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The Best Sleeping Bags and Quilts for the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail hikers most commonly hike with a down sleeping bag rated for 20°F. Here’s a list of hiker favorites, most of which come in multiple sizes and fill weights.

Sleeping Bags

The Western Mountaineering Alpinlite sleeping bag is well-regarded on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s rated for 20°F and is known for its low weight (31oz), warmth, and quality.

The Western Mountaineering UltraLite sleeping bag is another good 20°F option, and weighs only 29oz. It’s one of the lightest sleeping bags you’ll find on the market.

The Feathered Friends Lark sleeping bag is a popular 10°F option on the trail. It’s a good three-season bag for those who sleep on the cold side, weighs 31.3oz, and is known for its outstanding warmth and durability. For a similar 20°F bag, check out the Feathered Friends Swallow.

The Feathered Friends Petrel is a 10°F sleeping bag made specifically for women, meaning it has narrower shoulders , a roomier hip area, and extra fill in the footbox. Like the other options listed here, hikers report that it’s a high-quality, durable bag. It weighs 32.3oz.

If you need something ultralight and truly customizable to your body type, the Enlightened Conundrum is worth a look. It comes in Short/Regular/Long sizing as well Slim/Regular/Wide. The Regular/Regular size weighs on 29oz. If you don’t see a purchasing option in the size you want, you can order a custom Conundrum bag.

Quilts

One of the most popular quilts on the Pacific Crest Trail is the Feathered Friends Flicker Quilt. It weighs 27.1oz and comes in multiple lengths and fill weights. It also features a full-length zip, allowing it to be used as a sleeping bag, which makes it a good option for those who are quilt-curious but don’t want to commit.

The Katabatic Alsek Quilt is also a popular option on the trail. Like the Flicker, it comes in multiple sizes and fill weights, and weighs only 22oz. It features a “pad attachment system”, which helps attach the quilt to your sleeping pad to prevent drafts.

How to Build a Good Sleep System

For a good sleeping system on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’ll need:

  • A sleeping bag or quilt
  • A sleeping pad for insulation and comfort
  • A ground cloth to protect your sleeping bag from moisture and sharp objects

When it comes to sleeping bags, you’ll need to choose between a bag or a quilt, synthetic or down fill, and a temperature rating.

Using a sleeping bag, rather than a quilt, tends to be the more common choice for first-time hikers, since using a quilt takes getting used to. The benefit of using a quilt – if you’re comfortable with it – is that you’ll save on weight. However, being warm and getting a good night’s sleep is obviously the most important consideration.

When it comes to fill, most Pacific Crest Trail hikers choose goose down rather than a synthetic fill. Goose down is much lighter than synthetic and compresses down substantially, which saves pack space. The downside to goose down is that it’s useless when wet, so you’ll need to be careful to keep it dry. A pack liner helps with this. The upside of choosing a synthetic fill is that it’s cheaper. You’ll have to decide which is the right option for you based on your budget. 

As to warmth, a bag or quilt rated for 20°F is common on the Pacific Crest Trail. If you sleep cold, go with a bag rated for 10°F degrees. When the weather is warm you can sleep on top of your bag. Alternatively, some hikers choose to use two bags: a 20°F in the High Sierras and in the Cascade, and a lighter 35° F bag everywhere else. If you go this route, you’ll use the mail to switch out your sleeping bags. Some hikers also use vapor barrier liners in the colder High Sierras.

Make sure to choose a sleeping bag that fits you correctly. Most bags come in short, regular, and long sizes, as well as wide. While you don’t want a bag to be tight around you, you also don’t want it to be too loose, especially in the footwell. A sleeping bag that is too roomy will be cold, no matter the rating.

There are also some bags made specifically for women, like this one by Feathered Friends. Bags made for women tend to have narrower shoulders and roomier hip areas. Test out different bags and make sure to find one that fits your body well.

Sleeping Pads

The purpose of the sleeping pad is to provide insulation between you and the ground, and to provide cushion for comfort. Also pay attention to the R-rating: the higher the R-rating, the more insulation the sleeping pad provides.

Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads are a popular option on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is one of the lightest options available, at 8oz for the small size and 12oz for the regular size. It has a thickness of 2.5in when inflated and a warmth rating of R4.2.

If you’ll be hiking more in winter (ex. starting late) then the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad is a great option. The regular size weighs 15oz, it inflates to 2.5in, and has an R-value of 6.9.

The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol is a good option if budget is a concern. It doesn’t offer much insulation (R2) or cushion (0.75in), but it is much cheaper than the other options and weighs about the same.

Ground Cloths

The purpose of a ground cloth is to protect your sleeping bag from moisture and damage due to abrasion or puncture when sleeping outside of a tent.

Gossamer Gear sells the Polycryo Ground Cloth. It weighs just 1.5 oz and should last your entire thru-hike.

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