10 Best Thru-Hiking Sleeping Bags and Quilts for 2021

10 Best Thru-Hiking Sleeping Bags and Quilts

When choosing the best sleeping bag or quilt for your thru-hike, you want it to be warm enough for the lowest temperatures you might encounter on your hike, pack down small, and not be too big or heavy to carry for weeks or months on end. The major factors to consider are as follows:

  • Temperature rating. Many sleeping bags list the lower limit in the model name. Read the fine print—the comfort limit will be higher.
  • Synthetic vs down fill. Synthetic bags won’t pack down as small but will maintain better insulating properties if they get damp or wet.
  • Warmth-to-weight ratio. A higher loft down will pack smaller and stay warmer with a lower weight, but will also cost more.
  • Sleeping bag vs quilt. This is all about preference. Quilts offer more freedom of movement but can be drafty. Sleeping bags are more protected but can be bulkier and more confining.

We go into details with those factors below, but as you go through these listings, keep in mind the season and expected climate of your thru-hike. A mid-season Arizona Trail thru-hike won’t need the same warmth bag of an early-season start on the Appalachian Trail. Also, consider how warm or cold you sleep. Overall, most three-season thru-hikers will be happy with a 20-degree sleeping bag or quilt, and you can find a good one for under 2.5 pounds. Additionally, the sleeping bags here might be more expensive than heavier, lower- fill-power models. That’s because we considered that you’re carrying a sleeping bag for up to 2,000 miles, and you want it to be warm enough and relatively lightweight.

Here are the best sleeping bags and quilts for thru-hiking, listed in no particular order.

1. Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20

With a 20-degree comfort rating, the Western Mountaineering UltraLite is the company’s best all-around mummy sleeping bag, as far as temperature rating goes. This hooded mummy bag is packed with 16 ounces of 850-fill down for a full weight of 1 pound, 13 ounces. It has a slightly narrower shoulder area, which could feel confining to some people, but for smaller hikers, this reduced interior space means less to keep warm and higher thermal efficiency. Read the SectionHiker Review. Many cold sleepers also like the Western Mountaineering Versalite 10.

Check for the latest price at:
Backcountry | Amazon

2. Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 Quilt

Enlightened Equipment Revelation
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation is one of the most popular quilts on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail. This company was among the first to really popularize backpacking quilts, and the Revelation is one of their most popular quilt models, coming with a zippered footbox. The stock 20-degree Revelation weighs 19.18 ounces, but can also be customized. The Revelation comes with elastics to strap to your sleeping bag and a draft collar to snap around your neck.

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Enlightened Equipment

3. Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20

Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20
The Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20 is a sleek, simple mummy bag with a half-zip and filled with high-loft, 900-fill down. This bag packs down to the size of a volleyball and is packed with NikWax hydrophobic treated down to help keep the moisture at bay from tent condensation or wet environments. Like a quilt, the bag has a greater percentage of down on the top of the bag rather than equal insulation on top and bottom. The Hyperion 20 is rated to a 32-degree comfort limit and a 20-degree lower limit, an important distinction. See our tips section, below.

Check for the latest price at:
Backcountry | REI | Amazon

4. Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag

Zpacks Classic Quilt
For hikers who can’t choose between a full mummy bag and a quilt, the Zpacks Classic Quilt Sleeping Bag is a good in-between option. The 20-degree model weighs just 1 pound, 1 ounce, saving weight with a 3/4 length zipper and no hood. It’s packed with DownTek-treated 900-fill down and can be unzipped for more venting on warmer nights. This makes it ideal for a thru-hike where the seasons will be changing. The zipper is on the bottom of this bag, which helps prevent drafts. Read the Section Hiker review.

Check for the latest price at:
Zpacks

5. Feathered Friends Egret UL 20

Feathered Friends Egret UL 20
The Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 is a women’s-specific bag built for the female body, which means narrower at the shoulders and packed with extra down in the footbox. It has an incredibly high-loft, 950-fill down insulation, and weighs 27.2 ounces. Feathered Friends has some of the plushest bags out there, including a protective draft tube and thick draft collar. The exterior is a 10D Pertex Endurance fabric which helps protect the down, and the bag’s sturdy zipper has keepers to help prevent it from snagging on the material. The Feathered Friends Hummingbird UL 20 is a comparable men’s bag.

