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For a thru-hiker finding the best thru-hiking quilts for backpacking, their sleep system, and backpacking gear overall, will be vital to your comfort in the frequent cold, rainy, and sometimes snowy days and nights. Choosing the right backpacking quilt for your long-distance hike is important to your overall comfort and quality of sleep.
Top quilts have grown in popularity over time versus sleeping bags as they can be much lighter due to the removal of the zipper and the huge section of fabric and fill that would normally sit between the sleeping pad and your body.
This is able to be done as down and insulation doesn’t work when compressed so the material and down that rested underneath you provided very little to no heat retention, the ground insulation is provided from the sleeping pad you choose.
There is a wide array of top quilt options available now as a thru-hiker, from big businesses like Therm-A-Rest to cottage companies like Zpacks, Enlightened Equipment, UGQ, and many more. Let’s start helping you find the right option for your trek today!
My Choice for Best Hiking Quilts
- UGQ Bandit (Best Overall Customization & Performance)
- Zpacks Solo Quilt (Best Lightweight Minimalist Quilt)
- Hammock Gear Economy Burrow (Best for Budget Thru-Hikers)
- Enlightened Equipment Revelation (Best for Overall Versatility, AT Thru-Hiker Favorite)
- Katabatic Gear Flex (Best for Side Sleepers)
- UGQ Outlaw Hybrid (Best for Quilt/Sleeping Bag Hybrid)
- Cedar Ridge Outdoors Helium Topquilt (Best for Ultralight Thru-Hikers)
- Feathered Friends Flicker (Best for Versatility and Simplicity)
- Loco Libre Ghost Pepper (Best Warmth Rating To Performance)
- Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX (Best Synthetic Quilt for Down Allergic Thru-Hikers)
10 Best Top Quilts for Thru-Hiking
Now that you have seen my list of the top 10 top quilts let’s dig into each and explain why I chose to rate them there and why they may be a perfect match for you and your long-distance hike.
Best Overall Customization & Performance
- UGQ is a leader in providing you massive customization options, adding ultralight 950FP down, closed footbox or cord drawn, fabric denier for inside and outside fabrics, and so much more. If you are looking for a supremely custom quilt then the UGQ Bandit needs to be your choice!
- The Bandit top quilt comes with three distinct footbox configurations based on needs like cold feet (insulated) to help keep those piggies warm, a boxed to help eliminate drafts to the lower legs and feet, or a zipper and drawstring to allow you to open the quilt up fully in warmer temperatures!
The Bandit quilt has grown more and more popular over the years due in large part to making everything with amazing quality, the materials, the stitching, and the fill, there is nothing with their quilts that appears to let buyers down.
The added benefit of being a very cottage business is that you can reach out to them for additional tweaks if you feel they are necessary, like adding more width if you move around a lot maybe width helps remove air gaps when you toss and turn.
Many purchasers list in their comments and reviews that this is, hands down, their best purchase ever. Normally I would take this with a grain of salt but they have 34 pages of high-quality reviews covering nearly all gear setups!
- DTCS – Dynamic Tension Control System – Keeps you warmer on cold nights due to pulling quilt edges underneath and holding them there.
- Taper Options – You can choose to have a taper from top to bottom leading to a lower weight or squared off.
- Neck Closure – Double snap and drawcord for fine-tuned draft control. Stay cozy and toasty all winter long!
- Long Lead Times – Currently listed as 3-4 weeks if you need a quilt ASAP for a trip you need to look elsewhere to faster-stocked options instead.
Best for Ultralight Thru-Hikers
Cedar Ridge Outdoors Helium Topquilt
- Uses ultralight 7D fabrics along with 1000FP down to create one of the lightest but maximum warmth quilts in the world! These amazing quilts boast a comfort rating along with the high-quality Cedar Ridge is known for but at only a fraction of the weight.
