Between overhauling my backcountry gear list and writing the new book, I haven’t had a whole lot of spare time lately……but by no means am I complaining. I enjoy doing both. Whenever I need a break from the book, I have been evaluating my existing gear for both weight and functionality. I have made a commitment to drop all unnecessary weight from my pack; therefore, I am researching the lightest, most functional gear on the planet. I’m calling it my “Quest for the Best.” Let’s be honest, when it comes to our backpack hunting equipment, we all want to shave ounces on gear in order to reduce the overall weight of our pack. We don’t necessarily want to sacrifice functionality or comfort in doing so, but we definitely want to cut weight where we can. If you have spent any amount of time on ultralight backpacking websites, you have undoubtedly heard the term “doing more with less.” This is an ultralight philosophy that I really like to apply when evaluating my gear and definitely applies to the piece of gear I will be talking about in today’s blog – the ultralight quilt. The traditional sleeping bag that most every hunter has become accustomed to using (including myself) has a hood, draft collar, zipper and insulation on all sides including the bottom. While all seemingly nice features, they all come at the expense of extra weight and bulk. I remember years ago reading about how once the down on the bottom of a bag gets compressed, it offers almost no insulating value. Even after initially reading this, I still couldn’t bring myself to try a bag without insulation on the bottom. I just couldn’t convince myself of this logic. I was so set on a traditional style bag because that is all I had ever known. I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone and try something that strayed from the traditional logic behind sleeping bag design. Finally, after several years I decided to try a bag without insulation on the bottom and guess what – It performed fantastic when combined with a quality sleeping pad! It was a win – win situation. I now had a sleeping bag that weighed several ounces less and yet I didn’t have to sacrifice any comfort. Never being satisfied and always looking for something better, earlier this year I began researching ultralight sleeping bags and quilts. The thing you notice when researching ultralight bags is that many of them have an extremely narrow girth. On the surface, the weights of these bags look remarkably light, but they really restrict movement and the ability to add extra clothing layers to your core if needed. Many of them are also shorter. Traditionally, a regular length bag fits someone up to 6 feet tall, but with some of these ultralight bags, a 6 foot person may need to order an extra-long bag to fit. In other words, by the time you order a wider girth and longer bag, the weight savings that you were excited about begin to dwindle away. Now let’s talk quilts. Ultralight quilts take it even one step further: not only do they not have insulation in the bottom, they don’t have a zipper, hood or draft collar. Getting rid of these features results in great weight savings and bulk. At first, I will admit, I wasn’t 100% sold on this concept, but then again, I wasn’t sold on the idea of using a bag without insulation on the bottom either and that has worked just fine. With that being said, and after much research and talking with a few people that use them, the ultralight quilt will now be replacing my traditional sleeping bag. Not only are quilts super light, they are extremely functional. During warm weather, you can simply drape it over you and remain comfortable. Later in the fall when temperatures dip below freezing, you can simply add additional upper body insulating layers to insure you stay warm. By doing this, your insulating layers are performing double duty and therefore, you are “doing more with less” as we spoke about earlier. This layering is made easy due to the fact that a quilt doesn’t have a zipper and fixed girth, you can apply as many extra layers as needed. The one thing I want to mention is that not all ultralight quilts are created equal. But then again, I guess that applies to all gear. During my research, I found one manufacturer, Katabatic Gear, which uses nothing but the best quality materials and seemed to consistently fair extremely well in online reviews. It became very clear that if I was going to order a quilt, it would be from Katabatic Gear. To make things even better, Katabatic Gear is a Colorado based company and is located less than 30 miles from my home. It doesn’t get any better than that.
According to Aaron Martray, when he founded Katabatic Gear in 2008, his goal was to build the finest ultralight bags/quilts available. It seems like he has undoubtedly achieved that goal. Aaron offers several different models that range from 5 degrees on up to 40 degrees. Katabatic Gear uses ultralight Pertex Quantum for their shell material and they offer two fill options: 850 fill power water resistant goose down or 900 fill power goose down. In addition, they have what is arguably the best pad attachment system available. It is a patented design they call the Cord Clip attachment system. The Cord Clips come attached to the quilts and easily attach to a 2mm cord (comes with all Katabatic quilts) that wraps around your pad. This system keeps the torso area of the quilt secured to your pad, but yet it allows the leg section to move freely which eliminates that “stretcher” feel that you get when using other attachment systems. After visiting with Aaron, I decided on their 30 degree Palisade model and placed an order last Friday. Aaron stated that it will take approximately two weeks for them to get the quilt filled and then I can stop by his shop and pick it up. I elected to go with the 900 fill power goose down option because it is slightly lighter than the 850 water resistant down. The Palisade weighs an insanely light 17.5 ounces which is 18 ounces lighter, than the 20 degree bag I was using last year. This quilt will be perfect for summer scouting trips and early fall hunts. Do yourself a favor and check out Katabatic Gear’s unbelievable quilt lineup at www.katabaticgear.com