Lightweight Sleeping bags and Sleeping Quilts for Backpacking have progressed a long way and getting better every year. In 2021 there are so many choices of great bags so I’ve narrowed the field down to the best 5 Sleeping Quilts and the Best 5 Sleeping Bags.
All these were chosen for their quality, lightweight and small pack size. All are a big financial investments but a sleeping bag upgrade is money well spent that will outlast most other pieces of equipment.
Recent years have seen the weight and pack size of sleeping bags reduce and the quality rise. For anyone who still has a bulky, heavy or poor quality bag it is time to consider throwing down some money on an upgrade.
Ultralight Quilts vs Sleeping bags for Thru Hiking
Ultralight Quilts have many advantages over sleeping bags. They are usually cheaper as they use less down and less material to provide the same warmth. With the exception of the foot box area there is usually no down on the bottom of the quilt. It uses straps to secure itself to the sleeping mattress.
Lightweight Quilts are a favourite of Thru Hikers who are trying to save weight for their multi week or multi month hike. But they are not without issues that you should known about.
Once temperatures drop to 30F or below it is easier for a draft to enter a quilt and make it cooler inside, therefore, in colder temperatures a quilt is not always the best option. And if using a quilt in cold temperatures it is more important to have a good mattress that has good insulation or face a cold nights sleep.
The temperature where the person uses the Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts will play a big factor in deciding which one is best. For temperatures 30F (-1C) and above a quilt is the best option. They are usually cheaper, lighter and pack smaller.
Temperatures between 20F (-7C) and 30F (-1C) a sleeping bag keeps in the warmth slightly better than a quilt. At temperature of 20F (-7C) and below a sleeping bag is a way better option than a quilt.
There are no hoods on the quilts. This is not an issue unless the nights are below freezing. Wearing a beanie will be enough to keep the head warm and most hikers carry one with them on all but the warmest hikes.
On the very cold nights a down balaclava would be a great lightweight addition that can also be worn when in camp of when hiking on those crazy cold mornings.
Down vs Synthetic Sleeping Bags
This review is only dealing with the best Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts that are filled with down. It would be unfair not to mention the other option which is synthetic filled bags.
They are heavier and don’t pack to the same compact size as down bags. But they still insulate when wet and are cheaper, therefore many people see their value.
As materials continue to develop their may come a time when synthetic bags are better than down. That point has not been reached yet.
That being said, if you want to save money or are heading to areas where getting your sleeping bag wet would be life threatening, consider a synthetic bag.
Sleeping Bag Temperature Rating
Most of these sleeping bags and quilt manufacturers have self determined the temperature ratings of their bags. As a result they are not always the best guide of what is a comfortable rating. The industry recognised EN 13573 ratings standard is a European quality standard for the sleeping bag industry.
It is expensive for companies to obtain this rating, few lightweight Sleeping Bag or Quilt companies can afford it. I’ve used EN rated bags in the past and find them to be very accurate measure of temperature rating.
The fill weight, or amount of down fill inside the sleeping bag or quilt varies quite a bit between all the manufacturers. For example, the fill weight of the 4 leading quilts vary between 12.5oz-17.5oz, even though they are all rated for 20F (-7C).
This might not seem like much but it can make a difference to the insulation of the bag or quilt. It would be easy to claim that the width or style of the internal baffling could lead one manufacturer to have a competitive advantage over another, and that may be the case.
The way internal baffles are constructed also affect the temperature rating. In some bags the down can be moved within the internal baffles to where it is needed most. I find this feature very annoying.
I want to unzip my bag to regulate the temperature, not wake up in the middle of the night and try to shuffle down within the baffles.
The Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts in the review are rated at 20F (-7C) which is a good functional temperature range that can be used in all but the coldest and warmest of weather.
In my opinion a good nights sleep in cold weather is more important than saving money and weight on a bag unsuited for the cold night, even if they don’t occur every night.
Lightweight Sleeping Bag Pac Size and Stuff Sacks
Keeping a sleeping bag dry while hiking is critically important. Heavy rain, a leaking backpack or a fall when crossing a river can make for an uncomfortable nights sleep at best and a life threatening situation at worst.
Recent years have seen many ultralight hikers make the switch to Dyneema stuff sacks such as those from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. These Uber lightweight, strong and waterproof stuff sacks come in multiple sizes and shapes to fit any sleeping bag and a good investment to keep your down bag dry.
Lightweight Sleeping Bag Price
The best Lightweight Sleeping Bags or Quilts can cost a lot of money but it is money well spent. It is not unusual to keep a quality sleeping bag for 10 year. I kept a quality winter sleeping bag for 20 years before I decided to sell it.
In most cases it is not only money well spent, but one of the best investments you can make. All of the bags listed will last 10 years or more and range in price from US$280-$580.
Warranty and Return Policy
Before purchasing a Lightweight Sleeping Bags or Quilts be sure to check the return policy. Make sure you can return it if you ordered the wrong size. Even better contact the company and chat with them about your concerns about size prior to ordering.