- Benefits to Buying (Not Features, sell here)
- 2-3 only tightly written
Cedar Ridge is a lot newer than many others on this list as they only opened in 2015 but they have been making exceptional quilts the entire time, this quilt itself is a work of art to provide the heat needed at a weight built for the ultralight thru-hiker and backpacker alike!
Cedar Ridge shows care and pride in their work as everything is done by hand, they use a box baffle design to keep it down where it needs to be and they use box vertical and horizontal baffles to ensure proper warmth over the entire quilt!
- ARGON 49 Fabric – 7 denier taffeta fabric resists wind along with shedding water good enough to be the outer shell of a quilt, yet it is breathable enough to be used as the inner shell!
- 1000FP Down –
- Amazing Weight to Warmth – A 20 degree quilt comes in at only 14.8oz, yes, under 1 pound!!!
- Long Lead Times – As of writing this is 4-6 weeks, though due to the high quality and lightweight this is worth the trade off!
- 7D Fabrics – This fabric can be easy to tear so you do need to be more careful with tossing it around.
Best for Budget Thru-Hikers
Hammock Gear Economy Burrow
- The Economy Burrow is an amazing value for what you get, one of the only budget options that also allows for a decent selection of customization options still to get just the right quilt for you. A close runner-up was the OutdoorVital Stormloft quilt which lost out as it offers no customization.
- Built from a strong, durable, and dependable 20D fabric the Economy Burrow can survive any trip and come out just as strong on the other side!
One of the best quality and cost quilts available for a thru-hiker or backpacker, the quilts from Hammock Gear may not have the numerous customization bells and whistles but they cover all the MUST-HAVES for a successful quilt on a long-distance hike.
- Temperature Ratings – Customizable temperature rating built for comfort not survival or limit.
- Optional Overfill – This can help ensure consistent warmth over a 6 month thru-hike by providing additional loft even through use.
- Long Lead Times – As of writing this is approximately 3 weeks.
- Not As Compressible – Due to 800FP down these won’t compress down as much as many on this list.
Best for Overall Versatility, AT Thru-Hiker Favorite
Enlightened Equipment Revelation
- Well known by YouTube vloggers as a favorite of long-distance hikers, the Revelation is well-loved for its amazing versatility, thoughtful design, and incredibly lightweight.
- On the warmer trail nights you are able to lay the Revelation wide open like a blanket, then once the colder temperatures hit you can tighten and cinch the adjustable 1/4 length zipper footbox closed to keep those toes warm and toasty.
The range of quilts from Enlightened Equipment is amazing, there is something for every hiker to get they need to be more comfortable sleeping on the trail.
- Ultralight – The Revelation is one of the lightest weight options available out there for a thru-hiker.
- Cheaper – Due to limiting some of the variations they are able to have the prices come in at a less top-heavy price.
- Customizable – They offer strong customization to help you get the quilt to be a perfect fit for yourself.
- Long Lead Times – As of writing this is approximately 2-4 weeks.
- Fewer Features Vs Competitors – They don’t have some of the high-end features found on other quilts in this list.
Best for Side Sleepers
Katabatic Gear Flex
- Katabatic quilts are built to the needs of the backpacker, they have a specific build and allow only minor modifications but this makes them highly dependable for temperature regulation and incredibly fast to ship, typically days!
- They use a differential cut which they tout as a critical factor in quilts with adjustable girth, differential cut allows for maximum loft from the down inside.
- They focus on continuous baffles, unlike locking down into a specific area this allows for the down to be manually migrated or moved as the temperatures outside and around you dictate for best performance and versatility.
Aaron put his love of hiking to the test when he found nothing was right for him to enjoy his treks and stay warm, so he spent 200+ days of torture testing himself and his own designs.
This time testing on real long-distance trails helped him figure out what makes for a quality quilt that is lightweight but at the same time provides amazing warmth, Katabatic is one of the overall favorites in all outdoor activities but they are perfect for thru-hikers!
- Simple Ordering Process – With fewer customization bells and whistles you can choose and complete in about 2-3 clicks.
