One of the most important items you’ll need to take along with you when you hike is your sleeping bag. It’s an essential item for getting a good night of sleep and ensuring that you are fresh and ready for the next day’s hike, whether you head back or whether you are continuing on a long journey.
But how do you carry a sleeping bag when you’re hiking?
What’s the best way to attach it to a regular backpack?
Here are a few tips.
The ideal way to carry a sleeping bag when you’re hiking with a pack is to attach it to the bottom of your backpack. This serves several purposes. It keeps the weight balanced. It prevents the sleeping bag from getting wet if it rains and it ensures the bag won’t be poked or snagged when you hike through an area with a lot of branches or other jagged risks.
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to attach your sleeping bag to the underneath part of your backpack. You can do that by:
Pack up your gear excluding your sleeping bag.
Since you’re attaching it to the outer part of your bag, you want to get everything packed and ready to go. Your sleeping bag should be the final item you attach before you take off.
Next, roll your sleeping bag up as tightly as possible and consider placing it into a plastic or otherwise waterproof bag.
Having that extra layer of protection can make a huge difference if you encounter inclement weather conditions. Nobody wants to bed down for the night in a wet sleeping bag, so keeping yours dry is one of your highest priorities during your hike.
Now you’ll want to attach the rolled and covered sleeping bag to your backpack.
Many different backpacks come with straps that are intended to secure your sleeping bag, but this isn’t always the case. You can use rope or twine, but bungee cords tend to work best because they offer some flexibility with their elastic stretch.
Regardless of what types of straps you use to attach your sleeping bag to your pack, you’ll want to make sure you balance the weight. Attach the sleeping back as closely as possible to the pack and try to center it. Then fasten the straps and pull them as tightly as you can. If you have longer straps or a longer cord you might need to double wrap it around the bag.
If the straps are not attached to the backpack, make sure you also wrap them around the metal frame of your backpack or another secure location on the pack in addition to the sleeping bag.
You want the straps securing the bag as much as possible, especially if you have fastened the sleeping bag to the bottom of your pack. With as much gear as you have with you and as much attention you need to pay to your hike when walking in treacherous conditions, it would be easy for your sleeping bag to fall off your pack and you not even realize you’ve dropped anything. The more you can do to secure your sleeping bag when you pack up the less risk you’ll face of dropping this essential camping item.
Packing Up Your Sleeping Bag
We need to backtrack a bit and discuss the best way to get your sleeping bag ready to be attached to your backpack. It’s important to take steps at this point to ensure your bag will be secure when you are carrying it along on your hike.
If you use a sleeping pad, consider rolling it up into your sleeping bag when you pack up. This gives you one less thing to find space to carry, even though it will increase the bulk of the sleeping bag roll. You can do the same with your pillow, if you carry one, as long as the bulk doesn’t grow to the point that your straps won’t fit around the roll. (Another reason why elastic bungee cords work well – they stretch a great deal!)
Make sure your sleeping bag is zipped up before you roll it. Lay it out flat, zip it completely, and roll tightly from one end to another. If you leave the bag unzipped, it’s going to roll unevenly, and you’ll have a bulky mess with flaps and edges going everywhere. Your goal is to create as tight a roll as possible right from the very start.
Keeping Your Sleeping Bag Dry
If your sleeping bag managed to get wet overnight, you’ll want to dry it out as much as possible before rolling it up. This isn’t always an option since you might be pressed for time, but the more you can dry it before rolling the better. If your sleeping bag wasn’t completely dry when you roll it, you’ll want to unroll it the moment you reach your next destination. If possible, hang the unrolled sleeping bag above the ground to dry as quickly as possible before bedding down for the night.
Keep in mind, damp sleeping bags might be a risk for becoming mildewed or moldy, so it’s especially important to dry the bag out once your trip is over. A damp sleeping bag left rolled up for a few weeks after a camping trip is going to be nothing but smelly garbage because of the damage that is done by the moisture. You’ll be investing in a new sleeping bag if it’s left in a roll when it’s damp.
One final note about attaching your sleeping bag to your backpack: you’ll want to adjust the bag if the roll is wider than your pack or your hips. You don’t want any part of the bag sticking out and getting snagged on tree limbs or anything else you might walk by when hiking. This can also be a safety hazard. If your bag catches on a tree branch and throws you off balance, you could fall and injure yourself. The more treacherous the hiking conditions, the more important it is to avoid getting your bag snagged on anything during the hike.