While we both carried our own down sleeping bags for the Appalachian Trail, we decided for the PCT that we wanted to try out a 2 person quilt. Custom down quilts were out of our price range, and a homemade down quilt seemed like a pretty daunting task. Ultimately, I opted to try my hand with the Ray-Way quilt kit. It is a synthetic quilt that splits in half with a zipper, allowing each of us to carry half of it. We were a little nervous about how well the quilt would perform compared to a sleeping bag, but we were pleasantly surprised.
The quilt came along with us for the entire PCT. While the trail is dry compared to the AT, we did endure some serious rainstorms, several freak snowstorms, and plenty of below freezing nights. The cost of the kit including all the materials was around $200, and it took a few days to complete.
Sleeping with a quilt as opposed to a bag has its own pros and cons. You have to tuck the edges under yourself on cold nights to avoid drafts, and pull the quilt over your head on very cold nights. However, the combined body warmth of 2 people under the same quilt provides a surprising amount of warmth. And on the warmest nights, you can open the quilt up for more air flow.
What We Liked About the Quilt
It was affordable and easy to construct. Cheaper than 2 sleeping bags, and half the price of a down quilt for 2. Going entirely DIY would probably cost about half of the price of the kit, but I don’t mind paying for the design and instructions.
It was lightweight. At around 3 pounds, the quilt was lighter than carrying 2 sleeping bags, even down bags. A down quilt would have been even lighter, but more expensive.
It was warm. We had quite a few nights below freezing, down into the 20s on the PCT. We wore every layer of clothing to bed on those nights, but we slept fairly comfortably. I never woke up from being cold, but we were definitely reaching the comfort limit for the quilt. I think our 2 person sleeping pad was also helpful in keeping us well insulated from below.
What we didn’t like about the Quilt
It was bulky. Fortunately it splits in half, so the load and space can be shared. We each carried half, and our halves were each bulkier than the down bags we carried on the AT. Synthetic insulation is just not as compressible.
The foot box was too small. I ended up altering the bottom of ours to allow a little more foot space, but it would be nice if the instructions included the option to actually make a square foot box. I’m going to try for a roomier foot box on my next quilt.
I wish it were longer. I went with the recommended height based on the calculation provided in the instructions, but if I were to do it again I’d add another inch or two, just to make sure it easily pulls over my head and stays there when it gets cold.
This quilt is a great compromise between cost, weight, and warmth. It was perfect for a thru-hike such as the PCT, and is a great first project for someone wanting to venture into making their own gear. I wish we had a quilt like it back on the Appalachian Trail!