When people think of camping they think of sleeping in a sleeping bag, and that has been the main way to stay warm at night, and why not it wraps you up in a nice cocoon keeps you nice and cozy. Up until recently, there has been no reason to change, however, people have started to move away from tent camping and switching to hammock camping, which seems to lend itself more to using a quilt. Using a quilt or sleeping bag both have benefits and disadvantage.
A sleeping bag keeps all the warm air enclosed and lends itself well to camping in a tent, however in a hammock it becomes quite difficult to zip yourself up in a sleeping bag without becoming a tangled mess. Imagine yourself lying in a hammock in a sleeping bag and during the night your zipper has twisted under your body, you will eventually get out but it won’t be pretty. You could use the sleeping bag in the hammock and just not close the zipper, this just leave a rogue zipper floating around to pock you through the night and if you have a mummy sleeping bag then the chances are that you will end up with the hood covering your face instead of the back of your head. Also if you are the type of person who likes to spread out you may find a sleeping bag confining. Sleeping bags also have the added weight of a zipper, many people reading this will think “How much can a zipper weigh?”, but if you are an ultra lightweight hiker ounces mean the world.
The quilt, on the other hand, will by design not keep as much warm air close to the body, which when it gets cold is a major problem, but there are ways around this, in a hammock, for example, you are off the cold ground, also you can still use your sleeping pad between yourself and your hammock to create a barrier to the cold, and for extreme cold weather there is the hammock underquilt that wraps around the hammock (add picture of external hammock quilt). A quilt is easier to get in and out of compared to a sleeping bag and you get to save some weight. The terrain where you will be will also dictate if you can use a hammock, if you are above the tree line or in the desert there won’t be any trees to hang your hammock, so a tent is still your best option for those situations.
Should you switch to a quilt or if you starting out in the world of hiking or camping should you start with a quilt? If you like the idea hammock camping or saving on weight, or just having more room to move while sleeping, then you might be a candidate for the quilt movement. It does make sense when compared to how we sleep at home where we use quilts not bags when we sleep.
The sleeping bag has been around a long time and is not going anywhere anytime soon. If you want to keep tent camping, you like the feeling of being in a cocoon, or you hike where there are no trees then the sleeping bag is still right for you and there is no reason to change or to stray from the mainstream.
It also needs to be mentioned that hammock camping also offers weight savings over tent camping. A single person tent weighs from 4lbs 14oz to 2lbs where a hammock with tarp and bug netting weighs from 1lb 12oz to 2lb 10oz (including straps and tarp). This is not a post about hammock camping, but this point is important when deciding if camping with a quilt is the correct decision as the next logical question will be hammock or tent? But, that is a topic for another post.
I wrote this post because I love to hike and started out with a tent and sleeping bag and have been migrating to a hammock and quilt set up so that I can lighten my pack load and have a more comfortable experience. When I first started hiking weight was not a major concern until I tried to hike 30km with a heavy pack and sleeping on the floor is ok but sleeping suspended in the air is just so much more comfortable. It seemed like a logical idea to let others know what I learned, so they can make an informed decision about how to pursue their freedom while hiking.