Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket Review

Alpine Blanket on my Therm-a-rest pad...

Alpine Blanket on my Therm-a-Rest pad…

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of using a specialized camping quilt as part of my lightweight sleep system for years. With more and more of my time spent bikepacking the benefits of going lighter and more compact became important enough to spend some money to investigate this concept. I chose the Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket because the cost and specifications looked good. Especially since I was able to buy it at REI with a 20% coupon and use my annual dividend. Additionally REI is great about taking stuff back which means low risk when I am unsure if a product is as awesome as they say it is. Therm-a-Rest offers a lifetime warranty on this product which seemed like another plus.

View from the bottom...

View from the bottom…

What is it?

The Alpine Blanket is a specialized camping quilt designed to be used with an insulated camping pad. Since the down insulation underneath your body is compressed it’s useless and this blanket gets rid of it. The benefit is less weight and a smaller packed size. You also get more freedom to move around and it’s easy to dump heat by pulling the quilt open as much as required.

This quilt weighs 1lb 12 oz [800 grams] and the long size I got is ~52″ x 80″. It is rated for 35 Deg F/+2 Deg C. The fill is 700 goose down.

In addition to the blanket you get a medium sized stuff sack and small stuff sack as well as a connector kit you can use to attach the blanket to a sleeping pad.

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

How was it tested?

I paired the Alpine Blanket with a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite which is one of their new ultralight sleeping pads. I used it for approximately 10 nights of camping this summer. Temperatures varied from 5 deg C to 18 deg C at night. The humidity varied from low to high including a couple very wet nights.

View from the foot box...

View from the foot box…

How did it perform?

Although I never believe sleeping bag ratings will be totally accurate this blanket that was rated for 2 Deg C was only comfortable when the night time temperatures were above 12 Deg C and that was with the use of thermal under wear and an insulated puffy jacket underneath. I did have a couple comfortable night’s of sleep, but my main recollection from this summer is waking up cold at 3am and trying to make it through until sunrise. It was fair to say I was very disappointed.

Alpine Blanket pulled back...

Alpine Blanket pulled back…

Construction

The materials used for the blanket shell and the sewing were good through out. The down fill was lacking and the large lateral baffles across the top of the quilt did a poor job of keeping the limited fill in a useful place. It tended to clump up on each side leaving the central portion of the quilt uninsulated. The reason I was cold is that there were many spots in the blanket where there was simply zero down between me and the cold air. If I jumped around shaking the blanket like a squirrel on crack before I went to bed I could get a better distribution of down, but it still wasn’t great and that was a level of effort I’ve never had to exert with a sleeping bag in the past to make it barely functional.

The solution to my problems would be:

  1. use more down fill
  2. use a better baffle design that kept the down in place

Interestingly the perimeter baffle of the blanket was well stuffed with down and very effective at sealing the blanket to pad interface avoiding cold drafts.

Close up of side snap...

Close up of side snap…

The quilt concept

Although  I was disappointed by how cold this particular quilt was at night the way it connected to the sleeping pad and the room I had to manoeuvre at night without having the quilt move around was great. Even without using all the connectors to attach the quilt to the pad I only had the quilt move out of place once.

The small packed size and light weight were appreciated when I packed my bike and as I rode it over challenging terrain each day.

Support

I contacted Therm-a-Rest twice about this quilt. Once by phone where I had a pleasant, but totally useless conversation with a support agent. I also emailed them about this product asking if the issues I was having were typical or perhaps I got a poorly built blanket. I did not get any reply to my email.

Getting a crappy product is unfortunate, but getting a crappy product and crappy post-sales support makes me less than stoked to buy another Therm-a-Rest product.

I should note I have no REI store near me. Based on my previous experiences I’m sure they would have helped me the first time I asked for it.

Close up of a side baffle...

Close up of a side baffle…

What now?

I’ve got the Alpine Blanket packed up and will be shipping it back to REI for a refund. Thankfully despite Therm-a-Rest being lame REI stands behind the stuff they sell.

I think the idea of a quilt is a great and I really enjoyed the Alpine Blanket when I wasn’t shivering, but sadly that wasn’t frequently enough.

