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Hands-on Gear Review
Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 Review
Cons: Doesn’t wrap all the way around, less versatile than other quilts, enclosure systems require lots of fiddling
Bottom line: A high quality quilt with a tall foot and leg enclosure much loved by thru-hiking enthusiasts but certainly has flaws.
The Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 has been our Editors' Choice Award winner for four consecutive years, until now. While little has changed from previous versions, except for the notable upgrades of Pertex Quantum fabric and ethically sourced Goose Down, our head tester for ultralight gear has changed, and he simply cannot rate many of the Palisade's qualities as highly as his predecessor, even after extensive testing in the Himalaya. This is still a well-made and well-loved quilt that uses a totally unique and successful pad attachment system and still has a great warmth to weight ratio. However, when compared as objectively as possible to the fierce competition in this year's review, its scores were relatively average.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Sleeping Bags of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
In our 2017 testing, we used the Palisade 30 on a 24-day trek through the Himalaya around the Manaslu circuit. We spent most of our nights in un-insulated guesthouses, but also camped out on numerous occasions in low temperatures ranging from 45F down to 10F. Upon returning home we further tested this quilt in summertime conditions in Colorado. With so many nights spent using this quilt, we feel experienced enough to justify our findings that this quilt, while it has many endearing qualities, and a cult following among the ultralight community, was merely average in our overall scoring, and was not rated the best in any single metric that we assess for. Much of this is due to the wider breadth of our review and the ever-increasing quality of ultralight gear on the market today.
While it uses high quality down and is rated down to 30F, we found that the Palisade 30 still suffers from heat leaking issues inherent to virtually all quilts, limiting the low temperatures we find them appropriate for. We can certainly say that this quilt has the most effective pad attachment system that we tested, but also found it to be comparatively challenging to set up and fine tune, and the straps included for fully enclosing oneself did not work as well as most others. This quilt was slightly less versatile than others because it has a very tall enclosed foot box, and while it is indeed ultralight, doesn't offer a comparative advantage in the weight savings department. Overall, we think this is a great product, but can't call it the best of the best.
How to Get It:
Buyers should note that Katabatic Gear products are custom made in Colorado, and are not available from retail outlets.
Get it online at: KatabaticGear.com.
The Palisade 30 is available with either 850 fill power hydrophobic treated down, or 900 fill power down that is untreated. We tested the 850fp version, which uses 10.2 ounces of down fill in continuous horizontal box-baffle style construction. The "continuous baffles" means that there are no barriers within the individual horizontally oriented baffles to hold the down in place, and Katabatic Gear even suggests on their website that you should move the down around as it suits you for a given temperature. We are slightly wary of employing this tactic however, and must point out that there is the potential for the down to move around of its own accord, creating dead spaces without insulation.
We found that this 30 degree bag was roughly the same warmth as other quilts we tested, like the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700. Despite attaching to a sleeping pad easier with fewer chances for air leaks if done correctly, we still thought the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 was warmer at night. While we loved the down filled draft tube that serves as a neck collar, a feature not present on other quilts, we were disappointed that the quilt wasn't wide enough to fully enclose oneself on the underside. On truly cold nights, even our insulated sleeping pads radiated cold upward, and the slightest air leaks, which inevitably happen with quilts when turning or rolling over, meant that we slept colder than the rating of this bag suggested.
For this test we used a 6'0" tall regular width Palisade 30. On our independent scale it weighed 19.4 ounces alone, or 20.1 ounces with the included pad attachment strings. It also comes with two adjustable straps and buckles for enclosing only the bag without attaching to a pad. The included stuff sack, which is pleasantly small and compact, weighs an additional 0.5 ounces. This quilt weighed virtually the same as our Editors' Choice Award winning Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL, but was nowhere near as light as the very lightest Sea to Summit Spark I.
The first thing we assess for when considering comfort was the fit of a bag or quilt. In the case of the Palisade 30, we wish that our 6' version was just one inch longer. It felt slightly short, and when we needed to have the neck collar up over our shoulders, we found that it didn't quite reach as far as we wanted for it to be comfortable to have the neck buttoned up. We also found that while this quilt was plenty spacious enough when attached to a sleeping pad, if we tried to fully enclose it around ourselves, it became overly tight and constricting. In short, it was nowhere near as expansive or as spaciously comfortable as the Sierra Designs Backcountry Quilt 700, which we rated as the most comfortable quilt. We also had the minor complaint that much like the similarly rated Zpacks 20 Degree, the neck draw cord string pulled tight directly in front of the face, meaning if you are lying on your back, as this quilt is designed, the cord would be dangling directly into your face. We at least wish this feature was off to the side.
