UPDATE: Outdoor Vitals no longer makes a fully synthetic backpacking quilt or sleeping bag. Their only animal-free product is their LoftTek Jacket, which can be found here.
I’ll admit I was skeptical the first time I came across a Youtube video touting the merits of a backpacking quilt over a sleeping bag for backcountry adventures. But the list of benefits was lengthy and I was keen on the idea, so I figured it simply wouldn’t be fair and just of me to not even give them a try. So I did. I snagged me an Outdoor Vitals 30 degree synthetic insulation backpacking quilt and put it to the test. The result: Pure ultralight vegan coziness. Read on (or, you know, watch the video review if you’re feeling a bit illiterate today) and see what we had to say in this Outdoor Vitals backpacking quilt review.
A Bit About Outdoor Vitals
First of all, you should know a little something about Outdoor Vitals. They’re a smaller company and they only sell online. A lot of folks may scoff at that, but it actually works to our benefit. Because they don’t have to mark up their prices for retail, fine folks like you and me get their quality products for some 30-40% less than we would find the same item at REI or some such. Huzzah! That alone is a win.
Secondly, they manufacture quality stuff. Seriously, this backpacking quilt was probably the nicest sleeping implement I have ever wiggled into. It just felt high quality.
And lastly, they offer plenty of animal-free options. They do still make down sleeping bags and quilts, but for just about every one of those, there’s a synthetic down alternative, which is both surprising and exciting. Their gear also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you can feel confident that your gear is going to last (and if it doesn’t, it’ll be taken care of).
After we received the backpacking quilt, we put it to the test in some extreme conditions over one month on the road. We camped with it, slept in the car with it, hiked into backcountry sites with it and snuggled around the campfire with it. It saw use in temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to 75 degrees.
I’m not gonna lie: I did not want to send this quilt back after Outdoor Vitals loaned us one to review. The fabric was soft and supple, the proprietary LofTek down alternative insulation was fluffy, and I just wanted to wrap myself up in it. in fact, I did wrap myself up in it. Josh can attest to this fact. The day it arrived on my doorstep was a warm one, but that didn’t stop me from wrapping it around me while I sat at my desk all morning. It was just too cozy not to!
When I finally got the chance to sleep with it, I was further impressed. Not only was it super soft, but I definitely felt like I had more freedom to move–which I do often when I sleep–especially when sleeping in the car.
I loved that the bag weighed less and took up less space than a traditional sleeping bag–certainly less than any crappy bag I’ve ever owned. Because there are no bulky zippers or extra fabric (any insulation you’re laying on is fully compressed and isn’t actually insulating you anyway), a backpacking quilt is just more compact. Brilliant! But there were snaps and buckles on the back and top that allowed me to secure it around me or my sleep pad if I wanted to feel a bit more tucked in. A drawstring around the top also allows you to cinch the collar for cooler nights.
The Bad (Sort Of)
Remember a few paragraphs back when I said it was tested in a pretty extreme temperature range? Turns out, that wasn’t such a good idea. While it performed beautifully in warmer temps where you could easily kick your feet out and just use the quilt to conceal whatever parts of your body weren’t all gross and sweaty, I regretted using it in cold temps. But that may be more of a reflection on my poor choices and propensity to refuse to manufacture body heat than on the quilt.
The backpacking quilt is rated for 30 degrees. Granted, temperature ratings for sleeping bags are generally based on the lowest temperature in which the “average man” can sleep comfortably. Personally, I think this is a bit sexist and ridiculous–who is the “average man,” anyway? It’s obviously not me. Or Josh. I am a tiny person with no built-in insulation and Josh isn’t much better. I am far more comfortable in 90 degrees than I am in 30. That being said, I slept in this backpacking quilt in a tent between Teton and Yellowstone National Parks when it dropped to 20 degrees overnight. Yikes. I was a popsicle. But in the quilt’s defense, so was Josh and he was bundled up in a 15-degree mummy bag. Chock that one up to sleep pads not designed for winter use.
Truth be told, I was chilly in anything below about 40. But I generate very little body heat, so the fact that fabric wasn’t wrapped all the way around me to contain what I did manage to produce was definitely detrimental to my sleep when camping. When sleeping in the car, however, I was generally a lot more comfortable. Basically, for me it doesn’t matter if the insulation I’m laying on isn’t actually insulating me–it’s the complete surround of fabric I need to help keep in any warmth I manage to generate. A mummy hood comes in handy, too. Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed in the bag, I was disappointed in myself for being entire ill-prepared for winter camping.
The Bottom Line
That being said, I love this backpacking quilt. It is quite literally amazing. I would own one just for camping and backpacking in warmer temps and getting cozy around the fire. I mean, for festivals, outdoor movies, and backyard campfires alone this quilt would be worth having. It’s by far the comfiest thing I’ve ever used to cover myself outside of the comfort of my own overly-soft bed. And if you sleep warmer than I do (so…everyone on the planet…) you won’t regret adding this ultralight backpacking quilt to your gear closet. Get one for yourself here.
And more good news: Outdoor Vitals just released jackets with the same down alternative LofTek insulation, which you can score for much less than at your local outdoor store (only $125, what?!). Order a jacket here. There are also traditional mummy bags available, though, unfortunately, they’re not made of the same super soft and fluffy insulation (but still synthetic). You can get one of those here. Just make sure not to order the new LofTek Hybrid mummy bags as they contain a small amount of down (we call that dead bird fill). And since it is nearly Christmas time, perhaps it wouldn’t be out of place to just share this post with a loved one with a subtle hint at what color and temperature rating you prefer. Just a suggestion!
Get outside and wander on!
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com