Check for the latest price at:
Feathered Friends

6. Katabatic Gear Alsek 22 Quilt

Katabatic Alsek 22
While some quilts feel like they aren’t wide enough to wrap around, the angled “wings” on the Katabatic Alsek 22 help keep the quilt secure around the hiker without a major weight penalty. The Katabatic Alsek weighs just 1 pound, 6 ounces with 900-fill down and a durable Pertex Quantum Ripstop. It also has a longer sewn footbox than some other quilt models, which helps trap more heat. We also like the Katabatic Palisade 30, but generally recommend something a bit warmer for a thru-hike, especially with the low weight of these quilts.

Check for the latest price at:
Katabatic Gear

7. Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 15

Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 15
With a 650-fill insulation, this is the lowest-fill loft on this list. Despite this, the Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 15 only weighs 2 pounds, 5 ounces, and has a more durable, heftier DWR-treated exterior fabric than some of the more expensive models on the market. This bag packs down smaller than you’d think and has a nice draft collar and draft tube for added protection. The “Performance Plus Mummy” shape can help retain more heat inside the bag, but it might feel tight to hikers who like more interior space in their sleeping bags. The Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass has a 26-degree comfort rating.

Check for the latest price at:
Backcountry | REI | Moosejaw

8. Montbell Seamless Down Hugger WR 900 #3

Montbell Seamless Down Hugger
The Montbell Seamless Down Hugger WR 900 #3 might be a mouthful, but this uniquely constructed sleeping bag aims to reduce the constrictions that baffles can place on the ability of down fill to reach full loft. Since baffles help keep the down in place, this model instead uses a special “web” of yarn throughout the bag to trap the down in place. There are plenty of warm, lightweight options in this line, but the WR 900 #3 has a 30-degree rating, 900-fill down, and weighs just 1 pound, 3.1 ounces.

Check for the latest price at:
Montbell USA

9. REI Magma 15 Sleeping Bag

REI Magma 15 Sleeping Bag
The REI Magma 15 has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any sleeping bags in the REI line. Like many REI-branded products, the Magma is well designed and uses quality materials for a lower price-point than comparable bags from other brands. The Magma 15 has 850-fill down and weighs all for 1 pound, 12.2 ounces. The Pertex shell repels water, and there are internal drawcords to adjust the hood. REI also makes this in a women’s-specific model, with the same temperature rating for a slightly higher weight of 2 pounds, 4 ounces. Read the SectionHiker review.

Check for the latest price at:
REI

10. Nunatak Arc UL Three Season Quilt

Nunatak arc-ul
The Nunatak Arc UL Three Season comes in ratings from 30 degrees to 20 degrees. The 20-degree model weighs 1 pound, 7 ounces, and comes with the option of a few different face fabric weights, depending on your durability needs and preferences. The Arc UL 20 is insulated with 900-fill down, with the option of a water-resistant treatment. The quilt has a differential cut, meaning the interior is cut smaller than the exterior to help save weight This allows the down to loft higher and provide more warmth than compressed or clumped insulation. These quilts have a long lead time, so plan ahead if you’re looking to order one. Read the SectionHiker review.

Check for the latest price at:
Nunatak

Thru-Hiking Sleeping Bag and Quilt Tips

Temperature ratings

Like we said above, most three-season thru-hikers will be perfectly comfortable with a 20-degree sleeping bag—be sure to check the R-value of your sleeping pad to make sure it complements the bag’s rating. If the weather gets colder, you can throw on a beanie or a jacket in the sleeping bag. If it gets warmer, unzip the bag for venting. We’ve listed mostly 20-degree bags in this roundup, and since the majority of models have a high-loft fill, you aren’t getting a major weight penalty by going warmer than a 32-degree bag.

It’s important to understand the nuances of sleeping bag temperature ratings. Most companies two ratings for sleeping bags: a comfort limit rating and lower limit rating.

  • Comfort rating indicates the temperature at which a cold sleeper might feel comfortable. This is the temperature rating most brands use on women’s bags.
  • Lower limit rating (which is always lower than the comfort rating) indicates the temperature at which a warm sleeper might still feel comfortable. This is the temperature rating brands use on men’s bags.

