Educate me. Topquilt

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Biker Bob
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Educate me. Topquilt

#1

Post by Biker Bob » Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:15 am

A dumb newcomer question I'm sure. but this site may have answers and not insults. Does an topquilt wrap all the way around you like a sleeping bag and if so what is the difference?

Thanks

I hate to show my ignorance.

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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#2

Post by UncleMJM » Tue Oct 18, 2016 11:57 am

The answer lies in the reason for an UQ.

Insulation laid upon that compresses, looses it's ability to insulate.

Enter the TQ concept. It covers the top and tucks under only enough to "seal" in the warmth. One that can completely wrap around could be considered larger than necessary.

One can be ignorant, lacking in knowledge / information, but not dumb. Don't sell yourself short. :)

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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#3

Post by sarge » Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:04 pm

No problem on the question, that's what we're here for.

Top quilts address a problem with sleeping bags in general, and are not exclusively for hammock camping. In fact, top quilts have been around since before hammock camping became a thing.

Sleeping bags and quilts don't heat you----you heat them, they retain that heat in the air spaces between the fibers of the insulation, and that's what keeps you warm. Laying in a sleeping bag, whether on the ground or in a hammock, compresses the insulation rendering it practically useless. This is why you use a pad when you camp with a sleeping bag. While most folks think of pads as a matress, what they actually are is insulation that keeps the planet from sucking all the warmth out of your body.

Back when the Ultralight movement started taking off, some folks decided that if they had a bunch of useless insulation under them and were carrying pads as a result, they would simply cut that insulation out and reduce the weight of the bag. The first commercially available top quilt was a kit made by Ray Jardine, one of the pioneers of the Ultralight movement. They are still available today and are excellent. I used one for a couple of years.

When hammock camping became popular, these quilts were a natural for the application because the problem of crushing insulation is aggravated by the convective heat loss we experience in hammocks.
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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#4

Post by brianb2 » Tue Oct 18, 2016 7:59 pm

What they said. The way I got my wife and kids to understand the need for them was to explain it like this. Imagine a sleeping bag, now slice it in half. Not like the guy sawing a woman in half, but more like the top and bottom slices of bread in a sandwich. Take the bottom slice and attach it to the bottom of the hammock and that's your underquilt. Take the top slice and lay it on top of you in the hammock and that's the top quilt. Now since we had to slice the sleeping bag in half, there's going to be some heat loss at the seams. To fix this let's make the underquilt a little wider than it was originally so it comes up the sides of the hammock. We'll also make the top quilt a little wider than it originally was so you can tuck it in around your body on cold nights.

Here's my visual aid to help. Mock me at will :) Imagine you're the broccoli stalk. The bottom tortilla shell is your underquilt that extends high up the hammock. The top tortilla shell is your topquilt that can be tucked in around you. Just remember there would be a hammock in between the underquilt and you. Hope that helps or at least makes you laugh.

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Educate me. Topquilt

#5

Post by Mophead » Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:01 pm

Sarge gave you a great explanation. Being open across the width of your back is saving you maybe 1/4 the material of a bag plus a zipper. Makes good sense b/c the insulation under you is equal to the weight and bulk over you but is only performing at 5% (just a guess) what the top is.

The only thing I might add that may have been the reason for your confusion in the first place is this:

Some people like to sleep on their sides. Or they toss and turn. Side sleeping under a quilt means the quilt has to be wider. When people make extra wide "top quilts" they usually end up tucking the edges under they're shoulders if they start out on they're backs. Also, as you may have guessed making the quilt wider negates some of the advantage it has over a sleeping bag.

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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#6

Post by sarge » Tue Oct 18, 2016 8:06 pm

brianb2 wrote:What they said. The way I got my wife and kids to understand the need for them was to explain it like this. Imagine a sleeping bag, now slice it in half. Not like the guy sawing a woman in half, but more like the top and bottom slices of bread in a sandwich. Take the bottom slice and attach it to the bottom of the hammock and that's your underquilt. Take the top slice and lay it on top of you in the hammock and that's the top quilt. Now since we had to slice the sleeping bag in half, there's going to be some heat loss at the seams. To fix this let's make the underquilt a little wider than it was originally so it comes up the sides of the hammock. We'll also make the top quilt a little wider than it originally was so you can tuck it in around your body on cold nights.

Here's my visual aid to help. Mock me at will :) Imagine you're the broccoli stalk. The bottom tortilla shell is your underquilt that extends high up the hammock. The top tortilla shell is your topquilt that can be tucked in around you. Just remember there would be a hammock in between the underquilt and you. Hope that helps or at least makes you laugh.

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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#7

Post by Biker Bob » Tue Oct 18, 2016 10:01 pm

Thanks for the explanations. Brianb2 I never thought about a broccoli taco until now.

Thanks

Bob
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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#8

Post by Fat Bluegill » Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:47 am

There is something just wrong with a broccoli taco.

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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#9

Post by sarge » Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:59 am

Fat Bluegill wrote:There is something just wrong with a broccoli taco.

