Enlightened Equipment Convert and Enigma Reviews: 40 is the new 20.

As a sequel to our recent Quilt vs Sleeping Bag post, we took a look at two products from Minnesota’s Enlightened Equipment: the award winning Enigma quilt, and the Convert, an ultralight hoodless down bag with a twist. Plus, find out when and why a 40° bag may be all you need…

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In case you missed it, we recently published a piece about the pros and cons of a classic sleeping bag versus the newer ultralight quilt style offerings. In addition we explained our stance on a 20°F rated system for use on 3+ season bikepacking trips. But how about a sleeping system for more mild 3-season trips? In an effort to save a little weight and space we ran the numbers and tested two slightly different sleeping systems on our trip in equatorial Uganda.

40 is The New 20

In the prequel to this review we argued the benefits of using a 20°F rated sleeping system. We aren’t changing our stance, but for some trips, there’s another, dare I say better, option. Here’s the backstory. For three years prior to trying a 20° quilt, I survived with a 45° Big Agnes Pitch Pine, which is a great sleeping bag in it’s own right. I used it to camp at altitudes of up to 10,000’ and in temps under 20°F. And while, at times, I reverted to sleeping in the fetal position to keep from becoming an ice fossil, it worked extremely well in most conditions. I chose that bag when I was preparing for a trip in Central America, where I knew that the majority of the nighttime temps would be fairly warm, and sometimes even hot. I wanted something very lightweight that would stuff into a small package. Temperature regulation wasn’t a big concern.

On average, based on a survey of custom bag/quilt manufacturers, product weight goes up about 3oz (85 grams) as the temperature rating goes down 10°F. Based on these numbers, a 20° bag weighs about 6oz (170 grams) more than a 40° bag. So why carry the extra weight if you may only need it for 5-10% of the nights you are camping? Grams add up, especially over a long trip. Even if you aren’t a (self-proclaimed) weight-weenie, how about space? Preserving cubic inches of bag space, whether for food or gadgets, is the key to an efficient bikepacking setup.

The factor to analyze closely is the temperature average of the destination, and what that means for your pack list. Most people need some coverage to sleep comfortably when temperatures hover between 60 and 70°F. Having a 20° bag or quilt, even lightly draped over you, can be too hot. That’s where the 40° bag comes in handy; drape it over your legs or torso and it adds enough insulation to keep you comfortable but doesn’t turn into a sweat box. Conversely, when it get’s colder (under 40°F) layers can be added to keep you toasty—layers that you might be packing anyway, such as a down jacket, wool under layers, etc. So if you are already carrying that insulation, why not use them for sleeping?

So without further ado, here are reviews of two 40° sleeping systems by Enlightened Equipment, a small company based in Minnesota. Each of their products is handmade, and made to order, in Minnesota, USA. Each is available in multiple fill counts and an array of colors.

Enlightened Equipment Enigma

The Enigma is EE’s award recognized flagship quilt. It’s minimalist design is ideal when weight, simplicity, and compressibility are crucial. Like other quilt designs, it has a sewn closed footbox, no zipper, a sleeping pad strap system, and snap closures to seal in the warmth. The Enigma has a very nice vertical baffle system that changes to a horizontal baffle at the footbox. Like other quilts, it has a little bit more fill in the foot area, which makes for a cozy nights sleep when temps tip around the bag’s rating.

Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review

  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review

The Enigma is offered in 10°F increments from 0-50°, in Xshort to XLong lengths, and with 800 to 950 down fill in both untreated and DownTekˇ Water repellant Down. It’s also available in an array of colors, for both the inside and outside fabrics. We tested the long version with 800 fill DownTek insulation. Both the inside and outside fabrics are a 10D taffeta nylon with a DWR coating.

  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma, Stuff Sack Size

On first impression, I was excited about the overall simplicity of the Enigma. It’s the lightest sleeping bag I’ve had to date, compresses to the size of a pineapple, and has a really easy to use strap system. There are two elasticized straps that loop around the sleeping pad. Each can be tightened by pulling the slack through the flat clips. The flat plastic clips are extremely minimal and easily detach via a simple push release button. The only other features to mention are 2 snaps to seal the head/neck area, and a simple elastic drawstring to retain warmth. All of the above mechanisms work without fault, and each has so far held up nicely over our six weeks of bikepacking in Uganda.

Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review

  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Review
  • Size tested: Long
  • Fill-count: 800 DownTek
  • Weight (as tested): 16.3oz / 462g
  • Place of Manufacture: Minnesota, USA
  • Price (as tested): $225.00
  • Contact: EnlightenedEquipment.com

BIKEPACKING.com’s Take: The Enigma is so simple, it’s genius. Due to it’s lack of features, it weighs less and compresses more than any other bag I’ve used. That said, don’t let the minimal design fool you, it seems to cross all of the Ts for functionality—a nice strap system, comfortably wide design, vertical baffles in the torso, and a thicker baffle at the footbox. I am really happy with this quilt. Also, in the world of custom order ultralight gear, it’s probably the most affordable quilt out there, and made in the USA.” – Logan

Enlightened Equipment Convert

The Convert is a new sleeping bag/quilt by EE. It can either be used as a more traditional, albeit hoodless, sleeping bag or as a quilt. The full length zipper and cinchable bottom are all it takes to turn this versatile quilt into a cozy nest. As a quilt, one can choose to either partially unzip the bag, which allows for a sleeping pad to be secured within the footbed, or fully unzip the bag for more of a blanket effect. When choosing to seat the footbed, there’s a well-placed snap that eliminates stress from the zipper, specifically for this purpose. The elastic draw cord at the foot of the bag can also be loosened or tightened, depending upon the degree of heat retention the temperature outside warrants. And, for folks who like to snuggle up with their camping partner(s), two Converts can be zipped together and used as an extra large quilt or twin sleeping bag.

Enlightened Equipment Convert Review

  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review

The hoodless design of the bag/quilt is one of its greatest benefits in my opinion. By eliminating the hood, excess weight and bulk are eliminated. More importantly, the absence of the hood provides greater comfort for people who toss and turn and for those of us who are side and stomach sleepers. If it’s really cold out, just put a hat on. Again, a hat moves with its wearer, instead of smothering them.

The “shiftless baffle” design of EE’s sleeping bags and quilts works beautifully at keeping insulation where it belongs. The unique construction utilizes both horizontal and vertical baffles. The vertical baffles along the length of the quilt prevent down from shifting inferiorly, while horizontal baffles keep the footbox fully lofted and reduce the amount of down that can shift away from the feet.

  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review

Enlightened Equipment’s products not only feel good, you can feel good about using them. The down used in their bags and quilts is, according to their website, is “…is sourced from Europe. It is a side-product from the meat industry, and third-party audits verify that none of the down in the supply chain is acquired through live plucking, force-feeding, etc.”

Enlightened Equipment Convert Review

  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review
  • Enlightened Equipment Convert Review
  • Size tested: Long
  • Fill-count: 800 DownTek
  • Weight (as tested): 20.5oz / 581g
  • Place of Manufacture: Minnesota, USA
  • Price (as tested): $295.00
  • Contact: EnlightenedEquipment.com
BIKEPACKING.com’s Take: “Generally speaking, I’m very cold natured. I also move a lot in my sleep. I start the night in a side sleeping position but invariably wind up on my stomach in the morning. So far, I’ve used the Convert in mostly warm (55-70 degree) temps and employed the loose blanket application. It’s been fantastically comfortable, providing just enough warmth without being at all restrictive. On several nights, when temperatures dipped into the low 40s, I used the Convert as a sleeping bag. Based on the sizing guidelines provided on EE’s website, I chose the regular width bag, and it’s a great fit. I’ve got ample room to turn about, without the bag getting twisted around me. It provides plenty of warmth on colder nights, without the slimy, sauna effect that some sleeping bags can create.

Unfortunately, the Convert does have one problem…its zipper. In what I imagine was an effort to cut a few grams, EE utilized a smaller gauge zipper in its design. The zipper catches the fabric of the quilt quite easily, and it can be a bear to get it loose. So far, my bag hasn’t suffered any tears, but, for best results and product longevity, I would suggest a very patient approach be taken when zipping and unzipping the bag. It may also be worth discussing various zipper options with EE, since they do such a great job customizing products to meet their customers’ needs. I think a larger gauge zipper or even a wider draft tube would easily correct this one imperfection in an otherwise fantastic product.” – Virginia

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