Katabatic Gear Flex 30 Ultralight Quilt Review
One of backpacking’s greatest achievements is the innovation of the quilt. Katabatic Gear is one of the many cottage companies specializing in this modern gem, and in my experience arguably the most hyped. Their Flex 30 Ultralight Quilt is a top contender for quilt of choice to many prospective thru-hikers. The modest temperature rating and relaxing weight would no doubt taunt those of us dreaming up ideal gear lists everywhere. So, does the Flex 30 make the cut? Here’s one die-hard Enlightened Equipment user’s thoughts.
Katabatic Gear Flex 30 Ultralight Quilt At-a-Glance
- MSRP: $365* (for 6′ length w/900 Fill Power Water-Resistant Down)
- Weight: 20.1 ounces (for above specs)
- Down Filled Collar
- Zippered Footbox
- Highly Customizable
- Includes 2mm Cords and Webbing Straps for Attaching to Pad
- Responsibly Sourced Down
Circumstance of Review
I have been able to put my quilt through summer and fall backpacking. Sleeping temperatures have ranged from low 30’s to mid 70’s. The climate has ranged from muggy creek side camping in North Carolina to blustery summits in Georgia. Most of my camping so far has been without the aid of the included pad straps.
Prior to using this quilt, I had thru-hiked both the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. During these hikes, I exclusively used an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20. That quilt is quite similar to this one from Katabatic, with a comparable closable footbox and attachment straps. I grew up using traditional mummy-style sleeping bags, accounting for probably a few dozen nights.
- Highly Customizable – Length options are Small (5’6″), Regular (6′), and Long (6’6″). Wide versions are available for both the Regular and Long versions. Fill Power options are either 850 or 900, and both can be HyperDry treated and/or overstuffed.
- Versatile Footbox – Footbox can be cinched and closed all the way up to about the thighs, and can also be completely unzipped and blanketed. The drawstring, snap, and down-filled draft blocker can be integrated to completely seal in warmth or allow for a light draft.
- Down Collar – The overstuffed down collar around the neck helps seal in warmth without an irritating drawcord. It snaps closed to seal in warmth.
- Cord Clip Attachment System – The system used to secure the quilt around the sleeper is designed for both simplicity and adjustability. The quilt can be attached to the two included cords and either locked into place on the cord or set to flex with the sleeper.
- Includes Stuff Sack and Storage Sack – Packs into stuff sack down to 6.5 x 11.5 inches for regular widths in all sizes or 7 x 12 inches for both of the wide options. The storage sack is 100% recycled breathable fabric.
- Differential Cut – Shell fabric is cut wider than liner fabric, making the circumference of the shell larger than that of the liner. This reduces the likelihood of crushing insulation and creating cold spots when drawing the quilt in on particularly chilly nights.
- Responsibly Sourced Down – Katabatic partners with Allied Feather and Down for all their products, which is certified through both the bluesign and Responsible Down Standard programs. Through this partnership, Katabatic is able to offer customers access to the Track My Down program.
- Pertex Quantum Fabric – The shell Pertex Quantum Eco Ripstop (.85 oz/yd) claims superiority in keeping insulation drier and loftier, while also reducing the demand for raw materials. The lining Pertex Quantum Taffeta (1.0 oz/yd) is allegedly one of the softest fabrics found on the liner of a UL sleeping bag or quilt.
As stated in the description, this Katabatic quilt is rated down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Various sleeping bag and quilt makers rate their products a bit differently though, so there can be a great bit of variance. One brand’s 20-degree bag might mean survivable at 20 degrees, while another promises comfort all the way down to that minimum temperature. Each person’s own comfort also varies, so this is a rough science at best.
I had heard frequently that Katabatic quilts tend to exceed their promised temperature ratings. Most of my camp sleeping prior to this test had been done in an Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20. I slept comfortably below freezing on multiple occasions in that quilt paired with a proper insulating pad. And even after a few hundred nights of use I can still sleep fine down to about 30. So how does the Katabatic compare?
Flex 30 Warmth
I have found that I agree with the critics: the Katabatic performs well even beyond the promised temperature rating. While I haven’t yet been able to find a night cold enough to surpass the temperature rating in my warm Southeastern camping region by the end of my testing period, I think my coldest night was a solid test. I managed to camp one night near Springer Mountain in Georgia where the temperature dipped to about 33 degrees Fahrenheit. I was using a NEMO Astro Lite sleeping pad with a measly 1.5 R-Value, a true summer pad. Even flirting with the claimed fringe comfort range, I was plenty warm. In fact, I wasn’t even using the cord clips to hold the quilt in place.
