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Sleeping Bag to quilt
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Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Sleeping Bag to quilt on 05/22/2011 19:54:38 MDT Print View

Good evening everyone,

I just finished an interesting project, I had a few years old Marmot Trestles 15 F sleeping bag (synthetic insulation) that was the last remaining piece of gear from my traditional backpacking days. It has been sitting on my gear shelf unused for about 6 months, when it was replaced by a warmer, lighter, and more compact Western Mountaineering bag. I had been considering converting it to a quilt for a few weeks, and today I finally had a few beers and did it. I wanted to try quilt camping this summer but ran out of time and money to make one before we get this summer going. This will be an excellent and FREE way for me to try it before I buy the material to make a nice lighter one in the next year or so.

I am going to give a step by step with pictures of how I tackled the project for a few reasons:

1. It was a nice ceremonial goodbye to my old ways.
2. It turned out to be really easy and would make an excellent first project for a beginner MYOGer.
3. Or someone else who might be worried about ruining a perfectly good (traditional) sleeping bag that they store in their closet never to use again because it is too heavy for trail use.

First, I ripped the seams out on both zippers the full length zipper and the 18" vent zipper (really I felt like it was no big deal to have 2 zippers on a sleeping bag!!!) Then I did the same for the two draw stings, and the draft tubes.No zippers

Next was to determine the height I wanted. I cut off the whole hood and 1 baffle from the top off. I made both of these cuts just above a baffle stick to keep the insulation attached just incase I needed it. Cut to Length

Next I sewed the foot box up to 3 baffles and what was left of the 18" vent zipper together inside fabric to inside fabric, outside fabric to outside fabric on both seams.footbox seam

I next laid down inside the bag and decided how much I wanted to trim off of each side. I took a pizza slice out that started about 6" wide at my head and ended up as almost nothing by the time it got to my knees. Then I sewed the inside fabric to the outside fabric on each of those edges by turning the raw fabric edge in and stitching from the knee to the head. I also backed up and came forward again at each baffle crossing to make sure I relocked the stitching for the existing baffles. This is when I also reused the two push locks from the sleeping bag and added some lighter elastic that I had left over from another project to make my sleeping mat synchs.elastic synchs

Next (which I will openly admit turned out to be dumb luck), apparently the baffles from the top of the bag and the bottom of the bag don't line up by about 3 inches. I am not sure if that happens on all sleepy bags or not, I think it was due to the cut of the hood on this bag. I took that 3" extra material from the top fabric and rolled it over to the inside fabric, doubling up the insulation and making a draft collar for the head of the quilt. Kinda cool how that worked out, and I would recommend making that happen if you repeat this project. It gives the top a very clean finished look, and adds the benefit of a draft block for around my head. I am not sure if this is actually necessary on a quilt, I will find out this summer.

The last step was to sew all the way through the quilt across the top to seal in the draft block.

Here is the final product.finished product

The best part:

Start weight: 4 lbs 5 oz
Hopefully weight: sub 2 lbs
Actual Finish weight: 2 lbs 5 oz
New compressed size: about 1/3 to 1/2 of the original which means I won't need a compression sack or stuff sack for it anymore so saved 4 oz more.
I salvaged the cord and push clips from the head and neck draft collars, and the full length zipper and 18" zipper for future projects.

Here is the photo of the material that just didn't make it to the new slimmer quilt!
the pile of removed weight!

Edited by earn_my_turns on 05/22/2011 20:02:17 MDT.

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
Surprised on 02/01/2012 19:05:44 MST Print View

I am surprised that this thread had no response of any kind...

For starters, I have an old North Face sleeping bag that I was wondering what to do with, and obviously a conversion into something else would be easiest task. (albeit my first thought was tearing some seams, pulling out the insulation to use for a future project, waterproofing the hell out of it and making a bivy? Any thoughts on that would be appreciated)

Second, I think your pics were terrible :-) I saw the thread title and thought this could be fun... I just happen to be a visual learner so the more details in the pics, the better it would turn out for me.

Anyways, kudos for the project and thanks for the inspiration.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Re: Surprised on 02/02/2012 05:56:18 MST Print View

Yeah the pics are terrible, my camera is great for outdoor sunny photos. It just won't take good indoor photos no matter how bright I make it.

I am not sure I would use a sleeping bag to make a bivy. There would be alot more effort in that process than this took, also there would be thousands of needle holes from where the baffles used to be sewn to the shell material. I think your best bet would be starting with fresh materials for a bivy and converting the bag to a quilt. Let me know if you have any questions about the conversion and I can take the quilt outside on a sunny day this weekend and get better photos.

