Backpacking Quilts: A Niche Item Goes Mainstream

March 25, 2019

Ultralight backpacking quilts have been around for years. Now they are one of the leading items of gear used by Appalachian trail thru-hikers. One company in particular, Minnesota-based Enlightened Equipment, has become a go-to for ultralight hikers.

What is a backpacking quilt?

Photo courtesy of Enlightened EquipmentThe Revelation quilt from Enlightened Equipment

Backpacking quilts are essentially down blankets that have been modified to perform in some ways like sleeping bags, but are lighter weight, offer more room to move, and are more adaptable for different uses.

They typically have a tapered or partially enclosed end or toe box, and a way to secure the quilt over top of a sleeping pad. You can often adjust how snugly they fit to find your preferred balance between roominess and warmth.

Quilts are designed to be used in conjunction with a sleeping pad, which provides the insulation underneath you. Most quilts lack hoods, which means that you’d need to bundle up with head and neck warmth if you’re using these in cold-weather. They also lack zippers, which keeps the weight down.  They can be a good, lightweight option for a range of three-season conditions.

Depending on the temperature rating, size, and down fill power, most quilts weigh in the 14 to 28-ounce range and run anywhere from around $250 to $400 and up.

Quilts on the AT

The Trek (an excellent and recommended site geared toward thru-hiking audiences) has taken a survey in recent years of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and the gear they’ve carried. It’s a good indicator of general overall trends in the gear industry, including which items and companies are en vogue at the moment.

In their most recent survey, I was struck by how common backpacking quilts were in 2018 on the AT. Nearly a third of surveyed thru-hikers (29%) used one. Even more striking was that an overwhelming majority used quilts from just one small company, Enlightened Equipment.

Enlightened Equipment

Based in Winona, Minnesota, small Enlightened Equipment specializes in ultralight down quilts, sleeping bags, shelters, and other hiking accessories. Its signature quilt is the Revelation, hands down the most popular quilt in The Trek’s survey.

Based on its popularity, it’s clearly a great product. But what I find really remarkable about it is the insane number of sizes and options you can choose from to custom design your Revelation quilt of choice.

Their easy to use product page allows you to select from six different temperature ratings (0 to 50 degrees), five lengths, four widths, 20 outside fabric colors, 12 inside fabric covers, and two different down fill powers (850 and 950). The price automatically adjusts based on the options you select, with most falling in the $250 to $400 range. You can see the full product specs here.

Will the quilt continue its rise in the ultralight and thru-hiker world? Almost definitely yes. Watch for a proliferation of models and styles from different companies in the years ahead. In the meantime, Enlightened Equipment is pretty clearly the go-to company if you’re interested in exploring this ultralight option yourself.

Hike on!


LEARN MORE

  • Read about how gear companies are recycling down, winter’s most reliable piece of gear.
  • Review some of our picks for sleeping pads that can help keep you warm in all types of weather.
  • Get the latest news on everything gear from our Equipped blog.

 

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.