For all the minimalist backpackers and bikepackers, thru-hikers, and ounce-counters out there, the lightweight gear world is full of options to complete your sleep system. We’ve broken our top picks for 2019 below into two categories: ultralight sleeping bags, which include both traditional mummy and hoodless models designed to be combined with a down puffy, and our favorite ultralight quilts that either attach to a sleeping pad or are used in a hammock. For more background information, see our sleeping bag/quilt comparison tables and buying advice below the picks.
Temperature rating: 30°F (also available in a 20°F version)
Weight: 1 lb. 5.3 oz.
Fill: 11.5 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Extremely well-built and warmer than the temperature rating suggests.
What we don’t: Trim-fitting and a bit heavier than other 30-degree bags.
If you haven’t yet heard of Feathered Friends, we recommend that you get acquainted. This Seattle-based down specialist uses premium materials, has a diverse selection of products, and makes almost everything in the U.S. And because they only sell online and through their one retail location across the street from the REI flagship, we think you get more bang for buck than the other ultralight elephant in the room: Western Mountaineering. Both make top-notch sleeping bags for serious outdoorspeople, but Feathered Friends is tough to beat.
For 3-season use, the Hummingbird UL is our favorite ultralight sleeping bag on the market. It’s stuffed with a generous 11.5 ounces of 950-fill goose down, has a thin but water-resistant 10-denier Pertex Endurance shell, and comes in at just 1 pound 5.3 ounces for the 30-degree version (in our experience, Feathered Friends bags run warmer than their listed ratings). And compared apples-to-apples with the popular Western Mountaineering UltraLite below, the 20-degree Hummingbird UL is a full 5 ounces lighter and still $16 cheaper. For a bit more space to toss and turn, check out the Feathered Friends Swallow and Swift, two similar bags with slightly roomier dimensions.
See the Feathered Friends Hummingbird See the Women's FF Egret
Best Budget Ultralight Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 30°F (also available in a 15°F version)
Weight: 1 lb. 3.8 oz.
Fill: 8.5 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Light and inexpensive for what you get.
What we don’t: Less down than competing options from Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering.
For the value seekers out there, REI Co-op’s hardgoods have seen a dramatic increase in quality in recent years, and the Magma sleeping bag is case in point. For $319, you get a warm and well-built 30-degree bag that weighs just 1 pound 3.8 ounces—almost 2 ounces less than the Feathered Friends Hummingbird above. In addition, the shell is a 15-denier Pertex, which is more durable than the 10D Hummingbird, and the shoulder and waist dimensions are more generous for a roomier night’s sleep. Dollar for dollar, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better ultralight sleeping bag.
The REI Magma isn’t perfect, however. The 8.5 ounces of 850-fill-power down falls short of competing 30-degree bags from Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering. Yes, the Magma is ISO-rated, but the “30” in the product name refers to the Lower Limit and not the Comfort rating, which is something that we don’t like to push in the backcountry. In practice, the REI feels more like a mid-to-upper-30s bag, which puts its weight and price in a slightly more realistic perspective. That said, we still love the price and quality offered here, and for more warmth, REI sells a Magma 15 version at 1 pound 12.2 ounces and $369.
See the Men's REI Magma 30 See the Women's REI Magma 30
Best of the Rest
Temperature rating: 35°F
Weight: 1 lb.
Fill: 8 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Incredibly light and a great option for minimalists and summer thru-hikers.
What we don’t: Not warm enough for the alpine.
At 1 pound even for a mummy bag, now we’re getting into some serious ultralight territory. For those who don’t know, Western Mountaineering is a legendary gear manufacturer based in California that has been making high-end sleeping bags for decades. Their bags are extremely well-built and come in a ton of options covering every temperature and shape range. For ounce-counters and summer thru-hikers, the HighLite is tough to beat with 8 ounces of 850-fill down and a 35-degree rating. All told, you won’t find a lighter bag without moving to the hoodless, half-bag, or 40-degree options below.
Where does the Western Mountaineering HighLite fall short? The bag has a completely trimmed-down feature set: no draft collar, a minimalist hood that stretches the definition of the term “mummy,” box stitching instead of continuous baffles, and a half-length zipper (we find that this has a large impact on your ability to ventilate). This all means that the HighLite should not be thought of an alpine sleeping bag—summer temperatures at elevation often dip down to around freezing or lower, which will push its limits. But for summer thru-hikers looking for the lightest possible option, it’s an ultralight staple and for good reason. And for more fully featured UL bags from Western Mountaineering, see the UltraLite and SummerLite below.
See the Western Mountaineering HighLite
Temperature rating: 20˚F (also available in a 32˚ version)
Weight: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Fill: 13 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: Zoned insulation offers loft and warmth where it counts.
What we don’t: Trim-fitting, even for an ultralight bag.
Therm-a-Rest is no stranger to the world of outdoor sleeping, and is best known for their popular lineup of backpacking pads. And although the company is relatively new to sleeping bags, we’re very impressed with what they’ve come up with: a collection that comprises both down and synthetic options for everything from ultralight backpacking to winter camping. Their Hyperion is the lightest fully featured 20-degree bag on this list, clocking in at just 1 pound 4 ounces (the hoodless, zipperless Tanager below is 1.4 ounces lighter). Compared to the Western Mountaineering UltraLite below, you get similar amounts of down (and the Therm-a-Rest contains higher fill-power down) at a massive 9-ounce weight-savings.
The Hyperion achieves this warmth for weight with down that’s concentrated where it counts: 70-percent on the top and sides and 30-percent on the back. But it does come with a few compromises. For one, at 57 inches in the shoulders, 49.5 at the hip, and 43 in the footbox, it’s noticeably narrow, which isn’t great news for those with large frames or who turn over during the night. Second, you’ll give up some ventilation and versatility with the half-zip. Last, with no draft collar or tube, you don’t get the coziness or protection of some competing models. But at $410 for a 20-degree ultralight bag (that sounds expensive, but look at the competition), the Hyperion offers a great mix of warmth, comfort, and relative affordability.
See the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 1 lb. 2.6 oz.
Fill: 12.6 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Super comfortable and warm for its weight.
What we don’t: Very thin materials and no zipper for ventilation.
For those who saw off the end of their toothbrush or use trekking poles as tent poles, a hoodless sleeping bag is a similarly minimalist option. Here’s the theory: if you’re already packing a down jacket and beanie, which basically all ultralighters do, why carry the extra weight of a hood on your bag? Within this niche product category, the Feathered Friends Tanager is our favorite design, with a large opening at the collar for easy in and out and a drawcord that cinches the bag right under your chin. Rated 10 degrees warmer than our top-ranked Hummingbird and clocking in at almost 3 ounces less, its warmth for the weight undeniably is impressive. We must admit, we initially were skeptical, but the Tanager has kept us warm throughout many chilly mountain nights.