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
Re: on 02/02/2012 06:55:55 MST Print View

Yeah, the bivy idea probably isn't the best, it was just the first thing that popped into my head since its already the shape I want :-) I just found this website 3 or 4 days ago, and of course I got the itch to be creative. I know that it can be a pain taking pictures during a project, trying to useful ones while trying to get it done. Really looking forward to seeing some better ones though. It looks like it turned out really good.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Weight loss on 02/02/2012 07:13:49 MST Print View

Cool, so you went from 69 oz to 37 so you lost 46% of the weight. That is impressive.

Before I started my quilt I thought pretty hard about starting with a Wal-Mart sleeping bag. I still don't think it is a bad idea because you can get a sleeping bag from Wal-Mart for $19.99 when you can't hardly buy practice fabric and batting at JoAnne Fabrics for that cheap.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
yep on 02/02/2012 08:34:32 MST Print View

All in about 2 hours or so of very easy cutting and sewing. The best part for me was I got to use it last summer and decide if I like using a quilt over a bag. I found out I did so once the winter is over I will be sewing a summer quilt and probably PIF this to someone on the site that wants to try quilting before they buy into it.

I will take some better photos outside in the next few days and put them up.

Edited by earn_my_turns on 02/02/2012 08:35:16 MST.

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
Question on 02/02/2012 18:35:19 MST Print View

So I need to ask this... What is the benefit of a quilt over a sleeping bag? Like I mentioned a couple posts up, I'm new to the forum and the whole quilt thing is a new concept to me. Strictly on an observational standpoint it looks like other than a cold head and neck from no "hood", there isn't any difference. Obviously there are some, like your ability to cut the weight so drastically, but past that what is the point? I'm totally not knocking it cos there is obviously something great about them or else so many people wouldn't be making them, I'm just curious.


a b
Quilt on 02/02/2012 18:56:39 MST Print View

The whole quilt idea was baffling to me too.
In fact it was not until i saw one in action that the advantages became apparent.
I am now a quilt user for summertime conditions myself.
The idea of a quilt is based on the fact that the insulation of a sleeping bag, trapped under your body, is not contributing to retaining warmth.
The sleeping pad you use is of incompresible foam or inflated under pressure so it's insulating air spaces are not lost when you apply your body weight.
So a quilt eliminates the "excess" material in favor of the sleeping pad which you already use as the underside.
The other advantages of a quilt I have found are how it fascilitates urination.
Yea, it's a little weird to think about but the simplicity of lifting one edge of the quilt, without even a zipper to fool with, and letting fly, is liberating.
You can also add clothing layers under a quilt without compressing the fill.
Some mummy shaped sleeping bags are cut tight to decrease the volume of trapped air and this makes them more efficient. Well adding a lot of layers from within can compress the fill from inside and decrease trapped airspace in the insulation of both clothing and bag.
A quilt can accomodate added layers simply by loosening the underside straps and provided a corner is not lifted to introduce a draft, you gain warmth as you add layers.
The other advantage is that when your quilt becomes damp or wet, there is inherently less material to soak up water than a similarly rated bag and thus less material to dry out.
Yes, you will need some type of head gear in cool conditions.
Often a hooded jacket or fleece which is already part of a hikers gear is sufficient to wear for head protection.
In my quilt I can actually roll over easily and sleep on my side, stomach, or back easily without messing with zippers or velcro tapes.
I can also wear damp or wet clothing to bed on top of my foam sleep pad and that moisture is not compressed into the fill of the quilt the way it would be with a bag only to be compressed all together in the morning when i pack up.
Some people love them, some not so much.
I am a recent convert to a quilt, but now that i have, I am not going back at least for summer time use for the reasons listed above.
#1 reason=peeing freedom (of course that assumes you are using a tarp as well! crikey!)

Edited by Ice-axe on 02/02/2012 18:59:53 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Question on 02/02/2012 18:57:36 MST Print View

Thats actually a good question. I think there are two advantages of quilts.

First they're lighter than a comparable mummy bag. Now of course there are some limitations that come with this lightness. I need a warm hat to sleep with my quilt and I normally have it inside a bivy sack which helps hold it in place and keeps out chilly drafts. With a hat and bivy its no lighter than a mummy bag, sorta. Its not a lighter system but the bivy is something you need anyway (if you're tarp camping which I am), and the hat is multiuse since I wear it in the morning and evening anyway.

