Top Quilt vs. Sleeping Bag for Hammock Camping

Your backpack has limited space so you have to make sure that what you pack works the most and weighs the least. Both top quilts and sleeping bags are heavy pieces of equipment and both are used to provide insulation during the night. But many hammock campers favor dropping a top quilt because they believe it does the same thing as a sleeping bag. While others argue that top quilts provide better insulation in a hammock. Both sides make valid points.

If you are a beginner in hammock camping or you have just heard about top quilts, you would be very confused. But you should know that you can make both of them work for you. Apart from a few minor differences, quilts and sleeping bags are essentially the same. Let’s have a look at both of them.

What is a Top Quilt?

A top quilt is a sleeping bag without a back, hood, and sometimes a zipper. It has a foot box at the bottom. If you think it’s just like a sleeping bag, it is because it is. Even the materials used for both of them are the same.

Benefits of Top Quilts

If you opt to go with a top quilt, these are the benefits you are going to get:


Quilts ditch the least insulated parts of a sleeping bag, that is, the hood, a full-length zipper, and the back material. This is how they save weight. The typical weight of a down quilt is around 16-24 oz., whereas, the typical weight of a down sleeping bag is 20-32 oz. A 30-degree quilt weighs less than a 30-degree sleeping bag.


Quilts are warmer than sleeping bags because they are designed to work according to how heat works. Heat rises up and a sleeping bag only insulates the bottom edges of the user. Quilts do the opposite. They have more down at the top, sides, and foot box having a greater impact.

When a user lies down in a sleeping bag, the back of the sleeping bag compresses and its insulation is compromised. Because a quilt is on top of you, it doesn’t get pressed and retains its insulation completely. You can pair your quilt with a hammock sleeping pad to get the most out of your sleep system.

More Packable

Another benefit of dropping the hood, back, and full-length zipper is that a top quilt can be compressed down smaller. Quilts have less fabric and lack metal components making them lighter and more packable. Small packing size means they take up less space in your backpack.

More Ventilated

As most backpacking happens in the summer, you are likely to overheat. Quilts can easily be unzipped, partially draped off, or completely put aside giving quilts a wider comfort range in warmer temperatures.

Quilts can also be draped, tucked, or strapped in entirely around the user to prevent cold drafts. A 20-degree quilt can work well even at a 30-degree temperature. A sleeping bag is not that much ventilated. A 20-degree sleeping bag would make you sweat all night in 30 degrees.

Allow Easy Movement

It is easier to get in and get out of the hammock with a top quilt than a sleeping bag. If you have to get out of the hammock at night, you would have to unzip yourself every time. The same thing when you get in. Getting in and out of a hammock becomes much easier with a top quilt. Just move it aside to get out and then take it back on once you get in the hammock.

Better Suited for Hammocks

Quits are better suited for hammocks than bags. Sleeping bags were primarily made for ground camping. But top quilts were designed to fit snugly inside a hammock. Sleeping bags get pressed at the shoulders because of the tapered ends of a hammock leaving your shoulders cold.

Benefits of using a Sleeping Bag

If you opt to go with a sleeping bag, these are the benefits you are going to get:

You Probably have One

If you have been camping before, you probably have a sleeping bag. You don’t have to buy a new piece of gear. If your sleeping bag has a suitable temperature rating for your camping site, then you should be able to use your sleeping bag without any problems.

More Versatile

Top quilts are not the most popular option when it comes to tent or tarp camping. You want to be fully enclosed, especially, under a tarp. Sleeping bags can be handy in many situations like avoiding catching bed bugs from inadequate bedding in a hotel. Top quilts lack the versatility of a sleeping bag.

Has a Hood

The hood of the sleeping bag provides a lot more protection during cold temperatures. Once you put your head in the hood with a pillow, it will ensure maximum protection from the cold. You lack that kind of protection with a top quilt.

Easier to Find Cheap

Quilts and sleeping bags are expensive equipment. But it is easier to find sleeping bags on sale. You can also find sleeping bags in a lot of deals. With frequent and easier-to-find sales and deals on sleeping bags, you are more likely to get them cheaper than top quilts.

Using a Sleeping Bag as a Top Quilt

Many sleeping bags come with a full-length zipper that allows them to be opened up completely and used as a quilt. So, yes, you can use your sleeping bag as a top quilt. But you would need an underquilt to insulate you from beneath. But spending money on only one quilt is better than spending money on two quilts.

If you have a sleeping bag that can be used as a quilt and it has the right temperature rating, just get an underquilt and can cover yourself completely. If it gets cold at night, just get in your sleeping bag and zip up.

Final Thoughts

Sleeping bags and quilts are made of the same materials and both are almost identical. Top quilts provide a better warmth-to-weight ratio. They are lighter and take up less space in the backpack. But top quilts are not versatile enough.

But sleeping bags provide more protection and are more versatile. Many campers and backpackers already have sleeping bags. If you plan to do hammock camping for a long period then you should invest in a top quilt. But if you are into tent and tarp camping as well as hammock camping then you would need the versatility of a sleeping bag.