Brian Noakes of El Coyote Quilts leaves no detail overlooked as he hand crafts his lightweight, durable, and functional sleeping quilts. And yet, he’s reluctant to call himself creative.
“Probably more innovative,” he said. “I have to know how things work, then once I do, I start thinking how it can be done better.”
Exhibit A: his old sleeping bag.
“I’ve had plenty of quilts and bags from other builders and there was always something I thought I would do different if I had made it … so I did.”
As a bikepacker, backpacker, avid fly fisherman, and helicopter pilot by trade, Brian has been making and customizing his own gear for a while now.
“Sewing is a great skill to have if you are into the outdoors. It’s fun when you need something, to be able to walk into the other room and just make it,” he said. “Once you start using industrial sewing machines it sort of changes the game. Projects get easier and the results get better.”
As his own skills improved, friends started to take notice. Then, friends of friends. Then, the pandemic hit. Like many, it got Brian thinking about his life’s trajectory.
“As a helicopter pilot, I’ve been able to see and do things that most people never will, but with that also comes a somewhat dangerous job and being away from home for long periods of time.”
The job also required lots of hotel stays and dining out, which obviously became problematic during the pandemic.
“I think that’s what gave me the final nudge to take a break from flying and take a chance and launch El Coyote Quilts,” he said. “Once I decided to do it, it was basically all I did…still is! And I learned quickly that starting something like this is hard work.”
“There’s a lot more to it than just knowing how to make a quilt. I pretty much had to teach myself everything, so it was a slow process and I’m a long way from being done, but it has been fun and worth the work.”
Design details separate El Coyote's AlphaLite Quilt from other options on the market, including: baffle direction, 1/3 tapered design, shock cord placement, fabric type, color selection, and the decision to overstuff by 30% with 900+ ethically sourced down.
“When you take the time to consider every element of what goes into a product, then make it completely by hand, and the customer response is super positive – it’s a pretty rewarding feeling. It’s what keeps us motivated and excited to keep at it.”
Quilts are gaining popularity as a sleeping bag alternative, and according to Brian, aren’t just for weight-obsessed adventurers. “Just about anyone can benefit from less bulk and more versatility in their sleep system.”
Fully open up your quilt and use it as a blanket. Seal it up tight around your toes. Create some ventilation. A quilt does that, all of it!
Brian hails from the Arizona desert, and wants the name El Coyote to evoke the feel of the southwest. “Hiking in the desert can be unforgiving at times. It always seems like there’s something trying to scratch, bite, stink or poke you,” he joked.
Currently, the brand consists of just Brian and his wife Kim. “And the dog,” he’s quick to add. “I couldn’t do it without her…my wife, not the dog,” he joked.
Kim does all the back-end business stuff, which allows Brian to focus on sewing. “We have to wear a lot of hats at the moment, and getting good products out the door with short lead times and good customer service is number one.”
“We haven’t been in business long, but we’ve already shipped a bunch of quilts all over the world, so all in all, I’m really happy the way things are going.”
As a young brand just taking flight, the duo is excited for what’s in store. “We’re developing and testing new products and listening to customers about what they want to see in the future.”
“Everyone has one or two pieces of gear that they love the most,” Brian added. “It’s not overbuilt with unnecessary, heavy features or stripped down and flimsy to shave every possible gram. It’s reliable, built by hand, using the best materials and will last a lifetime…that’s what we want to build.”