Second a quilt is more flexible. You can cinch the straps tight and bring it close to you for warmth. You can also expand it out and wear bulky clothes to bed in cold weather. You can also open it up a bit and make it cooler in warm weather.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Awesome Quilt on 02/02/2012 19:02:33 MST Print View

By the way thats an awesome project you did there! I tried this once with a 2 pound 40 degree bag. It went down to about 19 oz but the demensions were wrong. I shortened it a bit and it just didn't cover me. So it became my little brother's quilt until he outgrew it too. Good job doing it right the first time!

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
Re: Awesome Quilt on 02/03/2012 08:54:42 MST Print View

Well if we are being honest, mine came out a few inches short as well but still useable for my 5'10" length. Probably perfect for someone 5'8" or so. Maybe keep that in mind for others thinking about the conversion, come up with what length you think you should cut to and then add about 3-4".

Seth Brewer
(Whistler) - MLife

Tried the same thing on 02/03/2012 09:29:02 MST Print View

Great ideas pop up here everyday, and after I saw this thread I went ahead and converted a 3.5 lb Women's Long Lafuma 25* bag (6'6" long, didn't know they made women's bags that long). After seam ripping out the zipper, bottom, and 15 oz. cotton-feeling liner, and cutting off the hood - I then sewed it up and added a piece of M90 as the liner with an end weight of 2 lbs !!! Went from fitting my 6'1" frame to likely being good for a 5'10" individual. I did add a bottom lock and drawstring, and a top lock to close it around the shoulders. I'll likely also sew in a foot of velcro to close up the bottom foot box a bit better.

Edited by Whistler on 02/03/2012 09:29:51 MST.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Sleeping Bag to quilt on 02/03/2012 09:42:02 MST Print View

Great idea!

We have an old bag that would be perfect for this kind of project.

Our other quilts are down and I would like to have a synthetic option. Especially if it's free.

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
Re: on 02/03/2012 18:06:42 MST Print View

@ matt... The idea of a quilt is based on the fact that the insulation of a sleeping bag, trapped under your body, is not contributing to retaining warmth.

So is what you're saying is that the bottom side of the quilt has no insulation? Because all the pics I've seen looks like they have filled baffles.

Anyways, I think I might turn my old windstorm 3d into a quilt for if nothing else the experience of it

a b
Aint no bottom to a quilt on 02/03/2012 21:00:56 MST Print View

@ Jonathan
Maybe we are mis communicating. There is no bottom side to a quilt and thus no insulation.
A quilt is a sleeping bag with the bottom side and hood removed but footsack retained.
At least the quilt i am using is this way.
I think other designs are as you say. Ray Jardines quilt design uses a gorgette system and you tuck the sides of the quilt under your body to secure them.
When I lay down my body is resting directly on my sleeping pad.
The quilt is draped over me and fastened with a snap and adjustable drawstring around my neck.
There is also an adjustable strap about the mid section that pull the sides of the quilt in close but not under me.
The footsack is is closed by 2 feet of velcro and two snaps and the foot end is sealed with an adjustable drawstring.
So even when fully battened down for a cold night, with the strap, drawstrings and snaps fastened my upper body from the neck to my thighs is resting on my sleeping pad.

Edited by Ice-axe on 02/03/2012 21:27:28 MST.

Jeremy Osburn

Locale: New England
better photos on 02/05/2012 08:27:09 MST Print View

Here is the overall shot of the modified sleeping bag.

Here is the underside where I sewed inside fabric to inside fabric and outside fabric to outside fabric up the quilt. It also shows the bottom synch.

Here is the top synch and the make shift draft collar.
top synch and draft collar

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
New pics on 02/06/2012 14:41:45 MST Print View

That looks pretty sweet... So as soon as I get my hands on a sewing machine, this is going to be my first project. Should be in the next couple of days hopefully so I'll throw up some pics once I get started.

Thanks for the inspiration... And better pics :-)

Jonathan Hacker
(Ix3u_hacker) - F
So i did it... on 02/15/2012 23:01:42 MST Print View

It was my first time successfully using a sewing machine, and I managed to turn an old bag into a quilt. It was a pretty terrible job but I made it happen. But after it sitting there and me not having any more fabric to play with, I decided to turn my quilt into a vest... Or maybe a jacket if I'm feeling good after the vest is done. It kind of looks like Butt so far, but it will do the job... Here's some pics of the quilt I made and I'll post vest pics once that's done.