection of sleeping bags and camp quilts.

Updated. Originally published February 18th, 2016.