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Quilt or Sleeping Bag for Hammock Camping?

Because of sleep issues (okay... honestly, because my 20s are a mere speck in the rear view mirror of my life), I am building my backpacking gear around hammock camping instead of a tent.

From those of you with more experience than me (which is, like all of you), I am curious as to your preference of a quilt or a sleeping bag for a hammock.

A few things:

  • Not a UL hiker. I'm 52, married with kids (and enjoy being with my wife and kids) so I don't plan on going for month-long hikes to escape 🙂
  • The difference in weight and packed size between the two is not as critical to me as getting a good night's sleep on the trail
  • I'll have an under-quilt, regardless 
  • My main concern with a sleeping bag is that I move around a lot when I sleep and I don't want the zipper to tear the hammock



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3 Replies


REI Member Since 1979

@Dad_Aint_Hip Great question!

While I have, admittedly, never used a quilt while backpacking, I have unzipped my sleeping bag and used it as a quilt enough times to know that it is a great way to go. Like you, I am less concerned about weight and more focused on sleeping comfort. I am a side-sleeper who moves around a lot at night and the constricting feeling of mummy bag can make it hard to get a good night's sleep. I've got my eyes on the REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt 30, but there are a lot of great quilts out there.

Hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Over my decades of experience, whether it be a hammock, tent or bivy, you NEED a great sleeping pad FIRST. Buy the highest R-value you can afford! (I have a Thermarest Pro-lite, women's full-length. I like its thinner profile).

Next, sleeping bag or quilt? Well, I use a Big Agnes 20-degree Roxyanne, it's a kind of hybrid bag/quilt. It does zip-up completly, but it has no down on the underside (where your back would be), but it's still plenty warm BECAUSE OF THE PAD!

Personally, I like a sleeping bag, I just like being able to zip myself in completely. That said, I like the savings in weight and bulk (and price) my Roxyanne gives me! (I can fit my entire sleep and shelter system into my pack's sleeping bag compartment!!)

Of course, you CAN use a sleeping bag LIKE a quilt! Just keep it unzipped (to about the knees) and climb in! Keep the rest of the bag open and on top of you.

YOU DON'T NEED AN UNDER-QUILT! (or over-quilt, or fancy tarp, or fancy suspension system, blah-blah-blah!!!) But you do need a SIMPLE tarp, just go to the fabric store, get as many yards of nylon rip-stop fabric as your hammock is long, sew the edges and VOILA! You now have an ultralight, ultracompact, summer AND winter sleep-shelter system!!

You don't even need to stake your tarp to the ground! Just tie the corners together at either end of your hammock. You now have a windproof system that can keep you warm OR cool. I've had my system in 50-60mph gusting wind storms (kinda fun, actually), near freezing winters and hot summers... no problems! To make it waterproof, just go to your local paint store and get a REASONABLY thick plastic drop cloth.

Personally, I sleep like a baby in my hammock system!!! Sometimes better than in town. Tears/punctures? If it bothers you, REMOVE IT, replace zipper pulls, etc. with paracord pulls, but I've never had a problem.