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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket
By Raymond Estrella
OWNER REVIEW

November 18, 2013

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 53
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 213 lb (96.60 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Manufacturer: Cascade Designs Inc. Alpine Blanket
Web site: www.cascadedesigns.com
Product: Alpine Blanket
MSRP: US $259.95
Size: Long
Year manufactured/received: 2013
Temperature rating: 35 F (2 C)
Weight listed: 28 oz (803 g)
Actual weight (not incl. stuff sack): 26.28 oz (745 g)
Stuff sack weight: 0.67 oz (19 g)
Color: Blue
Fill listed: 700 goose down
Amount of down fill: 11.6 oz (330 g)
Baffle height/loft listed: N/A
Baffle height estimated: 1.5 in (3.7 cm)
Loft observed (highest points): up to 3 in (7.5 cm) between baffles
Averaged loft: 2.5 in (6.3 cm) between baffles
Packed size listed: 6 x 9 in (15 x 23 cm)
Actual packed size: 6.5 diameter x 9 in (16 x 23 cm)
Picture at right courtesy Cascade Designs

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket is what I would consider a backpacking quilt, or maybe a pad cover/quilt/top bag. It drops quite a bit of weight when compared to a traditional sleeping bag but can be used it a wide range of temps as part of a sleep system. It even works to boost other sleeping bags' ratings in winter and has become my children's favorite piece of sleep gear. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket (hereafter referred to as the Alpine Blanket or blanket) is an updated version of the company's previous Down Blanket. It is the second lightest weight sleep item they make.

To describe the Alpine Blanket think of a cross between the many backpacking quilts I have written about in the past (see reviews here), and a true bed-top down blanket. While all of my other quilts have had a deep (and usually narrow) footbox, the Alpine Blanket has a very shallow and wide foot area. This is because it is made to be used with the pad more than any quilt I have used to date.

Top on top, bottom on, well you know...


The outer shell made of light blue 30 denier nylon ripstop with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. The ripstop pattern is probably the smallest I have ever seen. (I also have the previous version which has a darker shade of blue for the outer shell.)

The lining is 30 denier nylon in a dark grey color. It feels great against bare skin, although it is pretty rare for me to sleep with bare skin.

The blanket is made with horizontal baffle construction to eliminate cold spots. The chambers, which are filled with 700 fill goose down, are 6 in (15 cm) apart. According to the tag at the bottom of the blanket the down has been sterilized which should be of comfort to those with allergies.

Looking at the top of the Alpine Blanket it is noticeable that it is wider than most of my other backpacking quilts. The narrowest point is at the foot where it is 24.5 in (62 cm) wide. It quickly flares out to its full width by the mid-point. While the Alpine Blanket is listed as being 52 in (132 cm) wide at the top it has elastic there that pulls it in. The actual width when stretched is 56 in (142 cm) which is wider than most of my other quilts. The very top has a band of dark grey. I don't know if this means that it is the same as the lining, meaning no DWR. I hope this is not the case as the area around my face is the spot that collects the most condensation from exhalation and needs the water repellency the most. (Well, that and the foot where it may hit a wet tent wall.)

There is a small pocket at the top of the blanket that will easily hold a watch, cell phone, MPC player, or even a multi-function device to be able to hear a morning alarm.
Stuffed and stored
Flipping the Alpine Blanket over makes it possible to see where the design really goes away from traditional backpacking quilts. There is a 7 in (18 cm) wide draft curtain running all the way along the blanket. The actual edge of the blanket has snaps on them, five on each side. As one side has male snaps and the other female snaps the blanket can be snapped together to make a very narrow hoodless sleeping bag. But the main reason for the snaps is to use the blanket with the company's Universal Sheet or their Fast & Light Mattress Snap Kit. These let the Alpine Blanket attach to the side of the pad. The draft curtain keeps out drafts while moving during the night.

I mentioned the shallow footbox of the Alpine Blanket earlier. It is only 8 in (20 cm) deep but by attaching the lowest set of snaps it doubles the depth for more traditional style backpacking quilt use.

The Alpine Blanket comes with a nice mesh storage sack that is marked for easy identification, and a tiny stuff sack for taking in the field. When packed it is about the size of a honeydew melon.