The specs are impressive, but it’s important to keep in mind what you give up with such a limited feature set. Unlike a sleeping quilt, the zipperless design of the Feathered Friends Tanager does not allow you to open up the bag. With no option for ventilation along the side, we overheated quickly on warm nights. Additionally, the 7 x 5-denier outer fabric is so thin that it appears almost translucent, so we recommend treating the bag with a great deal of care. Finally, in particularly cold weather, we do miss the ability to tuck our head inside closer to our body’s heat. But for the goldilocks of temperatures (not too hot, not too cold), the Tanager offers everything you need and nothing you don’t... Read in-depth review
See the Feathered Friends Tanager 20
Temperature rating: 20°F
Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz.
Fill: 16 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Warmer than the SummerLite and HighLite.
What we don’t: 5 ounces heavier than the 20-degree Feathered Friends Hummingbird.
A good number of the sleeping bags on this list are designed for summer adventuring, but the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is a serious step up. With 16 ounces of 850-fill down and a 20°F temperature rating, it’s much more alpine-centric than the HighLite above and SummerLite below. You also get a plush draft collar and hood, continuous baffles, and a respectable weight of less than 2 pounds. This bag may be overkill for warm weather and low elevations, but it provides more security for mountain environments and shoulder seasons when temperatures can really drop.
The biggest competitor to the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is the 20-degree version of the Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL listed above. Interestingly, the UltraLite has a higher fill weight (16 oz. vs. 14 oz.), although the Hummingbird uses ultra-lofty 950-fill-power down that offsets some of that difference. On the flip side, the Western Mountaineering is a notable 5 ounces heavier and $16 more expensive, which is what made the difference for us. Both are excellent ultralight 20-degree bags, but we give the slight nod to the Feathered Friends.
See the Western Mountaineering UltraLite
Temperature rating: 40°F (also available in 5, 18, and 28° versions)
Weight: 12 oz.
Fill: 6.3 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Crazy light with the wet-weather assurance of hydrophobic down.
What we don’t: Only recommended for mid-summer use.
If you think the options above are ultralight, you ain’t seen nothing yet. At just 12 ounces, the 40-degree Spark is the lightest fully featured sleeping bag on this list and comes complete with a hood and zipper. What’s more, it features hydrophobic down and packs smaller than a 1-liter Nalgene in the included compression sack. Sure, the Spark can’t compare with the picks above in terms of warmth, and we only recommend it for those balmy summer nights, but these specs truly are impressive, even for a 40-degree bag. For example, the 38-degree Montbell Down Hugger below will cost you 4.3 ounces and a significant $120 more.
Keep in mind that versatility is limited with such a lightweight bag. To put it in perspective, the 20-degree UltraLite above contains nearly three times the total amount of down as the Spark. And while the 1/3-length zipper provides significantly more ventilation and ease of entry than the zipperless Tanager, it is a noticeable compromise from a full-length zipper. Last, take note that the 10-denier shell fabric of the Spark requires significant care when packing or sleeping outside on rough ground. But despite its shortcomings, the ultralight and ultra-compressible Spark will disappear into your pack or bike pannier better than just about any other sleeping bag, making it a solid choice for mid-summer outings at low elevations.
See the Men's Sea to Summit Spark See the Women's Sea to Summit Flame
Temperature rating: 38˚F (also comes in a 23˚ version)
Weight: 1 lb. 0.3 oz.
Fill: 7 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: Integrated stretch makes this a supremely comfortable bag.
What we don’t: Pricey for its temperature rating.
Montbell’s Down Hugger couldn’t have a more appropriate name. A creative take on the standard mummy bag, the Down Hugger pairs diagonal panels of woven fabric with elasticized thread for a roomy, slightly stretchy bag that—you guessed it—hugs your body. The bag’s measurements (53-75 inches in the shoulders and 44-62 inches in the knees) indicate just how much it can expand and contract. As a result, it’s one of the best options for larger folks or side sleepers, but it can also insulate smaller bodies without the typical dead air space that can occur with overly roomy sleeping bags.
In terms of features, the Down Hugger is premium through and through. The 8-denier shell fabric is made with nylon that Montbell claims to be one and a half times more abrasion-resistant than fabrics of a similar weight. The 3/4-length zipper is two-way, which means you have the option of ventilating at the shoulders or the knees. Even the included compression sack oozes quality, with slightly stretchy fabric for easy packing. Accolades aside, $419 is a big pill to swallow for a 38-degree bag, especially when you consider that the Sea to Summit Spark above offers comparable warmth for $120 and 4.3 ounces less.
See the Montbell Down Hugger 900
Temperature rating: 40˚F
Weight: 1 lb.
Fill: 8 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Full-length zipper and plenty of insulation in a lightweight package.
What we don’t: Small zipper is prone to breaking.
Big Agnes makes some of our favorite lightweight tents, so it comes as no surprise that their ultralight Pluton sleeping bag makes an appearance here. At 1 pound even, the Pluton is the lightest model in their lineup but doesn’t skimp on the details. Half of the bag’s weight is devoted to 850-fill hydrophobic down (that’s 1.7 ounces more down than the Spark above), while the other half manages to accommodate a full-length, two-way zipper and hood with drawcord. We’re used to seeing manufacturers make compromises in zipper length to achieve low weights, but we appreciate that the Pluton allows you to open up the bag for full ventilation or use as a blanket.
The Pluton’s specs are remarkable, especially when you consider its price of $350. However, there are a couple of features that cause us concern, especially in terms of durability and comfort. First, the YKK #3 zipper is noticeably thin and will be much more prone to failure than the more standard #5 zippers found on most ultralight sleeping bags. Second, larger sleepers will find the Pluton’s dimensions to be somewhat restrictive. Last, the Big Agnes does not include a compression sack, which you’ll almost certainly need for streamlining your load, so you most people can add in that extra cost.
See the Big Agnes Pluton UL 40
Temperature rating: 32°F
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Fill: 9 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: More features than the HighLite above and slightly warmer.
What we don’t: $100 pricier than the REI Magma.
If you’re curious about the Western Mountaineering HighLite above but want a bit more in the way of features and warmth, the SummerLite is another nice option. First and foremost, you get an extra ounce of 850-fill down, bumping the temperature rating down to 32°F, along with a draft tube along the zipper for extra loft and insulation. In addition, the SummerLite has continuous baffles, which allow you to move the insulation around your body depending on the conditions (we’ve found this only mildly helpful in practice, but it does add some versatility). And at just 1 pound 3 ounces, it’s slightly warmer and lighter than the REI Magma above.
To be sure, the SummerLite demonstrates the depth of Western Mountaineering’s ultralight sleeping bag lineup. It’ll add an extra 3 ounces to your pack compared to the HighLite, but the added features and boost in warmth make the SummerLite feel more like a true mummy experience. However, the Magma offers a very similar fill weight for a notable $100 less, which is why we rank it higher here. And even with the manufacturer-provided 32-degree rating, the SummerLite isn’t truly alpine-ready. For that, see the Western Mountaineering UltraLite above.
See the Western Mountaineering SummerLite
Temperature rating: 40˚F (also available in a 50˚ version)
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Fill: 9.2 oz. of 650-fill down
What we like: $100 less expensive than any other bag on this list.
What we don’t: Lower-quality down and heavy for the temperature rating.
