Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: Which to Choose?

Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: Ultralight sleeping bag next to a tent on a hilltop during sunset

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Imagine camping under the stars, surrounded by nature’s beauty, but you’re shivering in your sleeping bag or feeling confined in your quilt. It’s a scenario no camper wants to face.

In this post, we’ll answer a common question among thru-hikers and backpackers: ‘Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: Which to Choose?‘ We’ll explain these insulating options and their significance in detail.

Let’s begin.

Key Takeaways

  • Quilts are lighter and more versatile but may allow cold drafts, while sleeping bags provide more comprehensive warmth at the cost of bulk and restricted movement.
  • Consider your priorities – if reducing weight is critical, a quilt may be preferable, but if maximum warmth is essential, a sleeping bag is likely the better option.
  • Factors like intended temperature range, camping style (ground vs hammock), and desired freedom of movement should guide your choice between a quilt or sleeping bag.

What’s the Difference?

You might be wondering, ‘What’s the difference between quilts and sleeping bags?’ Both are designed to keep you warm at night and may appear relatively similar to the untrained eye.

The primary difference between quilts and sleeping bags lies in their overall design:

  • Think of a quilt as a distant relative of a sleeping bag, laying over your body, tucking in around your sides, but lacking a back and hood.
  • Quilts often have short zippers in the foot box and a cinchable drawstring for cold conditions, while sleeping bags fully enclose the sleeper at all times.

Quilts Unveiled: Pros & Cons

Quilts or Sleeping Bags: A person holding a quilt in a scenic mountainous high altitude region

Quilts, beloved by ultralight enthusiasts, resemble oversized blankets tailored for outdoor enthusiasts seeking warmth and comfort without the extra bulk.

Pros of Quilts:

  • Lightweight: Quilts are typically around 10% lighter than sleeping bags with similar temperature ratings in our research.
  • Space-Saving: Their compact design takes up less space in your backpack, leaving room for other essential gear.
  • Temperature Regulation: Quilts, with a non-restrictive design, offer excellent temperature control for easy adjustment on warmer or cooler nights.
  • Freedom of Movement: Quilts, lacking long zippers and hoods, enable more natural sleeping positions and easy movement. This vital for hammock campers.
  • Easy Customization: Many manufacturers such as El Coyote (US) and GramXpert (EU), provide customization for fill power, fabric, width, and length.

Cons of Quilts:

  • Draughts: Quilts may not offer the same level of protection against cold draughts as traditional sleeping bags, particularly in sub-zero temperatures.
  • Learning Curve: Using quilts effectively may require a bit of practice, as you need to learn how to secure them to your sleeping pad to prevent drafts.
  • Head Coverage: Quilts lack a hood, so you’ll need to rely on additional headgear like beanies or hoods from your clothing layers to keep your head warm.
  • Setup Time: Quilts can take a bit longer to set up compared to simply climbing into a sleeping bag.

Some popular lightweight or ultralight quilt options include:

Make / ModelWeight (g)Seasonlity
Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX Quilt1lb 2.8oz (532)3-Season
ZenBivy Light Quilt 40° Synthetic1lb 10.8oz (760)3-Season
Sea to Summit Ember Ultralight Down Quilt 25F1lb 9.5oz (725)4-Season
Enlightened Equipment Revelation Sleeping Quilt1lb 4.8oz (591)4-Season

Sleeping Bags Demystified: Pros & Cons

Quilts or Sleeping Bags: An ultralight down sleeping bag on a grassy hilltop during sunset

Sleeping bags, like portable cocoons, shield against the elements and have evolved to cater to diverse camper preferences in the last decade.

Pros of Sleeping Bags:

  • All-Encompassing Warmth: Sleeping bags cocoon your entire body, providing warmth from head to toe, which is especially valuable in frigid conditions.
  • Minimal Setup: They are easy to use; just climb in, zip up, and you’re ready to go.
  • Diverse Options: The sleeping bag market offers various designs catering to side sleepers, tall individuals, and more, ensuring a fit for everyone.

Cons of Sleeping Bags:

  • Bulk and Weight: Sleeping bags can be bulkier and slightly heavier, which makes them less suitable for the most avid ultralight backpackers.
  • Limited Movement: Their snug design may restrict freedom of movement and natural sleeping positions, especially for restless sleepers.

