Motorcycle Sleeping Bags vs Quilts: 7 Reasons To Switch!

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Whilst the sleeping bags vs quilts debate has raged for years, I’ve exclusively used sleeping bags on every single camping trip I’ve ever been on.

That’s not due to preference. It’s because, for many years, that’s all I thought was available to me.

But now, technology had advanced to wager the war against size, weight, and bulk. And bikers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts across the world are changing the way they camp.

So in this post, we’ll be discussing sleeping bags vs quilts and reviewing some of the reasons why I’ll be making the switch in 2022.

You’ll also find links to some of our favourites.

sleeping bags vs quilts - range

1. Sleeping Bags vs Quilts: Weight

The underside of a sleeping bag doesn’t offer much by way of insulation. Why? Because your body weight compresses the feathers beneath you.

Quilts retain the foot box from a standard mummy bag but dispense with the back and the hood. In other words, they provide insulation to the top and sides of your body where it’s needed the most.

Of course, this means you’ll need a ground mat. But you’ll need a ground mat even with a sleeping bag.

But the big upshot is that the removal of the back and hood provides a weight saving of around 20-30% over a standard sleeping bag.

alpkit cloud cover
Alpkit Cloud Cover – images via Alpkit

2(a). Warmth

For the sake of argument, let’s say you were in the Arctic. In January.

If you tested a sleeping bag and compared it with a quilt, the sleeping bag would be undoubtedly warmer.

Cosy and snug, the sleeping bag would cuddle around you whilst the hood protected your head from the freezing temperatures.

In contrast, you would find the quilt drafty due to the attachment system. And you would miss the hood and that feeling of snugness.

But it’s not quite as clear-cut as that.

See, if you compare a sleeping bag with a quilt of the same temperature rating, you would likely find more down fill in the quilt. And this equates to more warmth on the top and sides of your body (where it matters.)

So in theory, the quilt wins this battle.

Further, if you compared the quilt to an ultralight sleeping bag (one that forgoes a hood or draft collar in favour of weight savings), the insulation of the ultralight sleeping bag would come more in line with that of the quilt. 

Except it isn’t that simple. Because in the real world, we have to contend with drafts. And sleeping bags offer unrivalled protection against drafts when compared to quilts.

But (and this is a big but), how many bikers are riding in the Arctic in January?

Not many, I would imagine.

What if you’re touring in a relatively warm country in ambient riding conditions where serious protection from the elements isn’t a life or death situation?

Well, we then have to look at warmth-to-weight ratios which we will do now.

big agnes kings canyon - sleeping bags vs quilts
Big Agnes Kings Canyon UL Quilt – images via Big Agnes

2(b). Warmth-to-Weight

In essence, the warmth-to-weight ratio is where we take a sleeping bag or quilt and compare the temperature against the weight.

So if we took a 15° sleeping bag that weighed 700g and a 15° quilt that weighed 550g, then the quilt would have a better warmth-to-weight ratio because it offers the same insulation but at a lighter weight.

When we look at it this way, quilts take home the victory every time. But it’s worth noting that in the real world, this only applies when camping in ‘normal’ conditions and not necessarily in the Arctic in January!

rab neutrino 200
Rab Neutrino 200 Down Quilt – image via Rab

3. Sleeping Bags vs Quilts: Packability

As mentioned above, quilts are missing a hood and a back section. With less material, they compress down better. And as well know, space is at a premium when on two wheels!

But it’s not just about the packability.

When it comes to packing, you don’t have to compress a quilt as tightly as you would a sleeping bag.

And less compression means quicker loft when you get to where you’re going.

Not only this but the continual compression and lofting of sleeping bags deteriorate the properties of the bag. Over time, you start to lose the quality of protection.

You can generally pack quilts in a less compressed state. So not only will it loft quicker after a tough day on the trails, but it will last longer, too.

sea to summit ember - sleeping bags vs quilts
Sea To Summit Ember EbII-1° – images via Sea To Summit

4. Price

When comparing prices between sleeping bags and quilts, you need to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples.

