DIY Ultralight Sleeping Bag for $30
Sleeping bags are a necessity for any camping trip. Whether you are spending time in the BWCA or backpacking on the Superior Hiking Trail, you’ll want something to keep you warm at night.
The only problem is traditional sleeping bags take up a lot of space and add to the weight you carry. Finding a good sleeping bag under a hundred dollars is almost impossible.
That is why I made my own DIY ultralight sleeping bag.
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Make vs Buy and Ultralight Sleeping Bag
If it was just me needing a bag, I’d probably do tons of price shopping, review all the reviews, look through outlets and finally end up just picking one up at the local Sheels or REI. But when you have a family of four, the cost adds up.
With sleeping bags, it’s hard to find one you like. Most stores carry an abundance of mummy designs and can feel restrictive.
Chances are, you don’t even need one for those types of temperatures, anyway. That’s when I started investigating how to make your own sleeping bags.
What I didn’t realize was how many options there are for sleeping bags. I can make a DIY ultralight sleeping bag in under an hour, for about $30 if you are buying all the materials new. Otherwise, you may have the supplies at home already, costing a lot less.
Why alter two existing products vs. creating it from scratch?
I make my DIY Ultralight Sleeping bags with two Costo Down Blankets. It seems silly to some to take existing products but the cost is what drove me to this option.
You can get some ripstop or other outdoor utility fabric, put down feathers in between, sew it into a baffle, then add another layer until you reach the top.
700 grams of Goose Down Feathers in bulk cost $40, the same price as two blankets. I also didn’t want to create a cleanroom in my house to manage feathers that will inevitably fly everywhere.
My sister decided to go with a hybrid approach. Using the Costco Blankets, she used a seam ripper to remove all the vertical seams, creating a larger baffle.
Then she added additional feathers in-between so the bag would work in colder weather. While it works, it’s a bunch of extra steps and feathers go everywhere. No matter how you try to control it.
Supplies you’ll need:
- 2 down blankets 60” x 70” *Amazon link (Out of stock at Costco)
- Polyester Thread
- Sewing Machine
- Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Needle
- 60” or longer Zipper (Optional)
- Shock Cord and Fastener (Optional)
Total time = 1hr
Skill Level = Beginner
Where to get the blanket?
Costco is the best place I’ve found to find reasonably priced down blankets to make your own sleeping bag. The down blankets are made specifically for outdoor use.
They come in a two-pack, making it easier. These were once in-store items. I was not so lucky. Thankfully Costco keeps them online for people like me!
(Out of season at Costco. While I’m waiting for them to come back, there are a few on Amazon.) They are incredibly lightweight and come with their own stuff sack. They are filled with down, making them extremely compressible.
I picked up 2 60” x 70” down throws made by Blue Ridge ACTIVtm for $40. I was making two sleeping bags, so purchased two sets (4 blankets) in alternating colors to add to the design.
You can also make them one layer thick. Remember, it’s all about having room for your down to loft up, not the amount of down in each baffle.
It’s important to use a heavier duty thread than normal cotton. You want something that can take additional wear and tear for outdoor use. It’s also going through many layers of fabric.
You can get away with a regular needle for initially sewing the two blankets on top of each other. But as soon as you try to fold the blankets in half, you’ll need something stronger. If you think about it, the two blankets have 4 layers minimum of fabric. Folding it on top of each other doubles that.
I also found that the regular needle was separating my thread in the eyelet as it sewed. The heaver duty needled seemed to have a bigger eyelet, preventing this from happening.
Zippers are optional. It’s a personal preference. I used a heavy-duty zipper. I hate when zippers break or get stuck, especially when you are fighting with a zipper in the middle of the night in a tent.
A shock cord and a fastener are needed if you are doing a rounded design. You can alter this with rope or another synthetic material to keep it as lightweight as possible. I like the shock cord because it is easier to scrunch.
DIY Ultralight Sleeping Bag Design Options
The fun part about making your own sleeping bag is getting to control the design elements. You can pick how it tapers at the bottom. Add funky color combinations you can’t find at the Outdoor Store. You can add a zipper along all edges, midway up, or every. It’s all a matter of option.
What type of bottom do you want?
There is the traditional square bottom or the rounded mummy bag style bottom.
Do you want a zipper?
There are plenty of options for the edge of the sleeping bag, some that don’t require a zipper. Zippers add a little extra money to the project and some are intimidated by sewing a zipper.
Hammock sleepers using under quilts prefer the zipperless option and treat it more like a blanket. The top three options in the diagram are all zipperless.
The bottom three include a zipper, noted in red. Of the three zipper options, you need a 60”, 70”, or 100” zipper.
