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Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 Review 2018

  • Ultralight Backpacker
  • Wilderness Backpacker
Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15

Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 Overview

Katabatic Gear, for those out of the loop, are one of the pioneers of the ultralight, ultra-warm, quilt-specific movement taking place in the backpacking world. The company makes all its gear in good ol’ USA — Colorado, specifically — and has a robust lineup of quilts (and other gear) to get you outside with minimal weight.

The Sawatch 15 backpacking quilt is a top-of-the-line quilt, designed to keep backpackers warm and comfy in three-season climates, and even some winter treks if you’ve got the right layers. Continuous baffles, a stitched closed trapezoidal footbox, and a patented cord locking system to keep the quilt fixed to your sleeping bag make this thing a premium sleeping experience.

The choice of a sleeping bag or quilt is really up to the user: do you want a traditional hood, zipper, and more weight with more assurance for warmth, or less weight and a free-er sleeping experience?

We still recommend the Western Mountaineering UltraLite sleeping bag as our Premium Pick for the Ultralight Backpacker, but only if that backpacker wants a sleeping bag. If they want a premium quilt, the Sawatch 15 is where it’s at. And yes, there are plenty of other quilts on the market (like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20), but Katabatic Gear has a certain finesse when it comes to sleep. The Sawatch 15 is arguably the “best” quilt on the market, and it comes with a price tag to match.

If you’re unsure of which to pick, make sure to read our comprehensive guide to sleeping bags and backpacking quilts.

Read the full Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 review below.

Sawatch 15 Quilt Specifications

Feature Type Feature Specs What This Means
Weight 25.1 oz (712 g) Less than two pounds for a 15-degree quilt or sleeping bag is ultralight. You will barely feel this thing in your pack.
Type Quilt The Sawatch 15 is a quilt that has an open back and a sewn-closed footbox. For more info on the difference between quilts and sleeping bags read our Guide.
Size Regular / 6’0″ (183 cm) The specs listed here are for the Regular/6’0″ Sawatch. Katabatic Gear offers this quilt in 5’6″, 6′, 6’6″ and wide variations. The cost is slightly different for each. Pick the size that best fits you.
Temperature Rating 15° The Sawatch is rated to roughly 15°, which is quite warm. It’s not EN tested, but Katabatic Gear is known for accurate temperature ratings. Read more about how temperature ratings are determined in our Guide.
Insulation Type 850-Fill Hydrophobic Down This is high quality down that compresses a lot and weighs very little for its loft and warmth. It’s hydrophobic, which means it’s treated to resist water better. Read more about sleeping bag insulation in our Guide. Katabatic Gear offers 900-fill regular down and 900-fill hydrophobic down as well.
Fill Weight 16.1 oz (456 g) More than half the bag’s weight is down, which means it’s quite warm.
Shell Fabric Pertex Quantum Ripstop outside, Pertex Quantum Taffeta inside Pertex Quantum Ripstop and Taffeta are industry-standard shell fabrics, and are highly durable for their weight and decently water resistant. Read more on sleeping bag and quilt shell fabric material in our Guide.
Water Resistant? Yes The shell fabric is water resistant, and the down is treated to resist water.
Baffle Pattern Continuous Horizontal This allows for the down to move wherever you want it to in the quilt, making sure you can get the warmth you need in the right areas. Read more on sleeping bag and quilt baffle patterns in our Guide.
Zipper Length, Type, Placement None This quilt does not have a zipper!
Draft Tube? No Because there is no zipper, there’s no draft tube. Make sure the quilt is snug around the edge of your sleeping pad and you’ll be plenty warm.
Neck Baffle? Yes The Sawatch 15 has a nice, large, warm neck baffle that cinches around you for maximum warmth.
Pocket? No This is an ultralight piece of kit, so no pockets.
Manufacturer Warranty Lifetime Guarantee All Katabatic Gear products are guaranteed to the original owner against defects in workmanship or materials for an unlimited time. Should a product fail due to a manufacturer’s defect they will repair or replace it at no cost. This guarantee does not cover damage due to accidents, normal wear and tear, or misuse.
Retail Price $410-$540 A high price for a premium quilt. Price adjusts based on size and down quality.
Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15

Gear Review of the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15

Origins: Easing You In

Until two years ago my outdoor career was spent in sleeping in bags. From heavy roll-ups for car camping to top-of-the-line goose down backpacking bags. Though I slept well I developed a dislike for hoods and zippers. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been rudely roused by mild suffocation because the hood had migrated to cover my face; nor how many urgent nocturnal hunts I conducted for hidden zippers to heed the call of nature.

