Enlightened Equipment "Enigma" (quilt)

Cost: $285 (total for my order, prices have gone up since)

Product description: The Enigma is an ideal minimalist quilt when weight, simplicity, and compressibility are critical. The sewn-closed footbox requires no fuss or adjustment, and shedding the zipper shaves weight to an absolute minimum. Down fill, water repellent treatment, sizing, temperature options, and fabrics are all specific to your needs to get you the quilt you need without any extra weight. This is the perfect quilt for mountaineers, backpackers, packrafters, and bikepackers, who need simple gear that takes up little space and is as light as possible.

Product specifications: (The following are the specs for the quilt I ordered. The Enigma is available in many different variations on fill type, fill volume, length, and width.)

Enigma quilt:

  • DownTek 800 fill down
  • Length - regular
  • Width - Xtra Wide
  • Temp. Rating - 10°
  • Weight - 25.68 oz.

Bob's impressions: I've never been a good sleeper on camping trips, whether backpacking or car camping. I'm too wide, I'm a side-sleeper, and I thrash too much to be comfortable in a mummy bag. My best solution for this had been to look for as light a rectangular bag as I could find, then hope to make it work. I tried the Big Agnes sleep system for a while, and although I thought the product's build quality was quite good I just couldn't make it work for my sleep patterns.

Enter: quilts. If you spend enough time looking at backcountry gear you eventually stumble onto the innovative borders of product design. My first encounter with a backpacking quilt opened a new world of wilderness sleep to this groggy camper. It wasn't exactly love at first sight, because there were a few things I needed to wrap my head around - like having nothing between me and my pad - but I couldn't quit the idea. Eventually, watching videos of people using quilts sold me, and I bought one from Enlightened Equipment.

I was initially going to purchase from Sierra Designs, mostly because I was sold on the hand pockets sewn into the head-end corners of their quilts. But what persuaded me to buy from Enlightened Equipment was the customizability of the product. From a simple quiver of a few design types they offer nearly limitless variations based on one's choice of length, width, temperature rating, and even a broad array of color choices. Because I anticipated having no need to spread my quilt like a blanket I chose the Enigma line, then specified the details.

After having to cancel several trips, I've finally had a chance to use the quilt a couple of times. My initial interest in the idea has turned into infatuation. I am so much more comfortable using this product than I ever have been in a traditional bag that I almost cannot conceive of changing back. Though I'm still not able to snag a solid eight hours, the ability to tuck and wrap and maneuver inside the quilt (things that I do a lot) has delivered much better, more restful sleep. I'm considering getting another, even lighter quilt for warmer trips (I spend a decent amount of time in the desert)

There are still some things I need to adjust to. Since I always slept in thermals before (I'm kind of a fanatic about keeping gear in good shape), having no bag between me and my pad hasn't been a problem, but I do tend to slide around more than before. I'm currently experimenting with ways to lessen the slipperiness of my pad. Also, because there isn't always a cocoon of bag around me my arms tend to fall off the side of my pad more often. This can be uncomfortable and leads to heat loss. I may solve the problem by purchasing a wider pad, but I'm fairly confident that I just need to better develop my techniques for using the quilt. Lastly, I'm very careful with this product. It is constructed of quite light and thin materials, so I try to be especially alert around anything snaggy. Time will tell on this score.

In any case, the Enigma has provided a genuine improvement in my wilderness experience. I actually look forward to hitting the sack now, which was more of a mixed bag back when I had to fiddle with kludgy zippers and useless hoods. The only thing I can imagine dimming my ardor for this quilt will be if it doesn't stand up to its temperature rating (I haven't had it down below 40° yet), but considering how little of the chill I've felt so far I'm very optimistic.

I realize that to this point I've mostly focused on the use of quilts in general. When I've had more long-term experience with the Enigma I'll update this review. For now, though, I'm quite enthusiastic. Who knows? This could be the real thing (oh, and my wife wants one too).

(Italics indicate manufacturer's remarks and details.)