Year-Round Down: Make a Sleeping Bag Cover

If you want to use your sleeping bags for more than camping, follow these instructions to sew a sleeping bag cover.

| March/April 1983

If you've ever packed into the back country, or piled your young'uns (and their seemingly endless array of gear) into the car and headed off for a sojourn in the woods, or even just pitched the old pup tent in a friend's yard while traveling, chances are that you've experienced the cozy comfort of a good down sleeping bag.

I have, and I put a value on my down-filled snoozer that's far higher than the bag's actual cash price. After all, the portable "bed" is light to carry, it can be compacted into a small mass for packing, and— once fluffed out to its full loft and I'm snuggled inside — it's toasty enough to combat even the chill of a winter-camping morning.

Furthermore, if given proper care, a quality down bag will last for many years. My husband and I received our traveling sleepers as wedding presents, and even though they've already seen seven years of hard use they still look as good as new.

In addition to offering warmth, compactability, light weight, and long wear, a down bag has another potential bonus: it needn't go into storage at all. Add a sleeping bag cover — one that converts it into comforter in winter, another to make it a bolster in summer — and your "vacation bedding" will serve you year round, not just when a camping trip is in the offing.  

The Comforter

A good number of folks, of course, do turn their sleeping bags into blankets by simply tossing the sacks over their beds at night. However, my experience with this "improvised quilt" technique seemed always to end with my waking up shivering in the middle of the night because the bag had skittered off the bed and was lying on the floor in a large heap (likely with a sleepy dog snuggled on top). So, to make sure that the sack stays in place and warms my toes instead of those of my canine friends, I borrowed an old Scandinavian idea and devised a slip cover that effectively domesticates the slithery outdoor bedding.

Any sleeping bag that can be unzipped to lie completely flat is a comforter candidate. And the only supplies you'll need to make the conversion are a spool of thread, some straight pins, and enough material to encase the down sleeper. I find that two colorful full-sized (81" x 96") cotton sheets can be used to make an excellent cover. If you prefer a different fabric, though (some folks like to use flannel), just prepare two sheet-sized sections, and hem one of the narrow ends of each piece.

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