If the stitching starts to fall apart in the first week will they accept a return or not. Most will not accept a return once the bag has been used. And if it is returned after being used it may incur a ‘Cleaning Fee’. Buyer beware.
Anything purchased from REI offers the best consumer protection, closely followed by Amazon with a 30 return policy. In all cases buyer beware, make your choice wisely.
At 26oz (743grams) the Flicker UL 20 is a nice lightweight 20F (-7C) quilt. It is stuffed with the highest grade 950+ down which contributes to the lightweight and quality of the quilt.
To help regulate the temperature there is a full length zip down the centre of the quilt. There is also a draw strap at the base. The full length zip and the draw strap can be used to regulate the temperature on the warmer nights.
These features makes this a nice versatile quilt that can be used in a variety of temperatures. Great for winter hiking in the desert and summer hiking in the mountains.
It also comes in a wide version for those with big bones and a tall version for those over 6ft. This quilt would be perfect for someone wanting a lightweight quilt that can be used both in cold weather and on the warm summer nights.
Weight – 26oz (743grams) Down – 950+ down Fill Weight – Unknown En Rated – No Packsize – 8L
Pros – Lightweight, 950+ down, Can be used on warm and cold nights, wide and tall versions. Cons – No hood, slightly heavier than the other Uber Light Quilts Compare Prices – Feathered Friends Website
Upgraded in 2019, The Ember is now one of the lightest and warmest quilts on the market. The Sea to Summit quilt uses 850+ down and ultra light outer materials. It is also supplied with a small stuff sac that compresses the bag to a very small 5L, not quite as small as the Tier Gear Quenda.
This is the only quilt that has been quality control temperature tested to EN standards. The bag is rated to 14F-25F (-10C-4C) in the comfort zone and and weighs only 25.5oz (725g). It has 500g of down fill which is more than all the other self tested quilts made by other companies. As a result I would trust this bag in colder temperatures more than all the other quilts in this review.
Like the other Quilts it is very versatile in the way it can be used, specially when the weather is warmer. It is also available in other temperature ranges.
*Important* Be sure to double check with the retailer that you are purchasing the model with 850+ down not the older model with 750+ down.
Weight – 25.5oz – 725g Down – 850+ Fill Weight – 17.7oz / 500g En Rated – Yes Pac Size – 5L
At 25.1oz (712g) this is a light quilt. It also shares the smallest pack size with the Sea to Summit Ember 3. When purchasing there is the option to have this bag stuffed with either 850+ or 900+ down and also to have it overfilled with extra down, which is what I would do.
This is a popular quilt for someone who wants the lightest and most compact quilt that money can buy. Ultra light hikers love this bag. Like all the other quilts it has no hood so most backpackers use either a down or fleece beanie to keep the head warm at night.
Ultra light hiker Micheal ‘Grizzly’ Ivey loves the Katabatic Saqatch which is rated at 15F (-9C). He loves the craftsmanship on this quilt and has never had a cold spot.
He has used this quilt on the Colorado Trail (3 Times), Pacific Crest Trail and Superior Hiking Trail. Follow his journeys on his Instagram Page – @grizzly_hikes
There are not too many bad things to say about this quilt except the issue with long wait times for delivery.
Weight – 25.1oz (712grams) Fill Weight – 16.1oz (456g) Down – 850+ or 900+ down EN Rated – No Packsize – 7.5L
Pros – Lightweight, roomy, well made Cons – Wait time times are excessively long – plan many months in advance, No Hood. Compare Prices – Katabatic Website
At 22oz 624grams this is the most ultra light quilt in this review. This small niche brand from Tasmania, Australia is a great option for antipodeans wanting to buy a local brand. It is well made and will suit anyone wanting to seriously lighten up their gear.
It is 30% – 50% cheaper than a Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bag or other high quality brands. It makes a great budget option without the budget quality or low cost materials.
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Like most of the other brands it uses 850+ responsibly sourced water repellant down. It also has the smallest pack size of all the quilts or sleeping bags in this review, packing into a tiny 2.5L compression stuff sack.
If you live in Australia or New Zealand this could be your best option for a lightweight quilt. It certainly is better than or equal to the very popular Katabatic Sawatch or Sea to Summit Ember 3.
The Quenda is also available in many different lengths and temperature ranges: -1C, -7C, -12C.
Weight – 22oz (624grams) Down – 850+ down Fill Weight – 424g EN Rated – No Packsize – 2.5 Litres (Compressed)
Pros – High Quality, 850+ down, reasonably priced, Lightweight Cons – Long waiting times, No Hood Compare Prices – Tier Gear Website
The Feathered Friends Hummingbirdis one of the lightest sleeping bags rated at 20F (-7C). It weighs 24oz (680g) and is stuffed with the highest quality 950+ down which helps keep the weight down.
This is a mummy style bag is suited to someone who wants the lightest bag possible and is not prepared to compromise on quality. The Hummingbird is roomy enough for most people but Feathered Friends have larger models for those wanting more internal room.
