by Diane Spicer
This Outdoor Vitals quilt review is built around a common issue for backpackers, encapsulated in this question:
Aren't we all!
An obvious place to start: your sleep system.
This Outdoor Vitals quilt review takes a close look at a synthetic down topquilt designed to go the distance, lighten your load, and stand up to water.
LoftTek 15 Degree Ultralight Backpacking TopQuilt
This Outdoor Vitals quilt review gives the facts you need to determine if it's your Prince Charming backpacking quilt!
Hiking For Her is always on the lookout for innovations in gear design to share with you, so when Outdoor Vitals popped up on the gear radar, it was time to take a hard look.
Outdoor Vitals provided a 15 Degree LoftTek Ultralight backpacking topquilt free of charge for this review.
Hiking For Her is an Outdoor Vitals affiliate. If you purchase Outdoor Vitals gear through the links on this website, HFH receives a small percentage of your purchase price.
And rest easy.
All of the comments, opinions and photos in this review belong to Hiking For Her, so you get the real scoop without any bias.
If you're not sure about the merits of backpacking quilts, read this first.
Here is the underlying concept in this Outdoor Vitals quilt review:
You have two traditional options for insulation when purchasing outdoor gear designed to keep you warm:
You also can choose between two traditional camping approaches to put either choice of insulation to work for you in a sleep system:
The problem all backpackers face is moisture.
how to stay warm when soaked.
And just to keep life on Planet Earth interesting, there is a secondary issue of great importance in ultralight hiking:
I would also add that more and more "regular" hikers are paying attention to these factors, so move over ultralighters ;)
Outdoor Vitals is blazing a third path:
If you're a hiker facing wet conditions, that should get your attention.
You probably have some questions about what's inside that stuff sack.
Let's answer them.
First, the dimensions of this quilt when it's open and flat on the ground:
When it's snapped up around your body, it has streamlined contours which we'll go ahead and call a moderate mummy style, using sleeping bag terminology.
I used a compression stuff sack from my gear locker to see how small I could get this quilt.
The underlying question:
Outdoor Vitals says the compressed size is 8 x 7 x 7 inches.
No heroic measures were taken to compress every last molecule of air out of the stuff sack, and here are Hiking For Her's not very scientific measurements:
If you're using a synthetic fill bag, this small footprint should blow your mind.
Think about all of the room your current sleeping bag demands from your backpack.
Then think about 8 x 7 x 7 inches.
Then ask yourself:
I also stuffed my current down sleeping bag inside the same compression sack (after removing the quilt, just in case you're wondering).
I was curious if I would be able to wring out any volume savings so I can
lug more junk around optimize my packing using this quilt.
I can't say
there was much of a volume difference.
Does a gung ho ultralighter need to stress over how small and compressed a piece of gear can become?
As the load lightens, presumably so does the need to watch anxiously over every piece of gear disappearing into the voluminous (or not) backpack.
So while this bag scrunches down into a lovely little ball, does it really need to be compressed before it enters your backpack?
On to another important question.
The weight of the regular length in this review comes in at 2 pounds, 2 ounces per Outdoor Vitals specs.
Disclosure: I did not verify this weight.
Compared to my current sleeping bag, the quilt saves me nothing in weight.
But as an older female hiker, that's not my main concern.
Let's press on.
Temperature rating, in other words.
This bag is rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, which puts it into three season serviceability.
This 15F temperature rating uses the EN testing standard adopted by most outdoor gear manufacturers.
A caveat: There is a difference between comfort and lower limit ratings.
It wasn't clear to me which one was being referred to by the 15F rating.
Always look at any temperature rating number with a healthy dose of skepticism.
There are no gender specific temperature ratings (although if I had my way in the industry, there would be).
Disclosure: that's not strictly a true statement, in the sense that companies which rate outdoor gear use young males almost exclusively as test subjects.
Hey, no worries, my trail sister: just use your own scale!
Option two: Be crafty about the clean, dry clothing you choose to wear to bed, in order to maximize the temperature rating on the quilt.
