Zenbivy Core Bed 25 Review

Thru-hikers love the backcountry quilt. Over half of the respondents to our annual Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey in 2022 said they chose a quilt over a sleeping bag. Quilts are simpler, can be lighter, and are less constricting than a mummy bag.

Zenbivy came on the market a few years ago with a revolutionary alternative to both the quilt and the mummy bag. Their hybrid solution is to pair a top quilt to the hinged “wings” of a fitted sheet over an insulated mattress, thereby creating a more comfortable backcountry bed.

This year Zenbivy released their Core Bed, a super comfortable and more simplified design at a lower price point.

Zenbivy Core Bed 25 At a Glance

blue zenbivy light bed sleeping bag setup inside grey trekking pole tent

  • MSRP: $279
  • Temperature Rating: 25°F (limit) / 35°F (comfort)
  • Weight (Quilt & sheet): 2 lb 7 oz (1110 g)
  • Dimensions: 78” x 54” (198 x 137cm)
  • Quilt Fill: 650-fill duck down
  • Materials: Polyester pongee and nylon taffeta

See all Zenbivy Core beds here.

Circumstances of Review

I tested the Zenbivy Core Bed 25 over a handful of nights in a variety of spring conditions. My coldest night was a rainy 40 degrees. I alternately tested the bed with the Zenbivy Base Mattress and with my Exped Synmat UL.

Core Bed Features

blue zenbivy light bed in grassy clearing with color-matched yellow, blue, and green clips connected sheet to quilt

Color-coded clips on the wings match the quilt.

Fitted Sheet: The defining feature of Zenbivy beds is the two-piece system of a quilt connecting to a fitted sheet. The sheet fits snugly over most inflatable air mattresses, whether mummy-shaped or rectangular. The quilt clips to the sheet, keeping the sleep system in place while allowing freedom of movement throughout the night.

The washable sheet also has the benefit of protecting your mattress from the dust and dirt of the trail.

Integrated Hood: The sheet includes an integrated insulated hood. The wide rectangular design provides lots of space for a pillow while keeping your head covered and warm.

This hood design is particularly great for stomach and side sleepers and those of us who hate wearing a hat to bed. I particularly like that I don’t have to hold onto or chase my pillow around in the middle of the night.

Fast Footbox: The footbox configuration is the most obvious change from previous models. The Fast Footbox has the very foot of the bag sewn together to create a small pocket. There’s a single clip partway up the footbox that allows you to convert from a wider, less constricting space to a tighter and warmer mummy mode.

Kylie-curve: Zenbivy quilts feature a patented three-quarter length drawstring at the top edge. This design only cinches the center portion, sealing in warmth around the neck and shoulders without shortening the width of the quilt.

Zenbivy Core Bed 25 Pros

fitted sheet with attached wings and insulated mummy hood inside trekking pole tent

The Core Sheet features wings with clips and a roomy hood.

Simplified design: With the release of the Fast Footbox, Zenbivy has simplified the design of their quilt. The footbox baffles are all horizontal, there’s no cinch string to get tangled in, and there’s only one clip to worry about. They also removed all the hooks and loops that connected the lower part of the quilt to the sheet after receiving feedback that few customers used them.

This simplified design is much less fiddly when you need some extra warmth in the middle of the night. I also liked that all the hooks and loops are color-coded making it easy to tell when I’m hooked in correctly.

Less drafty: One problem I had when using a backcountry quilt was keeping it cinched close enough to my body to prevent cold drafts in the middle of the night without it becoming restrictive. Zenbivy has solved this problem by connecting the top quilt to a fitted sheet that has fabric side panels (or “wings”) to help cocoon the fabric around you. Zenbivy’s quilts are also a touch longer than other brands, giving you a bit of extra quilt to tuck in around your neck and shoulders.

Quality materials: When I first received the new Zenbivy Core Bed, I immediately noticed how buttery soft the fabrics were. The lining of the quilt is a smooth and silky 50-denier polyester pongee. Pongee is a much more durable and less clingy fabric than the 10d fabrics commonly used by other quilt brands and feels really similar to the sheets on my bed.

Both the shell of the quilt and the Core sheet are made with a 30-denier nylon taffeta fabric that is soft, durable and easy to clean. The quilt shell fabric is DWR treated to alleviate fears of the down wetting out with drops of condensation from the inside of my tent.

The down used in the quilt comes from ALLIED, which supplies responsibly sourced down. Each quilt comes with a tag with a lot number for tracking the source of the down via ALLIED’s TrackMyDown.com. The down uses a natural wax-based compound to make it water-resistant and more durable without resorting to the use of potentially toxic chemicals.

Zenbivy Core Bed 25 Cons

The Fast Footbox can be left wider or clipped tighter.

Weight: The unfortunate trade-off for softer and more durable fabrics is added weight. The Core Bed 25 is a full 14 ounces heavier than the Zenbivy Light Bed 25. Plus, because it’s a two-piece system, Zenbivy beds will always weigh a bit more than comparable quilts on the market. To shave a few ounces, you could carry just the quilt (25 oz), pair it with the uninsulated Core Sheet (7 oz) or opt for the minimalist Fast Sheet (3 oz), which is half the length.

Fast Footbox: One of the reasons I love a backcountry quilt is the option to open it up like a blanket and to adjust how cinched close or open it is depending on the temperature. Because of this, I’m listing the Fast Footbox as a negative.

I really missed being able to adjust the foot of the bag. I also missed the extra cushiness of the vertical baffles found in the convertible footbox of the Light Quilt. (Unlike the Light Quilt, you don’t get to pick your footbox style on the Core—you’re stuck with the Fast version.)

Additional Accessories

The Zenbivy Core Bed in the 10L compressible dry bag between an Exped Synmat UL and the Zenbivy Base mattress.

Base Mattress: Zenbivy sent along their new Base mattress to try with the Core Bed. With a surprisingly warm R-value of 5, the no-frills self-inflating mattress is an inexpensive option for all-season warmth. As a side sleeper, I personally found the 1.5-inch thickness a bit too thin. The Base mattress is also much heavier and larger than the average mattress used by thru-hikers.

Quilted Pillow: A two-piece design, Zenbivy’s pillow has a thin plastic inflatable air bladder that slips inside a super soft washable pillowcase that has quilted synthetic padding on one side. The pillowcase is slightly oversized, leaving room to stuff extra clothes inside for even more padding. The pillow is a good design and I found it very comfortable.

Compressible Dry Sack: Zenbivy has designed their own dry sack, which features fully welded seams and instant compression through a high-speed mechanical valve. I was happy to learn that the new version of the valve releases air much more quietly than the previous model (for which I was teased endlessly on my last thru-hike).

Final Thoughts

I love how warm and cozy I feel when sleeping in my Zenbivy Core Bed. I’m able to twist and turn and shift and move throughout the night without worrying that my quilt will fall off of me or that I’ll end up suffocating or tangled in cords.

On cold nights I cinch the top, clip up the bottom, and burrow into the hood. On warmer nights, I loosen things up and keep my head on top of the hood while my pillow stays in place underneath.

The versatility of the Zenbivy Core Bed, the comfort and quality of the materials and the lower price point make it a clear winner in my eyes for those seeking a truly good night’s sleep in the backcountry.

Shop the Zenbivy Core Bed

Comparable Quilts

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 30
MSRP: $472.33
Weight: 18 ounces

Katabatic Flex
MSRP: $340
Weight: 21.2 ounces

Therm-a-Rest Vesper 20
MSRP: $460
Weight: 19 ounces

The Zenbivy Core Bed 25 was donated for purpose of review.

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