Premium materials that are both lightweight and durable come at a cost, creating an unfortunate barrier to entry for some. Luckily, Marmot offers an ultralight sleeping bag with a price tag that competes even with some more traditional budget sleeping bags. On the upside, the 40-degree Micron is packed with features, including hydrophobic down, an internal pocket, and a full-length zipper that extends through the foot box. We especially love this feature, which—unlike many of the options above—allows for full ventilation on warm nights and it even opens into a lofty blanket. And at only $159, the Micron is a tremendous value.
However, for seasoned ultralight enthusiasts, you get what you pay for with the Marmot Micron. Its 1-pound-6-ounce build isn’t competitive with other 40-degree bags (the Montbell Down Hugger and Sea to Summit Spark above weigh 16.3 and 12 ounces respectively), and the Micron is even heavier than many 20-degree models here. And with the 650-fill down and 20-denier shell, you don’t get premium materials, but keep in mind that you’re not paying for them either. All in all, the Micron is a more durable choice than most bags included here and inexpensive to boot, which is why we’ve included it on our list.
See the Marmot Micron 40
Temperature rating: 32˚F
Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Fill: 9 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: A lot of versatility for a very low weight.
What we don’t: The wrap-around zipper is overkill for some.
Therm-a-Rest’s Hyperion above is a great choice for ounce counters, but those in search of a roomier and more versatile bag should consider the Ohm. With premium 900-fill hydrophobic down, it’s light and packable for its weight, but the comfort-first design is what’s truly impressive. The hoodless Ohm features a semi-rectangular shape that makes it less restrictive than many ultralight mummy bags, and the full-length zip extends through the footbox, allowing you to zip the bag open into a blanket. For sleeping in warm conditions or those who run warm, the Ohm is a temperature-regulating champ.
With the added weight of a full-length zipper, the Ohm certainly isn’t the lightest option in its class. Feathered Friends' Tanager, for example, clocks in at a comparable 1 pound 2.6 ounces but keeps you warm down to 20 degrees. Even Therm-a-Rest’s own Hyperion 32 is a lighter 16 ounces, and you get the added protection of a hood. But neither of these options can compete with the Ohm in terms of versatility, especially for larger frames or warm sleepers. And couples take note: you can zip two Ohms together for a comfortable but still lightweight two-person sleep system.
See the Therm-a-Rest Ohm
Temperature rating: 25˚/45˚F
Weight: 15.5 oz.
Fill: 8.7 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Unique insulation patterning eliminates a ton of weight.
What we don’t: The much warmer Tanager weighs only 3 ounces more.
We’ll wrap up our sleeping bag picks with a unique offering from Feathered Friends: the alpine-specific Vireo UL. Like the Tanager above, the Vireo is a hoodless, zipperless bag designed to be worn with a warm down jacket. But Feathered Friends took it to the next level in the name of weight savings, concentrating most of the down on the lower half of the bag (this means that you must bring a down puffy, and potentially a warm one at that). In the end, the Vireo is 3.1 ounces lighter than the Tanager but potentially almost as warm—you get insulation down to 25 degrees for the lower body and 45 degrees on top.
If you’re going to spend the night out in sub-freezing temperatures but don’t want the weight and bulk of a bag like the UltraLite, the Vireo is an intriguing choice. That said, for just 4.5 ounces more, you could have more full-body coverage (including a hood) with a bag like the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion. And for warmer temperatures, we’d certainly point you toward a more versatile and lighter option like the Sea to Summit Spark above. All in all, the Vireo is an extremely niche piece, but beloved by alpine climbers as a great sub-1-pound alternative to the shiver bivy.
See the Feathered Friends Vireo UL
Temperature rating: 30˚F (also available in 10, 20, and 40˚ versions)
Weight: 1 lb. 1.9 oz.
Fill: 12.4 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Super customizable and enclosed toe box helps with cold feet.
What we don’t: Plastic attachment buckles seem fragile.
Sleeping quilts are the bread and butter of Minnesota-based Enlightened Equipment, so it’s no surprise to see their Enigma at the top of our list for 2019. This quilt packs a serious punch with a whopping 12.4 ounces of down—that’s more than most sleeping bags listed above—and it’s all concentrated along the front and side the body. Further, Enlightened Equipment quilts are handmade and can be customized into a variety of sizes (16 combinations of length and circumference), and you have the option of 850- or 950-fill down, along with a whole range of temperature ratings. Priced at a reasonable $290, the Enigma is our top choice for sleeping quilt fans and skeptics alike.
What are the shortcomings of the Enlightened Equipment Enigma? We like the elastic straps that attach it to a pad—or cinch the quilt closed, sleeping-bag-style—but we question the durability of their accompanying plastic clips, especially considering they’ll often be sandwiched between your body and the ground. And while we chose the Enigma for its draft-free enclosed toe box, Enlightened Equipment also makes the popular Revelation, which features a small zipper and drawstring at the feet that allows for more versatility as a blanket. Finally, as is the case with most cottage-industry brands, be sure to factor in a significant wait time. Most Enlightened Equipment products are made to order, which is great for customization, but products from larger companies like Feathered Friends and Western Mountaineering often are available immediately.
See the Enlightened Equipment Enigma
Best Ultralight Quilt for Hammocks
Temperature rating: 20˚F (also available in a 50˚ version)
Weight: 15.3 oz.
Fill: 11 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: For hammock sleepers, you get great bang for your buck with premium materials and custom sizing.
What we don’t: Too short to wrap fully closed.
The name may be a mouthful, but the Loco Libre Operator Series Ghost Pepper Quilt is streamlined in every other way. Not only is it the lightest 20-degree sleep system on this list (the Feathered Friends Tanager above comes in second and is 3.3 ounces heavier), but it’s priced at a reasonable $264 (you’ll pay up or down $12 for longer or shorter versions). And the 70-inch standard quilt is packed with features and customizations: snaps and a drawcord at the footbox allow you to alternate between quilt and blanket, and you can choose between size and colors, opt in or out for sleeping pad attachments, and more.
The Ghost Pepper is a fantastic option for sleeping in a hammock and those who really wish to pare down the weight, but there are limitations. For those sleeping on the ground, the design certainly isn’t as warm as other 20-degree options, and especially if you opt for the version without sleeping pad connector straps. In addition, the narrow 50- or 55-inch build means you’re essentially giving up the option of cinching down the quilt like a sleeping bag in colder weather (the Western Mountaineering NanoLite, for reference, is 68 inches at the shoulders). But for hammock sleepers looking for an ultralight quilt, the 20-degree Loco Libre is purpose-built for just that.
See the Loco Libre Ghost Pepper Quilt
Best Hybrid Quilt/Sleeping Bag
Temperature rating: 30°F (also available in 20 and 40˚ versions)
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
Fill: 11.6 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: Versatility of a quilt with the warmth of a sleeping bag.
What we don’t: Heavy compared to other quilts.
If we had one word to describe the Flicker UL from Feathered Friends, it would be “versatile.” On one hand, the Flicker has nearly identical specs as the Hummingbird UL sleeping bag above, with 11.6 ounces of 950-fill down (the Hummingbird has 11.5), very similar weights, and a full-length zipper. On the other hand, with no hood and a cinchable footbox, it can be opened up like a quilt in warm weather. It’s tough to categorize the Flicker UL, but at the end of the day, it’s both quilt and sleeping bag, which is quite an impressive feat.