Many manufacturers use the lower limit in the model name, which can make this somewhat confusing. For instance, when you read the fine print, the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 20 actually has a lower limit of 20 degrees, and a comfort limit of 32 degrees. So when you buy the Hyperion 20, it’s not promising you’ll be super comfortable at 20 degrees. Some sleeping bags for more extreme excursions will also have a “survival limit,” which will be the lowest number on the tag or description. This is the lowest temperature you should take the bag out in and still be safe.

There’s always a grey area in temperature ratings. Some people sleep colder, some like to wear a down coat to sleep in no matter what. Aside from checking the ratings and making sure you know what the bag’s comfort limit is, spend time reading the reviews and ensuring it’s accurately rated.

Be aware that some companies do not publish comfort and limit ratings for their sleeping bags. The two most notable of these are Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends. These are both small companies that can’t afford the testing process. Rest assured that their sleeping bags are as warm as they say they are. Both are arguably the best sleeping bag manufacturers in the business and are favorites with thru-hikers and backpackers alike.

Unlike sleeping bags, there isn’t an independent standardized test to measure the warmth of a backpacking quilt. If you sleep cold, we recommend getting a quilt rated 10 or even 20 degrees colder than you expect to need or to be reading to augment the warmth of your quilt with a sleeping bag liner or extra insulated clothing.

Warmth-to-weight ratio

A higher loft down will pack smaller and stay warmer with a lower weight, but they will also cost more. Most of the top-end sleeping bags are at least 850-fill down these days, with some of the pricier models packing 900 or 950-fill down. The fill weight means how much down is inside the bag, and the fill power refers to the cubic inches of down loft that one ounce of that fill produces. If one ounce of fill results in more loft, that’s the higher-quality down. Synthetic sleeping bags are less common, as they don’t compress as small as down, though they do have the benefit of maintaining insulating properties when wet. Unless you’re in a very wet climate, most people will be fine with down insulation. Treated down and a water-resistant face fabric will also help keep you dry. The Enlightened Equipment Revelation APEX is an example of a synthetic-fill quilt.

Sleeping bags vs backpacking quilts

This is all about preference. Quilts offer more freedom of movement, but be aware of the width and know that some of the “standard” sizes might be too narrow to pull all the way around you. The idea behind a quilt is that the down underneath a sleeper isn’t actually doing anything to insulate, and the sleeping pad is all you need. You can save weight and bulk by choosing an open quilt without a full zipper. Be wary of the temperature rating with quilts, as some users find a 20-degree rated quilt will not be as warm as a 20-degree fully enclosed sleeping bag. Sleeping bags offer more protection, but some people find them constricting, and would rather be able to sprawl in their sleep. However, down fill and zipper weights are so advanced these days, that often the weight penalty of the enclosed bag and zipper is negligible, and worth the added protection. Read about the pros and cons of quilts ?here?, and about their temperature ratings ?here?.

Women’s sleeping bags vs men’s sleeping bags

A women’s-specific sleeping bag will often be shorter and more narrow than a men’s bag. This means less space to keep warm, and increased thermal efficiency overnight. The less effort you expend trying to keep your sleeping bag space warm with body heat, the more energy you’ll conserve. Women’s bags can also have different fill based on where women lose body heat and are shaped differently to accommodate women’s bodies. They can be narrower in the shoulders and wider in the hips, whereas men’s bags tend to narrow towards the hips and be wider in the shoulders. We go in-depth on this subject ?here?.

Editor’s note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

About the author

Maggie Slepian is originally from the northeast and is currently based in Bozeman, Montana. Maggie has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, is *almost* done with the New Hampshire 48 4,000-footers, has developed backpacking routes in the Utah high desert, and spent the past five years testing gear and working professionally in the outdoor industry. Maggie spends as much time outdoors as possible, whether it’s backpacking, peak bagging, bikepacking, mountain biking, climbing, skiing, or kayaking. She is currently a full-time freelance writer and editor, and is always busy planning the next backcountry adventure. Get in touch at maggieslepian.com.

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