Triple Crown Hiker Rob “Stone” Sweeney has used the Hummingbird on the Continental Divide Trail, Arizona Trail, Hayduke Trail, Finger Lakes Trail, Long Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail and The Grand Enchantment Trail. He likes the lightweight, small pack size, build quality and has no issues with the zippers or cords.
Despite washing the bag at the end of every hiking season it is starting to develop some clumping issues. After an amazing 5000miles / 8000km of use it is starting to develop cold spots. The down is getting pushed to the sides when he turn in it, leading to cold spots overnight. Follow his journey on Instagram: @HikingStone
If you want more room inside the bag, look at the wider Swallow or Swift sleeping bags. They have the same high quality materials with slightly larger internal dimension and weight.
Although this back is not EN Rated it has similar specs to the Marmot Phase 20 and RAB Mythic 400 which are both EN Rated. A great lightweight choice.
Weight – 24oz (680grams) Down – 950+ down Fill Weight – 14oz / 397g EN Rated – No Packsize – 9L
Pros – Ultra Lightweight, 950+ down, high quality Cons – Expensive, clumping issues after extended use Compare Prices – Feathered Friends Website
Western Mountaineering make some of the best quality bags but that comes at a high cost. The 29oz (820grams) sleeping bag is the most expensive bag in this review. The reward for spending this much money is a sleeping bag that will last a very long time.
It is a mummy style bag with enough room for all but the widest of people. It uses 850+ down unlike some of the other manufacturers that use the highest rated 950+ down. The bag is rated to 20F (-7C) and Western Mountaineering has a large selection of bags rated at different temperatures.
This is one of the best quality sleeping bags money can buy right now.
Weight – 29oz (820grams) Down – 850+ down Fill Weight – 16oz / 450g EN Rated – No Packsize – 9L
This bag comes in at a bit cheaper than the other ultralight sleeping bags without compromising quality or materials. So for those wanting the best quality at a reasonable price, this is the best option. Like many sleeping bags, the zipper can get stuck from time to time.
Weight – 23oz (660grams) Down – 850+ down Fill Weight – Unknown EN Rated – Yes Packsize – 6.5L
At 23oz / 660g this yet another awesome high quality sleeping bag. Like the Marmot Phase 20 and the Sea to Summit Spark this bag is EN rated so rest assured that it will definitely keep you warm when the temperatures get cold.
This bag is rated to 20F / -7C and is stuffed with high quality 900+ down.
The zip is only half length so it cannot be completely unzipped. This option makes it unsuitable for warm summer nights.
This bag would be perfect for thru hiking the Continental Divide Trail, the Himalaya, Andes or any non summer hiking where temperatures regularly hover near or below freezing.
Weight – 23oz (660grams) Down – 900+ down Fill Weight 14oz / 400g EN Rated – Yes Packsize – 6.5L
Updated way back in 2019 from Sea to Summit. With a weight of only 31oz / 880g this bag is not as light as some of the others but is still high quality.
The bag is EN Rated to 18F / -9C so sleep easy in the knowledge that it will keep you warm in cold weather. With 22oz / 620g of down fill it has the highest amount of down fill of all the bags in this review.
This bag is the roomiest of all the sleeping bags in this review and has a full length zip. Add to this the very small pack size and it makes a great lightweight sleeping bag option.
Weight – 31oz (880grams) Down – 850+ down Fill Weight 22oz / 620g Packsize – 6.5L EN Rated – Yes
Once you have purchased one of the Lightweight Sleeping Bags or Quilts listed above it is time to look after it.
There are several ways to wash a down sleeping bag. The best methods are to hand wash them in a bathtub or on a gentle wash cycle in a front loading washing machine. It is my preference to wash my bag in a front loading washing machine.
1. The first step is to purchase a detergent that is specific for washing down, such as Nikwax or Grangers.
2. I like to pre wash my bag in a bath tub with down detergent prior to putting it in a front loading machine on the gentle cycle. Zip the sleeping bag closed and turn it inside out.
3. Use a dryer on the low or medium heat setting (never hot). Every 30-45 minutes take the bag out to de-clump the wet down that will want to stick together. It will take at least 2 hours to dry most bags, in some cases it can take much longer. It is possible to use tennis balls or small balls inside the dryer to assists with the de clumping.
The bag can be dried without a dryer but it will take longer. If you live in a dry desert then let the dry desert air do the work for you.
Be careful not to expose the bag to too much sunlight. The lightweight fragile material are best not exposed to too much UV rays, one day per year when you wash your bag is fine.
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bag or Quilt for Hiking
Which is the best Lightweight Sleeping Bags or Quilts? Any of the bags listed in this review would make a great option for anyone wanting to lighten up the weight they carry.
What is the Best Ultralight Quilt?
The Sea to Summit Ember 3 is the only quilt that is EN rated. It has the highest amount of down fill in the quilt and will keep you warm when the temperatures drop. For that reason I like this quilt. The Tier Gear Quenda is the lightest of all the quilts in this review and is taking on the bigger niche companies with its high quality product. Overall, it is my best choice for 2020.