The biggest point of differentiation between the Flicker UL and other quilts on this list is the full-length zipper. While some might complain that a zipper adds weight, others will appreciate the versatility. For example, the Loco Libre Ghost Pepper above may offer a superior warmth-to-weight ratio, but that’s if you get it just right—any movement in the night can expose your body to cold drafts. On the other hand, 1 pound 6 ounces is heavy for most quilt fans. In the end, we recommend the Flicker as a nice all-in-one option for those on the fence between sleeping bag and quilt.
See the Feathered Friends Flicker UL
Best of the Rest
Temperature rating: 20˚F (also available in 10 and 30˚ versions)
Weight: 1 lb. 3.1 oz.
Fill: 13.7 oz. of 950-fill down
What we like: The best warmth-to-weight of any quilt on this list.
What we don’t: Slightly less durable and customizable than the Enigma above.
A favorite among thru-hikers, the Zpacks Solo is a standout quilt with a whopping 13.7 ounces of down in a 19.1-ounce build. While most other manufacturers opt for 850- and 900-fill-power down, Zpacks uses ultra-premium 950-fill, tying for best warmth-to-weight ratio with the Feathered Friends Flicker UL below. Plus, you get a generous 60 inches across at the shoulders (or 65-inch if you opt for the “Broad”), which allows for greater versatility than a narrower model like the 50-inch Loco Libre above. With a center back strap, the Zpacks can wrap around a sleeping pad or even cinch closed around your body.
In the end, it was a close call between the Zpacks and Enlightened Equipment Enigma above for our top pick. Similar to the Enigma, the Solo has a baffle design that’s patterned vertically in the body and horizontally at the feet, ensuring that down is shared between the footbox and the rest of the bag. Both bags offer enclosed footboxes, sleeping bag attachment straps, and rear closure buckles, although the Enigma has two compared to the Solo’s one (a benefit for side sleepers or folks that move a lot during the night). Although warmer, the Zpacks has a slightly less durable fabric (7D vs. 10D) and is offered in a smaller range of sizes (9 vs. 16), which is why we have it here.
See the Zpacks 20F Solo Quilt
Temperature rating: 38˚F
Weight: 11 oz.
Fill: 6.5 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Extremely lightweight for warm temperatures and low elevations.
What we don’t: Pricy and low on down fill—this truly is a summer quilt.
Western Mountaineering has made some of the best ultralight sleeping bags on the market for decades, so we were very excited when they introduced quilts to their lineup. The first thing you’ll notice about the NanoLite is the weight: at 11 ounces, it’s the lightest quilt on our list, and one of the least insulated. But we love the concept of a quilt for warm weather—unlike lightweight sleeping bags with the 1/3-length zip, the NanoLite allows much more versatility. Drape it across your body on warm nights, or cinch the back all the way up when the mercury drops. Notably, the NanoLite has a generous shoulder girth of 68 inches (allowing it to wrap all the way your body) along with an insulated collar.
It's important to keep in mind that the NanoLite’s use definitely is limited to summer nights and lower elevations. It has approximately half the down fill as the 30-degree Enlightened Equipment Enigma above, which certainly gives us pause. In addition, $345 is fairly steep for such a limited temperature range, especially considering that the same amount of money could get you a fully featured mummy bag like the Western Mountaineering HighLite above (albeit at 5 additional ounces). But for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or bikepacking near sea level, the NanoLite’s combination of weight and versatility is second to none.
See the Western Mountaineering NanoLite Quilt
Temperature rating: 32˚F (also available in a 20˚ version)
Weight: 15 oz.
Fill: 9 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: A bit less drafty than other quilts.
What we don’t: Doesn’t come in a large range of sizes.
We’ve been impressed by Therm-a-Rest’s sleeping bags, so when the Seattle-based company released a new ultralight quilt earlier this year, it definitely piqued our interest. Available in both 20- and 32-degree options, the Vesper is stuffed with premium 900-fill hydrophobic down and comes in at an impressive sub-1-pound weight. And a few noteworthy features set it apart from other quilts here: rather than separating the baffles with a line of draft-prone stitches, Therm-a-Rest uses mesh walls to keep down in its place. Further, the Vesper is designed with an extra dose of loft along the perimeter of the back’s opening, which does a nice job of sealing out drafts.
The Vesper 32 is significantly lighter than our top-ranked Enlightened Equipment, but the Enigma makes up for it with over 3 ounces more down (albeit with a slightly lower fill power). Further, the Therm-a-Rest is priced higher at $30 more, lacks rear cinches, and is not available in a range of sizes (Enlightened Equipment quilts can be custom-fit with 16 different size options). On the bright side, buying from a brand like Therm-a-Rest is as easy as picking your quilt off the shelf, while you might be waiting weeks or even months for your cottage-industry quilt.
See the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt
Temperature rating: 30°F
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Fill: 10.5 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: High-quality materials and a great price.
What we don’t: Heavier than similarly rated quilts.
If there’s a clear sign that quilts are hitting the mainstream backpacking scene, the Magma Trail is exactly that. New for 2019, REI Co-op did a very impressive job with the Magma quilt, which is a spin-off of their popular sleeping bag line. In terms of warmth, you get a generous 10.5 ounces of 850-fill down (2 ounces more than their 30-degree Magma bag above) and a lofty draft tube that seals air in at the neck. We also like the shape of the footbox, top snap, and overall build quality, which feel high-end from top to bottom. And at $299, the Magma Trail is a great value.
It’s worth noting that you only save 0.8 ounces and $20 with the Magma quilt over the mummy bag version above. In the end, your choice comes down to what sort of versatility you prefer: do you need a full zip to stay comfortable on colder nights, or an open back to ventilate when it’s warmer? If you’re willing to pay the weight penalty (in this case, it’s very slight), the full-zip sleeping bags offer the best of both worlds. In the end, if we’re going with a quilt, we’d be tempted to reach for a lighter option than the Magma. But for a long-lasting pick (the Magma’s 15D shell fabric is the most durable here) that’s ready when you want it, this quilt is worth a look.
See the REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt
Temperature rating: 30˚F
Weight: 1 lb. 1.5 oz.
Fill: 9.5 oz. of 900-fill down
What we like: Unique and effective sleeping pad attachment system.
What we don’t: Expensive and the narrow width makes it difficult to cinch the back closed.
Katabatic’s 30-degree Palisade Quilt has garnered a lot of attention and for good reason. Most noteworthy is its unique back closure: two thin, 2-millimeter cords secure the quilt to the sleeping pad, and a sliding toggle system locks it in place close to the body. In practice, it does an excellent job keeping out drafts, whether you’re on your back, your side, or moving between the two. And if you choose to go sans sleeping pad, a series of three straps cinch the bag shut in the back. But take note of the 52-inch shoulder width (the wide versions are 58-inch), which will be too narrow for most to snug the quilt all the way shut.