DIY Ultralight Sleeping Bag Sewing Instructions
Temperature Rating and Loft
Down sleeping bags create their warmth by trapping air in between the feathers. The more space for air, the more opportunity for warmth.
If you want to use your sleeping bag during Spring or Fall, I recommend using a seam ripper and removing some of the vertical baffles. This creates a horizontal baffle strip giving more room for the loft.
About 3 inches of loft gives your bag a 20-degree rating. 6 inches of the loft can go as low as 0 degrees. I also used two layers of blank, doubling the weight of the bag, and lowering the temperature rating.
About 3 inches of loft gives your bag a 20-degree rating. 6 inches of the loft can go as low as 0 degrees. There is a good calculator at RipStopByTheRoll to help you determine how thick you want to make yours.
You can also use synthetic insulation instead of down. Synthetics are cheaper, and heavier but also will keep you warm if they get wet.
How to make your own sleeping bag
Once you got your basic design figured out, you’ll need to sew your two blankets on top of each other. This will give additional warmth to the blanket. On my blankets, I noticed that is a shiny and matt side. I had a matt side (blue) on the inside of the sleeping bag and shiny side out. It is a personal preference.
*This is optional. If you are hammock camping and using an underquilt, one may be sufficient.
For the square bottom style sleeping bag, sew all the way around so you have one blanket. There is no need to get fancy turning things inside out trying to hide the seams.
Fold the bag in half lengthwise, so the bag remains 70” long. Keep the outside of the bag in the center. The next part depends on your design.
- If you are using the full zipper, apply this now to both the bottom and side of the bag.
- For a square bottom without a zipper, sew a line along the bottom of the bag, right sides together.
- If you want a round bottom without a zipper, sew a line along the bottom of the bag, right sides out.
I started with the outside corners of the bag and worked my way to the center. This way I didn’t need to worry about the ends of the bag not lining up perfectly.
Rounded / Mummy Bag Style
To have a rounded bottom, fold the bag in half lengthwise, right side out. Sew the bottom of the bag similar to the square bag.
Then add a second sew line at the bottom 2 inches above the first line. This will give you a channel to insert a shock code, used to since the bottom of the bag together.
Complete the side of the sleeping bag. This all depends on your design again:
- Sew up however long you want for a zip-free design.
- Apply a 70” Zipper, from the bottom to the top of the bag, to the top.
- Apply a 60” Zipper or less, and sew the reaming portion of the bottom of the bag.
Approximate Sew Lines for Zipper Free Options
Approximate Sew Lines With Zippers Options
I used a 60” zipper on my bag because I like to secure the blanket around me but also have the flexibility to kick a leg out. I also didn’t feel it needed to go all the way to the bottom.
To get the sizing right, I pinned the zipper to one side of the sleeping bag, then sewed up the bottom. Once sew lines were secure, I finished sewing the zipper to the bag.
Turn bag right side out and stuff in the sack. The ultralight sleeping bag fits inside the original stuff stack that comes with the blankets. It was tight, and I’m not confident in its long-term ability to hold up. To give my bag a little more room, I made my own DIY Compression Stuff Sack.
When storing down, put it in a large bag with plenty of room to breathe. I made my own with scrap material but the dollar store’s laundry bags work perfectly too! You can also hang your sleeping bag in a closet. This prevents the feathers from breaking down.
|Make your own Compression Stuff Sack the perfect side for your sleeping bag. Directions can be found by clicking here.|
Other Sewing Considerations
You can add soft padding to the top of the zipper. A zipper casing in-between the two layers of the blanket will add a level of security when zipping and provide additional warmth.
You can add a layer of fabric to prevent the zipper from getting touching you while you sleep, keeping you warmer. This helps the zipper from accidentally catching fabric and getting stuck.
Or you can go bare-bones like I did because you got this brilliant idea to make two new super-small lightweight sleeping bags before you’re a week before your trip.
How did the DIY Ultralight Sleeping Bag hold up?
The DIY ultralightweight sleeping bags worked perfectly. Not only did they take up hardly any space in my Duluth Pack, they only weighed 1lb 8oz. They were easy to stuff in the bag and kept us warm all night long. We camped in weather that got down to 52 degrees and didn’t even notice it.
On a fall trip, I used the seam ripper and removed all vertical stitches, going from boxes to tunnels. It gave room for 4-5 inches of loft.
We slept in 36-degree temperatures. I was wearing multiple layers of clothing and was still a little cold. This is not rated for winter use.
I recommend an underquilt vs a sleeping pad in a hammock, especially with a down sleeping bag. If it gets colder than that, I’d opt for synthetic fill material. I plan on making a couple more of these for my kids next season!
If you had fun making your own (MYOG) sleeping bag, consider making your own Compression Bag or even your own Hiking Backpack. It gets addictive.