Ultralight Backpacking Quilt
Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt
$380, 16 oz. (regular)
Sizes: regular and long
For seven nights in huts on Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails in July—and to fit all of my clothing layers, food for a week, and other stuff inside my 40-liter pack while keeping it as light as possible—I decided to take the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32 Quilt for its minimalist weight and excellent packability. And it turned out, that hut trek mimicked sleeping outside on mild nights, presenting ideal circumstances for weighing an ultralight backpacking quilt’s strengths and shortcomings.
I slept quite comfortably under the Vesper 32 in full hut dormitory rooms, with windows usually open for ventilation and nighttime lows outside in the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit, though it was always warmer in the hut—probably in the low 50s on the coolest nights and much warmer on other nights in crowded rooms with the heat of many bodies and little ventilation. Given that range of sleeping conditions, I was glad to have a quilt, which I could pull over me or throw off as needed, like a blanket in a bed, without fumbling with a zipper.
Ultralight backpacking quilts are most popular among thru-hikers and weight-conscious backpackers. But many backpackers would find a quilt adequately warm for their summer trips and reap the benefits of its thermally efficient, lightweight, compact design; for some people, it feels much more comfortable than a snug sleeping bag. There are good reasons that backpackers who switch from a bag to a quilt rarely switch back.
The Vesper’s box baffle construction uses mesh walls to maximize loft and eliminate cold spots and perimeter side baffles to help trap body heat. Unlike a simple blanket, the Vesper has a knee-deep, insulated foot box with a 37-inch girth that keeps feet tucked warmly inside and helps anchor the quilt so that it doesn’t slip off while sleeping.
The 8.5 ounces of 900-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down makes the Vesper quite warm for its wispy weight (EN comfort rating 41° F and limit 32° F)—I could immediately feel warmth encompass me when I covered myself with the quilt—and as light and compressible as any sleeping system you’ll find, besting even the lightest bags. It packs down to 5×6 inches in its stuff sack and even smaller when using a compression sack.
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Therm-a-Rest and Nikwax say Nikwax Hydrophobic Down absorbs 90 percent less water and dries three times faster than untreated, standard down feathers, retaining its loft much more effectively when wet than standard down. (Learn more about Nikwax Hydrophobic Down at nikwax.com/en-us/materials/nhd, where a video shows a person floating in a glacial lagoon in Iceland inside a sleeping bag stuffed with that hydrophobic down; there’s no indication of whether the bag’s shell is waterproof with taped seams.)
Like other hydrophobic down, it will lose loft when it gets quite wet. While many people using a backpacking quilt will not likely sleep in situations where it could get quite wet, that can happen in common situations like heavy condensation inside a small, ultralight, single-wall tent or an unexpectedly heavy dew when sleeping outside.
A snap at the top corners of the hoodless quilt keeps it wrapped around your shoulders and two detachable, stretch straps connecting the quilt’s sides around your torso and thighs help keep the quilt wrapped around you.
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But as with any quilt, lacking a zipper means it doesn’t seal around your body, of course, and at 58 inches wide at the shoulders and 51 inches at the hips, the Vesper just barely wraps completely around me. (I’m five feet eight inches, 150 pounds, with a 38-inch chest and 30-inch waist.) The Verper Quilt flaps don’t overlap, leaving a small gap, which I positioned beneath me (against my air mattress); but some users, especially people who shift position a lot in their sleep, might prefer a quilt that wraps more completely around their body.
Some sleeping bags have a greater circumference at the shoulders, including Therm-a-Rest’s Parsec 32, at 62 inches—but it’s a half-pound heavier than the Vesper.
The 10-denier nylon ripstop shell and liner fabric is about as light as you’ll find in any quilt or bag; it’ll last as long as you’re somewhat careful with it.
Besides those minimal features, it’s otherwise basically a high-quality blanket, best for mild to cool nights backpacking—depending on your personal cold tolerance—or summer hut trips. For some people, colder temperatures demand an enclosed sleeping bag for your body, especially backpackers (like me) who toss around in their sleep.
The Vesper line includes the Vesper 20 Quilt ($430, 1 lb. 3 oz. regular), for backpackers who need more warmth, and Vesper 45 Quilt ($350, 12 oz. regular), for backpackers seeking the lightest, most compact quilt for mild nights.
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Stuffed with the highest quality, water-resistant, 900-fill down, the Therm-a-Rest Vesper 32Quilt offers ultralighters, thru-hikers—and many backpackers—an incredibly light and packable sleeping system with all the warmth needed on many, perhaps most, trips.
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