Compared to the 30-degree Magma Trail above, the Palisade is an ounce and a half lighter, and comes with the added warmth of higher-quality down. This warmth does come at a hefty price—at $410, the Palisade is the most expensive quilt on our list. But like most cottage-brand quilts, it’s fully customizable with different weights of down, hydrophobic down, and sizing—the 850-fill Palisade 30, for example, is priced at a more competitive $350. And for a blanket-style quilt with open footbox, the $345 Katabatic Flex 30 is an even more affordable option.
See the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30
Temperature rating: 30˚F (also available in 0, 10, 20, and 40˚ versions)
Weight: 1 lb. 1.4 oz.
Fill: 11 oz. of 850-fill down
What we like: Premium design and material plus lots of options for customization.
What we don’t: No rear attachments for use without a pad.
This list just wouldn’t be complete without a quilt from Hammock Gear. Originally designed for those who sleep in hammocks, the Premium Burrow 30 can be customized to suit sleeping on the ground as well. In fact, perhaps no other company offers the range of customization found here—you can choose between top quilts and under quilts, and further tailor your pick with sizes, footbox style, down fill (850 or 950), colors, and a sleeping pad attachment kit. Hammock Gear even offers the option of adding 1 to 4 more ounces of down on top of their standard fill.
Features aside, the Premium Burrow is an impressively warm and lightweight bag that’s available at an accessible price point. In fact, the 30-degree version is competitive with the Katabatic above in terms of weight and warmth, but saves you over $150. Further, the option of a zippered footbox means it can also double as a blanket. But with a maximum width of only 55 inches and no rear cinches, the Premium Burrow doesn’t come with the option of being fully cinched around the body (similar to the Loco Libre above).
See the Hammock Gear Premium Burrow 30
|Sleeping Bag||Price||Temp||Weight||Down Fill*||Shell||Zipper|
|Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL||$429||30°F||1 lb. 5.3 oz.||11.5 oz. of 950-fill||10D||Full-length|
|REI Co-op Magma 30||$319||30°F||1 lb. 3.8 oz.||8.5 oz. of 850-fill||15D||Full-length|
|Western Mountaineering HighLite||$370||35°F||1 lb.||8 oz. of 850-fill||12D||1/2-length|
|Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20||$410||20°F||1 lb. 4 oz.||13 oz. of 900-fill||10D||1/2-length|
|Feathered Friends Tanager 20 CFL||$369||20°F||1 lb. 2.6 oz.||12.6 oz. of 950-fill||7D x 5D||None|
|Western Mountaineering UltraLite||$525||20°F||1 lb. 13 oz.||16 oz. of 850-fill||12D||Full-length|
|Sea to Summit Spark 40||$299||40°F||12 oz.||6.3 oz. of 850-fill||10D||1/3-length|
|Montbell Down Hugger 900 #5||$419||38°F||1 lb. 0.3 oz.||7 oz. of 900-fill||8D||Full-length|
|Big Agnes Pluton UL 40||$350||40°F||1 lb.||8 oz. of 850-fill||7D||Full-length|
|Western Mountaineering SummerLite||$425||32°F||1 lb. 3 oz.||9 oz. of 850-fill||12D||Full-length|
|Marmot Micron 40||$159||40°F||1 lb. 6 oz.||9.2 oz. of 650-fill||20D||Wraparound|
|Therm-a-Rest Ohm||$360||32°F||1 lb. 2 oz.||9 oz. of 900-fill||10D||Wraparound|
|Feathered Friends Vireo UL||$329||25/45°F||15.5 oz.||8.7 oz. of 950-fill||10D||None|
|Sleeping Quilt||Price||Temp||Weight||Down Fill*||Shell||Closure(s)|
|Enlightened Equipment Enigma||$290||30°F||1 lb. 1.9 oz.||12.4 oz. of 850-fill||10D||1 snap & 2 straps|
|Loco Libre Ghost Pepper||$264||20°F||15.3 oz.||11 oz. of 900-fill||7D||4 snaps & 1 cord|
|Feathered Friends Flicker UL||$394||30°F||1 lb. 6 oz.||11.6 oz. of 950-fill||10D||Full zipper|
|Zpacks Solo Quilt||$319||20°F||1 lb. 3.1 oz||13.7 oz. of 950-fill||7D||2 clips|
|Western Mountaineering NanoLite||$345||38°F||11 oz.||6.5 oz. of 850-fill||7D||1 snap & 2 loops|
|REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30||$299||30°F||1 lb. 3 oz.||10.5 oz. of 850-fill||15D||1 snap & 2 cords|
|Katabatic Gear Palisade 30||$410||30°F||1 lb. 1.5 oz.||9.5 oz. of 900-fill||.85 oz/yd||1 snap & 3 straps|
|Hammock Gear Premium Burrow||$250||30°F||1 lb. 1.4 oz.||11 oz. of 850-fill||10D||1 snap|
Editor's note: All of the bags and quilts on our list use down that was responsibly sourced, meaning that the birds were not force-fed or live-plucked in the process.
- Ultralight Sleep Systems
- Weight and Packability
- Warmth and Fill Power
- Temperature Ratings
- Shell Materials
- Shape and Dimensions
- Sleeping Quilt Features
- Sustainability: Responsibly Sourced Down
- Hydrophobic Down
- Ultralight Winter Sleeping Bags
- The Importance of Your Sleeping Pad
- Cottage-Industry Brands and Ultralight Gear
Increased popularity in ultralight backpacking and bikepacking has led to a great deal of innovation in lightweight gear. Outdoor gear companies have found new ways to shave weight off traditional mummy bags, in addition to developing minimalist sleeping quilts. Although there is variation within each style and some crossover in designs, we’ve broken down our picks into two main categories: sleeping bags and sleeping quilts. Below we detail the main features of each, including how they compare in terms of warmth, weight, versatility, and more.
If you’ve done much backpacking, you're probably familiar with mummy-style sleeping bags. Mummy bags are narrow at the feet, widen at the hips and shoulders, and usually have a hood that extends over the head and cinches tight around the face to seal out cold. And while the contoured design of mummy bags means they’re already rather streamlined (compared to more traditional rectangular bags), ultralight styles shed even more weight with thinner shell materials, higher-fill-power down, shorter zippers, and smaller dimensions. Some mummy bags will even drop the hood and zipper entirely, but expect to sacrifice warmth, comfort, and versatility with these hoodless designs. The ultralight mummy bags on our list have temperature ratings from around 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and weigh between 12 and 29 ounces, with most hovering just over 1 pound.
Sleeping bags differ from sleeping quilts in one significant way: they wrap fully around and enclose your body, whereas quilts generally cover only your top and sides (more on this below). Many ultralight sleeping bags use a zipper to cinch all the way closed, while others, like the Feathered Friends Tanager, drop the zipper for a simple slip-on “tube.” Because they provide wrap-around protection, sleeping bags generally are a bit heavier than quilts, but they’re also slightly warmer. And while those with full-length zippers offer ventilation similar to a quilt, we find that zipperless bags or bags with shortened zippers are much less versatile. In the end, choosing your style of sleep system comes down to personal priorities, but mummy bags generally are our top choice for cold-weather endeavors when you need the ability to cinch your bag shut and keep out drafts.
