Hangin’ with Enlightened Equipment’s Synthetic Quilts
By Matt Cashell, Rokslide Prostaff
My lungs were starting to burn. Jared and I had climbed about 1000 feet after trudging for miles through gloomy fog clinging to tan and gray slopes of scattered sagebrush. The ponderosas had been quiet under that gray blanket and we hadn’t said much to each other the whole way in. Now we pushed through the ceiling and we were looking out across miles of wild country with peaks jutting out of the fog lit like fiery beacons in the evening alpenglow.
Part of the reason for a silence was concern. It had been raining on and off the whole way in but now the sky was clearing and we were losing nature’s insulation for our overnight stay. The forecast was for cold and it was supposed to spit rain on and off all night to boot. We weren’t in the best spot to deal with that weather: a lone peak overlooking a broad basin with a wet bottom and scattered timber all around, but it was a great spot to sit behind a spotter for opening morning.
Earlier in the year, we had spent weeks in this country chasing bugles all over. We moved a lot, following the rutting herds wherever they lead us. In this way, I had discovered true comfort when sleeping in the backcountry: a hammock. My earlier tries at “hanging” hadn’t been very successful in keeping me warm. That chilly air under the hammok generally kept me up even on mild nights, as I had just been putting a sleeping bag and closed-cell pad in the hammock.
This year was different though, as I was using Enlightened Equipment’s Prodigy top quilt and Prospect underquilt. Both use Climashield Apex Synthetic insulation. Both were rated by Enlightened Equipment for 20 degrees. As we approached our eagle’s nest spot for the night, I knew I would see how accurate that rating was. Once we arrived, I dropped my pack and pulled out my 20L stuff sack containing both quilts. While the quilts are pretty light at 3.8 pounds together, they did take up more of my bag space, as they don’t compress as much as a down sleeping bag.
Setting up the hammock was a breeze, and I just added a little reflective line to the corner bungees on the Prospect, and I was able to simply clip the lines to the carabiners on my hammock, and the Prospect was closely hugging the bottom of the hammock. I then unfurled the Prodigy into the hammock itself and it lofted in seconds. Even after stretching a tarp over my little nest, I was done in plenty of time to start boiling water while Jared was still messing with the pitch of his tent. He finally got it set as the sun went down. With wind on and off, and only light occasional cloud cover, we barely made it through our reconstituted feasts before heading for the warmth of our respective shelters as the temperatures dropped rather suddenly.
I was worried about the descending chill as I went to bed, so I left my puffy on and crawled under the Prodigy. I zipped up the toe box and tucked the sides under me. I fell fast asleep as I rocked comfortably in the breeze, far above the discomfort of the rocks and sticks below. I did wake up later in the night, but not for the chill. I actually had to remove my puffy, as I had begun to sweat under the prodigy as temps fell into the teens. The next time I woke up, a dawning sky stretched above and I realized I was close to sleeping through opening morning! I hopped out of the hammock just in time for that magic glassing hour before sunrise. I felt great, without any of the sore spots I normally get when sleeping on the ground. I simply unzipped the foot box on the Prodigy and used it as a shroud for glassing in the morning chill. Of course, the elk didn’t cooperate very well; we only saw one herd with two bulls tending cows clear on the other side of the river drainage. While disappointed, I took comfort in the warmth of the Prodigy. I knew I had all season to find a bull.
The author’s comfortable camp at the “Eagle’s Nest”
I used these quilts in a lot of ways all through the year. In the summer, when backpacking with my kids, the Prodigy served as a sleeping bag when combined with a standard sleeping pad. It came with straps to secure it to a sleeping pad. On warm nights, I could just leave it open like a blanket. If temps dipped, I could zip the foot area up and use the included straps to secure it to a pad like a traditional sleeping bag. In the late season with below zero at horse camp, I ended up throwing the Prodigy over my 0 Degree down sleeping bag for those frigid nights. The biggest problem I had with it was my wife and kids would steal it to burrow under for a movie, another area where the Prodigy excelled.
The synthetic insulation of these Enlightened Equipment quilts were light enough, and plenty warm. The extra insurance of having insulation that maintains performance when wet added to my peace of mind. Enlightened Equipment puts great effort into their sewing and I had no problems with the seams or the fabric on my quilts. The Prodigy in its stuff sack weighed in at 2 lbs,3 ozs on my scale. Compare that to 2 lbs, 1 oz for the Big Agnes Zirkel SL 20 deg in its stuff sack. Similarly, the Prospect Underquilt weighed in at 1 lb, 10 ozs while the Thermarest Prolite pad weighs 1 lb, 7 ozs. While the Enlightened Equipment system weighs only 5 ozs more than the Big Agnes/Thermarest combination, as you can see from these pictures, the quilts are bulkier and take a up more pack volume.
The down sleeping bag compresses a bit better than the Enlightened Equipment Prodigy
Enlightened Equipment’s Prospect takes up a little more pack space than a traditional sleeping pad
At $205 for the 20 degree version of the Prodigy and $185 for the 20 degree Prospect, these quilts are also a great value. While I still use traditional sleeping bags and pads occasionally, the majority of my backcountry nights were in the Prodigy this year. Quilts are just more versatile both in types of use and thermal regulation. I really prefer my nights in my hammock rather than on the ground, and the Prodigy absolutely excelled when hanging for the night.
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