Lately, Sierra Designs has been expanding the scope of their sleep systems. The Backcountry Quilt 700 is one of their latest efforts, continuing the trend towards uncompromised comfort through unique design. Let’s see how it performs in the field.
The Backcountry Quilt 700 is a 15 degree (28 F EN comfort rated) quilt designed to eliminate some of the discomforts of a traditional sleeping bag. There are no toothy zippers here. Instead, the quilt has a sewn foot box, wide fluffy wrap around sides with hand pockets, and a clever hide-away hood for stuffing your face into when it’s extra chilly out, similar to the hood of a mummy bag. If this sounds weird, stick with me. It will make more sense soon. Now, the quilt is constructed from light weight 20D ripstop nylon and it’s stuffed with water resistant 700 fill power DriDown. The quilt comes in at 80″ long, 58″ wide (42″ at the foot), and weighs 1 lbs 15 oz. It retails for $249.95, and includes a mesh storage sack and nylon stuff sack.
What I liked
My favorite part about this quilt is how it feels. The quilt is all around, exceptionally comfortable. No matter how you sleep, the quilt provides ample room inside to sprawl, wiggle, kick, and generally thraw about without restriction. The footbox is spacious, and the width in the shoulders and chest is nearly 5 foot across when opened up . The materials are quite soft and smooth, providing a fairly silky feel that’s nice to the touch and avoids any sensation of clamminess when it starts to heat up inside. It certainly helps that there are no zippers, buttons or clips anywhere to be found, eliminating any pressure points from metal teeth or sliders jabbing into the hip or face when rolling over, unlike most sleeping bags. The quilt is a general pleasure to be inside, with room to lounge out, snuggling contently within it’s lush baffles.
I’m a rotating stomach and side sleeper, so I’m all over the place while trying to fall asleep. I also wake up many times throughout the night just to grunt, roll over and eventually fall back to sleep. This becomes a challenge in mummy bags, where sleeping with your arms by your side while stomach sleeping just doesn’t feel natural, and unzipping the bag to let them free results in cold arms and hands. The “wings” of the sleeping bag as I call them, completely eliminate this problem. They allow the sleeper to slide their hands into pockets in the tips, and wrap their arms, quilt and all, around the shoulders and sides. This allows me to have one arm up, with my other to my side, or both arms up and beneath my pillow, all while staying covered and warm. Where most sleep systems dictate how I’m going to lay, the Backcountry quilt just goes along for the ride, happy to oblige. It’s effort free, feels natural, and greatly enhances how well I sleep while camping, as I’m not battling my instincts just to take a nap.
So, let’s talk about warmth. The quilt uses it’s materials in different places than traditional mummy bags. Where most sleeping bags tend to be restrictive, relying on their small size and tight cocoon like spaces to cut weight and increase warmth, the Backcountry Quilt goes another route. Flat insulation under the body doesn’t trap any air, and thus doesn’t actually insulate. So, it ditches this useless layer and instead relies on the sleeping pad for bottom warmth. This sheds weight, and let’s the quilt use it’s fill and materials in more important places, like on top of your body. The Backcountry Quilt 700 packs a significant 17.85 ounces of light weight, feathery feathers into every nook and cranny. The result is the warmest quilt that I’ve ever tested. Even testing down to it’s lowest rated comfort level, 28 degrees F, I was absolutely toasty inside, with no cold spots or air leaks, thanks to it’s luscious wrap around design and generous amount of fill. If it became particularly chilly, I could turtle up, tucking my head into the “Hide-Away Hood”, keeping cold air off of my face while trapping warm air inside. It also sports a small breathing hole, so moist air that eventually causes dampness and cooling is exhausted immediately. It’s a wonderful feature and actually provides better face coverage than most mummy bags. Being what I consider a 30 degree bag (I like to be warm) it’s usable throughout most of the year too, increasing it’s versatility.
Being warm is nice, but being too hot can also be a problem. Thankfully, the quilt regulates very well. With it’s simple, bed like design, it can be turned down like a blanket to allow cool air to flow over the entire body; The ultimate form of ventilation. Pair this with the naturally regulating down feathers inside, and it becomes easy to stay warm, while avoiding overheating and sweating. Into the high 40’s, I usually just cover up completely, letting the down do the work of keeping me thermally mediated. In warmer temperatures, I’ll turn the quilt down like a blanket, venting my chest, and in even warmer air, I’ll slip out my feet, legs, poke out a knee, or even just cuddle with the thing, providing me a huge range of comfort by just moving around naturally beneath it.
My favorite part about a quilt is the lack of zippers. Getting in and out of the quilt is basically instant, as you just toss it over or sit up. There is no squirming to get inside, fighting with zipper snags, or that sensation of being mummified while still alive. It’s freeing, feels incredibly natural to use, and makes life at camp so much easier.
Taller campers rejoice. The Backcountry quilt is exceptionally long, easily covering my 5’8″ frame from head to toe with several inches to spare. At 80″ long (over 6 1/2 feet), it should completely cover just about anyone.
As per usually with Sierra Designs, the build quality is great. Consistent stitching, tough but light fabrics, and attention to detail makes for a wonderfully constructed sleep system that leaves me nothing to complain about. The fabric also does a great job of resisting stains, grime and water saturation, so keeping it clean should has been an non-issue as well.
$249.95 for a 30 degree quilt is pretty solid considering the features, quality of workmanship, comfort and build quality. It’s a good value for the money, especially considering the amount of fill inside, almost 18 ounces.
What I didn’t like
For a quilt, it’s a little heavier than I would have expected. Now, I’m certainly not saying it’s a heavy sleeping system Not at all. In fact, it’s very light at under 2 lbs. However, there are other quilts out there with similar temperature ranges that are much lighter, albeit without the features, sprawling design, or appealing price tag. Still, it packs down to a respectable 8″ x 13″ with the included stuff sack (about 8″ x 9″ with a compression sack). That’s a little larger than some of my other quilts, but this is just a factor of having more material from the hood and wings.
It’s called the Backcountry Quilt 15, but the EN lower limit is 17 degrees F, which would leave you chilly but able to sleep. It’s comfort rating is actually 30 degrees F, which is the temperature at which you’ll stay warm. Calling it the “30” would be less confusing to consumers.
My girlfriend keeps taking mine. Now I have to get a second one.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700 is a clever piece of equipment. Through it’s clever use of materials it not only shaves weight, but actually adds functionality and increases comfort at the same time. It’s the only sleep system I’ve found that allows me to sleep on my stomach with my arms covered while tossing and turning to other positions, and it provides me with a toasty warm nights rest, well into the high 20’s. The wide open design feels natural, freeing, and is certainly hard to go back from. Given the excellent build quality, uncompromising comfort, and excellent price, I can live with a little extra weight and bulk for the features it brings with it, especially considering it’s still a sub 2 lb system. It’s a piece of equipment that you really can’t go wrong with.
For more information on Sierra Designs and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, sierradesigns.com
For information on our rating system and our testing procedures, check out our About us/ Contact us page.
I want to extend a huge thanks to Sierra Designs for their continued support and for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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