Saturday evening was dry and cold, much like the evening of my previous quilt test (described here). In fact, temperatures were, if anything, a touch colder for this test.
The test included both the new quilt and a new sleeping pad. A friend had mentioned a pretty nice sale an a particular inflatable sleeping pad, one that weighed a full pound less than my then-current pad (an original Therm-a-Rest, about thirty years old, though still in great shape). The new pad is a high-tech air mattress, rather than a self-inflating pad, and I wondered about the differences.
The punch line: wow, a lot to learn about sleeping under a backpacking quilt! It works for me, though.
Like any piece of versatile gear, there are many ways to use a backpacking quilt. There’s the zipper at the foot, extending up about 12″ or so: zip it up, or leave it flat. There’s a drawstring at the foot: pull it closed, partially closed, or leave it open? There are clips for straps (the straps come with the quilt) along each of the side edges: leave the quilt flat, or tuck the edges in beneath me or beneath the sleeping pad, use the straps around me, or use the straps around the underside of the pad?
Rolling over wrong under the quilt on a chill night is a, well, refreshing experience. Into my nice, toasty cocoon came this dollop of cold air. Okay, time to tuck the side back in beneath me (I had chosen to forgo the straps, and to tuck the quilt beneath me rather than the pad) and let the cocoon re-warm.
What did I learn?
First, the quilt’s about as warm as I expected.
Second, on warm nights, I’ll keep the quilt flat, or perhaps zip the foot. On cold nights, though, I’ll try using the straps, routing them behind the sleeping pad.
Third, the new sleeping pad leaves me a lot further off the ground than my old pad. This means I have to do slightly different things for a pillow (a thicker pillow).
Fourth, I definitely like the quilt, but the jury’s still out on the new pad.
Just how much weight am I saving with the quilt over a comparable bag? Call the quilt 26 ounces trail weight (including straps and stuff sack), a touch more (an ounce, maybe) than my old bag with a nominal men’s rating of 30°F and women’s rating of 40°F. It seems like, for those bags that have a published women’s rating separate from men’s (or unisex), that the women’s rating reflects my comfort range these days. My quilt has a nominal 10°F rating; assuming that the 10°F spread between men’s and women’s comfort ranges is representative, that would give my quilt about a 20°F comfort rating, and that feels about right: I was dressed lightly, the temperatures were below 30°F, and I was cozy. That puts the quilt on par for warmth with ultralight bags in the 25-30 ounce range (if I want to spend $540, over twice what my quilt cost!). Net: I saved a bunch of money, or I saved somewhere between no weight (the 25 ounces is not trail weight) and 4-12 ounces (the upper end of the range for bags that are more conventional, but still deemed light for their warmth).
Next up: gotta get out backpacking with the new kit!