Backpacking quilts are so expensive because they are made from expensive, lightweight materials, and the processes used to make them take a lot of time. There are ways you can avoid spending so much on a single piece of gear, but it is difficult to replace quilts since they’re so lightweight and versatile.
If you want to learn more about backpacking quilts and why their price is so high, make sure to keep reading!
Table of Contents
What is a backpacking quilt?
The backpacking quilt is very much like a regular quilt. The main differences are that the camping quilts are:
- Better insulated
Backpacking quilts come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them look like actual quilts, while others are stitched together where the feet go. There are types that go all the way around you like a cacoon, and there are those that you can use like regular blankets.
Why do backpacking quilts cost a lot?
Quilts are popular with many campers and hikers who prefer light equipment that has more than one application. However, camping quilts tend to be less than affordable and can put a serious dent in your camping budget. Since well-made backpacking quilts tend to cost over $200, it is perfectly understandable why anyone wouldn’t want to invest that much in gear.
However, their price is usually well-deserved. Camping quilts are in many ways better than other types of shelter. And, while they come with a few drawbacks, they tend to give more for the money you invest. Think of it this way: A tent and sleeping bag setup would cost way more than $200, while a good quilt can replace both of these pieces of gear. So, in the end, you actually end up paying less and having about the same comfort during your sleep.
Whether quilts are worth the money you’d need to invest in them will depend entirely on you and your camping preferences. The way you prefer to camp and the gear you like to use will determine whether you should spend any money on a quilt.
Materials cost a lot
As we’ve mentioned before, backpacking quilts are designed to be water-resistant and to provide great heat insulation. This means that they can’t be constructed using natural materials such as cotton. To make the backpacking quilts, manufacturers employ materials such as nylon, silnylon, polyurethane, and polyethylene.
Materials such as these are not cheap and they definitely add to the price of the quilt. Even though you can get quilts made from natural materials such as cotton or wool, we don’t recommend this. Natural materials tend to absorb moisture which makes them much less suitable for heat retention.
Some of the other shelters require a 70l backpack to be properly packed or take up space on the outside of your pack. The materials used in making the quilts ensure that they don’t take up too much space in your pack, no matter how fluffy they are.
Finally, it comes down to something called the fill power. This is the down that fills the quilt. It is what makes camping quilts retain your body heat inside and block the cold from coming in. The materials used to make the down are not that expensive, but the processes that manufacturers employ to make it so light are a bit pricey.
Quilts are pricey because they are lightweight
Backpackers, thru-hikers, and ultralight campers all over the world prefer lightweight gear they can carry with them anywhere they go. This is why quilts are the obvious choice for most of them. You can use a backpacking quilt with a fill power of 900 with a weight of about 20oz to sleep pretty comfortably in the winter, even without a tent.
When you compare this to the weight you’d have to lug around if you were carrying a tent and a sleeping bag, the difference is obvious. The difference is there not only in weight but also in the price. A one-person ultralight tent costs north of $250 and usually weighs more than 20oz.
They are versatile
The final reason that camping quilts tend to cost more is that you can use them in a variety of ways. They’re not just for sleeping. You can sort your gear on them, use them to keep your body heat in while walking, and set them up on a hammock for extra comfort. A good quilt can even serve as a tarp, though we wouldn’t recommend this, as it will definitely damage the quilt.
When should you use a camping quilt?
Backpackers usually use quilts when hiking in cold weather. Their heat insulation helps keep the cold nights at bay, and their light weight means you don’t have to carry a lot of weight on your shoulders during the day. In addition to this, you can use a quilt when:
- ultralight camping
- on the trail
What are some cheaper alternatives to backpacking quilts?
While camping quilts are extremely useful, we understand if you don’t want to invest so much into a single piece of gear. Fortunately, there are a lot of alternatives that will provide similar benefits without putting a significant dent in your budget.
Keep in mind that these alternatives are not perfect. What they lack in some aspects, they can make up in the fact that they’re not expensive or they provide other benefits in different fields.
Unfortunately, quilts have a lot of advantages over sleeping bags, apart from being lighter. Quilts are sturdier than most sleeping bags. This means that they can take more punishment while keeping their integrity.
Additionally, backpacking quilts are easier to secure to your ground cover than attaching your sleeping bag to a sleeping pad. This means that if you are a restless sleeper and tend to toss and turn, you’ll be much less likely to slip off the pad. With a quilt, there’s absolutely no chance you’ll twist around and wake up on your face in the dirt.
However, sleeping bags are generally much cheaper than camping quilts and come in a greater variety of both prices and fill power. This being said, you can adapt your quilt to use it all year round, while you’ll usually need a different sleeping bag for each season.
The major advantage quilts have over tents is that you can use a quilt in the wind without a tunnel tent, or any tent for that matter. This is the main reason why ultralight campers and hikers prefer backpacking quilts.
However, tents provide better protection from the elements. If you’re camping in the rain, a tent will cover you from above and keep the water out of your shelter. Even though you could carry a tarp with you to make up for the lack of protection from above, setting up a tent is usually faster and requires less experience.
DIY backpacking quilts
If you’re really set on trying out a quilt, but you’re not prepared to invest a lot of money, you can always make your own camping quilt. For this, you’ll need:
- nylon or Tyvek or some other water-resistant fabric
- oiled thread or industrial thread, or anything durable and rip-resistant
- a sewing machine
- about 30h of time which you don’t have to dedicate in one sitting
- feathers or some other form of down
You can get most of these materials in home improvement stores like Home Depot. Doing it yourself will reduce the costs by a lot. Depending on which materials you use the price should range from $10 to $80 dollars per quilt. Not only will this allow you to save money on gear, but it will give you an interesting project to do.
How to properly set up a backpacking quilt?
A quilt is a great resource, but you’ll need to have some other pieces of gear to complement it. However, even with the additional gear, your quilt will still be a lightweight option that has an excellent weight to usefulness ratio.
Since you’ll be sleeping on the ground, you’ll want to have a layer between you and the cold earth. By doing this you’ll prevent any heat from seeping from your body to the ground.
You can use a sleeping pad to provide extra insulation. With that and your quilt, you’ll be snug warmly and comfortably in anything but the fiercest of winters. If you don’t like bringing a sleeping pad with you, you can improvise and make a groundsheet out of Tyvek. or use your tent’s groundsheet.
In case none of these work for you and you know some bushcraft, you can use logs to craft a bed and lift your sleeping arrangement off the ground.
Secure it from being blown off
Another thing you’ll want to do is secure your camping quilt to something immovable. Even though quilts are much more stable than sleeping bags, they can still move about. This is especially true in windy conditions. And you don’t want your quilt to be blown off by the wind, especially if you’re in it.
The solution is easy and can be done with just a few pieces of paracord. All you have to do is tie the sides of your quilt to some sturdy, immovable objects around you. These can be trees, stakes you’ve previously made, or even your sleeping pad.
However, when you’re tying your quilt off, make sure that you can get in and out of it easily. You don’t want to be stuck in there or to have trouble getting into your shelter.