- Fast Shipping – Unlike others the Katabatic Gear can get the quilts out to you ASAP. Currently listed as 1-2 Days at publishing!
- Free Shipping (US only) – If you are in the US you get shipping paid for which can be a huge saving!
- Minimal Customization – This Flex Quilt has very little customization outside the type of down fill and overfill.
Best for Versatility and Simplicity
Feathered Friends Flicker
- The Flicker is a 950FP down quilt so they don’t sacrifice their warmth for weight, this means you know that they take their quilt creations very seriously and want to provide the absolute best performance for thru-hikers and backpackers alike.
- The Flicker comes in a 10D outer Pertex fabric to ensure overall durability and a 15D inner fabric to maximize comfort for the wearer along with the ability to last for years without issues.
This quilt, while not being infinitely customizable, comes with the right customizations for pure performance as they use 950FP down only so you get tremendous weight savings for full warmth.
They have a full ability to function similar to a mummy bag if the temperatures are getting close to the low end and the options for a 20, 30, or 40-degree quilt at comfort rating with the 20-degree regular size quilt coming in about 25 ounces!
- Pertex® Endurance® – An ultralight, water-resistant and breathable fabric. This light and supple fabric allows the premium down to loft to its maximum potential!
- Ethically Sourced Down – one of the first adopters of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).
- Made in the USA – There factory is located in one of the last remaining industrial areas of Seattle.
- High Base Cost – The 20 degree quilt will hurt the wallet at $459 without the customization others have at this price point.
- Material Sounds Crinkly – Due to the performance needs the outer fabric has a crinkle to it reported by nearly all who use it.
Best Warmth Rating To Performance
Loco Libre Ghost Pepper
- The Ghost Pepper features a unique take on baffles by implementing a “chevron style”, which limits the amount of down that can shift by catching it in the corners that form every time it changes direction.
Offering one of the most amazing customization systems of all the manufacturers the Loco Libre team can build you the quilt of your dreams keeping you stylish as well as warm on the trail.
Offering some of the most high-quality work, George has built a powerhouse of amazing quilts while making them in the USA helping to keep jobs local and not sending them off to other countries.
- Customization Options – Offering options from all the normal fabrics, fills, even down to stitching color so you can make the perfect quilt for your journey.
- 950FP Goose Down – Helping you ensure your warmth stays high while your weight stays incredibly low.
- Small Shop – Due to not having a tremendously large staff there is much more care to get it right but also extended times to get your quilt completed.
- Long Lead Times Vs Other Shops – Currently as of writing the lead time is 16 weeks (4 months).
Best for Quilt/Sleeping Bag Hybrid
UGQ Outlaw Hybrid
- It is the pinnacle of hybrid cross-over quilt providing a blend of a traditional sleeping bag with a traditional backpacking quilt.
- The addition of a full length zipper with an integrated zipper guard allows you to use the quilt either as a traditional open back backpacking quilt or as a traditional sleeping bag when fully zipped.
For those looking to have the quilt but also the ability to use it more like a sleeping bag, the hybrid from UGQ allows you the ability to customize and personalize this style, unlike most others.
- DTCS – Dynamic Tension Control System – Keeps you warmer on cold nights due to pulling quilt edges underneath and holding them there.
- Taper Options – You can choose to have a taper from top to bottom leading to lower weight or squared off.
- Neck Closure – Double snap and draw cord for fine-tuned draft control. Stay cozy and toasty all winter long!
- Long Lead Times – Currently listed as 3-4 weeks if you need a quilt ASAP for a trip you need to look elsewhere to faster stocked options instead.
Best Synthetic Quilt for Down Allergic Thru-Hikers
Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX
- Their original and best selling quilt, the Revelartion, but featuring the APEX Synthetic fill in place of down!
- This design allows you to dial in a comfortable night’s sleep in a wide range of different temperatures and climates.
The range of quilts from Enlightened Equipment is amazing, there is something for every hiker to get what they need to be more comfortable sleeping on the trail.