Thru-hikers and diehard ultralighters always are looking for ways to shave ounces, and the backside of a sleeping bag is an obvious target (your sleeping bag’s feathers compress underneath you as you sleep, meaning that they don’t actually provide much insulation). A sleeping quilt removes the hood and back from a traditional mummy bag and pairs with a sleeping pad for insulation on all sides (many quilts attach to the sleeping pad using ties or straps). Some quilts are wide enough to wrap fully around the body (with ties to close the gap), while others (“top quilts”) are designed to protect only the sleeper’s top and sides. Further, some have fully enclosed footboxes, while others feature a blanket-style design with a drawcord cinch or zipper at the feet. To close the system, you can wear a down jacket with a hood. Like ultralight sleeping bags, quilts prioritize weight savings with high-fill-power down, thin shell fabrics, and lightweight attachment systems. Our top quilt picks range from 11 to 22 ounces, with most models clocking in around 1 pound.
While the quilts on our list have temperature ratings similar to our top sleeping bag picks (20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit), they generally can’t measure up to the warmth of traditional mummy bags. Unless you’re a perfectly still back sleeper, it can be challenging to fully eliminate the potential for drafts. However, the quilt design is great for warmer nights when you need more ventilation than a sleeping bag (especially with a shortened zipper) can offer. Further, by doing away with the zipper and a whole side of materials, quilts often are a bit lighter than sleeping bags (consider the 11-ounce Western Mountaineering NanoLite) and focus their loft where it matters most. However, keep in mind that some quilts do require a bit more care in setting up than a simple sleeping bag. And for a compromise between the two designs, models like the Feathered Friends Flicker UL and Katabatic Gear Flex retain characteristics of both bags and quilts.
It’s worth mentioning that there is a tiny subgroup of sleeping bag/quilt hybrids that retains many characteristics of both. For example, the hybrid Feathered Friends Flicker UL features a full-length zipper that extends all the way through the foot box. On cold nights, the Flicker encloses your body completely, à la sleeping bag (a cinch tightens the foot box to minimize cold air spots), and on warm nights it opens all the way up into a blanket. Another hybrid option is the Therm-a-Rest Ohm, which features a more roomy, semi-rectangular shape that opens up into a quilt for two. These hybrid options are super versatile ultralight sleep systems that cross over from cold to warm better than most, but keep in mind that the full-length zipper does add some weight. For example, the 30-degree Flicker is 1 pound 6 ounces compared to the 1-pound 5.3-ounce Hummingbird sleeping bag and 1-pound 1.9-ounce Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt (both also 30 degrees). And for a more detailed breakdown of the categories mentioned above, see our article on sleeping bags. vs. sleeping quilts.
Ultralight sleeping bags and quilts are specifically designed for weight- and space-conscious backpackers, thru-hikers, alpinists, and bikepackers. Every sleeping bag and quilt we’ve included on our list above is under 2 pounds (most hover right around a pound), which is pretty impressive considering the amount of warmth they provide. And because all of these bags and quilts are insulated with down rather than synthetic fill, they pack down incredibly small. Some come with a compression sack, but if not, we highly recommend purchasing one separately. With that, many of these bags and quilts can compress roughly to the size of a Nalgene bottle, easily fitting into a corner of your backpacking pack or bike pannier.
As we mentioned above, manufacturers shave weight from sleeping bags and quilts in a number of ways, including the use of ultra-thin shell fabrics (measure in denier), high-fill-power down (which offers impressive warmth for the weight), thin or shortened zippers (or none at all), and narrow profiles. Other designs eliminate the hood or footbox or include less down fill along the torso. In the case of quilts, some also leave off attachments or cinches (these are often known as “top quilts”). It’s important to keep in mind that inevitably, a lighter sleeping bag or quilt will often result in sacrifices in durability, comfort, or warmth (or all of the above).
For example, consider the 1-pound-5.3-ounce Feathered Friends Hummingbird and 1-pound-2.6-ounce Tanager. While you’d expect the heavier model to be warmer, in this case the Tanager is the warmer bag (by 10 degrees), with 12.6 ounces of 950-fill down vs. the Hummingbird’s 11.5. How does the Tanager accomplish this? The short answer is that the bag sacrifices both convenience and durability, with a hoodless and zipperless design and very thin shell fabric. The lesson here is that a lower weight does not always mean a less insulated bag—but it does indicate that some sacrifices are being made. In the end, it’s important to look at the specific features of each bag, which we've tried to detail above, and decide what and how much you’re willing to give up for a few ounces of weight and space.
One of the first things you might notice about the ultralight sleeping bags and quilts featured in this article is their insulation: every item on our list uses down fill. This is a notable departure from our traditional sleeping bag round-up, where we have a solid mix of down and synthetic options. But in an ultralight category, down is by far the superior insulator, beating out synthetic fill both in warmth-to-weight ratio and compressibility.
That said, not all down insulation is created equal. Both duck and goose down are measured in terms of their fill power, which describes (in cubic inches) how much space is filled by one ounce of down. Fill power can vary from around 500 to over 900, with most ultralight sleeping bags and quilts featuring a fill power of 850 to 950. A second measurement you’ll commonly see is fill weight, which is the total weight (in ounces) of the amount of down in a product. For example, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird has 11.5 ounces of 950-fill goose down. Be sure to pay attention to both numbers—a higher fill power doesn’t always indicate a warmer product, and fill weight is the lesser-advertised but perhaps more important spec of the two. In the end, you need both to get an accurate idea of how warm a given bag is.
While some companies choose to provide their own ratings, there are two governing bodies—formerly the EN (European Norm) and more recently the ISO (International Organization for Standardization)—seeking to standardize the system. We won’t want to dive too deeply into how bags and quilts are assessed (we describe the process more in-depth here), but all bags given the EN/ISO rating undergo the same standardized testing, allowing the consumer to make better comparisons between products. In fact, in an effort to help their customers make informed purchases, REI now only sells sleeping bags and quilts that have an EN/ISO rating.
Bags and quilts with an EN/ISO rating are given both limit rating and comfort ratings. The limit rating indicates the temperature at which the bag or quilt will keep you safe—for men’s bags, this usually is the given temperature rating. The comfort rating denotes at what temperature the bag will keep you comfortable, and this is the rating often specified for women’s bags. For example, the men’s REI Co-op Magma 30 has a limit rating of 30 degrees and a comfort rating of 39 degrees, while the women’s Magma 30 has ratings of 18 and 29 respectively. It’s important to take note of both of these numbers when you purchase a sleeping bag or quilt and we always recommend a conservative approach—being cold in the backcountry certainly isn't fun and can be dangerous.
We can talk about the insulation of a sleeping bag or quilt all day, but without a shell and lining, a sleeping bag would just be a pile of plumage. Typically, ripstop nylon is used for both the outer shell and inner lining, and the thickness of this nylon is specified in denier or "D" (the thickness of each thread used to create the material). Generally speaking, the higher the denier, the more durable the fabric.
