Sea to Summit Cinder Down Quilt review

We all know sleeping bags are essential camping gear. Without it, you could spend the night shivering in your tent once the sun goes down. But have you ever heard of a camping quilt?

Quilts—no, not the kind that sit on your grandma’s couch—are great companions for hikers and campers looking for a lightweight sleep system on their outdoor adventures. Unlike traditional sleeping bags, they are designed without a bottom or hood to help reduce weight and bulk.

While most campers opt for a standard rectangular or mummy sleeping bag for their outdoor adventures, camp quilts are most commonly used by backpackers, hikers, and anyone who prefers ultralight camping like a hammock camper. They also make an extra layer over your regular sleeping bag on extra cold nights.

We tested the Sea to Summit Cinder duvet on several camping trips this season to see what the hype was all about. Here’s what we found.

A duvet that gives you all the warmth without the weight

The Cinder is a super packable duvet designed for the weight conscious backpacker or camper who needs an extra layer of insulation. Choose this quilt if you want more versatility when sleeping outside, like adding an extra layer during the colder months, a blanket to throw around the fire, or a lightweight option when camping in warmer weather.

Quilts make a lot of sense for those looking to shed some weight or head to the campsite with an extra layer of warmth. Similar to sleeping bags, comforters are filled with real or synthetic down and used as a top cover while sleeping or lounging around the house or campsite.

As an avid car camper, I don’t usually bring ultralight sleep systems to the campsite. I’m used to packing a more durable and heavier sleeping bag (or extra blankets) in my SUV when I know it’s going to get colder. However, when I heard about Sea to Summit Cinder Quilt, I knew I had to give it a try.

Although pricey, the versatility and quality of the Sea to Summit Cinder Quilt make it worth the investment. This quilt can be used in all seasons in a number of ways: Carry it around as a lightweight backpack, throw it over your sleeping bag for an extra layer of warmth, or use it as a blanket when camping in the warmer months.

Lightweight and versatile

When you’re going on a long hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, it’s important to consider how much weight you have in your pack. The end use case for the Cinder Quilt is intended as a lighter alternative to full size sleeping bags for backcountry use. Because the comforter doesn’t have a back or cover, it’s much smaller than a normal sleeping bag. Sea to Summit insulated this comforter with 750+ loft, ensuring a “minimum comfort temperature” rating as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

It also comes with a storage bag that allows you to further compress the comforter. When compressed in the organizer bag, the comforter is about the same height and width as two Nalgene water bottles and weighs less than 1.5 lbs (23.3 oz).

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The Cinder is also a great option if backpacking isn’t your thing, but you’d like an extra coat to keep you warm while you’re at the campsite. I was lucky enough to bring my Cinder Quilt with me this fall when I stayed at the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit with a group of friends. In mid-October, the weather was extremely cold, with nighttime temperatures dropping to more than 30 degrees.

To beat the cold, I drape the Cinder Quilt over my regular sleeping bag before bed for an extra layer of warmth. The temperature dropped to 31 degrees Fahrenheit on the first night and the comforter kept me warm all night. Putting the sleeping quilt on top of my regular sleeping bag added 10 degrees of extra warmth as I usually sleep in a 40 degree regular sleeping bag without getting chilly. I decided to put the Cinder in my regular sleeping bag the next night when the temperature hovered around 36 degrees Fahrenheit and I had to take the comforter out because I ended up getting too hot.

Cinder is obviously a great option if you want to replenish your sleep system and you already have to prepare for colder weather. However, it’s more general than that. The Cinder Quilt is a great blanket to wrap around the campfire (or even in your living room), thanks to a set of pouches in the top corners that allow me to reach in and hug the comforter even tighter. Talk about super comfortable.

Smart Design and Function

For such a simple quilt, Cinder has a surprisingly thoughtful design and a host of smart features. Sea to Summit designed this comforter with its own QuiltLock system for a more secure and snug fit over sleeping bags and sleeping pads.

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Erica Zazzo/CNN

In addition to the snap buttons that help secure the Cinder Quilt to any Sea to Summit sleeping bag, it features four removable and adjustable straps that allow you to attach the quilt to the back of any sleeping pad for Get a more comfortable fit. The removable shoulder straps can also be loosened or tightened depending on how much space your body needs between the sleeping pad and comforter.

The top and bottom of the quilt have a built-in drawcord that can be pulled taut to create a foot pocket in cold weather or around your neckline to prevent unwanted drafts. This will come in handy on cool or windy nights, especially since this comforter doesn’t have a cover.

While the Cinder Quilt is a great choice for spring, summer, and early fall, you may want to reconsider using it as a standalone sleep system during the cooler months. It makes a great additional layer over a regular sleeping bag; however, this comforter may not keep you warm in cold weather.

As mentioned, when I use this comforter in my regular sleeping bag while car camping, I start to get hot — so hot that I start sweating. Result: My skin started sticking to the inside of my Cinder Quilt. Nylon, polyester, and taffeta comforters tend to stay the most comfortable in warm weather, and nylon has been known to stick to the skin, especially when you sweat.

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Erica Zazzo/CNN

If you’re wearing this comforter in warm weather, it’s best to avoid sleeping in your shroud. Instead, stick to t-shirts (or long sleeves, if that makes sense) and pajama bottoms, which are made from fabrics that are known to wick sweat, such as synthetics like merino wool or polyester. You can also bring a sleeping bag liner so you can sleep comfortably in it. This way, the extra layer will keep your skin from sticking to your sleeping pad and comforter.

The Cinder Quilt is a great investment. At $249, it’s a whopping price for a piece of outdoor gear. That said, the Cinder is on par with similar quilts on the market, if not more affordable. (We dig into how it stacks up against the competition below.) Key features that impact the premium price point are its 100% RDS down insulation with an insulation strength of over 750, and Sea to Summit’s reputation as a brand that designs products that last.

While no two quilts are exactly alike, they all have one thing in common: They’re great camping companions thanks to their versatility, packability, and extra warmth.

Generally speaking, the more expensive the quilt, the warmer and more compact you can expect it to be. Cinder is very similar to competitors on the market in terms of weight, comfort temperature rating and price. However, during my testing, I found the Cinder Quilt to be a very high performing and reliable quilt at a very reasonable price.

Similar to the REI Co-op Magma Trail Quilt and Therm-a-Rest Corus Quilt, the Cinder Quilt weighs just over 1 pound, and each of these bags falls within 5 degrees of each other for the lowest comfort temperature rating . The biggest differences come into play when comparing loft and price points. The REI Magma Trail is the most expensive ($329) of its kind, but it has the smallest storage bag at 3 liters. Of the three quilts, Magma Trail is also the warmest. The Therm-a-Rest Corus is a slightly smaller organizer at 4 liters, and is only slightly more expensive than the Sea to Summit Cinder Quilt ($269.95).

Here’s the full assortment of these three very similar quilts:

Whether your adventure takes you deep into the backcountry, a local state park, or camping in your own backyard, the Cinder Quilt can be a useful addition to your camping list. Its versatility as a standalone comforter or as an extra layer on top of your regular sleeping bag means more opportunities to use it after your investment. From its packability to its sustainable design, the Sea to Summit Cinder Duvet is one piece of gear that I can guarantee you won’t regret buying.

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