- Very Lightweight – This quilt is one of the lightest weight synthetic options available out there for a thru-hiker.
- Less Expensive – Due to limiting some of the variations they are able to have the prices come in at a less top heavy price.
- Customisable – They offer strong customization to help you get the quilt to be a perfect fit for yourself.
- Long Lead Times – As of writing this is approximately 2-4 weeks.
- Less Features Vs Competitors – They don’t have some of the high-end features found on other quilts in this list.
Best Lightweight Minimalist Quilt
Zpacks Solo Quilt
- This minimalist quilt can be tucked under you, clipped at the center, or clipped to your sleeping pad with the included strap.
- Super soft, extra warm, and ultralight, this quilt is a great choice for the hiker that wants it all without sacrificing anything.
Supplemental Details and information
- Uses 900FP Goose Down – Constructed with DownTek water-resistant 900 fill power goose down.
- Overstuffed By Default – Each compartment is overstuffed with 30% more 900 Fill Power Premium Goose Down than is necessary.
- Vertical Main Baffles – The vertical baffles on the upper body keep down from migrating to the sides.
- Cost – Little Pricey
How to Choose a Top Quilt for Your Thru-Hike
Choosing your top quilt is important for your overall warmth and comfort over a long-distance hike, like your bed and blankets at home the top quilt will weigh heavily into your overall warmth through multiple seasons where a thru-hike will take place.
Let’s take a dive into the many things you must weigh to get the right quilt for your trip as not all thru-hikes will have the same circumstances, this means making sure your gear matches the needs of the location, season, and weather that you may pass through.
I am pretty sure everyone will have this listed first, even if money is no object you want to make sure that the price matches the performance and needs from the gear itself, there are many times where the most expensive is not the best gear.
For others the price will mean the choice between one gear versus another, for example, I have a wife and daughter so I get a specific amount per year for gear choices and I must weigh what the gear provides me against the cost and what else I won’t be able to get if I choose to overpay.
This is where most top quilts shine against their similar sleeping bags, but for a standard 20-degree quilt with 850FP down you will get an amazing weight to warmth ratio that makes any worth purchase.
From this point forward though to drop weight you will sacrifice overall durability, like moving to lower denier fabrics, or in down that is more prone to damage over the course of use, like with 950 or 1000FP down.
This is the ability of the top quilt to pack down and compress, this allows you to use a backpack with less internal liters of space the more you can shrink the space needs of the quilt itself.
This is where down as the fill shines over the current synthetics as the synthetics tend to compress by up to 50% less depending on who makes them and what synthetic material is used.
As your backpack space is truly limited you want to get the most packable top quilt possible that also will give you the warmth you will require on the trail, this may at times mean a bigger backpack which is why you always want to purchase this ger before a backpack.
Temperature Rating & Weather
The next vital choice in a quilt is the overall temperature rating, these are many times listed as the “limit” or “comfort” and you should be clear of this before your purchase as comfort is what most people want from their quilt.
Limit typically means with many other clothes and or shivering as cold happens but you will not die, most don’t want to spend nights this way, and the understanding of this on a quilt before a purchase can help you to choose to upgrade to a 10 degree warmer quilt.
Weather matters as down loft will get worse the more moisture and humidity in the air, this causes down to deflate or compress down becoming less insulative and less warm. This means to get the same warmth you would need more down or a synthetic top quilt as synthetic fibers don’t perform worse when damp, a major positive.
Fill (Down Vs Synthetic)
There are two different options available that can be used to stuff your quilt, they are down, feathers from birds, and synthetics which are man-made replacements.
The preferred fill for a quilt is definitely down, starting with Goose, then moving down to other forms of down feathers. Down has a long life when well taken care of and cleaned when necessary, it has the best of most needs for a thru-hiker gear small and packable while being very light in weight.
For those who are allergic to down, which is more prevalent than many know, or those going to more wet or humid areas where the loft of synthetic is vital to overall warmth synthetic is perfect.
