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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- use more down fill
- 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.