Quilts vs. Mummy Bags - Zenbivy icon

November 01, 2021 3 min read

It’s probably fair to say that most outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the traditional mummy bag, but have you heard of or ever tried a backpacking quilt? We wanted to tell you why we think quilts are the superior way to camp comfortably...

But first: what is a mummy bag?

A "mummy bag" is a sleeping bag that fits closely near the shoulders and continues to taper down, narrowing at the feet. They have a hood that cinches around your face and typically one side zipper to get in and out. You are fully enclosed, creating a totally draft-free environment.

What exactly is a quilt

A backpacking quilt can really be described as half of a sleeping bag. The idea is simple: remove all the insulation and material that’s crushed underneath you in a mummy bag and thus rendered thermally useless.

Backpacking quilts will either have a sewn foot box ("fixed") or a convertible foot box. A convertible foot box offers full-flat functionality and is therefore more versatile. Quilts are generally favored by the ultralight backpacking community due to their feather-light weight and incredible packability. The minimalist design of a backpacking quilt makes them the ideal choice for anyone looking to reduce the weight and bulk of their sleep set up and carry as little as possible.

So why is a quilt better than a mummy bag?

If you've ever spent a sleepless night in a mummy bag you already know that they are very constrictive, uncomfortable, and downright unnatural to be in. Because of their narrow shape, you don't have space to move around and when you do, the bag easily "grabs" you, leaving you twisted and tangled in a mess of nylon. Your sleep position options are limited to say the least. They don't call it a mummy bag for nothing! So although they are warm, lightweight, and admittedly do have their place on frigid winter expeditions, mummy bags leave MUCH to be desired in the way of comfort.

Backpacking quilts offer some solutions to a mummy bag's inherent disadvantages. For example, convertible quilts provide more versatility for easy temperature regulation throughout the seasons, and by removing the mummy bag's thermally useless insulation crushed below you, quilts are super lightweight, making them the ideal choice for long-distance backpackers. However, even with all their pros, traditional backpacking quilts still have their downfalls...

  • There’s no hood. If you want to insulate your head you’ll have to wear a hat. No hood also means there’s no safe holding spot for that notoriously slippery camp pillow... 
  • They can often be drafty. Because you are not fully enclosed from all sides like you would be in a mummy bag, you will likely cause side drafts when turning over and changing your sleep position, especially if you are an active sleeper that moves around a lot.
  • They can be constricting. If you use the strap system most quilts come with to keep the quilt on the mattress, you’ll find yourself pinned in to an uncomfortable and unnatural night of sleep… On the flip-side though, if you don’t use the strap system, then you run the risk of sliding off your mattress at night or having your quilt slip away from you.

These disadvantages are exactly why we created our Beds... 

At its core, the Zenbivy Bed is a backpacking quilt. We believe quilts are ideal for all types of camping. Why? You interact with them like you interact with your covers at home, and just like with regular covers, the Zenbivy Bed allows for easy, natural movement. Consisting of a fitted sheet that secures around your mattress and a convertible top quilt that then attached for the sheet, the 2-piece system combines all the best parts of a backpacking quilt with a problem-solving fitted sheet that addresses a traditional quilt’s inherent disadvantages.

  • You now have a hood! The sheet’s large integrated hood not only insulates your head but doubles as a cubby to keep your pillow from wandering off. 
  • Draft-free. When temperatures drop, just hook the quilt to the hinged “wings” of the fitted sheet to protect against potential drafts as you move around and change sleep positions.
  • No more constriction. By attaching the separate convertible top quilt to the hinged "wings" of the fitted sheet, the Light Bed is instantly free to get wider where and when you need it to, allowing you to change your sleep position with ease. No more constriction, no more twisting, and no more sliding off your mattress.

All-in-all, we think quilts are definitely the way to go. While traditional quilts are great (and most certainly the ideal choice over a stuffy mummy bag), the Zenbivy Bed is even better. It's exactly what it says it is... a BED, so you can sleep just as comfortably in the backcountry as you would in your own bed at home. 

Learn more about why it's better here.