One way that manufacturers shave weight off ultralight sleeping bags and quilts is by using extremely thin shell fabrics, which can go as low as 7-denier. These products require an extreme amount of care—with thousands of feathers loose inside, a small rip can mean the loss of a lot of insulation. We’ve had our fabric rip due to a snagged zipper, but you’ll also need to be careful around twigs, rocks, and sharp items in your pack. If you’re sleeping without a tarp or tent, make sure to clear the ground of any abrasive objects. Further, we recommend always stowing or packing your bag in a stuff sack or cloth bag for transport or storage.
If you tend to be rough on your gear, it’s a good idea to choose a sleeping bag or quilt with more durable fabric. Many of the items listed here come with the option of a thicker face fabric. Hammock Gear, for example, offers the 20-denier Economy Burrow in addition to the 10-denier Premium Burrow. Similarly, the Feathered Friends Hummingbird YF is made with a 20D shell fabric compared to the Hummingbird UL’s 15D. This will cost you a small weight penalty but may end up being worth it in the long run.
Sleeping bags and quilts come in a range of sizes, which generally are specified by length. The Feathered Friends Hummingbird, for example, is available in regular and long sizes, and the Therm-a-Rest Vesper comes in three sizes: small, regular, and long. Manufacturers also specify the girth—or circumference—of each size, most commonly given as a series of three measurements taken at the shoulders, hips, and footbox. Cottage brands like Enlightened Equipment and Katabatic are known for offering more choices in terms of sizing, especially when it comes to width. For example, our top-ranked Enigma quilt is available in 16 different variations, ranging short to extra-long for length, and slim to extra-wide for width. This allows you to dial in the perfect size for your body, so you can get a bag that fits just right without paying for more than you need or shouldering unnecessary weight.
Another thing to keep in mind is that ultralight bags and quilts are often much more streamlined (read: narrower) than their traditional counterparts. For example, compare the Feathered Friends ultralight Hummingbird UL 30 to their roomier (and heavier) Swallow UL 30. The Hummingbird (1 pound 5.3 ounces) measures in at 58 inches around the shoulders, 52 at the hips, and 38 in the footbox, while the Swallow (1 pound 9 ounces) is 60, 56, and 38 inches respectively. The UL versions of the Hummingbird and Swallow are virtually identical aside from their measurements and weights.
While cutting a bag’s dimensions is effective for minimizing the total weight of the product, it can be a pain for those with broad shoulders and wide hips or for side sleepers. If you consider yourself in either category, we recommend looking at wider or roomier options. In the ultralight realm, the Montbell Down Hugger 900 #5 is a great choice, featuring spiral baffles that allow for stretch in the fabric. Quilts also can offer a nice solution for those who feel constrained by a sleeping bag, but their narrow dimensions pose a whole different issue—if you do want to batten down the hatches, there might not be enough fabric to wrap fully around your body. For the best of both worlds, look for quilts with generous shoulder dimensions (like the Zpacks Solo’s 60-inch design) that are wide enough to cinch closed.
Sleeping quilts, by design, forgo the zipper closure of a traditional sleeping bag and leave the back open, draping over the sleeper like a blanket or attaching to the sleeping pad. Some are so narrow that they are unable to fully enclose a body (think hot dog bun), while others, like the Zpacks Solo Quilt, are wide enough that the two sides can meet (more akin to a taco). On these wider quilts, it’s common to see a closure along the backside, which allows the quilt to secured closed, mimicking a sleeping bag. Feathered Friends’ Flicker UL Quilt is also a notable exception here, as it has a full-length zipper to seal shut (although it’s heavier than much of the competition).
The most common closures we see on quilts are 1-3 clips or buckles along the sides. The Western Mountaineering NanoLite innovates with a thin crisscrossed elastic band across the back. While these closure systems cannot be expected to fully seal out drafts, they do ensure that the quilt will stay wrapped around you while you sleep. It’s important to think about your end-use when considering what kind of closure system you want—if you need one at all. For example, the elastic back of the NanoLite is super lightweight and comfortable under the body, but with no quick release, the quilt cannot be used like a blanket. On the other hand, buckles like those on the Enlightened Equipment Enigma might feel uncomfortable against your back, and we have concerns about their long-term durability. Finally, if you don’t think you’ll use it, you might want to opt for a model with no rear closure (also called a top quilt).
Sleeping Pad Attachments
More than a rear closure, the design of a quilt relies on sleeping pad attachments to keep drafts out. Sleeping pad attachments extend from the back of the quilt and around the pad, and generally offer two adjustments. First, cinch the straps to the pad for a secure attachment. Second, choose where to lock your quilt in on the straps. You can lock each side towards the center for more draft protection or closer to the sides for a roomier sleep. And on a warm night, leave the attachments off for better ventilation. Sleeping pad attachments differ from brand to brand and offer varying levels of weight savings, convenience, and durability.
Footboxes: Sewn and Open
The footbox is one of the main places we see quilts differ in style and design. Take the Enlightened Equipment Enigma and Revelation, for example. The Enigma features a sewn-shut footbox, whereas the Revelation has a zipper and drawcord that allow you to open the quilt to a full blanket. Other quilts feature a snap and drawcord closure instead. And on hybrid sleeping bag/quilts like the Feathered Friends Flicker, we see a full-length zipper that extends all the way through the toe box to give you the ultimate versatility (at a weight penalty).
The advantages and disadvantages to each design are fairly obvious. With an enclosed footbox, you get a very simple design with no moving parts and a draft-free compartment for your feet. However, you don’t get the option of opening your quilt up into a blanket for two. With the open footbox, on the other hand, you get a lot of customization, but at the sacrifice of weight and a bit of warmth (although you can always stuff your jacket into the footbox to minimize drafts). The trend seems to be moving toward sewn-shut footboxes (most users don’t find a need for a blanket), but many cottage-industry brand models, including the Hammock Gear Premium Burrow, allow you to choose between a sewn or zippered/drawcord footbox.
Zippers are one of the heaviest features on a sleeping bag, so it’s no surprise that this is a place we see a great deal of variation and innovation in the ultralight world. For one, manufacturers can cut weight by shortening the length of a zipper: while some ultralight sleeping bags feature zippers that extend the entire length of the bag (REI Co-op Magma), others have partial-length zippers (the Sea to Summit Spark) or forgo the zipper entirely (Feathered Friends’ Tanager and Vireo).
Full-length zippers not only offer ease of entering and exiting the bag, but they also allow versatility in venting. On a hot night, it’s nice to be able to stick a leg out into the cool air or zip open the bag and drape it overtop like a blanket. Two-way zippers offer even more versatility, allowing you to cool off hot feet while keeping the torso completely insulated. On the other hand, partial-length zippers or zipper-less designs mean your ventilation options are severely limited. We’ve spent many nights in our Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20 bouncing back and forth from too hot (fully inside the bag) to too cold (bag draped overtop) with no viable middle ground.