Additionally, synthetic quilts are significantly less expensive versus the same quilt with down fill, so for those on a budget they can be a perfect chance to get maximum warmth at the small cost of space needed and little extra weight.
Size (Length and Width)
When you look at a quilt, most are tapered from the top to the bottom and so you have two primary measurements that matter, shoulder width and foot box width, and the length from the toebox to the top hem of the quilt.
Most measurements here will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so you will want to take a good look at them but if you roll around a lot in your sleep looking for the wider quilt will help you sleep warmer more often.
Materials (Inner Liner and Outer Shell)
There are many materials that can be used to create a quilt, but there are typically 2 specific types used to make a normal backpacking quilt, the inner liner (the part that sites against you), and the outer shell (which is typically a thicker and more durable fabric).
The inner liner is what sits against your skin or clothing all night long, the inner liner is typically made of thinner fabric than the outer shell as it has much less of a chance to get torn.
Some people will go all the way down to 7D fabrics to help drop the overall weight of their quilts but for some this material feels slick or clammy against their skin and some report a “sticky” feeling if they sweat at all.
The outer shell is the tough layer that needs to be durable to the abuse of the trek, the thicker the fabric used the stronger the overall quilt will be, should it get caught on a branch or other obstructions.
As with the inner liner you can look to get lighter material to help drop the overall quilt weight but this will leave it vulnerable to damage which could cause a catastrophic failure of the gear if it should tear.
The baffles are the layout that holds the down into place, most companies have many different creations in the way they configure these as improvements and refinements occur to maximize performance.
The most common baffle layouts will be horizontal, vertical, or a mixture of the two. This means that they either go across your body (horizontal) or they go up the length of your body (vertical).
When they do a mixture typically you will get either the head or the foot area in one direction and the rest of the quilt going the other direction.
The issue with baffles that run horizontally over your body is that the down has a chance to move to the sides of your body which will leave the middle core of your body with less down if it migrates down due to gravity.
Sleeping Pad Attachment System
The pad attachment system is what will help keep your quilt anchored to the same area as your sleeping pad, the attachment system is much more important the lower the outside temperature.
While these are quite simple and seem unnecessary I would advise you if you are heading out to hike in colder temperatures to learn how to use them.
A draft collar is a special added area at the top of the quilt near your head that has more down and is added to help seal in the warmth and help in those times where the weather will be exceptionally cold to keep your core warm.
Common Top Quilt Thru-Hiker Issues
There are lots of amazing benefits to using a top quilt for your thru-hike, but there are also some specific issues that most hikers who haven’t used a quilt before may be caught off-guard on, and being prepared is the best way to get the best performance from all gear!
When you start using a quilt you may think you can skip on the pad straps that come with them or are available to add to your order, this is a bad choice as you will move in your sleep after a long day of exhaustive hiking.
The pad straps don’t restrict your movement but do help to anchor the backpacking quilt to the sleeping pad helping to keep you on the pad along with stopping an air gap from happening along with the draft that drops the temperature.
Additionally, many quilts today have some form of dynamic tensioning with either elastics or a cord to help tighten up the quilt under you to pull it in closer to the pad itself to help cut down on these problems.
Sub-Par Temperature Performance
For many who are on their first trips with a quilt, they quite regularly will complain of subpar performance and that the quilt doesn’t keep them warm to the rated temperature they purchased. This comes down to a few misunderstandings people have from their sleep systems along with the ratings on a quilt or sleeping badly.
For a temperature rating, most top quilts are rated to the “limit” temperature where you will be cold and possibly need additional clothing or you may shiver off and on. Basically that if you were to ball up you would be able to survive the night until the next day, this doesn’t sound too fun to me!
If the quilt is limit rated then you need to think about moving up 10 degrees, for example, from a 20-degree quilt to a 10 degree as this would help compensate as this would be closer to a comfort rating at the temperature you wanted.
