I had been scheming about the switch from sleeping bags to quilts for a while. Not just quilts actually, but one double quilt, one giant quilt for Kyle and I to share. On trail we share lots of things. We eat out of the same pot, we share the same toothbrush, we hand off one roll of toilet paper, we have all of our contacts in one phone, why not share a sleeping bag?
My logic was this: as much as we both love our Montbell Super Spiral Down Huggers they are only rated to 30 and 40 degrees, and after the wear and tear we have inflicted on them I doubt they are even that warm. On the AT it never really got that cold and when it did we were able to zip them together for extra warmth. Most people agree you need a 20 degree bag for the PCT, and I am a fairly cold sleeper (comfortable in a 0 degree bag in the summer time) so I knew I at least was going to need a new bag. On the AT we saw lots of people using quilts and they looked doable. But I wanted to go one step further, I wanted the double quilt that Zpacks makes.
As a cooperative couple we have some unique opportunities to save weight. I say cooperative because some couples are not okay sharing food, pots, toothbrushes, even tents. But Kyle and I are remarkably good at sharing, as long as I don’t chew too loudly in his ear. This helps us save weight on our tent, our cook system, our gadgets, and our maps and guidebooks. It also puts us in a good position to save weight on our sleep system as well. Two regular down quilts from Zpacks weigh 33.4oz, but one regular double quilt weighs 26oz. Because we are a couple willing to share a sleeping bag we have just saved 7.4oz out of our packs.
Key word here: willing. When I first pitched the idea to Kyle he was skeptical. His arguments hinged around comfort, what if it got too hot and he couldn’t sleep, what if one person moving around kept the other up all night, what if someone stole the quilt all the time? I kept reminding him that we managed to sleep under one blanket every night in our regular lives and were just fine. I pointed out that because it is a lot like a blanket one person can easily take their side off of them while the other stays cozy warm. I got out a measuring tape and showed him what 84″ wide was going to look like. He was still a disbeliever. But because I am the one who does most of the research and planning I decided we were just going to have to push Kyle’s comfort zone a little bit and went ahead and ordered it.
It arrived on the Tuesday before we started the Wonderland Trail. It is beautiful. So fluffy and new, I hardly want to use it because I just want to hang it in our room and look at it lovingly forever. We took it out of its stuff sack and tried it out laying on our bed. Kyle started to get excited, “Yeah, it is really big isn’t it! The foot box is huge! I think this will work!” Tell me something I didn’t already know.
Out on trail it was great. Stayed relatively dry the night we had crazy rain and condensation thanks to the DWR finish on the outside of the bag. It was warm and spacious, and covered both of us even when we would wake up with our pads a foot apart. Purchasing or making some straps to hold our pads together will greatly increase our comfort. We paired it with a 15 degree sleeping bag liner for me and a silk liner for Kyle (20 degrees is plenty warm for him but we don’t want the bag getting dirty so the liner is necessary). Another feature of the double quilt is that it doesn’t have a hood. I HATE having my head constricted in a hood so this doesn’t bother me and Kyle is a burrower so it doesn’t really effect the way he sleeps either. We took Zpacks advice and sized up to a X-long. They suggest going one size bigger then the tallest persons height so they have something to pull up over their head when it gets cold. Since Kyle is 6’0″ and the Long is also 6’0″ we sized up to 6’4″, giving him some extra quilt to pull up around his ears. Boy is it cozy.
There are other companies out there that make awesome looking double quilts. EnLIGHTen just came out recently with their Accomplice which I would have actually considered buying if it had been around last year when I was doing my research. It is a tiny bit heavier than the Zpacks, a little bit wider, has some different features and you can buy it with DownTrek Water-Repellent Down if that is your thing. Also, it is quite a bit cheaper than the Zpacks bag. Nunatak makes a couples sleeping bag, the Dual Arc Alpinists, but it isn’t as wide as the Accomplice or the Zpacks and heavier than both. Mountain Hardwear, Big Agnes, and Nemo all make a quilt but it is more geared towards car camping, they all weigh around 5 or 6lbs. Then there is the infamous Feathered Friends Spoonbill which has won Editors Choice in Backpacker. Geared more towards climbing it has the sleeve on the bottom for your sleeping pads, two hoods, and is quite a bit heavier than the ultralight bags but certainly a lot lighter than the big name brands. Overall I think it’s either the EnLIGHTen or the Zpacks.
How will you know if you and your partner are ready to take the plunge and give up your individual sleeping bags? Do you want to go lighter? Are you able to sleep comfortably on a double bed at home and under a double sized blanket? Or do you need a california king? Once again I want to point out that going lighter is not always easy or as comfortable as what you were used to before. It is often times a new challenge, but one that you are probably able to adapt to given a little time and practice. The moments when I feel most apprehensive about sleeping outside in the tent, under a quilt, in the cold is at night, when I am all cozy and comfy in my cushy queen sized bed. That is when I know I have spent far too much time being comfortable. It is time to go push the envelope a little bit.