Because we are relying upon this quilt to trap our body heat and contribute to a good night's sleep, even in damp conditions, let's look carefully at the vital components (might I even say Outdoor Vitals?) of the design:
No need to worry about zippers, because there aren't any on a quilt.
Personal note: the zipper on my sleeping bag can be headache inducing when it jams.
Hello quilt!! Just sayin'...
It's no secret that geese and ducks have solved not only the relentless downward drag of gravity, but how to stay warm in frigid temperatures.
Their secret weapon for warmth is feathers, specifically the tiny barbed ones closest to their body, called down.
For this quilt, we're looking at a human version of down called LoftTek.
This fill material is a microfiber hollow filament synthetic with the attributes of natural down that we're seeking: highly compressable and able to trap body warmth.
In addition, each fiber is coated with silicon to repel water molecules.
Did you catch what just happened here?
Regardless of which off trail sports you follow, it's a win for all of us trail lovers.
Bonus: the silicon coating also allows the fibers to repel each other, avoiding clumping in baffles that will create cold spots in the quilt.
An organization called the IDFL Institute and Laboratory rates textiles and provides quality assurance services.
A numerical rating is nice, but the burning question for us as hikers is this:
Luckily, I didn't have to do a torture test.
Watch as Outdoor Vitals (YouTube video) answers that question here.
Quick takeaways from the quilt torture test video:
Trust me in this Outdoor Vitals quilt review when I tell you that you really don't want to go down the rabbit hole of learning the nuances of various units used in textile measurement.
Let's just unpack the terminology used to describe this quilt's fabric in a cursory fashion, enough to give either a thumbs up or thumbs down.
For both the shell and lining, one fabric was used in the quilt:
D stands for denier, and is a measure of the linear mass density of a fiber.
Ouch! Let's try that again.
One strand of silk (thanks, Mother Nature) gives us the base unit for one denier, and if you extend that strand out to 9000 meters (pity the silkworm!), it weighs one gram.
So the term "denier" is a mashup of "density" and "linear" (which is why it sounds so weird when you try to pronounce it).
It serves as a unit to compare one fabric's fibers with another in terms of thickness.
Or, it refers to a medieval French coin.
Who cares about word origins when you're facing a cold, wet night?
As hikers, we care about a fabric's durability, water repellency, and weight.
units provide you with a comparable measurement of thickness and durability,
with higher numbers giving you more of these highly coveted characteristics for outdoor gear.
And that means less weight compared with a 40D quilt.
The shell fabric in this quilt is also water resistant, thanks to a coating called VitalDry applied by Outdoor Vitals.
I can't comment on durability yet, but I'll report back after I've used my quilt through a complete cycle of three season camping.
For the record, I can't imagine a scenario in regular hiking conditions where you'll sleep in this quilt on an unprotected, rough, scratchy surface like a granite rock face or jagged wood splinters.
But for normal use with a sleeping pad or a tarp beneath you, it's plenty durable.
Also for the record:
20D seems pretty standard for non-outer wear outdoor gear, or ultralight gear - even when it's a jacket designed to protect you during changeable weather conditions in non-abrasive terrain.
So now you know that it takes a bit of forethought to treat 20D right on the trail.
Here's a little tough love in this Outdoor Vitals quilt review:
You want the insulation you paid for to stay inside the quilt.
And you want the stress points (shoulders, for instance) to bear the forces you exert as you
toss and turn rest easy after a long day on the trail.
The snaps which close up the head end of this quilt are reinforced, to withstand the impatient tugging you might apply when you're in a hurry to get outside at midnight.
The stitching seems (did you catch that?) up to the task as well.
Because this is a topquilt and I'm a ground sleeper, it was paired with a sleeping pad.
By the choice of an insulated sleeping pad, you can see that I'm an ice cold sleeper.
My feet never seems to warm up, and let's not even talk about my neck.
So to say I was skeptical when I crawled into this lightweight quilt doesn't begin to cover it.
The absolutely first thing I noticed: the roomy footbox, despite the tapered design.
Note: The toebox does not open up all the way, so you can't use this quilt in a traditional blanket conformation.
But the advantage of having a "permanent" toebox is that it warms up fast because there are no snaps or open areas where body heat will leak out.
