Quilts. Quilts for backpacking purposes, that is. You don’t hear much about their use in the UK, do you?
Rab has its Topbag, which seemed to employ the main principle of the quilt (i.e. there’s no point in having insulation under you because it gets crushed and gives no warmth).
The problem* that I have with a product like a Topbag is that I roll around during the night and fear that the uninsulated side would end up on top of me repeatedly. On the same basis, I didn’t think that a quilt would work for me either.
I now find my ‘I couldn’t use a quilt’ and ‘Quilts are not for UK backpacking’ theories shaken, for I have now not just seen and felt one, but made one to a tried and tested design. I was mightily impressed with that design (perhaps my preconceptions were just too low – I think quilt and I think of a non-technical rectangle of insulation-filled fabric).
Late on Monday afternoon, with time on my hands, curiosity as to the exact contents of the box (and the exact nature of the task for which I had volunteered myself) got the better of me and, after a brief battle with the packing tape, the contents were liberated and explored.
After reading the eight pages of instructions twice over, I felt ready to make a start so during the evening I laid out the material and (after a bit of input from Darren to tell me how big he was) did the initial cutting, to bring the shell material and the insulation down to the basic size.
Tuesday was a big-time-snow-day and I had no desire to go out and play in it, which gave me the entire day to dedicate to quilt making.
According to the Ray Jardine website, a novice can make the quilt in five to eight hours. I didn’t time myself, but can say with certainty that it took me significantly longer than that. However, given that I wasn’t making it for myself, I made doubly sure that I got all of the measurements right and read each individual instruction three times over before I acted on it. I don’t think that Ray’s timings allow for being unhappy with the neatness of a seam and unpicking it all either! Now that I know the process, I’m sure that I could make another one within eight hours.
It was interesting project that kept me out of mischief (and also meant that the housework didn’t get done – ooops).
The features of the finished article that particularly impressed me were:
- The ‘gorget’. That’s the top bit of the quilt which is shaped so that it cups over the shoulders. It reduces the propensity of the quilt to shift off the shoulders in the night and also reduces draughts. This is an optional feature, but it seems to me that its advantage outweighs the fact that it makes the whole thing a bit more tricky to sew.
- The recommended sizing of the quilt is such that there’s plenty to wrap around yourself. It doesn’t simply lie over you, just touching the floor and ready to let in draughts each time you move;
- It has a foot-box, which again reduces the likelihood of accidentally shucking the quilt off in the night;
- It has a draft-stopper right around the top and down the sides. This is just an un-insulated single layer of fabric, but as its name suggests, it is designed to stop draughts getting in.
The downside is that, because of the generous design, it uses about the same amount of fabric as a sleeping bag, and because it is filled with synthetic insulation, it is heavier than an equivalent down sleeping bag.
This is where the Ray-Way theory of quilts vs. down sleeping bags comes in. I shall not reiterate that theory, but it’s there to be seen on Ray’s website (and I’m afraid that I can’t quite buy into that theory myself).
The end result of the sewing project was, however, that I have moved from my previous view of ‘quilts definitely not for me’ to ‘I’d quite happily to trial one of these' – and that is quite a leap.
I was obviously a bit bored this week, because not only did I make the quilt but I also took a few photos as I went along and spent an inordinate amount of time putting together a little slide-show sort of thing about its making:
* Actually, now I look at the latest design of Rab Topbag I see that it has a sleeve for the sleepmat, which must remove the problem of waking up cold with the insulated side under you.