Mountain Laurel Designs – FKT Quilt
The Mountain Laurel Designs “FKT Quilt” is a synthetic quilt that is uniquely designed to help fill a niche in the quilt market, with a double layer of insulation on the lower half, and a single layer of insulation on the top half, thereby allowing you to leave at home your insulated leggings and insulated booties, for those colder nights.
I have been using the FKT Quilt since it was released. The idea and concept appealed to me so when it was time to acquire another quilt, something able to be used in warmer weather than the MLD Spirit 28 I have and reviewed, I just had to get one and give it a try. So has the idea/concept worked out for me? What are my thoughts on it?
Purpose Of Use:
That really is what this quilt is all about. As I mentioned above, this is a niche product in a of niche category. In many ways it stands alone by itself and in many ways it is a variant of existing quilts offered by MLD.
The way that one should probably approach the MLD FKT Quilt is if you are somebody that tends to spend most of your nights in above freezing temps, if you have legs and feet that get cold, and are looking for a slightly narrower version of the MLD Spirit 48. That is perhaps the best way to summarize the MLD FKT Quilt.
Based on the amount of emails and facebook messages I get, it does seem that the biggest questions folks have about the MLD FKT Quilt is: “should I get the FKT or the Spirit 48?”
Having used the FKT for a period of time I think the best answer to that question would be to ask yourself this question: “do you want a narrow or wide quilt, and, do your legs/feet get cold at night?”
Those two issues are really the really only differences between the FKT and the Spirit quilt.
As explained in the introduction, the concept, or the approach of use, of this quilt is be able to leave your insulated leggings (such as the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Pants) and insulated sleeping footwear (such as the Enlightened Equipment Sleeping Booties) at home, thereby saving some weight, and having the extra layer of insulation within the bottom section of the MLD FKT Quilt provide that warmth.
This is an approach that appeals to me and one that has been tried and found to be success in the past by others. But it is not a very common approach. This has caused a lot of people to start thinking about their approach to sleeping layering – and that is a good thing.
In many ways the concept, the approach of use, behind the MLD FKT Quilt harkens me back to the days when I tried going the route of the Nunatak 3/4 length quilt and a heavier jacket. It too is a niche product within a niche category, and while it was worth trying out to see if I liked the concept it just did not work out for me, though one of these days I may try it again, I have learned a lot about sleep layering and core body temp management since the days of my trying that setup.
The term “FKT” has been thrown around a lot the last few years. I have no intention of joining the hoards trying to self-define what the “FKT movement” is, but I will share what MLD means behind their use of “FKT”, as taken from their website: “the fastest time someone has completed any trail or section of a trail“. In regards to the MLD FKT Quilt, I think that brief aspect of what FKT means at the heart of the term, goes a long way towards understanding what MLD intends with the use, the approach of use, of their FKT Quilt. In essence, this quilt was conceived and intended to be used by fast moving adventurers who spend little time in camp and want as light of gear as possible with as little pack volume as possible.
Here is something that might fall into the realm of “just me” and not really apply to anybody else, but I did want to take a moment to throw the idea/approach out there for others to consider.
What I would like to see is a reversed approach.
I would find greater benefit from the heavier insulation being on the top of the quilt (core body) and the lighter/less insulation being on the leg/foot end of the quilt.
I tend to think if your feet are cold, put on more socks. And only once in all my years of hiking have I found myself inside of a quilt/bag thinking “dang, my legs are cold“. For me, cold legs is just not an issue.
Paramount above all things is keeping my core body warm. Whether I am sleeping or hiking or in camp. Core body temp is key. I have written about this for years. When speaking at hiking events it is one of the key aspects of what I talk about. When I am guiding/assisting people/groups that is one of the key issues that is addressed before we ever leave. Your feet can be cold. Your hands can be cold. But when your core body loses warmth, good night honey, the party is over. I learned that the hard way. I suffer frostbite on one of my feet from an adventure gone bad, but I was able to maintaine my core body temperature enough to keep on singing. Many people who have ventured into the high peaks of the world have learned this lesson. Now obviously the FKT quilt was not designed for such situations – it has a lower temp rating of F38° / C3.3° so it should never been expected to be put into those type of situations – but for those of us who place a focus on our core body and less on our lower body, this ‘reversed approach‘ is something I wanted to bring up.
This reversed approach would likely mean that I could take a lighter weight jacket and save even more weight, or I might not need to take a jacket at all in warmer conditions.
This approach would cater to those who focus on their core body and less on their lower body.
Something I have done, and you do loose a bit of footbox room and have footbox ventilation, is to just flip the quilt around 180 degrees. Turning the foot end of the quilt into the head end of the quilt. In warmer conditions where cold feet are not an issue, this allows you to have the warmer part of the quilt up at your core body. The MLD FKT Quilt has snaps at the (normal) top part of the quilt in order to snap it around your shoulders/neck (something I never do) but this snap allows you to have at least somewhat of a footbox when doing this reversed setup.
I asked Ron Bell, the owner of Mountain Laurel Designs, about the possibility of offering a ‘reversed‘ option and he stated “We could make it that way as a custom order” – which is really great of them. Something to keep in mind if you also place an emphasis on your core body, or just want to carry a lighter weight jacket, or as stated above, perhaps none at all and go with the poncho head slot option.
Poncho Head Slot Option:
I have had a surprising amount of people ask me if they should get this option or not.
My advice has been to order the poncho head slot.
The length of it is 12 inches. When opened it expands to about 10 inches.
It might not be something you use all that often, but I have found it to be very nice to have in the mornings while breaking down camp. Just a matter of unsnapping it, and doing a little twist while you stand up, and your nice warm quilt goes from being your quilt to your morning camp thermals while you break down camp.
It can also be nice for those 2am wake up nature breaks. It allows you to visit a bush to do your thing, while staying in your nice warm quilt, and not coming back to a cold quilt.
As for hiking while wearing it. Hmm, that I am not sure I would do. It is, after all, a F35° rated quilt. It would have to be crazy cold outside (far beyond what temps you should be using this quilt) to have to hike while wearing a quilt.
But yes, I do feel the extra $25 bucks is worth the benefits for the reasons I mentioned.
Unlike the MLD Spirit Quilt lineup, which has three different quilts for different temperature ratings, the MLD FKT Quilt is designed for a very broad temperature range.
Pretty much anything above F35° / C1.6° is the way that MLD approaches the FKT quilt.
So think of the FKT as a viable alternative to both the Spirit 48 and Spirit 38, but I would not say it comes close to the lowest temperature rating offered by the Spirit 28.
Spirit 48 or Spirit 38 or FKT:
I talked about this above, but it warrants a quick review.
The main differences between these three different quilts comes down to:
- The FKT is narrower (and the narrower it is the more warm you will stay, no great secret there)
- The FKT helps if you get cold legs and feet (the entire concept of the FKT)
- The FKT has buttons on the foot end and not hook-and-loop (weeehoo!)
- The FKT hits the weight scales right between the Spirit 38 and Spirit 48 (which is really nice, a very broad based temp rating)
The Mountain Laurel Designs “FKT Quilt” is a purpose designed quilt. It offers those who know their gear, know their body behavior, and are fast movers who spend little time in camp the ability to take with them a quilt designed to meet a set of goals, and do it as best that it can. Offering a broad range of temperature use, as slimmed down set of features as it needs, and perhaps most of all, the FKT Quilt gives the experienced adventurer the ability to dial in their gearlist in a way that other quilts on the market does not offer.