Are You A Quilt Or A Sleeping Bag: The Debate Of Quilt Vs Sleeping Bag

I love my sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know

Ernest Hemingway

Just like the writer himself, I love my sleep – with no exceptions. I love my sleep even more after a camping or backpacking day.

There’s nothing better and more satisfying than to dive into my sleeping bag after a long and tiring hike and have some quiet, restful sleep under the stars – that is if my sons don’t insist on staying up and playing with them!

But lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of debate about that beloved backpacker’s best friend. And that is the debate of the quilt vs sleeping bag. Should you use the traditional type of sleeping bags? Or this thing called a quilt?

It’s been an on going debate, but curious, I decided to take a dip into the topic myself.


Meet The Quilt

I’m sure you’re familiar with the sleeping bag by now – but what about the quilt?

I know the first time I heard “quilt”, I immediately thought about those family heirlooms where the parents would cut out small squares from the old clothes or blankets of their kids to make a big blanket over time.

But when it comes to sleeping bags, it’s not the same thing. Meet the quilt – the lightweight alternative to traditional sleeping bags.

Sleeping bags have gone a long way in terms of design and functionality. Companies have found ways to make them lighter without compromising their need to keep you warm at night.

A quilt is one of those ways to reduce the weight you carry but still keep you warm. However, a lot of people are skeptical because it has no bottom. Yes, it has no “bottom” or “backside” – kind of like a hospital gown.

The best way to describe it is simply like a blanket that you can tie closed at the bottom for your feet or around your neck and shoulders. Some quilts even come with an elastic band or cord that you can secure on an air mattress.

In other words, it’s a blanket that you can tuck under your body or onto a mattress

So why do people choose quilts over sleeping bags in the first place?

The main reason is that it is a much lighter option than a sleeping bag and it is more versatile. You can adjust it throughout the night as the outside temperature and your body temperature changes.

You know the feeling where your upper body feels cold but your feet feel incredibly hot? A quit can fix that problem the way a sleeping bag can’t.

A good quilt you can check out is the Thermodown 15-Degree Down Sleeping Quilt from Paria Outdoor Products.

It has all the chords and ties you need to adjust to whatever you’re feeling throughout the nighttime.

NOTE: It’s important to note that you will need a pad or an air mattress of some sorts to use with your quilt since it functions a lot more like a blanket.

Time To Ditch The Sleeping Bag?

Before you think about ditching the sleeping bag for the quilt, the first thing you need to do is to understand why the quilt was developed in the first place.

It is really meant for ultralight backpacking where all unnecessary things are eliminated.

The way a down sleeping bag works, for example, is that there needs to be loft – air trapped inside and around the down. So if you lay on top of it like in a sleeping bag, the compressed feathers loose all of its insulating capabilities.

That is why it is taken out of the quilt.

On the other hand, for the hoods found in mummy bags, they aren’t necessary during the summertime. When the weather gets colder, the argument is that you can simply wear a hat. That is why that “hood” isn’t present in the quilt.

But one of the strongest arguments for sticking with the sleeping bag is that the simple, tubular design is meant to reduce air drafts so you feel warmer and protected from drafts.

Little boy camping with sleeping bag

Sleeping bags are also a lot simpler to use. There are no straps, or cords, or all kinds of knick-knacks that you have to set up. You simply go inside and sleep. And when you’re tired from a long hike, the last thing you want to do is fumble with straps just to get some rest.

There are also so many different types of sleeping bags available that you can choose one that’s perfect for you. You have the single sized, the double or queen sized, mummy bags, classic rectangular, sleeping bags for all temperatures - you name it!

If bulkiness and weight is an issue with sleeping bags, which is why you’re considering a quilt, there are a lot of outdoor companies who have developed very light sleeping bags so you still at least have that option.

Chalk It Down To Personal Preferences

Truth is that no one can answer for you what is better – quilt or sleeping bag because it all comes down to personal preferences and what you need for that specific camping or hiking trip.

The main argument for the quilt is that since you will most likely be bringing an insulation pad on your trip (something every good hiker should know to bring), why bother with a full sleeping bag that will just add weight for you to carry?

But the argument for the sleeping bag is that you can be sure that you won’t freeze over since it wraps your entire body. It is also something that more people are used to.

So how do you choose?

If you move around a lot at night and hate the feeling of being trapped or “restrained”, then the quilt is best for you. It is also good for you with “uneven body temperatures” where half your body feels cold and the other feels hot.

But if you mostly lay flat on your back, and like the feeling of being cocooned, a normal sleeping bag is better for you.

There isn’t much of an issue when it comes to insulation because both products will do pretty good in keeping you warm, especially if you select a good kind. What you need to do is to figure out what makes you most comfortable.

Wrap It Up

To quickly wrap things up, here’s a quick comparison:





Generally heavier, but there are some very light versions available as well.


Takes up less space when rolled up

Can take up a lot of space


Keeps you warm and can be adjusted to where you feel colder or warmer, but works best with an insulation pad/mattress

Keeps you warm without the need for an insulation pad/mattress (unless during very cold weather conditions)


Usually opens out flat like a blanket with cords or ties to attach to a mattress or to cinch the bottom part closed

Simple, tubular design


In general, there are just two types - One that is simply closed at the bottom with nothing else

- And the other that you can adjust/customize with the added cords and ties

There are many variations availbe

- Single, double, queen sized, mummy bags, rectangular bags, different materials, etc


There are no zippers that can get snagged. There are ties or chords to wrap around your body or mattress. Also no “hood”

Most if not all sleeping bags will have zippers. Mummy bags will have hoods

Set up

Arguably more “fussy” to set up since there are all sorts of chords and ties that you have to set up

Simple, no set up needed - just enter your sleeping bag

Best used

Best for people with “uneven body temperatures” and those who move around a lot at night

Best for people who lay still on their backs and like the feeling of being “cocooned”

So there you have it! These are what I have found on the great debate of quilt vs sleeping bag. My advice is that if your budget permits, get both and try them out on different hiking trips so see which one you prefer.

It might be a good idea to have both stored away in your adventure box anyway so you can select which one you’ll need depending on where you’ll go.

I’d like to know which one you prefer, so please let me know in the comments! If you have any stories about your quilt or your sleeping bag, go ahead and drop them there as well.

And don’t forget – feel free to share this with anyone you know stuck in the “quilt vs sleeping bag debate” themselves!

Rita Myers

I’m Rita Myers, and camping is one of my utmost passions. Growing up near the base of a mountain, hiking and camping have been in my system since I was just a little girl. My love for camping and hiking stayed with me well into adulthood. Now, as a mother of two boys and a wife, I keep my passion alive by bringing my family outdoors. Of course, my family isn’t always up to it, so I write these articles and tips in the hope that you and your family can enjoy the great outdoors like I do!