We are writing this review on a sleep system. All of this gear together will determine how comfortable you are while sleeping and, thus, how well you sleep. The gear will come and go depending on temperature but more importantly, must work together to keep you warm. The benefit of having a system is you can be comfortable in a wider range of temperatures with the same basic sleeping bag or quilt. We tent camped when on the PCT so if you are looking for reviews on under quilts, you will not find them here; however, we will be discussing our awesome top quilt.
I had never used a sleeping quilt before this one. I always felt really constricted by mummy bags due to my size. Changing from my back to my side was a chore. Getting hot and trying to vent in a bag was hard in the dark of night. Mummy bags weigh more than quilts, typically, and you are wasting insulation by sleeping on top of it. If you are laying on your insulation in a mummy bag, you may as well not have it. The air is what holds your heat in. Getting rid of that excess that you really are not using only makes sense, if you are cutting your weight down.
The Enlightened Equipment Convert is the quilt we used our entire road trip and 1,400 miles on the PCT. You have many options when you buy a quilt here. We opted for a 20-degree quilt at 950 fill with DownTek treatment with a little overstuff in Stretch's quilt. Stretch sleeps colder than I do, as most women do. The quilt was extremely versatile. Quilts stay in place great when rolling over. The quilt vented easily and could just be used as a blanket in warmer weather. The Convert allows you to easily close the foot box in colder weather. Stetch's quilt came it at about 22.5 ounces, mine was longer and wider and weighed 26 ounces.
The quilts quality was top shelf. Quality stitching was evident. Our orders were filled correctly and on time. The only thing Enlightened Equipment would not do is embroider a unicorn on Stretch's quilt.
There is a learning curve to using a quilt. Adjusting the straps around your sleeping pad for the drafts takes a little fine tuning but is easy to overcome. You will also want to have a good hat to sleep in. Your head tends to be more exposed than in a mummy bag. Which really ads more versatility to the quilt, in warmer weather as part of an entire sleep system.
The Sea to Summit Ultralight Sleeping pad was great. I always felt like I was falling off the pad before this one. Having a large size cured this and gave me complete coverage. I have previously used a Therm-a-rest NeoAir, and it was too narrow and really noisy. I have used a Therm-a-rest Z pad, and it just was not enough cushion for me, my hips and shoulders would hurt in the morning. The Sea to Summit pad was the best sleeping pad I have had to date and a great addition to our sleep system. It is a bit noisy, but this is a fault that is easily overshadowed by what it does right.
We used the long size, which weighs 1lb 3ounces. If you don't need a long size, the weight will drop below a pound. The R-value is 3.3, which is better than most ultralight sleeping pads. The pad rolls back up easily into a manageable package. Inflating the pad is quick and deflating is super quick due to the valve system
People have expressed concerns about using an inflatable pad in the desert section of the PCT, due to thorns. We had two punctures on the PCT. They did not completely deflate the mat. I would wake up once and reinflate. We easily found the punctures in a river or swimming pool. The patch kit that comes with the pad is good and even comes with a spare valve.
Adding Mont-Bell superior Down pants to our sleep system extended the temperature range even more. Down pants were added during the Sierra portion, which we hiked in August. I personally only used them one time. I was too warm. Stretch used these almost every chance she got. The pants are great to wear around camp before you crawl into bed. They keep you warm and keep the mosquitos at bay. These pants are great quality, and if you sleep cold, this may be a viable option to extend the comfort zone of your quilt without having to own more than one. These weigh in at 7.1 ounces with 800 fill power down.
A good down jacket is an important part of a sleep system. The Sierra designs elite down hoodie worked on those cold nights. We both used the same hoodie. The hood that you can use to cover your head at night also conveniently tucks into the jacket when not in use. The hoodie also stores itself inside of its own pocket, thus, eliminating the need for a stuff sack. The cuffs have thumb holes so you keep your hands a bit warmer.
The hoodie is filled with DriDown treated 850 fill power. It weighs in at 13.6 ounces.
This was a great hoodie; it always kept me warm. I had some minor issues with it. The stitching around the hood came undone almost immediately. Sierra Designs took care of it right away, but I had to ship it in and wait 2 weeks for a repair. The sleeves were a little short for me, too. Not a problem with the hoodie really I just have long arms. Other than that, this was a great down hoodie.
Hats are pretty straightforward. You should get something that is a synthetic blend with a fleece band on the inside for comfort and a little extra to keep your ears warm on frigid days. We each had different hats. A good hat is an integral part of your sleep system because your quilt does not cover your head. Try not to go crazy here and buy some really heavy hat, you will probably not need it, and if you get a hoodie you already have double coverage.
Stretch wore an Arc'teryx hat. This hat was more than enough for the PCT. It was comfortable and warm. One of the best features about this hat was that it did not shrink when washed due to the fabric it was made out of. This hat was also long enough to pull down over your face if you got cold or wanted to shut out some unwanted light.
I wore an Outdoor research gradient hat. This was again a good hat, as far as keeping me warm at night. One drawback to this hat is it is made of 100% wool with a fleece liner. This hat will shrink on you even if you line dry it. You will have to stretch it back out to fit properly. I initially had the same hat as Stretch but lost it somewhere. I got a great deal on this hat and it worked fine.
This is not the same base layer you wear while you are hiking. This is a base layer for your sleep system. It is great to have some clean, dry clothes to slip on before you crawl into your tent. Having clean dry clothes, not only keeps you warmer but also prevents your quilt from smelling like your B.O. It is much easier to wash your base layer than it is to wash your down quilt.
Stretch used a couple of different base layers before she decided on one. She started out with a Smart Wool set of long pants and long shirt. The wool irritated her skin, and she felt itchy at times. She used the Patagonia Midweight bottom and Patagonia Midweight top base layer the majority of the trip. These were warm, fit well, and were easy to clean. This is a good place to make adjustments to your sleep system. If you tend to always sleep cold, you can go with a more heavy base layer, or lighter, if you tend to sleep warmer. Another option is to buy different baselayer sleeping clothes for different parts of the trail and mail them to you as you need.
I used a Patagonia Cap 2 top and bottom. These were great for me. They were extremely comfortable, easy to take care of, and did not take on odor too easily. They offered just enough insulation for a good sleep system base layer and were lightweight. Again you can play with the weight here to get your perfect temperature range dialed in.
Socks are just like your baselayer in your sleep system. Having some warm, clean, and dry socks to put on at the end of a long day is great. There are lots to choose from as far as socks go. I would say get a good quality wool blend sock that is a little bit thicker than you would normally hike in.
Stretch used some REI socks.
I used some Darn Tough socks.
These were all part of our sleep system, that was designed to meet changing needs on the trail and on our road trip beforehand. This sleep system worked both when we got snowed on in Bryce Cayon and in the blazing heat in Death Valley. These were items that all performed well and fit within our budget. There are definitely other choices out there that are cheaper and more expensive. But as long as you keep in mind to buy items that will compliment each other, you can make your money go further and still be lightweight.
If you really have to cut costs, spend your money on a good quilt and jacket. These are the two items that will really keep you alive, if need be, and offer the largest warmth factor.
You can see our full gear list here.