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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > GoLite Ultra 20 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

GoLite Ultra 20 Quilt-style Sleeping Bag
By Raymond Estrella

GoLite Ultra 20


OWNER REVIEW

August 16, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.

The Product

Manufacturer: GoLite
Web site: www.golite.com
Product: Ultra 20
Size: Large/Long (they call it both depending on where I look)
Other sizes available: Small (Short) and Medium
Year manufactured: 2008
MSRP: US$ 225.00
Temperature rating: 20 F (-7 C)
Weight listed: 1 lb 3 oz (540 g)
Actual weight: 1 lb 4.7 oz (587 g)
Color: Maui/Grease
Fill weight listed: 10.5 oz (297 g)
Loft listed: 5 in (13 cm)
Actual loft observed after being shaken and one hour sitting out: 4 in (10 cm)

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The GoLite Ultra 20 is a joy to carry with its low weight and tiny pack size. It is a dream to sleep under for my side-sleeper style. But its thin fill leaves me cold at well above its stated rating. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The GoLite Ultra 20 (hereafter referred to as the Ultra 20 or quilt) is referred to by the manufacturer as a "sleep system" even though it only consists of the quilt itself. To me when paired with a pad it comprises a system, but I am getting ahead of myself.

This is the best way to describe the Ultra 20. Think of a semi-rectangular sleeping bag with a centered zipper that starts 14 in (36 cm) from the foot-box. Starting at the bottom of the zipper, remove it, flaring away as it goes to the top of the bag. Now there is a bag with a wedge removed. Wah-la we have a backpacking quilt.

I call it a quilt instead of a sleep system or zipper-less bag because it can be used as a blanket just draped over me.

But the Ultra 20 can be attached to a sleeping pad by means of two removable grosgrain straps with tiny quick-release buckles to hold it snug to the pad, keeping the warmth in by not allowing the quilt to migrate and keeping it tucked under the pad to keep cold drafts out. Here is a picture of the strap deployed. I have it pulled much farther in than I would in the field to give a better example of how it works.

Strapped up


A snap & draw-cord can be used to secure the Ultra 20 at the neck to help keep precious warmth in too.

As can be seen in the pictures the footbox and top 8 in (20 cm) of the quilt are black in color. These areas are called "Waterproof Pertex Endurance Arid Zones". They are made of; no don't say it, yes, Pertex fabric, a 30 D ripstop nylon fabric with an ultra-thin waterproof membrane. While I love making fun of marketing hype, this one is a good idea. The areas on my bags that get wet are my foot where I brush against the end of my tent, and the top where my breath condenses.

The rest of the body, done up in an excellent shade of electric blue, is made of 15 D double ripstop nylon. It is some of the nicest-feeling fabric I have used. It is paired up with some equally soft 22 D micro fiber polyester for the lining to make one very comfortable quilt.

It is filled with 800-fill goose down to enhance the comfort and warmth, and to help keep the weight low. All this fine down is kept in place by differentially cut 6 in (15 cm) baffles running horizontally across the quilt.

Stuffed


It comes with a tiny little stuff sack, seen above. I thought I got the wrong one at first, but the Ultra 20 fits inside, albeit with a bit of, well, stuffing. And when not in one of my ever shrinking backpacks the Ultra 20 may be stored in the included cotton storage sack seen below.

Stored

Field Data

First I used the Ultra 20 on a two day trip to Maplewood State Park to pre-scout sites for this summer's hiking with the kids. The trails were free of snow but quite wet and muddy in spots. I walked 12 mi (19 km) carrying a 21 lb (9.5 kg) pack. The temps ranged from 34 to 45 F (1 to 7 C). I was on a MontBell UL Comfort 180 pad with a small Z-Lite pad under it.

Next I used it at the trailhead camp on a trip to the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park. It got down to 38 F (3 C) that night. I was on a MontBell UL Comfort 180 pad with a Gossamer Gear ¼ in (6.3 mm) ThinLight pad under it.

Then I used it on an over-night backpacking trip with my children, Emma and Ray. We went to Maplewood State Park in Minnesota where we camped at Cow Lake. The trails were still very muddy in places. The temps ran from 80 F down to 48 F (27 to 9 C) and it only sprinkled a little in the evening. Again I was on the MontBell UL Comfort 180 pad with the Gossamer Gear ThinLight pad under it.

Next was a two-and-a-half day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada range just south of Mount Langley. The temps ranged from lows of 30 F to highs of 80 F (-1 to 27 C). The high point was 11200 ft (3400 m). This trip saw 59 miles (95 km) with 7340 ft (2240 m) of gain go into the hiking log. My starting pack weight was 23 lb (10.4 kg). Now I was on a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pad, which has been used on the remainder of the trips listed.

In July my kids came to California for a couple weeks and we did an over-night backpacking trip to San Jacinto State Park where we stayed at Round Valley. The temperatures were warm, only making it to 54 F at night and 82 F (12 to 28 C) in the daytime. I carried a well-loaded Aether 85 with about 40 lb (18.1 kg) in it, much of it water weight as I had a soft cooler with frozen Gatorade to keep things cool. (Yes, this was a luxury trip.) I put in 11 mi (18 km with 1500 ft (460 m) of gain.

