Why do some hikers have success with quilts in the winter time and yet many quilt users find that quilts don’t work for them? Are those who camp with quilts in the winter just hardcore or do they use better designed quilts?
Quilts have used successfully in some of the coldest and more remote places on Earth such as the South Pole, Mt. Vinson (Antartica’s tallest mountain), Greenland and Aconcagua by Ray Jardine and his wife, Jenny Jardine, early pioneers of ultralight hiking. British mountaineer Andy Kirkpatrick has used his quilt 10 days on the Troll wall and 7 days on the Eiger in Winter. Scandinavian ultra runner Peter van Geit has used his quilt on 4 month solo hike across 3000km and 120 passes in High Himalayas. Australian hiker Roger Caffin has used his quilt in the Alps and many winter hikes.
Is there anything that is different about the quilts these people have used than what what most hikers use? Yes, there is.
One big difference about these quilts is that they’re long enough to insulate the head which is #1 critical part of the body.
Roger Caffin says “It never ceases to amaze me that so many commercial quilts and sleeping bags do not have hoods. We know that heat loss from your head can make the rest of your body cold no matter how good the quilt or bag, and yet some people continue to try to sleep without protecting their head at night. Equally, we see that the really good mummy-style sleeping bags have very sophisticated hoods, but many settle for quilts without hoods. Weird.” Quilts used by Ray Jardine, Andy KirkPatrick, Peter Van Geit and Roger Caffin all have hoods.
These hoods have one purpose – to keep the head warm and the design can be very simple compared to mummy bags. Roger tell us about his approach “I put a simple hood on all my quilts. It can be just a semi-circle extension as shown on the left here, or it can be a bit more tailored”. Ray Jardine used a shaped head section which he calls the gorget. The contoured design while insulating head also helps the bag to wrap around the body and reduces draft.
How does these hood in quilt work? Roger tell us more “To use my quilt with a hood, I lie down on my mat, slip my feet into the footbox at the end, pull the rest of the quilt up over me, and flip the ‘hood’ bit over my head. I sleep on my side and breathe out the side through a little gap between the hood and the mat. My head is warm, and I am warm. It is just so simple and roomy compared to a closed sleeping bag.”
When made my first quilt back in 2012, I debated between a quilt w/ integrated hood and quilt w/ balaclava but in the end I was not happy with the neck design in hoodless quilts using synthetic insulation. I couldn’t see the point of detachable hood because without the hood it won’t work well. So I made myself a quilt with hood and used it on many expeditions in the Himalayas. It worked so well that I never went back to quilts without hoods.
I made a custom quilt with hood for Peter Van Geit trans Himalayan expedition 2019. His positive feedback encouraged me to offer these quilts for sale. If you want a quilt with a hood, check out www.blueboltgear.com for more information.