As an average temperature sleeper who typically finds high-quality sleeping quilts’ temperature ratings accurate, I found the Katabatic quilt to be a modest rating. I’d wager these quilts can comfortably handle pushing that limit.
In order to maximize a quilt’s ability to keep in warmth, it needs to be fully secured around the user. Some of us may be blessed with the ability to stay still throughout the night, meaning that simply draping the quilt over the body is the only action needed. For those of us who aren’t actual mutants, some sort of additional security is necessary.
I’ll preface this by echoing my words above. Even on a chilly night (low 30’s), I found this quilt to be manageably warm even without the straps. But adding every measure possible will certainly make this quilt as efficient as possible.
The Flex 30 actually comes with 2 full sets of usable attachment straps: the aforementioned cord clips, as well as two very thin pieces of webbing with buckles. Either system is usable on its own. The cord clip system is easy enough to use. The two yellow cord are put around the user’s pad and cinched to fit. Then, the clips on the actual quilt are snapped onto the cord in the first position. At this point they are easy to slide along the cord. The quilt functions quite well in this position, but there’s a second tighter hole the cord can be pushed into that locks the quilt completely into place.
The only drawback here is that clipping into the cord is a bit finicky. Even at home, sitting at my desk, right now, it takes a bit of dexterity to hook it all up properly. Being groggy after a day of hiking doesn’t make it much easier. But still, 4 of these little clips and you’re comfortably set for the night.
Webbing and Buckles
The Flex 30 also comes with a more rudimentary set of webbing buckles. These are not designed to be used to secure the quilt to the pad, but rather the only option to secure the quilt to itself. There is a small loop on the quilt just above the aforementioned clips. The webbing is fed through each of these loops and then buckled back to itself. From here, the user need only tighten to preference.
The One Flaw
While both of these sets of customizable adjustment options work perfectly efficiently, they create what I believe to be the quilt’s greatest drawback: it needs extra pieces to be maximally secured.
I may not have even noticed this or considered it a drawback if not for my depth of experience with a direct competitor. The Enlightened Equipment quilts I’ve used also have straps to secure themselves to a sleeping pad. While they aren’t as finely tunable or as light, they do let the user clip both sides of the quilt directly to itself when desired. For the lazy hiker, this quick and easy option is often the night’s solution. Unfortunately for the Flex 30, no such tightening is possible without the use of either of the included straps. The clips on the quilt itself are not compatible with each other.
Flex 30 Pros & Cons
- At Least As Warm As Promised – This is a super warm quilt. Even the coldest of sleepers will probably be fine all the way down to 30, and most folks should be able to dip down into the 20s with confidence.
- Truly Seals in Warmth – The draft collar and footbox flap combine to keep in heat super efficiently. Mixed with either of the straps it hold in a ton of warmth.
- FLEXible in the Field – There are just so many way to make this quilt adapt to any situation. I love having the option to use this as a regular blanket. All of the options for keeping in precious body heat make it possible to dial in the temperature to that Goldilocks zone.
- Highly Customizable – It’s pretty standard these days, sure, but it’s still nice to see all of the options available before purchasing. Just about anybody can get one of these close to perfectly sized, which of course helps cutdown excess weight.
- Need All Parts for Maximum Efficiency – I’m definitely a little bummed this thing can’t just buckle to itself to seal in warmth. As much as I love how well the cord lock system works, I still with there were a way to close the quilt up without it.
- Too Warm? – On warmer nights I found myself waking up a bit sweaty often. Even after pulling most of the quilt off of me, on 60-70 degree nights I got pretty warm in this thing.
- Upper Tiered Pricing – The Flex 30 isn’t much more expensive than the competition, but it’s still just about as expensive as it gets. The quality certainly holds up, but short of making your own, stuff like this just won’t ever really be budget friendly.
- It’s Gray – Yep. No color options here. How much does that matter really? Not much to me honestly, but other competitors can offer just about every color under the sun.
Overall, the Flex 30 impressed me. As my EE quilt has worn out over the years, this guy will be my new 3-season go to. The warmth it provides is flat out impressive. My only grievances with it are really pretty minor. I’d love to be able to buckle it to itself at night, but the included straps are insanely light and super efficient, so there’s not much to complain about there.
Consider this one more tested voice adding to the masses: Katabatic quilts are legit WARM.
Weight: 19.2 ounces
Fill Power: 850
(Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilts are also highly customizable.)
Weight: 22 ounces
Fill Power: 950+
(This model has a full zipper. All models are highly customizable.)
Weight: 20 ounces
Fill Power: 850
**This product was donated for purpose of review
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