Enlightened Equipment Enigma (20F / -6C) Long Term Review (8,000+ miles / 450 nights)

I purchased my EE Enigma in 2015. Since then I have hiked just under 9,000 miles (14,500km) on long distance trails, and have slept around 450 nights in it when including weekend trips.

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CDT, Colorado 2018

 

Warmth Rating: 20F (-6C)

Length: Short

I’m actually 0.5in taller then the recommended height. I found that the quilt reached my nose and was just long enough for me to stick my head in when the temperature dipped low. I am a side sleeper in a similar style to the recovery position, and therefore sleep marginally shorter then my actual height.

It seems to me that EE’s guide is accurate to what I height I want, and you will be perfectly fine with the lengths that they recommend for a given height.

Width: Regular

EE’s website states that I should purchase a slim width. I chose the wider option so I don’t have to use the straps. I discuss this further under My Camping Style below.

Fill: 900 Dry Down. I personally added an additional 1oz  (28g) of 850 fill down after extended use.

Purchased Weight: 16.5oz (465g).

This was almost exactly what was claimed on their website.

Please be aware that this is the previous generation model with the flat footbox and before the the additional 5% down fill was added. The new design allows for a shorter bag for the same usable space, and therefore this mitigates the weight gain of the additional fill. The new design will be warmer!

My camping style:

I tend to cowboy camp every night unless there is a decent threat of rain. This means that I sleep in a true outside temperature compared to a slightly warmer tent.

 

     

 

         CDT, New Mexico 2018                                               Hayduke Trail, 2017                                   

I have never used the pad straps. Instead I got the next size up in width and this allows me to simply clip the two sides directly together when it gets cold. This method was a measly 0.3oz (9g) heavier then the narrower quilt with straps, but I think it is far simpler cinch up if i got cold halfway through the night.

I am a side sleeper and have learnt to rest my arm on the bottom of the quilt to keep it in place when I turn over at night. Using this method I have not had any draft problems. 

If I am dirty often wear my wind pants and jacket to bed to help keep the bag clean, and I always wear “clean” socks to bed.

The way that I store the quilt in my backpack is just pushing it loosely to the bottom of my bag. I only squash it if I am running out of room with a long food carry. This means that it is almost exclusively not compressed and will increase both the lifespan of the down and also be warm very quickly after taking it out for the night.

Warmth:

I found that this bag was close to true to rating for the first 7k miles, however I would personally give this a comfort rating of 25F (-4C), with additional warmth possible from clothing. I would say most people would sleep comfortably around freezing, and therefore perfect for most 3 season applications. If you are a cold sleeper, you might want to consider the 10F (-12) option for something like the PCT.

My first trip I slept on top of Mont Blanc at 15,777 ft (4,809m) on a glacier at 25F (-4C) and kept warm. I have also taken this bag down to 16F (-9C) in Bryce Canyon NP with all my clothing, and another night right at the base of Forester Pass (PCT) where the temperature was in the very low 20s (-5C) with an additional high windchill factor.

At about 7k miles I started to notice that the bag was not fully lofting. It continued to deteriorate over the next 1k miles until I was starting to feel cold when the temperature dropped to around freezing. This drop in the warmth of the bag was partly due to the down not lofting as it once did and (I suspect) this caused some of the down to shift to the outside baffles that are underneath me.

To solve this and extend the usable life of the bag, I purchased an additional ounce (28g) of down directly from EE, and unpicked a seam to shove it in (terrible quality hand stitching shown below). I then spent 90 minutes spreading the down from the outer baffles back to the middle ones through holes shown below. I decided to only leave 50% of the down in the very outside baffle that I sleep on and therefore provide no warmth. With this extra down spread across the other baffles they now appear to be overstuffed.

I could do this because of a 1 inch gap that allows flow between the baffles, that was the cause of the down shifting in the first place.

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Repair of purpose made hole to allow additional 1oz down fill @ 8k miles Location of gap in the baffles

After adding the down, I spent the next month at high elevation in Colorado and was never cold. I think that this has added another couple of thousand miles to the viable life of the quilt for temperatures below freezing.           

I try to wash the bag every 2,000 miles. If I go any longer I do start to notice a loss of loft in the bag and the associated reduction in warmth.

I have used this bag with three different ground pads; hip length Neoair Xlite Women, a small Neoair Xlite and a mid thigh length 1/8in foam pad. If the ground is cold I will either curl up on my pad or rest my feet on my pack.

Shell Durability:

Overall, I have been impressed with the external durability of the quilt. I had doubts when I first received a 10d fabric without ripstop, but I have had only 2 holes and a popped button in it. It is worth noting that the first problem happened after the equivalent of two thru hikes of the PCT.

At around 5k miles one of the lower buttons popped off the nylon tab. This would be an easy fix but I do not use the lower ones so never bothered replacing it.

I got my first hole when the seam split at a horizontal near the tab that came off above. It was small and no down was coming out so I just monitored it for a week until I could use a sewing machine to permanently fix it.

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Hole #1, after approx. 6k miles of use

The second hole was more severe with a large hole appearing in the middle of the fabric. It was not a rip, but appeared to be a degradation of the fabric. I am not sure what caused this, but the cause might be a chemical burn of the fabric, which would be my fault for spilling something on it.

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Hole #2, after approx. 7k miles of use

I repaired it with a rounded patch of Tenacious Tape. It is an easy fix and I have not had a problem with it since.

Additional thoughts on design:

EE Enigma is a simple designed quilt without any bells or whistles.

It has a half taper rather than the traditional mummy style found in most UL sleeping bags and therefore a big footbox. This can be both a positive and a negative. If you toss and turn the extra room is a convenience, but you have to use extra energy to warm this area.

It also does not have a differential cut (the outside fabric larger than the inside that maintains loft even when a random knee presses against the bag). I did not find this a problem as the extra width of my quilt meant that I never was pressed for room. I did occasionally press my foot into the fabric, but if it was cold enough to notice I simply shifted my foot. If I was going for a smaller bag, that would save about an ounce, I would definitely want a differential cut.

Another slightly less necessary feature that this bag does not have is some sort of draft collar. But the advantages of this can be minimised with practice in using the quilt.

The only actual problem I found the design was fairly insignificant; I do not like the neck drawcord located in the middle of the bag. This puts it above my head and it was a continual minor annoyance for me, as I would either get tangled in it when it is tight or rest against my cheek.

Is this the best quilt on the market? No. If you are looking for the best, I suggest looking at Katabatic Gear (I have purchased a Palisade to replace my EE Enigma. See the next paragraph for my reasoning) or Nunatak; both of these have differential cut, and have measures in place for better down control such as closed baffles and draft protection.

However, Enlightened Equipment is still very good value for money, with Underground Quilts Bandit possibly taking over as being the best value on the market (note: I have never used or even seen a UGQ product. I have heard people talk good things about them).

I choose to replace my quilt with a Palisade for a few reasons. Last time I was in the market KG quilts were extremely expensive (somewhere around $200 more the EE??) and I did not think it was good value for money for the slight increase in comfort features mentioned above over an EE quilt. Now the Palisade is a lot better value for a high performance product. It also uses Pertex, which is one of the best shell fabrics on the market, and will hopefully reduce some fabric tares. To be fully transparent, I probably would have purchased a Palisade anyway, but I got offered an ambassador discount from Wired that made it highly competitive with EE.

Customer service:

My experience with Enlightened Equipment’s customer experience has been excellent. For instance, I purchased the additional down fill through them. It took three emails back and forth and then they express shipped the down to my next trail town.

They also have a very good, no fuss return policy for if they quilt does not fit right when you get it.