So, when the time finally came to replace my bag, I had no intention of subjecting myself to the same trials and tribulations. It was time to try a backpacking quilt, and boy was it the right call. Now that I live a hoodless, zipper-less life, I’ll never go back.

The hood-less, zipper-less life is a good one when you’ve got the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 wrapped around you.

With clear knowledge of my tastes and style, I knew the Sawatch was going to be a good fit as soon as I saw it. If you asked my sleeping bag self what my dream gear looked like I would have said:

First, scrap the hood for weight and efficiency, because sometimes no head insulation is called for. If I need noggin warmth, I can wear a beanie. And no hood means no more suffocated awakenings.

Perfectly horizontal lines of down and an insulated pad is all you need.

Next, open the bag to a partial quilt and keep the footbox sewn shut because I like my toesies cozy. I sleep hot and my pad is warm, so a full body wrap shouldn’t be a temperature issue and it saves material (and weight, of course).

Finally, employ a super simple button collar closure for a nice neck seal while maintaining ease of egress. Between the open back and the button neck I would have no more midnight zipper battles!

The Sawatch 15 has a warm neck baffle and a simple button closure to keep it tight around you. As pictured here.

You can maybe guess the Sawatch 15 has each of these dream elements, and has lived up to my expectations. I have been sleeping in the Sawatch 15 for about two years, and have been on maybe 15 weekend warrior trips from early spring to mid-autumn throughout the Pacific Northwest. What’s more, I’ve logged nearly 100% successful sleeps.

Revelation: The Moment I Knew

When I found Katabatic Gear, I realized immediately their designs were better than anything I could’ve come up with on my own. Yes, I’m that much of a gear nerd, and did seriously think about crafting the very thing I wanted.

But what makes these quilts unique, and more than I could have expected, is Katabatic Gear’s patented Cord Clip Attachment System. This allows you to securely strap your quilt to your sleeping pad, adjust for movement in the night, and not end up on the ground come morning.

You can see the strap system in a number of pictures in this review. They are thin, yellow, and lie on top of the pad. It’s one of the best systems around for securing the quilt to the edge of your pad, reducing how much cold air can get in.

It’s a clever and effective feature when well deployed, and, though it does have a learning curve, it is super adaptable. After a few trips in different environments and climates, adjusting comfortably to various night-time conditions, and, as usual, writhing actively while I sleep, I was totally sold. The Cord Clips are lightweight, small, tough, and versatile. When used properly they make the quilt experience cozy, stable and, especially: no zippers or hoods!

Digging Deeper

These days, backpackers have come to expect an exceptional level of thought and engineering, of specificity, efficacy and durability in all their gear. But, even a jaded ultralight gearhead would recognize the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 as an elegantly engineered, eminently effective, and extremely efficient piece of equipment.

It is the second-most cold capable quilt in Katabatic Gear’s Elite line, weighing in at an impressive  25 ounces (about 1.5 pounds) which, packed, is larger than a Nalgene bottle, but much smaller than your typical sleeping bag.

The classic Nalgene comparison. For a 15-degree sleep system, this quilt packs down quite small.

The Sawatch is constructed of Pertex Quantum Ripstop on the outside and Pertex Quantum Taffeta on the inside, which are both incredibly light and impressively durable. I can say this definitively after sleeping directly on granite gravel, and air drying the quilt on snaggletooth bushes, with nary a hole to be found. The Taffeta is surprisingly soft and comfortable against bare skin.

The Ripstop has no trouble shaking off morning dew, so the 850-fill, responsibly sourced goose down insulation is never damp. I opted for the 850-fill, but Katabatic Gear also offers 900-fill in hydrophobic treated down and regular down.

The Sawatch 15 is as pretty as the places you’ll take it to.

Finally, the Cord Clip system is capable of completely sealing the quilt edges to the mat, for a draftless sleeping experience. What more could a picky packer ask for?


With the sensual fabric feel (yeah, I went there) and the Cord Clip system stabilization, I can hit the sack naked, tossing and turning all night, and the quilt will remain in place, untangled, comfortably caressing my sleeping self.

Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 review video 1
When you roll around like this in a sleeping bag, you end up with a zipper beneath you and a hood suffocating you. The quilt allows you to move as much as you want.

