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

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DIY – Summer Quilt . . . how to convert a down throw

Many have heard of the down throws sold by Costco and other vendors (Amazon link). I used one to convert my zpacks down sleeping back into a quilt and another to make a skirt, slipper, leggings and mittens (blog link). Finding my three-season quilt too warm for the hottest summer months, I decided to use another to make a summer-weight quilt. I’ve heard these are comfortable to 45-50F. I’m a warm sleeper so I’ll amend with my experience after some use.

Materials Needed

  • Down Throws (60″x70″), most will need to use two. You can also use a down sleeping bag or blanket, etc.
  • Flat Buckles (sourced from Enlightened Equipment, Zpacks, Ripstock by the Roll, or Katabatic Gear)
  • Webbing or elastic to use with buckles

Step 1 – Calculate Dimensions

Length – Add 10″ to your height to determine length

The quilt is 70″ long. I’m 64″ tall and found 72″ finished product length to be just right for me when I made my 3-season quilt. Mine is long enough I can throw over my face occasionally. For this project I decided to leave it 2″ short initially. I can add extra later if I find I want to option in the summer.

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

The quilt is 60″ wide. I’m have a loose shoulder girth measurement of about 45″. Adding 10″ makes my final top width 55″.

Footbox Width – Reduce 10″ from the top width.

For me that made it a 45″ width footbox.

Step 2 – Add Length and/or Width

Use the second quilt to add length or width to the base quilt. I included tips on a previous post when I added length to my zpacks bag before I converted it to a quilt (blog link). I still need to write my sleeping bag conversion post; maybe this will motivate me.

Step 3 – Measure Twice (at least), Cut Once

  1. Use a straight edge to create width angle. A sturdy tape measure worked for me. Mark the line. I use chalk.
  2. Sew on both sides of the chalk line leaving about 1/2″ in between.
  3. Cut between the sewn lines (this helps contain the down).
  4. Repeat for opposite edge using the initial cut as a template.
  5. Finish the edge. I zigzag and then roll and straight stitch to make a clean edge.

Step 4 – Create Footbox (optional)

I tried several methods when I created my 3-season quilt. I found I preferred a sewn footbox to a snapped or tied version.

  1. Verify you are working on the narrow end.
  2. Connect the sides by zigzagging together the lower 4-6″.
  3. Match the bottom edge, right sides together, placing your connected seam in the middle.
  4. Sew together the bottom edge. To eliminate air entry you want to have a good seal. I used a tight zigzag stitch, repeating a second time. I put the seam on the inside of my footbox.

Step 5 – Add Hardware

You’ll want to review quilt designs to determine which 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. 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.

Final Weight: 14 ounces.

Ready to test! It should be good for temperatures around 45-50F. I’ll update post once I have more experience using it.

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.