Its a hanging offense in Texas.
You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me. ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#10

Post by brianb2 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:07 am

sarge wrote:
Its a hanging offense in Texas.
Is that a hammock joke? Ba dum bump


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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#11

Post by BillyBob66 » Wed Oct 19, 2016 11:33 am

sarge wrote:
Fat Bluegill wrote:There is something just wrong with a broccoli taco.

Its a hanging offense in Texas.
:lol:

Well, I am late to the party as usual and it has all pretty well been explained already. I will, of course, still try to add something! :roll:

First, just take your sleeping bag, unzipped except for a couple of feet worth down at the foot end, and get into the bed or hammock, stick your feet down into the foot box and pull it up to your neck. Presto, you now have a TQ. Though for sure, it is wider than a TQ really needs to be in a hammock. And it will still weigh as much as it ever did.

The biggest advantage for me always was escaping all the work that was needed for me to get into a sleeping bag while inside a hammock, a situation that ruined my first ever hammock camp on a 22F Rocky Mountain night. I never did get in it completely and woke up shivering about 0200. Also, tossing and turning goes easier for me under a TQ than inside a bag/hammock. The next advantage is as mentioned: less weight and bulk. But ease of use inside a hammock is #1 for me.

One remaining advantage of a zipped up, hooded, collared bag is that it is far more draft proof compared to either a TQ or UQ. It has been years since I used a mummy or any other bag, and I do great down into single digits. I am sure I could have gone well below zero on some of those nights if weather had cooperated. But for me, though the comfort and convenience TQ advantages were obvious from the 1st try, I struggled for most of the 1st year getting my bag used as TQ to equal warmth when used as designed. I always thought that at least part of that problem was that my bag just did not works as well as a TQ as did a dedicate TQ which I could snap behind my neck and cinch down to block drafts, and I felt like my hood and neck design on the bag interfered with getting a draft proof seal at my neck and shoulders, plus I as now missing the benefits of the bags hood and neck collar. But the main thing was probably just drafts along the sides of any quilt (bag as quilt or an actual TQ). I think I just somehow trained my body to avoid kicking some big gap open when I moved in my sleep. All I know is I do fine now with either a bag as TQ or using my actual TQs. But drafts are the curse of quilts in general, and some learning curve is probably required. In the beginning, I had many a to cold night converted to toasty warm once I gave up and got into my bag and zipped up and cinched the hood snug. (These days, I use a separate down hood, which works better than a mummy hood since it turns with me without the TQ or rest of the bag turning)

The totally correct idea that insulation that is compressed under you becomes more or less useless has been presented. I will only add that in my experience, this applies more to down than it does synthetic. All would agree that one advantage to down is that it compresses a lot more than an equally warm amount of synthetic such as Climashield, thus taking up much less room in your pack. But this also means down will compress more under your back than will synthetic. Back during some of my early experiments trying to stay warm using my bag as a quilt, when I would decide to get inside my synthetic sleeping bag because I was unable to stay warm on top, I invariably quickly noticed an significant increase in back warmth also. Similar to, but definitely not as much as when I would decide to add a pad. This would often be noticed even quicker than the increase in top and overall warmth. Often, I had not been aware that my back was cold or even cool, as I quickly would be aware of a cold back when using inadequate or no under insulation. Get into a hammock on a cold windy day with no UQ or pad and I would know I had a cold back or butt right quick. On these occasions, and using some form of under insulation, I usually did not have an actual cool or cold back (though I was cool or cold on top), but getting inside the synthetic bag I noticed an immediate warm back. So, IMO, synthetic bags still provide some back warmth even when you lay on them, but not near as much as uncompressed insulation such as an UQ or pad. But maybe enough to allow the use of a less thick UQ or thinner pad.

So just experiment using your bag as a TQ in the hammock, you will likely see an obvious improvement in overall comfort and ease of use. If warm enough( insulate your head about like with a mummy hood in oredr to directly compare! ) If you are plenty warm all the time, you are probably a good candidate to buy yourself a TQ and separate hood. If one night you are not warm enough, just get in the bag and zip up! An easy way to do this? Lay a ground cloth, pad or pack under your hammock. If you are cold under a 20F bag as TQ at 30-40F no matter what you do, and your bag has kept you plenty warm below 30 on the ground, just get out and step into the foot box of your bag, pull the hood over your head and zip up maybe leaving one hand/arm out, sit down in the hanmmock, lay down and find the sweet spot, zip up the rest of the way and sleep toasty.

Just keep practicing and you will figure out the TQ thing. But in the meantime just use your bag as a TQ or if needed as a bag.
Last edited by BillyBob66 on Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Educate me. Topquilt

#12

Post by Idaho Hanger » Wed Oct 19, 2016 6:23 pm

I think it's been covered pretty well. I will run off on a slight tangent. Despite having several down topquilts, on those few occasions when ground sleeping is required, I still prefer my sleeping bag. I've found sleeping on a pad always poses condensation issues for me, and while it doesn't help with insulation, that layer of fabric and compressed down between me and the pad does seem to help with condensation. Plus it helps with drafts to be zipped in when you're tossing and turning all night, which always happens when ground dwelling.
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