Another way that manufacturers shave weight is by using thin zippers (often as low as #3 YKK, as seen on the Big Agnes Pluton). But keep in mind that thinner zippers are less durable and trickier to use than their more robust counterparts. Our old Mountain Hardwear Mtn Speed 32, for example, had a #3 YKK zipper that rarely shut without issue, eventually resulting in a large rip in the shell fabric beside it, leaking down, and broken teeth (thankfully, Mountain Hardwear repaired the sleeping bag under warranty and replaced the zipper with a thicker #5 YKK). In our opinion, the hassle and durability concerns associated with a thin zipper are not worth the weight savings. If you end up choosing a bag with a notably thin zipper, make sure you’re prepared to exercise a great deal of caution each time you use it.
The draft collar or tube, otherwise known as the yoke, is an additional insulated piece of fabric that lofts around the neck of a sleeping bag or quilt to keep cold drafts from entering. Cinched close to your neck, it provides an incredibly lofty, pillow-like feel that traps warm air in the body of the bag while allowing your head to breathe (keep in mind that a draft collar is different from a hood). Draft collars are ubiquitous on standard sleeping bags—especially cold-weather models—but are less popular on ultralight bags and quilts. Along with zippers and thick shell fabrics, they are one of the first things to go in the name of shaving weight. As a result, many of the lightest bags on our list (the Sea to Summit Spark and Feathered Friends Tanager) do not feature a draft collar.
Similar to the Spark and Tanager, many ultralight quilts forgo the draft collar as well. But because quilts do not feature hoods, some sort of closure at the neck is vital. Most often, a simple drawcord replaces the draft collar at the neck opening, cinching tight to trap warm air below. But a cinched drawcord can be uncomfortable without the buffer of the soft, cushioned collar and does not offer the same level of draft protection. Some quilts have chosen to retain the draft collar, even at the expense of weight—the Katabatic Gear Palisade and Western Mountaineering NanoLite, to name a couple. If you are a particularly cold sleeper, we recommend choosing a quilt with a collar.
The different stitching patterns on each individual sleeping bag and quilt may seem like they’re just for show, but this “baffling” actually is a critical design feature. Baffles essentially are tubes of fabric that help down insulation stay evenly distributed throughout a bag or quilt. Take one glance at the picks above and you’ll see a range of patterns, from the diagonal design of the Montbell Down Hugger 900 #5 and chevron baffles on the Loco Libre Operator Series Ghost Pepper Quilt, to the horizontal tubes on the Feathered Friends Hummingbird and the vertical body baffles on the Zpacks Solo Quilt. Despite the range in appearances, these examples can be broken down into two main designs: continuous baffling and segmented baffling.
Continuous baffles, like those found on the Feathered Friends Hummingbird and Katabatic Palisade Quilt, are tubes of feathers that go the entire width or length of a sleeping bag without being blocked by stitching or fabric. Feathers can move up and down these tubes as the user sees fit, depending on temperature swings. During cold evenings, move your features on top for added warmth; during warm evenings, shift them underneath you for a less insulated bag. The downside of continuous baffles is that feathers can occasionally move without you guiding them, leaving the sleeper shivering through the night.
If you’re the type of person that loves tweaking your gear, continuous baffles could be a good fit. However, in most cases, we prefer bags and quilts with segmented baffles that keep feathers evenly distributed throughout. In the most premium bags, these compartments, or “boxed baffles,” are separated by lightweight material inside of the shell fabric, rather than stitching (which is prone to drafts). Segmented baffles add a bit of weight, but for most, their convenience and warmth distribution are worth the tradeoff. We especially like the segmented baffle design of the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion, which strikes us as the best of both worlds. The Hyperion has 70 percent of its down strategically located on top of the bag and 30 percent on the underside—you get your insulation where it matters most, along with added assurance that it will stay put.
The origin of down insulation has become a hot topic, and we’re happy to see more companies jumping on board in support of responsibly sourced goose and duck plumage. Many brands now subscribe to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a global certification given to down products that indicates the birds were treated humanely and not subjected to unnecessary harm such as force-feeding or live-plucking. Further, some companies have developed their own standards, such as Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard. All of the bags and quilts on our list above use ethically sourced down and are either certified by the RDS or backed by the manufacturer (Western Mountaineering, for example, works with a specific farm to source their down to ensure that responsible practices are being upheld).
If you plan to travel in humid or wet climates, we recommend looking for down insulation that has been treated to withstand light moisture. Water-repellent down, also known as hydrophobic down, is able to resist moisture much better than untreated down, dry out faster, and stay lofty even when wet. Although it’s certainly not as effective as synthetic insulation, hydrophobic down adds a good dose of extra security (although there are very few instances when your bag or quilt should be exposed to moisture). In addition, look for shell fabrics that have been treated with a durable water repellant (DWR) finish, which adds an extra layer of caution for wet or snowy environments. Last but not least, a waterproof compression sack is a wise choice for the backcountry.
With an attempt to keep all of our ultralight sleeping bag options under 2 pounds, we have chosen to limit this list to 3-season sleeping bags, or bags rated to 20-degrees or higher. That said, ultralight winter sleeping bags do exist, which are ideal for temperatures you might find while adventuring in unpredictable shoulder seasons or while winter camping. One noteworthy choice is the Western Mountaineering Kodiak MF, a 0-degree bag that weighs an impressively light 2 pounds 15 ounces. Although this is quite a bit heavier than all of our ultralight options above, for a hardwearing, cold-weather sleeping bag, staying under 3 pounds is impressive. A second popular pick is the Feathered Friends Snowbunting EX, another 0-degree option at only 2 pounds 13 ounces. In addition to Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends, most of the other brands above have winter-ready models available in their lineups. The designs are similar but they just have a lot more down fill.
Unless you’re sleeping in a hammock, it’s incredibly important to pair your ultralight quilt or sleeping bag with an appropriately insulative sleeping pad. Even a plush, cold-weather sleeping bag will not keep you warm if you’re sleeping on the ground. Most sleeping pads are given an R-value, which is a measurement of how well the pad can insulate you from the ground. For 3-season use, we recommend a pad with an R-value of at least 3 to 4, such as the popular Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (R-value: 3.2).
If you’ve read through our list of quilts above, you might have noticed that many of the brands featured are not mainstream companies that sell through big retailers. The cottage industry is alive and well in ultralight gear manufacturing, and for good reason. Companies like Enlightened Equipment, Loco Libre, and Zpacks were all founded by outdoor—often thru-hiking—enthusiasts who noticed a gap in the market for ultralight equipment. These products are made by the people, for the people. In fact, it’s only just recently that big brands like REI, Therm-a-Rest, and Marmot have thrown their hats into the ultralight ring.
These products often have a number things in common. First, the designers and manufacturers generally are thru-hikers, bikepackers, and ultralight enthusiasts that use the gear they make. The result is well-thought-out products that nail the details and often allow the buyer to customize sizes, down fill, materials, and features. Further, since these are small companies, most of their gear is handmade in the United States. However, while we love this culture and encourage you to support it, keep in mind that you can expect longer wait times between ordering and receiving your items (Loco Libre tends to require a particularly long wait). And perhaps the biggest downside for most consumers: you won’t find brands like Zpacks and Enlightened Equipment on the shelves at your local retailer, meaning you won’t be able to see your bag/quilt or "try it on" before buying. Luckily, most of these companies include detailed videos and descriptions on their websites and have reasonable return policies.
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