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

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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…

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

Tags

  • mikeetheviking

    Dang…. These looks so nice. Want BAD!

  • tylernol

    I’ve got two from these guys — a 50 degree and a 30 degree bag, with the idea that if I camp in colder weather I can bring both and layer them, but generally I just bring one and try not to camp out when it is too hot or too cold. http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/blog/quilts-106-quilt-layering-for-cold-temps/

  • http://www.uninspiredramblings.com/ Chris

    Aha! I have a 40F Revelation quilt with 850 DT fill. It was all I took on my trip through France and Spain last year (August – December) (http://bit.ly/1RX1szm). I layered it with wool underwear and a light down jacket when it got cold. Towards the end when the temperatures would get down to around freezing in the night, I wished I had something just a little warmer, but other than that it was really great. I love the feeling of sleeping under a quilt rather than in constricting bag and its incredibly lightweight and packable. I’ve also layered it on top of a 20F bag, inside a big bivvy bag on a very cold nights bivvy (http://bit.ly/1RX1Pd8). I was absolutely toasty and had to strip off my long wool layers in the middle of the night! I love the flexibility and would definitely consider another.

  • Christophe Noel

    Those look amazing. I used to get away with very warm temp bags in cold climates, but I think I’m getting soft. :) I’m even using insulated pads more often. I have found Patagonia’s Merino Air layers easily add about 15º of additional warmth to my bags although they’re a tad bulky. Great review, Logan. I love it when I learn of new products.

  • Allan B

    Nice review as always but I think that the numbers used for ounces to grams is 2x what it should be. ~ 28.4g per 1 ounce not the approximate 57g/oz that was used to get 3 oz = 170 g. So should read 3 oz (85g)

  • Mark Troup

    Going to pick up the Convert or Feathered Friends Flicker for my next bag/quilt. Very similar bags. I like the zipper design on the FF bag better, but prefer the pricetag on the Convert. ;)

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Thanks for the catch Allan!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Thanks Christophe! The temps were below freezing for over half the nights on our Spain trip; and it was nice having a 20 degree quilt. With a little extra layering work, I could have made a 40 work, but it’s nice being soft sometimes ;) And I agree on the Merino Air… great product.

  • Christophe Noel

    I added a new wrinkle to my bikepacking in November – type 1 diabetes. I get cold to my bones now. Maybe I need more hot whisky drinks before bed. :)

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Wow Christophe. I am sorry to hear that; I am sure it adds many challenges to bike travel. Being cold burns a lot of calories, so staying warm is paramount, I would think…

  • Smithhammer

    I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion about ’40 being the new 20.’ Still using a first-gen Marmot ‘Atom’ I bought around ten years ago. It’s an awesome bag, packs as small a typical down jacket, and only weighs a pound. But I’ve also changed my whole approach to sleeping in the backcountry along with it, and really think of it these days in the same way that the ‘layering approach’ to outdoor clothing works:

    1) I plan on sleeping in the extra layers I bring with me. When packing space is at a premium as it typically is when bikepacking, it seems silly to take off layers and stow them away before climbing in my sleeping bag at night. By planning on sleeping in my puffy jacket, bottom layer, etc, I can get away with a lighter sleeping bag.

    2) Bivy sack. In addition to keeping my bag dry, it also helps retain warmth, which again, allows me to get away with a lighter sleeping bag.

    3) Site selection. Whenever possible, I try to choose places to sleep where cold air isn’t going to settle throughout the night. This can make a huge difference.

  • Harry

    What size do these compress down to?

  • Daniel Helander

    I own three EE quilts (50F and 0F Revelation and 40F Prodigy) for all my need, year round.
    The 50F manage the three season trips, on the shoulder seasons with regular frost at night I add the Prodigy.
    On pure winter trips the 0F do the job, and if I go north and expect really cold weather I double up the 0F and the Prodigy.
    Combine with appropriate head/neck wear.

    The only time I would need anything else is if I ever decide to climb some of the highest mountains on earth or cross Greenland or Antarctica or something like that.

    Love those quilts!

  • http://www.bikepacking.com/ BIKEPACKING.com (Logan)

    Whoops, sorry Harry. Missed this one. They get really small… they could probably go down to the size of a large grapefruit and a half??

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