Is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up a Book about Ultralight Backpacking?

While I was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I was frequently reminded of ideas from ultralight backpacking. And as I follow various discussions of the ‘KonMari’ method online (and offline – no, I didn’t bring it up, other people mentioned it first), a lot of it sounds very similar to the various (and eventually repetitive) discussions around ultralight backpacking.

Here is a quick overview of ultralight backpacking: carrying weight on a long journey on foot, especially if it involves mountains / rough terrain / stream crossings / etc. really sucks. It takes more energy, it makes bodies feel more sore, it reduces mobility/nimbleness, it reduces speed, and generally, nobody wants to carry weight. However, people who are going to spend multiple nights on a trail need to carry some things, such as food, something to keep them warm while they sleep, etc. and since these things generally will not fit into pockets, one needs a backpack to carry these things. In short, weight increases the physical costs of backpacking, and generally people want to only carry things which bring enough value to justify the physical cost.

(Bulk also imposes a cost by taking up more space in a pack, but backpackers are generally more interested in reducing weight than bulk, especially since bulk and weight are often correlated.)

The ‘ultralight’ movement in backpacking got started in the 1990s – the beginning of the movement is often attributed to Ray Jardine. It was possible to reduce the weight of backpacking gear partially because of technological advances, but the main change is that backpackers asked what was really necessary or only being used due to outdoor cultural conventions, and then they systematically went through their gear, asking themselves whether or not they needed everything, whether a lighter thing could serve the same function, and so forth.
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I Love My Homemade Backpacking Quilt

In a previous post, I discussed my homemade tarp. Now, I introduce my homemade camping quilt.

A picture of my quilt from the first trip where I tested it.

My love for my new quilt is without reservation. I have discovered that I am one of those people who strongly prefer quilts over sleeping bags, and barring unusual circumstances (i.e. I lost my quilt in the middle of a long distance hike and a sleeping bag is the only replacement I can get in a hurry) I don’t see myself going back to sleeping bags ever. Yes, one has to adjust a quilt more than a sleeping bag – but that is actually an advantage, since it is POSSIBLE to adjust a quilt, whereas with sleeping bags I am stuck with an awkward fit. There is a reason why people tend to use quilts rather than sleeping bags when they sleep indoors, and that reason also applies outdoors.

My quilt performed beautifully during my recently completed 400+ mile hike in Southern California. There were some cold nights when I had to boost it with accessories – but I would have had to boost a sleeping bag with the same temperature rating too. The issue was that my quilt is only rated to approximately 30 degrees F (approximately 0 degrees C), not that it was not a sleeping bag. And I was carrying those accessories because I knew that it might fall below freezing for a few nights (which it did).

Another photo of my quilt.

My quilt turns out to be a champion in the wind. This was important, because I was not using an enclosed shelter. First of all, the outer shell of my quilt is wind-resistant, and since the outer shell is oversized, I could drape the loose fabric to block drafts. Even on very windy nights, I only felt it on my face.

Furthermore, my quilt does not have a zipper. First of all, that means less weight, and second of all, zippers are my least favorite part of sleeping bags, because they seem to either jam when I want to get out of the sleeping bag, or they refuse to zip when I want to tuck in. It turns out I am happier without the zipper.

Speaking of weight, this quilt is only 19 oz., which makes it lighter than any sleeping bag with an equivalent warmth rating. On a long distance hike, less weight is always appreciated!

It is so nice not to have a hood attached to the quilt. The hoods on sleeping bags never seem to be in quite the right place for me, which is why I tend to not used them and use separate hoods anyway, and if I’m already using a separate hood, the hood built into the sleeping bag is useless weight/bulk.

See, there’s no hood.

Also, I sewed this quilt by hand. I even designed it myself, since I could not find a ready-made design I liked. Even though I was total newbie to this, I still managed to make a new quilt on my first try. Due to the lack of organized information on making a quilt available for free online, especially making one by hand, I posted the instructions for making my quilt here.

The cost of this quilt? Approximately 60 USD for materials (buying this type of quilt at retail prices costs about 200 USD). I also had to spend labor, but I was listening to podcasts as I sewed, and this did not take nearly as much time as sewing a tarp by hand.

And there is the additional satisfaction of having made this quilt myself. I even made it in my ‘bed’ in my own bedroom.

There is my partially sewn quilt lying on my rolled up mattress on top of the goza mat where I sleep at home.

There is a comforting continuity in that my quilt, which I slept in during my hike, was made in the very same place where I sleep at home.

I could keep on gushing about how much I love my quilt, but I think you all get the idea by now. And I have never had a sleeping bag this awesome, and definitely not just for 60 USD.