I’ll buy one of the other high quality backpacking quilt options that are out there:

2 Deg C?? - lies all lies... ;)

2 Deg C?? – lies all lies… 😉

NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad

Just so this review isn’t all negative I should note that the NeoAir XLite Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad I used with the blanket was great. It’s light, compact, very comfortable and warm. Since it’s a keeper I’ll hold off on a review until I’ve had a chance to use it more, but so far it’s been a pleasure to use.

Close up of snap foot box...

Close up of snap foot box…

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13 thoughts on “Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket Review

  1. I think wrapping a quilt around a wide pad like that likely creates a large amount of air inside that leads to heat loss? I picked up an Enlightened Equipment RevX for three season use and love it. Not sure if I’d go back to bags, especially in warm weather. When its chilly the zippered footbox keeps everything in place as I move in my sleep. It lofts like crazy. Lighter and less expensive too!

    • @Ben – that’s not a wide pad. It’s pretty skinny at least compared to my body. The issue is you can literally see through parts of the centre of the quilt where there is no down. The down that’s in there doesn’t loft that well and seems to be insufficient for the baffles and the baffles run horizontally across the body so the down that is there just falls to the side at night.

      Given the summer use I was making of the quilt it should have worked fine. I think with more/better lofting down the quilt would have been okay and with a better baffle design it would have been pretty nice.

      I’m glad I tried it and I’m glad I bought it at REI so I can send it back.

  2. This whole emphasis by down bag makers and how one can “distribute” the down throughout the baffles to suit one’s comfort is BS. I want down evenly distributed throughout the bag so I don’t need worry about cold spots. Even Montbell and WM don’t seem to get it.

    • @Doc – this is especially true on a quilt where you can simply peel it back or stick parts of your body outside it to regulate temperatures.

  3. Thanks for taking one for the team, so to speak, Vik. I’m working through building a light, but versatile sleep kit for TD. A pad/quilt w a bivy sack seems like the way to go from a weight standpoint.

    • @Steve – check the weight of the bivy. If it’s more than 1kg you can get UL tents for less weight that I find I sleep much better in than in a bivy sack and my sleeping bag stays drier.

      I’ve stopped using my bivy sack for that reason.

  4. I use a ProdigyX 30 from Enlightened on an Exped Synmat UL9. It’s a fantastic combination, plenty of warmth from both the quilt and the mat. I sleep so much better with the quilt than a bag. The weight savings allowed me to splurge on a small piece of memory foam I bring along as a pillow.

    • @Eric – I’m glad you like the Enlightened product. They are on my short list for a new quilt. I’m going to wait until spring to buy a new one. I need to get the return of the Alpine Blanket to REI completed and I have some warmer sleeping bags for any winter camping I do.

      • Were you able to return the quilt to REI without issues (since you bought it with Dividend)?
        I tried to return an item that I bought with Dividend and they took the product and then said I’m not entitled to any money, since they have this policy of ‘not reimbursing this money twice’. They basically wanted to rip me off. I grabbed the product and said “No thank you I’ll sell it on eBay”.

      • I mostly paid cash for it. Some of it was dividend. I can’t recall how it all worked out. I did get money back. It’s possible they didn’t refund the dividend portion.

  5. Vik – I’m carefully balancing weight vs ease of setup for TD. At first thought crawling in a bag is a lot easier than dealing with stakes and guy lines. Lots of time to do research yet. I’ve borrowed a friends bivy in order to do some real world testing.

  6. @Steve – a bivy is easier. Worth a try to see how you like it.

  7. Thanks for testing this out and writing it up. I’ve got a really nice Thermarest air mat, and I’ve got their matching Antares bag, which I have mixed feelings about. Lately I’ve been putting a lot of thought into changing to a quilt.

    This summer I did a ~35 mile hike (including side trips) across the North Cascades, and spent three days on the trail. The first night I slept at about 5,000 feet, and had to wear all my clothing, zip the bag all the way up, and use the hood to stay warm. The next night, at a much lower elevation, my bag was too warm to sleep in. The zipper goes down to around the knee somewhere, so I can’t open it all the way and drape it over me to regulate warmth. It seems like a quilt (or a Z-Packs bag with a zipper that lets it open like a quilt) is the ideal solution, versatile enough for a hike like that.

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