Camping in a hammock is a wonderful way to get close to nature, and there are lots of ways to be warm and comfortable while doing it. Using a sleeping bag or overquilt are two ways to consider.
Sleeping Bag Vs Overquilt – You can burrow down in a sleeping bag, and it protects your top, back, and sides from the cold. In contrast, an overquilt has less bulk and weight, but your back is left exposed to the ground. Using further sleep gear with an overquilt is advised.
But there’s way more to it than that—I’ve done lots of research and pulled from my own experiences to provide a detailed head-to-head guide below.
|Weight||Quite light||Lighter than a sleeping bag|
|Comfort||Depends on bag type; mummy bags can be claustrophobic||Excellent; you can move more freely|
|Warmth||Depends on bag type; all-around warmth||Great warmth on top and your sides|
|Versatility||Depends on bag type||Not that versatile|
|Packed Size||Compact; bigger than overquilt||Quite compact|
|Convenience||Can be challenging to get into||Very convenient|
Sleeping Bag Pros and Cons
The first thing to note is that there are multiple types of sleeping bags. Mummy bags are best for staying warm, and rectangular bags are great for being roomy. I go into more details when comparing mummy vs rectangular sleeping bags directly.
I’m going to focus a lot on mummy bags as they’re the most comparable to overquilts. However, I’ll mention rectangular bags when needed.
- Many newer campers will already own one
- Can be affordable, especially rectangular bags
- Retain heat well
- Different bags for different seasons; bags come with various temperature ratings
- All-around protection; your back is protected from the cold hammock underside
- Adding a liner can add 10 degrees of warmth
- Mummy bags can feel claustrophobic
- Not always compact
Overquilt Pros and Cons
Overquilts aren’t to be confused with camping blankets. You may hear an overquilt be called a “camping quilt”, and that’s often where the confusion lies. You’ll also hear them called a topquilt.
A camping blanket is a lightweight regular quilt made for camping. An overquilt is like a mummy sleeping bag without a back.
Overquilts have the same tapered shape as a mummy sleeping bag, and many have a “foot box” you tuck your feet into for more warmth. However, they’re wider across your torso and your shoulders, and they don’t wrap around your body and zip you inside them.
- Having an overquilt on you will feel more like you’re in a real bed vs being stuffed into a sleeping bag
- Less fabric means they’re usually lighter and more compact
- They’re more versatile than a sleeping bag while in use; you can move them around to adjust their comfort and warmth
- They’re often down, and that’s expensive
- Your back is left exposed to the cold under the hammock
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Weight
It depends on the bag and overquilt you select, but overquilts are generally lighter. There’s less fabric in them, so that makes sense.
Overquilts can sometimes be heavier than sleeping bags—for example, a synthetic overquilt vs a down sleeping bag.
Let’s compare two synthetic products from the same company:
- ALPS Mountaineering Fusion +40 Degree Sleeping Bag: 2 pounds 2 ounces
- ALPS Mountaineering Pinnacle Quilt: 1 pound 8 oz
This will vary from company to company. Always compare product weights directly if it’s important to you, though—don’t just rely on the “less fabric, less weight” logic.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Comfort
Comfort is subjective, so it’s not up to me to determine this. However, overquilts seem to win when you think through things logically.
For example, mummy sleeping bags are constraining. They’re contoured to fit your body, and your legs are jammed tightly together while in them. If you like to wriggle while you sleep, then you won’t like this!
Overquilts are also tapered to fit your body, but they’re roomier above the hips, and you can easily slide a leg out of the quilt if you’re feeling too trapped.
And, as this camper points out, overquilts are often the better choice for bulkier people.
You can utilize a rectangular sleeping bag instead, but it’s often not as warm as an overquilt, as there’s lots of room for cool air to move around.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Warmth
Winner: Sleeping bag
You’re always going to be warmer in a sleeping bag because your heat is trapped in there with you.
Overquilts are excellently warm, don’t get me wrong! They’re generally highly insulated, and often, the warmth difference is within a few degrees of a bag.
However, your back is exposed with overquilts, and you’ll likely get what’s known as “cold butt syndrome”—the cold air circulating under your hammock will make the back of your body chilly.
You can pair an overquilt with an underquilt or a sleeping pad. I compare the two here in sleeping pad vs underquilt in hammocks.