The cords are in between the body and pad, which takes a bit of getting used to, but are not at all uncomfortable. When I think about the fact that there are no cold zippers to contend with, and no hood to swamp my face, I would rate the comfort of my quilt well above any bag I ever slept in. That’s my experience, but it may be yours as well!


The Sawatch 15 can manage a respectable range of nocturnal conditions. I have slept comfortably in warm summer nights with the quilt loosely draped, the Cord Clips lightly secured and my feet out of the box. When nights dropped below freezing, with the wind blasting, I have stayed cozy, no matter how actively I slept, with the securement system in full lockdown, and the neck baffle bundled up and buttoned.

This quilt is warm, but you should always bring a beanie.

I have yet to clock in a 15 degree night, but have gotten down to the high teens, and was plenty warm. I have I have no doubt I will wax warm with the quilt in the temp range it was made for.


I’ve had this quilt for two years, and rocked it hard on all my weekend warrior quests into testy terrain, and I have yet to find any significant signs of wear and tear.

I’ve worn my quilt as a cape by the fire and sat on sandpapery granite (it worked, but it’s not recommended). I’ve slept with just a pad on the bare earth numerous times (cause sometimes tents just aren’t cool). I have hung the bag over boulders, bushes and branches to air dry. I have been careful, but, despite all the grind and grunge, there is not a single tear in the fabric. If that doesn’t speak to durability, I don’t know what does.

Whether laying on granite, drying on bushes, or sleeping under the stars, the Sawatch 15 has yet to have a hole.


I have a regular-sized quilt — which for Katabatic Gear means 6-foot tall and a 52-inch shoulder width — and I find the Sawatch 15 to be really roomy. For perspective: I am 6”1’ and weigh 175 pounds; I am a tall, skinny fellow. I have so much extra room in the quilt I think you’d have to be twice my weight before space became an issue.

You can customize the size of this quilt. Getting a big bigger than necessary is smart, and you can see the width on this is solid.

When combined with the stability of the Cord Clips, I could practically dance in my sleep and I’d still have space to spare. All this with no discernible decrease in insulation.


The only feature of the Sawatch 15 that I can find any issues with is the same feature that makes it unique, those patented Cords Clips! You see, I have already lost a set of cords for the securement system.

As a small, separate piece of equipment, the cords are prone to misplacement. Without the cords the quilt can’t be strapped down, and on a cold night this can be a very serious sleep setback. Get smart when packing away the quilt and this won’t be an issue, but be warned.

Another shot of the Clip system. It works well, but is easy to lose.

In addition, the clips are finicky. Very specific placement and clipping technique is mandatory for a good seal, and, even with good technique, both cords and clips are subject to displacement over the course of the night. These occurrences are rare enough, and backup cords are easy to bring, so, on balance, I am still very happy with this system over zippers. One must just be mindful!

Final Word

With unparalleled warmth to weight, sensually durable craftsmanship, elegantly innovative features, and a hoodless, zipperless physique – the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 is as lean and mean as a sleeping machine can be.

Where to Buy Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15

We tested and reviewed the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15, which is in the brand’s “Elite” line of quilts. This is a unisex quilt, and can be adjusted in length and width for your body size.

Katabatic Gear makes the same form-factor of quilt in different temperature ratings: the Chisos 40, the Palisade 30, the Alsek 22, and the Grenadier 5. There are very small changes to these designs, so we think any of them are excellent choices for those that want a high-end, custom quilt at a specific temperature.

Katabatic Gear is a small company, and you can only buy these quilts from their website. They are made in the USA and come with a lifetime warranty!

Purchase the Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15 below.

Katabatic Gear Sawatch 15

Matt Waughtel

Matt Waughtel grew up hiking, biking, camping and backpacking with his family, and as a result can’t get enough. As a busy RN in the Bay Area he only has so much time to get out but it remains a priority. Most weekends find him outside, whether on wheels, local trails, or with a full pack in the Sierras.

Review Policy: We do not accept payments or gifts from brands and vendors, and strive to provide unbiased, independent advice. Brands typically provide review samples which we return, and in some cases we purchase the item so we can keep using it long after the review. Affiliate Policy: We support the hours that go into our reviews and testing through affiliate commissions on purchases made through links in this article. These don't effect the outcome of our reviews or selection of gear, as per our Review Policy.

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