And it makes a great spot to stash your clothing for the next day, so you can avoid pulling on ice cold layers first thing in the morning.
1. The softness of the 20D nylon felt welcoming and comfortable for a stiff, sore body at the end of the day.
2. It was a snap (or two) to get sealed into the quilt.
3. The quilt interior warmed up rapidly, much more so when compared to my current sleeping bag.
Personal question, but okay, I'm a side sleeper.
As a side sleeper, I was able to burrow into the closed up quilt and keep drafts off my neck (at least at first).
Less smart alecky answer:
Completely honest answer:
It's not cheating to optimize the design of a piece of gear by adding your own unique twist to it.
That's called being a smart, safe hiker.
A topquilt lays over your torso, arms and legs as a blanket of warm, but eliminates fabric and insulation from beneath you
While a quilt takes some of its design cues from a
sleeping bag, it drops the snuggly hood - on purpose - to save weight.
For me, this is the strongest drawback to switching from a sleeping bag to a quilt: there is no way to trap heat around the vulnerable head and neck areas.
Or is there?
My neck and head felt cold once I settled in, even though the ambient temperature inside the tent was probably around 50F AND I'm a self-confessed side-sleeping burrower.
Because I am unable to train myself not to un-burrow when I am fast sleep.
More true confessions:
By the second day into a hiking trip, my hair is feeling so gross that I wear a hat 24/7.
In the interest of hygiene, I have a designated "sweaty" hat for hiking, and a
"clean" hat less sweaty cap for sleeping.
I find that a close fitting wool cap with a fleece lining is best for sleeping.
And a fleece scarf around my neck.
To avoid bringing along several hats and scarves (even though you now have all that extra room in your pack), buy an adjustable balaclava to cover your head and neck all in one fell swoop.
I'm wondering if the siliconized microfibers will stay coated with that water repellent finish after multiple machine washings.
And to extend its life, I won't be sending this quilt through the dryer. Instead, I'll line dry it and store it unpacked so the loft won't be affected.
Baffles are sewn into the nylon fabric to hold the insulation in separate compartments.
Each baffle on this quilt measures ~10 inch x 7 inch (as verified by my trusty blue ruler featured above).
When you crawl inside the quilt and hold the top layer up to the light (moonlight, headlamp, what have you to pass the time before you conk out), you'll notice that the down insulation does not fill the entire baffle.
This did not seem to be a problem with trapping my body heat, however. It felt like there was plenty of insulation and it was quite well distributed in my dry quilt.
But a wet quilt?
It's good to know who you're doing business with, especially if you want to develop a long term relationship.
Here's the summarized version of the Outdoor Vitals business philosophy:
For more specifics on their quality gear, visit the Outdoor Vitals website.
If you scrolled down here just to get the recap, here it is!
The good stuff about this ultralight synthetic down backpacking top quilt:
But I will...
For those of us who want to go light but still want a roof over our heads, this quilt offers versatility.
As a topquilt, it can be paired with a sleeping pad inside a tent or beneath a tarp.
You can also use it for hammock camping, with the aforementioned hacks for head, neck, and backside.
Using this quilt, you can thrash around and stick out your arms and legs to your heart's content - no "confined to quarters" feeling as in a sleeping bag.
And regardless of where and how you curl up in this quilt, you will remain warm for three season camping - even if the quilt gets wet.
And those of us who commute or travel in dicey winter conditions, why not stash it in the car or gym bag when you don't need it for the trail, "just in case"?
You can look high and low without finding another comparable down backpacking quilt at this price point that delivers the trifecta mentioned above.
In case you missed what impressed me the most while doing this Outdoor Vitals quilt review, you get warmth when this ultralight backpacking quilt gets completely wet.
Testing this quilt forced me to think hard about switching from my beloved down sleeping bag.
Hiking For Her is expecting more good technology and thoughtful designs from Outdoor Vitals in the years ahead.
You should, too!
A backpacking quilt like this will lighten your load without excessive lightening of your wallet.
If you have questions about anything you've read in this Outdoor Vitals quilt review, drop me a line.
Still debating between carrying a sleeping bag or a backpacking quilt?
Outdoor Vitals Quilt Review
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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