As to your sleep system, a quilt can protect you from losses in heat to the air around you but many don’t realize that most of your heat is lost directly to the ground underneath you. Your choice of sleeping pad is going to make or break your overall warmth on those cold spring or fall nights!
For most looking for a traditional 3 season use sleep system, you will want to choose a sleeping pad with a minimum R-Value of 4+ and choose an insulated pad to ensure heat is held best but note these pads will typically make noises due to this active shielding.
Head Getting Cold At Night
For many people getting cold at night is what they want to avoid, normally with a mummy sleeping bag you have a hood area that the bag pulls up against it. What you need to do with a quilt is either get a longer quilt size so you could pull it up more and cover your head or look to buy headcovers like a Balaclava.
These easy-to-carry clothing items help keep that heat contained and the one I linked to above is made from a special synthetic which is vital as you will breathe into it introducing moisture all night long if you choose to get one make sure it is a synthetic or merino wool.
FAQ About Top Quilts for Thru-Hiking
There are many other questions that are asked about quilts that new purchasers will want the answers to before making a purchase.
Choosing the correct quilt that matches your backpacking style is important, but equally important is how to choose the correct size of top quilts for thru-hiking.
What is a Top Quilt for Backpacking?
A top quilt is a smaller, lightweight quilt that is sewn together at the foot in most quilts. Unlike sleeping bags, a quilt has no zipper running the length, and the back section that would be material has been removed.
The removal of this zipper and fabric has dramatically helped to lower the weight for the same basic protection and warmth. The sleeping quilt is made to keep you warm from losses to the outside air.
What is a Draft Collar on a Backpacking Quilt?
A draft collar helps prevent the cold from entering the quilt around your neck. You put your head into a downward position or close to your chest, and this causes heat loss through the top of the quilt.
A draft collar on a backpacking quilt will pull down over your shoulders and around your neck area, allowing no cold air in. This is not necessary for a quilt, but many hikers like to have it.
Why Thru-Hikers Choose Quilts Over Sleeping Bags?
A large part is due to the significantly smaller weight and packed size. Zippers are heavy and not able to be collapsed so having them and additional fabric removed allows for exceptional collapsibility and the same or similar warmth.
Weight over 2000+ miles is important and every ounce you can drop safely will only help you to be able to hike longer and with more ease.
How Wide Should a Backpacking Quilt Be?
This will depend more on your position and how you sleep, the amount you move, and based on this information you will be able to know what’s the right fit for you.
For many, a regular size will be fine if a back sleeper, but if you are a stomach sleeper or move lots in the night then the wider the better as this will allow movement but help to isolate and keep drafts out.
Are Quilts Better Than Sleeping Bags?
They are not always “better” but for most in a 3 season use, they will help remove excess weight and space requirements inside a backpack.
For those who go into winter and use the gear for a true four seasons sometimes a mummy bag will be better at protecting your head and neck area from the tremendous cold.
What is the Difference Between Fill Weight Versus Fill Power?
The fill weight is the actual weight of the down used to fill the space in the baffles. This weight is going to be lower the higher the fill power of the down allowing you to drop weight while not losing warmth.
Fill power is the lofting ability of the down and the higher the Fill Power the less total down you need to get the same amount of warmth, so as I said above you can drop the weight while still getting the same amount of warmth but the higher the Fill Power the more expensive.
The higher the fill power the more specific feathers are required but also the less of these feathers from the animals.
While I used to want to get a Revelation over the last 6 months I have been working to save towards a 20 degree UGQ Bandit from all the positives I have read and seen online I have become a convert for next season.
I currently use an OutdoorVitals Stormloft 15 degree bag that has served me very well through my needs but I want something with an open foot box and not a sewn closed as I found I prefer more foot freedom and the ability to move them, especially on warmer nights.
If you loved the detailed guide on choosing your top quilt then I think you will love my other gear-related guides below:
And Remember to HYOH as long as it doesn’t impact others and to always LNT!