But you won’t always need a pad or underquilt with a sleeping bag. The bag is insulated all around, and it’s zipped right up to your neck. This helps trap the warm air inside with you, especially in a mummy bag.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Versatility
Winner: Rectangular sleeping bag
Overquilts and mummy sleeping bags have a pretty defined shape. This stunts their usability for other things, so they’re not that versatile.
That’s where rectangular sleeping bags come in.
You can lay a rectangular bag down and use it as a picnic blanket, use it as a quilt, wrap it around you like a shawl, and even zip it up with other bags. There are tons of uses for them!
If you want something versatile, then a rectangular sleeping bag is a good tool to have.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Packed Size
Like with weight, overquilts usually win when compared to sleeping bags. There’s less fabric, so there’s less to condense down into a small shape. This can even apply when looking at the smallest sleeping bags.
Again, it depends on the brand and whether your bag/quilt is down vs synthetic. Down compresses smaller.
However, if your bag and quilt are both synthetic or both down, then the overquilt will be just a little smaller than the bag.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Convenience
The general consensus among campers is that overquilts are way more convenient.
They’re easier to get into and more adjustable. With sleeping bags, you often have to wiggle around and bend in strange ways to get the bag to come up under you.
Sleeping bags aren’t too difficult to use, though! They won’t be a burden if they’re your preference. You can still definitely use either a bag or an overquilt without it negatively impacting your night.
Sleeping Bag vs Overquilt Price
Winner: Sleeping bags
You might be shocked by this, but sleeping bags are often more affordable than overquilts!
Even when selecting random, low-cost, extreme budget options, sleeping bags are more affordable. Searching broadly for “sleeping bag” will often show you selections like this for under $50.
The least expensive overquilt I found when searching proudly cost over $50 and the price climbs depending on the temperature rating.
The price difference gets even more extreme when looking at Rei, a popular outdoor gear brand. Rei has many sleeping bags for under $200, and there aren’t many over $300. Their overquilts are all in the $300–$400 range.
Rei’s overquilts are down, so the extreme price jump makes sense—down lasts a very, very long time, which I explore in this article answering how long do sleeping bags last.
Alternatives to Sleeping Bags and Overquilts
You don’t have to use a sleeping bag or an overquilt. Here are some other options you can consider.
Camping blankets are bigger and broader. They don’t have a tapered shape like overquilts, and they’re a great choice if you truly want to feel like you’re at home and sleeping in your own bed.
Wool blankets can keep you very warm, especially if you get more than one. I compare how you’ll do with a wool blanket vs sleeping bag if you’d like a more in-depth look.
They’re a great option if you want something softer and homier.
Do emergency space blankets work? Yes! If your budget is tight, then emergency blankets work great. They’re not as good as regular gear, but they’re cheap, can be bought in bulk, and are highly underrated.
Emergency blankets can help prevent hypothermia in an unexpected cold snap, so it’s good to always have one with you as a backup/emergency item anyway.
They’re also extremely versatile, which I explore in my emergency blanket vs bivy comparison.
Are Quilts Better Than Sleeping Bags?
Quilts are lighter and have less bulk than sleeping bags, and they’re often less constraining. However, sleeping bags are snugger and usually warmer than quilts.
Overquilts win in a lot of the categories above, but it doesn’t mean they’re better—in every comparison, they basically win by a hair.
Can I Use A Sleeping Bag As A Quilt?
You can use a sleeping bag as a quilt, but it’s better to use a rectangular bag for it. A mummy bag is too tapered, so it won’t cover you the way a quilt will. If you can use a real quilt instead of using a sleeping bag as one, then do so.
Some sleeping bags zip out into quilts. These are called hybrid sleeping bags, and you might want to consider them if you’re indecisive about what you want.
Who’s The Winner?
Overquilts win in four out of the seven categories I explored above, but it doesn’t mean they win overall. It just means they’re marginally better in certain situations—sleeping bags are still a worthy competitor, and they’re my preference. I like all-around warmth.
But sleeping bags may not be your preference. Maybe you prefer the light, compact nature of overquilts, and that’s fine. And you may not like overquilts or sleeping bags.
Every camper and sleeping system is different, so experiment. Play with different setups until you find the one that works best for you. Hopefully, my guide will help you decide what kind of setup you want to experiment with.