Like all quilts, the Palisade 30 ranked among the best when it comes to versatility. The option to either wrap oneself up tightly on a cold night, or open the quilt up completely when it is warm, makes quilts a great option for three season comfort. That said, this quilt was less versatile than many of its counterparts. Much like the Backcountry Quilt 700, it has a fully enclosed foot box, but instead of coming up to about knee height, this foot box rises almost the entire way up the leg, making it a lot harder to remove the feet on hot nights. And as we mentioned above, the strap enclosure system doesn't allow one to fully close the gap on the bottom of the quilt, like the full-length zipper of the Flicker 40 UL does. So, while we found it to be quite comfortable for temperatures between about 35-50F, we had a hard time reaching a comfortable equilibrium when it was either colder or warmer.
One thing can be said about the Palisade 30 — it has a lot of features not found on other quilts. Many of them have been mentioned already, but we will describe in detail the best and worst this quilt has to offer. In stark contrast to pad attachment systems found on the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 or the Sea to Summit Ember II, this quilt doesn't have adjustable straps that loop around a sleeping pad, which work to hold the quilt tight under the pad. The advantage of these strap systems is once they are adjusted right, you can quickly attach your pad every night and it will always fit the same, but they also tend to be really tight and constricting when your quilt is attached under your pad.
By contrast, the Katabatic Gear system uses two strings that you must tie around your pad each night, which customized attachment points sewn into the edges of the quilt clip onto. Except for the fact that they take longer to set up each night, these attachment points work far better than the strap alternatives — they are adjustable at any time, and they won't come unclipped in the middle of the night. See this link for more information on how it works.
While it has the best pad attachment system, we were disappointed to find that the Palisade 30 has the clunkiest and least effective full enclosure system. It comes with two adjustable elastic straps and buckles for closing the underside opening, but there are no buckles or buttons on the quilt for them to attach to, and they must be looped through fabric loops and doubled up, then tightened, to work. Not only is this tough to accomplish when you are lying inside the quilt with your arms inhibited, but they simply don't close the opening all the way. Not to mention, you must carry these two loose straps with you in case you need them, and in our case, they were unfortunately misplaced on the ground while packing up in the dark, and were unwittingly left behind. For the rest of our trek we had no way to attempt to fully close our quilt. By far the best method for fully closing a quilt was the full length zipper used on the Flicker 40 UL, which weighed almost exactly the same amount as this quilt, despite having this far more user friendly feature.
The Palisade 30 is designed to be used as a lightweight three season quilt for thru-hikers or backpackers. We think that this is the best use for it, and as long as temperatures do not often get below freezing, will work great. For those who want something a little warmer or not as warm, Katabatic Gear also makes versions (with different names) with 5F, 15F, 22F, or 40F temperature ratings.
The version of quilt that we tested has a retail price of $470.00, but depending on the size, width, and type of down you choose in your quilt, could range between $445.00 and $510.00. Since they are made by hand and to order, expect to wait a bit for your quilt to arrive after ordering, and don't expect to find any sort of internet closeout deals.
This price tag makes this far and away the most expensive sleeping bag in this review, $50 more than the second most expensive product, and $130 more than the highest scoring product. While we believe the quality of materials and workmanship justifies paying more than average, we must point out that we didn't find this quilt to be the warmest, lightest, best fitting, or most versatile that we tested, and so find it hard to consider paying this much when better options are available for quite a bit less.
In years past, the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 has won our Editors' Choice Award as the best overall ultralight sleeping bag. Little has changed to the design, except to improve the fabrics and source the down ethically. However, in 2017, our objective comparative testing ranked it roughly average in almost all metrics, and we didn't find that it scored the best in any single category. While this is a unique and much loved thru-hiking diehard, we feel like it costs a bit too much considering the level of performance.
— Andy Wellman
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