We commonly get emails that have questions concerning every aspect of quilt making. Typically, we answer about 5 per day. The questions are usually almost identical, so I selected one and will answer it here, to start what will eventually evolve into a total introduction into quilts. Please keep in mind there is a lot of opinion in this article. I've been hammock camping for just about 14 years now, year round, in Upstate NY.
The original email:
Hello. I'm just getting into DIY gear and I'd like to construct an under quilt and maybe a top quilt. I have a few questions. First, what is the difference between calendared and un-calendared material and which should I choose? Do I need waterproof material for my quilts? Finally, what weight APEX would be best for me. I don't camp in the depths of winter or the heat of August. Overnight lows for me typically range from 15F to maybe 50F. I'm a bit of a cold sleeper. Do I need 7.5oz APEX or do you think 5oz would do, if I wear more clothes on nights when it gets especially cold? Thank you! I hope to place an order soon.
The difference between calendered and uncalendered material, when dealing with synthetic quilts, comes down to wind resistance. All insulations, natural or synthetic, work by trapping pockets of air in between the fibers or feathers. That stagnant air is what keeps you warm. Calendered materials have gone through an additional treatment to seal the gaps between the individual fibers of the weave. This makes the material much more wind resistant and helps keep that warm air in the quilt where it's needed. This is why, even with synthetic insulation, we recommend calendered fabric for quilts.
But which calendered fabric? That depends on you, and where you camp, honestly. If you're rough on gear or like to hang low to the ground, I recommend something heavier duty like the 1.1 Ripstop Nylon or 1.6 HyperD Calendered. If you're looking for lightweight, the 0.66 MEMBRANE10, and 0.9 MEMBRANE15 are great options. The softest is the 1.0 HyperD. If you're looking for camouflage, then it's the 1.1 Poly calendered MARPAT or Woodland, or 1.55 Multicam. My personal favorite, for the outside of quilts, is the 0.9 MEMBRANE OutdoorINK printed fabric. We recommend ordering sample packs, so you can get a feel for a few fabrics before committing to yardage.
You don't NEED a waterproof fabric for the outside of your quilt. A properly pitched tarp should keep you dry. But if it's something you're worried about, check out the 0.74 oz MTN 7D. We do not recommend using it for both layers of the quilt, but it will do great on the outside if you're using a smaller tarp or camp in wet areas.
If you need a quilt or blanket that will double as a ground cloth, picnic blanket, or have other forms of ground contact, check out the 1.6 HyperD PU4000 or 2.2 Hex70 PU3000 for the ground layer.
Concerning which insulation, if you're looking for a "One size fits all" Underquilt solution, then go with the material rated for the coldest temps you'd face. We do have a temp chart for the synthetic insulations.
2.5 oz - 50o F
3.6 oz - 40o F
5.0 oz - 30o F
7.5 oz - 10o F
10 oz - -5o F
3.0oz - 50°F
6.0oz - 30°F
One thing to note real quick. These temps are estimates only. There are a bunch of different factors that will affect how warm you sleep. We'll write an article on staying warm when camping, but in the meantime, check out this google search.
A 10 oz filled underquilt will work in any temp, from +70 degrees, to -5. You can adjust the underquilt as needed in warmer temps, and still be comfortable.
A topquilt, on the other hand, is more tuned to a specific temp range. You wouldn't want to use a heavy weight 10oz TQ in the summer. With a "one size fits all" TQ in mind, and a good place to start is the 5.0. I use a 30 degree rated topquilt year round, and add additional insulation, like a fleece or wool blanket if I'm going colder. You can also utilize things like a hot water bottle, "Hot Hands" or a hammock sock to push your temps a little further.
If you have any questions, please leave them as comments on this article. We do get notifications when someone comments, and that way, others will be able to see the answers to the specific questions you have.