Some popular lightweight or ultralight sleeping bag options include:

Make / ModelWeight (g)Seasonlity
Thermarest Hyperion 32F/0C Sleeping Bag1lb 0.2oz (462)3-Season
Sierra Designs Get Down 35°1lb 12oz (770)3-Season
Sea to Summit Spark Ultralight Sleeping Bag1lb 10oz (745)4-Season
Sierra Designs Get Down 20°2lb (930)4-Season

Quilts and Sleeping Bags: Comparsion Table

Here’s a quick comparison table summarizing the main differences between these two options covered in the last sections:

FeatureQuiltsSleeping Bags
WeightLightweight, around 10% lighter than similar sleeping bagsTend to be slightly heavier than quilts
Packed SizeMore compact, take up less space in backpackBulkier than quilts
Temperature RegulationExcellent temperature control for easy adjustmentTrap heat well but can lead to overheating on warmer nights
Freedom of MovementAllow natural sleeping positions and easy movementRestrictive design can limit movement and sleeping positions
Draft ProtectionMay allow cold drafts, especially in sub-zero tempsCocoon design protects entire body from drafts
Head CoverageLack hoods, require beanie or clothing layer for head warmthUsually have insulated hoods to warm head and face
Ease of UseRequire some setup to secure quilt properlySimple to use, just climb in and zip up
CustomizationMany brands offer custom options for fabric, fill, sizeStandard options, less customization

Quilt vs Sleeping Bag: Which to Choose?

So, which option should you choose for your next backpacking trip?

You should choose a sleeping bag if…

  • You aim for the most warmth without worrying about cold drafts at night.
  • You’re okay with carrying a bit more weight to ensure a bit more security.
  • You appreciate a fast and easy setup when preparing your bed for the night.
  • You mainly plan to do your sleeping on solid ground, not in a hammock.

You should choose a quilt if…

  • You are a beginner, and this is your first camping trip.
  • You’re working on lightening your pack ounce by ounce.
  • You like the freedom to move or spread out while you sleep.
  • You will do hammock camping in the future.


In summary, quilts offer versatility, breathability, and freedom of movement, while sleeping bags provide comprehensive insulation and better protection against drafts, particularly in colder conditions.

The ideal choice depends on factors such as climate, terrain, activity level during sleep, weight considerations, and personal preferences.

For most campers, a sleeping bag strikes a good balance of comfort, convenience, and warmth. However, dedicated ultralight backpackers aiming for minimal weight might find a well-designed quilt a good alternative.

We hope that this post made your thought process a bit clearer, and you now have a better understanding of what you should go for. Happy camping.

Interested in an ultralight quilt or sleeping bag? Check out our TOP 5 guides for the lightest options on the planet.


Are there any drawbacks to using a quilt instead of a sleeping bag?

The main drawbacks of using a quilt over a traditional sleeping bag are less insulation and draft blocking, more required user effort to secure it properly, potential cold spots from gaps in quilting coverage, the learning curve to use it effectively, lack of an insulated hood, and the need to pair it with a sleeping pad. Quilts have an open design that increases ventilation but reduces warmth compared to a sleeping bag’s encapsulating structure. You also have to be diligent about wrapping and attaching the quilt around your sleeping pad to prevent it from shifting as you sleep. For some conditions and campers, quilts can provide a lighter and less restrictive option, but they require more finesse to use properly compared to simply zipping into a sleeping bag.

Should I get a quilt or a sleeping bag?

The choice between a quilt and a sleeping bag depends on your specific needs and preferences. Quilts are like oversized blankets, offering lightweight versatility and freedom of movement, making them ideal for ultralight backpackers. However, they may not provide the same level of warmth in extreme cold conditions.

On the other hand, sleeping bags are like cozy fortresses against the elements, providing reliable warmth and protection, but they can be bulkier and heavier. Consider your unique camping conditions, mobility preferences, and comfort requirements when deciding between the two.

How much lighter are quilts than sleeping bags?

Quilts are generally lighter than sleeping bags, making them a preferred choice for ultralight backpackers and those looking to shed pack weight. On average, quilts can be around 10% lighter than equivalent sleeping bags, depending on factors like size, materials, and temperature ratings.

However, the exact weight difference varies between brands and models, so it’s essential to compare specific products to determine the precise weight savings for your needs.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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