Then Jenn and I spent three days backpacking in Yosemite National Park. Temps ranged from 43 to 80 F (6 to 27 C) and we weathered a violent thunder/snow/hail storm our first afternoon. The picture below is from that trip in a TT Scarp 2. As can be seen Yosemite deer are not afraid of people.

Lastly I went on a solo overnighter to climb Sugarloaf Mountain. The trails started as decomposed granite and turned to thumb sized gravel, then sharp shale. The return loop was mostly on dirt fire control roads. 24 miles (39 km) and 4700 ft (1433 m) of gain carrying a 35 lb (15.9 kg) pack as I had two gallons (7.6 L) of water starting out and some luxury items.

Oh deer

Observations

The Ultra 20 is my first use of a backpacking quilt. By reading my many reviews and reports it can be seen that I often used my sleeping bags as a quilt when the temperatures warrant by just flipping it with the open zipper centered on me and letting it spread over me to be able to be pushed down or away as the temps dictate. I took a chance at a Christmas sale direct from GoLite to treat myself to the real thing, and boy am I happy I did.

I am a side sleeper. Plus I cannot hold still, even when I sleep. I toss and turn all night long. As I have tried cutting my backpack weights I have been stymied by sleeping bags as the lightest weight bags are mummies that need me to be sleeping on my back to take full advantage of the temperature ratings or design features. Well that ain't ever gonna happen. To add to my sleeping style I normally wear only a very light-weight pair of long base layers to bed. This is more to protect my bags from body oils, or sweat and dirt in the locations/temperatures the prohibit cleaning up before bed.

From the first time I took the GoLite Ultra 20 out I was impressed by many things. I liked the comfort of it. It is like a silky covered breath of air to handle. (OK I won't read my sister's novels any more…) My daughter Emma loved it so much that she insisted on using it for a "camp-out" in the front room the night I got it. Of course in the sense of fair play Raymond had to use it the next night. (I think it was just a ploy to get to camp out two nights in a row…) I finally got to use the now gently used Ultra 20 myself when spring brought some warmer temps and loved it too. Here is a shot of it in a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2.

Rainy day Seedhouse


I am trying very hard to get my pack smaller. I don't say lighter only as I know that I am not really a UL (Ultra Light) hiker. But to me getting my gear in a smaller volume package is just as important as getting the weight down. The Ultra 20 packs down wonderfully. It gets as small as my tiniest sleeping bag (reviewed here but as I can't compare you will have to search. Hint, it is only a 32 F/ 0 C bag). When I got it back to California I threw it (stuffed) like a football at my brother-in-law Dave, who caught it and asked if I got a new coat. "Ha! Look upon a 20 F (-7 C) sleeping bag replacement and writhe with envy".

I have used the quilt with just two pads so far and it works fine with both. I only bring the straps if I think it is going to be cold. It works very well to just tuck the edges under my legs a bit. The Ultra 20 is so light that it feels more like having a warm sheet on instead of a heavy blanket.

I have had it get wet from condensation only one time. I was forced to keep my Rainbow buttoned up and pretty much everything was wet to some degree. When I got to our next day's campsite I laid it on a fallen tree where it dried very quickly. And then it blew away… well it blew off the log and I thought it was gone. I had a bit of a panic attack. Note to self; put a rock on the Ultra 20 when drying.

One thing that was apparent immediately upon unpacking the Ultra 20 was the difference in what GoLite claims for loft and what I measured. 5 in (13 cm) claimed and 4 in (10 cm) observed is a 20% difference. I worried a bit how that would translate in the field.

As none of my first few trips with the Ultra 20 made it below 35 F (2 C) I was very happy with it. I had it on a variety of pad combinations and all was good. Then I had a very cold night high in the Sierra Nevada where it hit 30 F (-1 C) at 11:00 pm and stayed there. My water froze and so did I.

Not only was I cold throughout under the quilt, there was a spot on the chest area that was very cold. With me being a side-sleeper my arm and shoulder were at this area. The frigid air passed through easily at this spot. I tried shaking the down to it but it was just thin there and would fall back away leaving me with a freezing arm. It was one of the coldest nights I have spent with a bag rated to well below the temps I was at. For the first time in my life I put all of my clothes back on, and what extras I brought, to bolster the rating of my bag (quilt). I did not get any cold coming through my pad and I had the sides tucked under, it was just too little loft and the thin spot.

I will not take it to the high Sierra from now on unless I bring a down sweater and some long-johns too as I have seen the temps plummet too many times over the years to think that will be an isolated incident.

I will definitely be taking it on all my lower elevation 3-season trips. The comfort size and weight dictate that. And as the GoLite Ultra 20 has shown me what backpacking quilts are capable of I have decided to purchase another quilt that should take me down to lower temperatures. Come back in spring of 2010 to read about that one, won't you? I leave with a picture of it in a TT Raibow in the high Sierra.

Sierra Raunbow

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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