The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is a high-quality ultralight down quilt that’s perfect for summer backpacking. And, as it turns out, Therm-a-Rest is no longer just a great sleeping pad company.
To get us a closer look at the new Vesper Quilt, Therm-a-Rest sent Man Makes Fire a review unit. This is what we learned:
Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt Review
Therm-a-Rest is best known for its awesome lineup of lightweight sleeping pads and air mattresses, but Therm-a-Rest’s down sleeping bags and quilts are also legit.
I previously tested a 20-degree Therm-a-Rest Parsec down sleeping bag and thought it was fantastic. That bag weighs in at a lightweight and utterly reasonable 32 ounces in the Regular size and the quality is great overall.
But Therm-a-Rest didn’t stop there. This year the company introduced two new ‘Hyperion‘ mummy-style down sleeping bags that trimmed another 12 ounces. If you’re doing the math, the Hyperion 20-degree sleeping bag weighs in at a mere 20 ounces. That’s 1 lbs 4 oz.Even bags that cost quite a bit more don’t weigh much less than that.
However, I’m personally not a fan of mummy-style sleeping bags. I prefer quilt-style down sleeping bags that make it very easy to vent and stretch during the night. I get the sense that some traditional sleeping bag fans have a hard time loving quilts.
If you’re a larger backpacker or feel claustrophobic in mummy-style sleeping bags, this review is for you. Enter the new Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt. The Regular size weighs just 19 ounces, while the Long version — which is what I tested — weighs just 21 ounces.
Note: I haven’t tested the Hyperion sleeping bags personally but they’re built with similar specifications and materials as the Vesper quilts. Therm-a-Rest gear has never let me down, so I’m confident about the Hyperion bags, too — in case you’re a mummy-style fan.
The first key to a great down sleeping bag or quilt is the type and quality of down insulation. The Therm-a-Rest Vesper is filled with outstanding 900 fill power goose Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. 900 fill power is very lofty down. It expands and insulates very well.
Nikwax Hydrophobic Down has been treated with a water-repellant coating. Hydrophobic coatings help keep the down from getting wet. Think of it as a DWR coating — it repels moisture but it’s not waterproof. If you do get your down bag wet — and don’t get it wet — hydrophobic down dries out faster than non-treated down.
The fabric is a second key to a great down bag or quilt. It needs to be a tight weave to keep the down inside the bag, but it also needs to be very lightweight. If it’s a heavy material, the down will have a hard time lofting against it, which can reduce the effective insulating power of the down.
Because the 10-denier fabric is so light — and because the down is 900 fill power — the Vesper lofts astoundingly well. After you pull it out of your pack, give it a shake and a fluff and the down responds quickly. If you’ve got any down that has bunched up during storage or travel, it’s very easy to spread it out inside the baffles.
The shell fabric is a nylon ripstop with a DWR coating, which further helps the Vesper fend off moisture.
All of these lightweight materials and high-quality down let the Vesper pack down to a very small size. However, more often than not, I’ll just use the included stuff sack and pack the Vesper loosely instead. Why? When your sleeping bag or quilt is less compressed, it’s easier to let it fill odd spaces inside of your backpack and result in a more comfortable ride.
The SynergyLink System
A quilt-style sleeping bag is usually used like a blanket. You tuck it around your shoulders or move it around however you see fit. You get too hot, not a problem. Need to stretch, not a problem. Venting is easy. But what if it’s a chilly night?
The Therm-a-Rest SynergyLink System is based on small loops on the outside of its bags and quilts that use lightweight connectors. The connectors clip into the bag on one side, run underneath your sleeping pad or air mattress, and connect to the bag at the other side. Super simple.
Your bag or quilt stays situated over the top of you during the night. In the case of the Vesper, the SynergyLink System brings many of the full-coverage benefits of a mummy-style sleeping bag with the freedom of movement of a quilt. If you need to stretch or vent heat, you can still poke a leg or arm out to let a little cold air in.
Probably to save weight, Therm-a-Rest only includes one SynergyLink cord . . . but the quilt has connectors for two. If you want to maximize your sleeping bag-like experience, you might need to find a shoe lace or bit of paracord to create an extra SynergyLink connector. As for me, one does a pretty good job.
Vesper in Use: Outstanding Comfort
Meanwhile, let’s talk about how the shell fabric feels. Some sleeping bags have nylon or polyester fabrics that don’t feel good on your skin. Kind of clammy, slick or rough. The Therm-a-Rest Vesper fabric feels amazing on bare skin. It’s seriously good.
The footbox is roomy enough for my size 14 feet. Better yet, the partially closed footbox is long enough to give you excellent warmth without drafts. In actual use, the footbox helps you keep your quilt oriented in the night.
Perimeter side baffles all along the edges help seal out drafts.
While the Vesper doesn’t have a mummy-style built in hood, it does have a snap collar and drawcord to help seal in warmth around your head and shoulders. If you plan to use a quilt-style bag in colder weather, I recommend that you bring along a stocking cap or polar fleece cap to reduce heat loss from your head. Besides, a stocking cap on cold mornings in the mountains while you’re drinking coffee is just the best.
Drawcord and snap.
Aa a rule of thumb, the comfort level is usually at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than any manufacturer EN ratings listed.
Choosing a sleeping bag comfort rating can be tough. If you’re a cold sleeper, error on the size of more warmth.
Generally, I recommend 20-degree bags and quilts for most everyone because they’re so versatile. If you are positive that you’re going to only need your bag for warmer-weather backpacking or camping, sure, the 32-degree version is great. If you’re not sure, go with the 20F version. On a cold night the extra $40 and 4-5 ounces will be more than worth it. Learn more about the 32F/0C Vesper Quilt here.
Mummy vs Quilt Styles
Fair warning: One thing you should understand is that mummy-style sleeping bags are generally warmer for most people. They also come with built-in hoods, which, if you’re a back sleeper, lets you snug the bag up tightly around your head, sealing in a lot more warmth.
Quilts don’t really have hoods. In addition, they’re more likely to have air gaps between your body and the insulation, which could result in more area for your body heat to keep warm.
While we’re at it, a good insulated sleeping pad or air mattress is important to your comfort when temperatures dip.
All that said, I personally prefer a quilt style bag for all the summer backpacking and camping that I do.
During a backpacking trip last August, I used a 20-degree down quilt with an insulated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad (XLite review here) and woke up in the morning with a few inches of snow on my tent. I was plenty warm. Still, I’m pretty sure the actual outside temps were around 30 degrees or so — which fits a so-called 20-degree bag’s real-world usage comfort range. If you want to try an ultralight quilt, it would be hard to go wrong with the Vesper 20.
The Vesper Review Verdict
The Therm-a-Rest Vesper Quilt is perfect for summer backpacking, but it’s so good I take it camping, too. I like it that much. Overall, the quality of materials is fantastic, and the fit-and-finish is excellent. Everything comes together just like it should — the Therm-a-Rest Vesper is an outstanding, can’t-go-wrong ultralight quilt. Very highly recommended.
One last note: As far as we’re concerned, Therm-a-Rest hit a home run for ultralight summer backpacking this year. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite air mattress (full review here) paired with the 20-degree Vesper results in astounding weight gains for your backpack. Swap out the Vesper for the 20-degree Hyperion if you’re unsure about quilts.
Very lightweight overall
High-quality, water-repellant down
Ultralight 10D fabric is just fantastic
No real cons (just remember it's a quilt and not a true mummy bag)