A top-of-the-range quilt will cost more than a budget sleeping bag. And vice-versa.

So when comparing prices, ensure you are looking at similar insulation, quality and loft.

But broadly speaking, quilts cost less than comparable sleeping backs – simply because the designs are less complex. They have less material, don’t have expensive zips, and don’t have a hood.

therm-a-rest corus 32
Therm-A-Rest Corus 32° Quilt

5. Comfort & Less Restrictive

As a side-sleeper, I generally find sleeping bags to be restrictive. I don’t find them uncomfortable per se, but I do find it uncomfortable to turn from one side to the other as I sleep.

And to make it worse, I tend to roll around a lot. When using a sleeping bag, this rolling around means I end up rolling off my sleeping mat and waking up cold.

In this respect, quilts are far less restrictive than sleeping bags.

They are also designed to attach to a ground mat which means I can roll around as much as I please and not find myself sliding onto the ground in the middle of the night.

However, this isn’t the case for everybody. Side-sleepers who stay still during the night might still prefer a sleeping bag.

nemo siren ultralight - sleeping bags vs quilts
Nemo Siren Down Ultralight Quilt – 30F/-1C

6. Temperature Regulation

One thing I find irritating with sleeping bags is that I’m either too damn hot or too damn cold.

I love getting in them and zipping them up.

But at some point during the night, I’ll wake up because I’m too hot and feel the need to let some air in.

Of course, this is when the zip gets caught on the material. And my peaceful slumber is replaced by a 15-minute fight with the zipper.

With a frigging torch.

Top-rate sleeping bags will keep your temperature regulated. But usually for a hefty price tag and at some considerable weight.

Quilts don’t offer this luxury, but they are lighter and mitigate the constant battling with zips.

mountain equipment helium
Mountain Equipment Helium Quilt – image via Mountain Equipment

7. Moisture Control

When camping in a sleeping bag, there is always a chance it will be compromised by moisture.

But most people do their best to avoid any kind of moisture build-up because nobody wants to get into a wet sleeping bag.

Externally, we regulate airflow via flaps and vents. You may even choose to drape a waterproof sheet over your bag at night to stop any condensation from dripping off the tent and onto the bag.

But it’s not just external issues we have to worry about.

As mentioned above, I’m a bit of a mover and shaker during my sleep – which means I often find myself tangled up in my sleeping bag with my head face down in the hood.

It’s not uncommon for people to breathe into their sleeping bags – either through getting tangled in the hood or simply snuggling into the bag.

And as we all know, respiration includes moisture.

So whilst you may do everything in your power to protect the bag from moisture on the outside, you could be breathing into it and making it wet from the inside out.

Quilts deal much better with moisture control because your head is always outside.

Even with a neck collar, you can roll around as much as you like and you’re head will stay outside the quilt.

Keeping moist breath out keeps the quilt dry on the inside.

therm-a-rest vesper - sleeping bags vs quilts
Therm-A-Rest Vesper 20F/-6C Quilt

Our Budget Choice Sleeping Quilt

If you have a look at the websites we’ve linked above (under the images), you’ll see that most of these are by no means cheap!

And not many people are in a position to shell out hundreds of pounds on a quilt they aren’t sure they’ll like.

So with that in mind, our budget option is the OneTigris Featherlite Ultralight sleeping quilt available on Amazon.

It’s a synthetic quilt which is by no means best in class. But it’s fantastic value for money and is perfect for camping in the warmer months.

You can find more details here or by clicking on the button below.

OneTigris Featherlite Ultralight sleeping quilt
OneTigris Featherlite Ultralight sleeping quilt

Motorcycle Sleeping Bags vs Quilts: Conclusion

Some people are inevitably going to prefer quilts whilst others will prefer a good old fashioned sleeping bag.

And that’s fine!

If you are indeed going to be in the Arctic in January, you will surely be better off with a mummy-style sleeping bag.

But regardless of opinion, quilts are lighter, easier to pack, and more versatile in the real world – and that makes them the ideal choice for motorcycle touring and camping.

Will you be making the switch this year?

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Top image: Cliford Mervil via Pixels


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