Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer Quilt

As part of my drive to drastically reduce my kit weight (as well as belly weight) for next summers SUL attempt on the Pennine Way I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my sleeping arrangements.

Currently I own two sleeping bags, both made by PHD. I have a minim 300 which appears during their sales, this is rated down to 0C comfort and weighs 598g. My other is a the Piqolo which was until they did a lighter version, the lightest commercially available sleeping bag in the world at 395g. Mine weighs 430g and is comfortable down to around 8C. I find the PHD temp claims a bit on the optimistic side, I don’t put any blame on PHD for this, it’s just that my body must run a wee bit cold.

Being cold on a night on a long distance trip is something that must be avoided. Bad, or no sleep can lead to unhappy days and with this in mind I wanted to develop something that would be light and keep me warm down to 5C. I think this is as low as I can expect the night time temperatures to go in the hills in England during the summer.

I’ve been looking at quilts and quilt users with a wary eye for a year or so now. They claim that quilts are warmer and more comfortable than bags. All the insulation is above you so nothing is compressed and wasted. I’m guessing a number of you readers will be quilt users or familiar with the argument. So onwards to a making moment…

I managed to get hold of some old Pertex, that was apparently some of the last stuff made by the British firm before they sold the company. I can’t vouch for what exactly it is. All I know that it’s pretty light weight, very water resistant and downproof. This cost about £25 with postage. I wish I had bought the remaining roll as it’s not available any more.

For the quilt I looked to the internet for tips and hints and what I found was this.  Brilliantly put together comprehensive instructions on how to MYOG quilt. All I can say is thank you to Jamie and to all potential quilt makers following these instructions was a dream. I would recommend this as a good first MYOG project. If you can sew a straight seam in thin material you can make this quilt easily and quickly.

Right back to my attempt. I slightly altered the size of the quilt as I am 1” taller than Jamie, and therefore the size of the baffle spacing. The maths are easy enough. The pattern ended up being 80" long.  I then cut out the material. I have a 8’x4’ plywood sheet that sits on the kitchen table, I use a fine pointed soldering iron and a lightweight Aluminium I beam for a straight edge. This reduces the need to mark and then cut the material as you can “draw” down the straight edge with the hot soldering iron and leave an edge that will not fray.

The material was then sewn together as per the instructions, the baffles marked with chalk and these also sewn together. As this was a sewn through baffle quilt the sewing is a very quick and easy process.

The down was purchased from £55 including postage for 200g of the 860fp stuff. I then used the hoover method to fill the baffles. This method is fantastic, quickish and more importantly mess free. There were a few down clusters floating about the kitchen at the end but nothing to worry about.

 A word of caution about the hoover method. I nearly caused hoover apocalypse as I underestimated the air resistance of compacted down.  Top tips to avoid hoover meltdown.  Firstly remove the bag from the hoover to increase air flow into the motor. You won’t need the bag as the noseeum mesh stops anything entering the hoover itself. Secondly don’t run the motor when vacuuming the down for more than ten seconds or so. You can usually pick up around 4g of down with each suck. I ran the hoover for around 30 seconds on the first go trying to hoover up the half a bag of down, the motor cut out and proceeded to get very very hot which resulted in a quick motor extraction from said hoover. No long term damage but I may not have been so lucky.

I put all 200g of down in the quilt just to see what would happen. Jamie puts in 172g in his slightly smaller quilt. I reckon that with the slightly larger size and the bits that got away I put in about 10%-12% more down. I had inadvertently overstuffed the quilt, i.e the fp of the down if fully fluffed up would fill the chambers of the quilt, the down I had put in would fill a quilt with 10% more internal volume. This means that the quilt now feels a lot firmer than the PHD bags that I’ve got, which in turns means the baffles stay lofted a lot easier and don’t compress as much.

There is about 2” of loft and the quilt is warm, really warm. Once the rest of the seams were sewn up and 18” of Velcro was sewn on the edges to create the footbox the quilt was nearly done. A few small loops of ribbon were sewn on the edges for the purposes of keeping the quilt wrapped around me during cold spells.

I’ve yet to use the quilt outside but from the appearance and testing on the sofa I think it will comfortably keep me warm down to 5c and will be a useful addition to my other bags into the colder months.  With a bivi bag and clothes on the quilt is uncomfortably warm inside.  I would say it is as warm as my PHD bag rated to 0c.  This is a very unscientific test.  The quilt finished up being 68" long when fully stuffed which is plenty long enough when the footbox is cinched and velcroed up.

Following are a few pictures of the finished article.  Oh and the final weight now that it's finished is 460g.


Anonymous said...

Genius! Zimplez! I am now pondering the pertex dilema. Thankyou for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Very nice indeed! OMG I want to have a crack at that! So many myog moments, so little time! Great stuff!

David.H said...

Looks awesome. I've got a minim 300, too.. I like it but I want a synthetic bag/quilt next to better deal with being in a bivi bag for days/weeks at a time. I'd like to try and myog a quilt like the MLD one, but having never myog'd anything it might be a bit ambitious..

nigel said...

Very nice. Will be keen to hear how warm it is out in the wilds.


Shed Dweller said...

Thanks for your comments guys. David this is a really good project to start with. There's no difficult sewing and by the end of it you've sewn many yards of seams and become an expert. Taking time cutting out the material is a must and then just one stage at a time and it all falls into place. Give it a go!

Martin Rye said...

What I like about your kit is it looks right as well. What I mean is it does not look DIY but more like a quilt some firm made. You have some real skill in making kit. I reckon you could sell them and synthetic ones as well. PHD new quilt looks so wrong. Where yours looks so right.

David Lintern said...

I agree with Martin, this looks damn fine. Also with Dave: next, a synthetic one for tarp use, and for beefing up those summer bags for winter with a 2nd condensing layer. I love the use of soldering iron - as someone who has spent many hours breathing solder and making cables, all I can say is watch the fumes!

Shed Dweller said...

Martin, thanks for your compliments. I agree with you on the PHD quilt. Inspiration from the bedroom rather than the hills, quite strange. I am hoping to make stuff to sell. I want to practice a bit more first and get some serious use from the kit to test it before it's released on the general public.

David, again thanks for your comments. A synthetic quilt is on the cards, more weight but more versatile too.

Jake Willits said...

Just what I needed! Another project with ready made instructions! Maybe after I attempt my light bag customization, which I fear will be a failure. Thanks for explaining it so simply.

Anonymous said...

Great and inspiring work!

I've been using a VBL as a Summer bag this year, it can be a little clammy but is crazy light. Your quilt looks very attractive though, I might have to try my hand at making one!

Greg said...

Wow that looks professional and very light . what stitch did you use , is it anything fancy? and do you have to get special thread as my wife says the thread she has is cotton?
I would love to have a go at a double one similar to the Ray Jardine one but with down.

Shed Dweller said...

Jake, Thomas and Greg. Give it a go, all the seams are very simple to do. Just a straight stitch all the way.

Greg No special thread, but cotton will not do. It retains moisture and will rot and leaving your with no quilt. I use standard Gutterman polyester thread, no need for havy duty stuff. All good sewing shops sell it.

Thanks for your comments chaps.