DIY – Sleeping Bag to Quilt Conversion

What do you do when your sleeping bag is no longer meeting your expectations?

Obviously the easiest answer is to buy a replacement. But for someone like me who is both frugal and likes custom products, this wasn’t my first choice. In 2013 I purchased a Zpacks 10-degree down bag for $440. That was a huge investment for someone not yet a dedicated backpacker. I loved the weight but always felt cramped and as time went on less warm than I’d like. I initially added to the length of my bag by using a down throw I picked up at Costco for $20 (blog link) .

The additional length was an improvement so the next year I was inspired to customize further so I removed the zipper and added 6 more ounces of down (sourced from Ripstock by the Roll). After shaking all the down to one end you can see why I was having trouble staying warm. The down just wasn’t lofting sufficiently after about 6 years of use.

After doing some research I decided to use the bathtub method. I got in the tub with my bag and the down. Closed the door and shower curtain and got busy stuffing the channels. I used binder clips to close each section after stuffing. This worked quite well to contain the down and minimize loss (and mess).

The dimensions I determined optimal were based on the following calculations.

Length – Add 10″ to your height to determine length

Top Width – Add 10″ to your shoulder girth measurement to determine top width

Footbox Width – Reduce 10″ from the top width.

They ended up being perfect! I used a down throw to extend the size (Amazon link).

You’ll want to review quilt designs to determine which hardware system you think might work best for you. I started with the idea of attaching my quilt to the pad but found I didn’t need or like it (as shown in below photo). A few systems to review include Enlightened Equipment, Zpacks, and Katabatic Gear. My preference is four flat buckles attached to the long edges with webbing. My placement is one at the top, another about 14″ below. Then one about 14″ up from the bottom and another 10″ higher. Most often I sleep with the lowest and highest buckled and only use the others on colder or breezy nights. I also tried several types of footbox closures. I found I preferred a sewn footbox to a snapped or tied version (early version shown in this photo).

I finished these first alterations in 2018. Since then I removed the elastic and just use the clips and created a sewn footbox. Having slept under this quilt for 150-200 nights in 2019, I think I’ve given it a fair evaluation and thus give it a resounding A.

Hardware:

  • Flat Buckles (sourced from Enlightened Equipment, Zpacks, Ripstock by the Roll, or Katabatic Gear)
  • Webbing or elastic to use with buckles

According to Zpacks, their current 10-degree quilt with similar dimensions weighs 25 ounces, nearly 9 ounces less than mine. I could easily drop some weight by remaking it with the same dimensions and amount of down.

It’s a really great 3-4 season bag and it’s rare I regret carrying it. The only time I wish I had a lighter bag is in really warm summer temperatures (> 50F) which I try to avoid as I don’t like hiking in the heat. However, to solve this problem I recently made a summer quilt from one of these down throws (blog link).

Link to More DIY Projects

I participate in the Amazon affiliate program and may receive a commission on qualifying purchases linked in this post. It doesn’t affect your price but it helps support this site.

2 thoughts on “DIY – Sleeping Bag to Quilt Conversion

  1. Another, and I think somewhat more precise way, to stuff down is with a shop vac. Get a piece of mosquito netting and make a “sack” that fits inside the shop vac wand. Fold the edges back over the outside and tape them in place. When you stick the wand into the bag of down it will suck down into the netting bag, quickly shut the vac off, remove the wand (containing the down), insert it into the baffle compartment, and give it a puff of air with your mouth. Works like a charm.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Broken Links? I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s