Field Data

Bag cover at -12 F


All use occurred in the State of Minnesota. I used the Alpine Blanket in winter (as an overbag) on one overnighter outside Halstad at -12 F (-24 C) and on another night in Moorhead where the low was -24 F (-31 C) with 58% humidity. My son used it as an overbag at -14 F (-26 C) and another time at -5 F (-21 C). The picture above is from the -12 F trip.

For three-season use I had it out three times during late spring and summer. On these trips the low temps ranged from 38 to 50 F (3 to 10 C) with very high humidity and wet conditions (rain or rain-soaked terrain.) My children also used one each on a backpacking trip to Halverson Lake in Paul Bunyan State Forest with a low of 45 F (7 C) and rain at night. The picture below shows the two Alpine Blankets and another brand quilt waiting for bedtime on this trip. Dad's in the middle of course.

The quilting family shelter

Observations

Let me start off by saying that backpacking quilts are my favorite type of sleep gear in the field. I find the comfort and low weight and volume of them to work very well for me and my toss & turn, side-sleeping style. I have an article here that explains it in more detail that I invite anybody that is interested in quilts to read.

This past year I focused on using two quilts for the entire winter, spring and summer with my son Raymond helping me collect data points. While I have been using backpacking quilts for many years (and have many reviews here at BackpackGearTest.org) the Alpine Blanket was a new design for me. It differs from my other quilts in as much as it does not have a deep footbox. At first that concerned me but the system that Therm-a-Rest has for attaching the blanket to the pad makes up for the lack.
Hook it up
Actually I came to like the flexibility I had with the loop & snap system. I used the Alpine Blanket with three different pads depending on the temps expected. In winter I used it with my Therm-a-Rest XTherm pad. On that pad I placed attachment points all the way up to make sure that the blanket stayed in place when I tossed and turned at night. (I did the same on my son's XTherm.) For spring I used my Therm-a-Rest All-Season, and in summer the Therm-a-Rest XLite. On these two I just placed attachment points at the bottom (as seen to the right) to keep my feet in place since I didn't have a deep footbox. The snap/loop system works very well and is quite secure. Neither Raymond nor I ever had any points detach themselves during the night.

I think that the temperature rating is generous. I would not have a problem with Therm-a-Rest calling this a 30 F (-1 C) blanket and the average loft backs this up when I look over all the other loft measurements I have from my other quilts.

In the real cold


As mentioned above, I started out my use of the Alpine Blanket as an overbag in winter. The concept of overbags has been around for a long time. Traditionally a large warm-weather bag is placed over a narrower cold-weather bag to create one lofty bag good for extreme cold. I believe that insulation under me from a bag is a waste as my body weight just compresses it rendering it negligible as far as R-value goes. Instead I use a good pad for bottom insulation. Therefore I would rather use a quilt over the top of the sleeping bag and save the weight and volume in my pack. In the shot above I have the Alpine Blanket on top of (and around) the company's Altair sleeping bag ready for a night that saw -24 F (-31 C).

It worked very well. In fact I was too warm one of the nights I used it and had to pop the upper attachments to spread the blanket out and let some of the heat vent. My son (who is a cold sleeper) loved it and asked if he could use it once summer came too. I told him it is now his quilt.

On XLite


Spring and summer saw us using them as Therm-a-Rest intended. The Alpine Blanket worked very well with all our pads. (My daughter has an original NeoAir and did not want snap loops installed.) To be honest a narrower footbox would make the Alpine Blanket even warmer, but the spread out style does make it a lot more comfortable. The picture above shows it on my summer XLite and below is a shot of it on my All-Season pad this spring.

On All-Season


I don't think I ever used the stuff sack that came with the blankets. In winter I did stuff it, but just in the same sack as the sleeping bag was in. In summer (or in the kids' packs) I just placed the Alpine Blanket in the bottom of the pack and placed all my other gear on top letting the weight of the gear compress it as needed.

There are no problems to relate. The initial quality was very good so there have been no blown seams or anything like that. Considering the durable materials it is made of I expect that to be the case for some time to come. We keep our gear pretty clean and always wear base layers to sleep in so the Alpine Blanket has not needed to be laundered yet.

All told I think that the Alpine Blanket is a good addition to a backpacking sleep gear quiver. And since my children both wanted one the Alpine Blanket will be going on Estrella excursions for years to come. I leave with a shot of it in my tent above the Red River of the North.

Riverside

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Cascade Designs gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella

Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket > Owner Review by Ray Estrella



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