Sleeping Bag System




Introduction: Sleeping Bag System

I yam what I yam.

It seems being locked in the house because of snow and cold weather was good for something. I finally completed and uploaded this!

This Instructable shows how to make and use my sleeping bag system.

This system is essentially a layered sleeping bag that can also be attached to certain hammocks and has wearable components.

The idea behind this system was to create multi-use and flexible gear. Below is a list of some of my ideas.

1) It must be usable for 1 or two people.
   - One set can be used in warmer weather for 2 people. ie. fleece and sheet on bottom, sleeping bag on top. or vice versa
   - Two sets can be attached together to form a 2 person sleeping bag.
2) It must function in a range of temperature conditions. (layered system)
3) The components must be multi-functional and adaptable.
4) There must be a way to attach this to a hammock.
5) A reflective blanket that has eyelets added can be attached for excessive cold or emergencies (Not a good long term solution due to moisture retention.).

The components of this system are.
-fleece blanket/poncho
-quilt or regular sleeping bag.

Additional items not in this Instructable
-pillowcase - a container to stuff the sleeping bag system in

-poncho towel - can be attached as an extra layer

-Cot Hammock - slides into sleeping gear and has attachment points.

When constructing this system choose one item as a template to size the rest of your system. I chose to match everything to the size of my sleeping bag (when opened the bag was the same size as my wool blanket). The size of my fleece and sheet were based off of this as were all the locations of the eyelets. I also confirmed that my sleeping pad was the correct size to fit between rows of eyelets.

Although I show most pictures of the sleeping gear system with hammocks, this gear can function alone as a layered sleeping bag.
The sheet/fleece could be used as a quilt liner with other gear you may already have.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tailor's measuring tape.
Sewing machine

Fleece blanket
Square sleeping bag, Optional
Faux leather
Collar material

Step 2: Sizing the Fleece

I discovered that my wool army blanket was the size I needed to fit inside the sleeping bag. I decided to size all the components off of it. This project could be done with a wool blanket but I choose the fleece because It is less heavy and works good for summer weather. For colder weather the fleece will fit into whatever quilt I am using.

If you are using another blanket as a template then do the following:
Put your fleece flat on the ground.
Put your template blanket on top of the fleece. Align a top corner and two edges.
Cut out your fleece about an inch (2-3cm) larger than the template. The extra material will be folded over later.
Do not discard the excess material. If you have a big enough fleece you can use this material to make a fleece hood.

Step 3: Seal the Fleece Edges

Now that the fleece is cut to size, you will need to protect the cut edges.

Place the material face down. You want to create a double fold on the back of the fleece.

If you left 1 inch of excess material then you will fold 1/2 inch of the edge over. Then fold another 1/2 inch of material over. The idea is to have the cut edge of the material so that it is no longer exposed. Pin the edge together in preparation for sewing.

I first attached my edge using a straight stitch. Then I went over it a second time with a zigzag stitch.

Step 4: Adding Eyelets to the Fleece

I chose to make all the eyelets in pairs. Creating pairs of eyelets allows you to loop cordage through the material. This is especially useful along the center line of the fleece and increases the number of ways the fleece can be used. Having the eyelets in pairs will create a better seal along the edges since the material can be overlapped.

For an Instructable on how to create a reinforced material eyelet, follow this link:

I wont kid you, this part of the project can be tedious but I feel it is worth the extra effort. My opinion is that metal eyelets are more prone to failure than material. They can come loose and cause rips. Metal eyelets can rust as well. With material you will be able to make repairs on the trail with a small sewing kit.

The usefulness of the eyelets and their locations will become apparent in later steps when I demonstrate some different configurations for this blanket. 

For much of the project I did not measure things. I determined the location of the eyelets by folding the material and marking the material with chalk. I divided the sides in half, quarters and eighths.

The corner pairs of eyelets were placed at a 45 degrees angle to the sides.

Step 5: Cutting a Neck Hole Into the Fleece

Find the center of the fleece:
     Fold the fleece in half both lengthwise and width-wise.
     On the folded fleece, mark the corner that is catercorner to where the unfolded four loose corners meet. See the picture.

Unfold the fleece and place it over a chair that has a back. Pick the end that will be the front of the fleece when it is a poncho and place that side towards you. On my fleece the end with the smooth material on it will be the front. You need to pick a side because the hole is slightly offset.

Find a t-shirt and place that over top of the fleece and the back of the chair.

Make sure everything is centered properly and trace the neck line of the t-shirt onto the fleece. Follow the bottom of the collar to draw your line. This means you will have to put your chalk between the collar and fleece.

Conservatively cut out the neck. By that, I mean it is better to cut a smaller hole than to cut too large of a hole. It is always easier to remove material than add it. :)

You have a hole in your nice blanket, there is no turning back now!

Step 6: Adding a Collar to the Fleece.

Once you have cut out the collar hole, lay the fleece down flat.

Using a tailor's measuring tape,  measure the circumference of the collar hole.

Cut a piece of ribbing (material like on a t-shirt) so it's length is about 1/2 inch longer than your collar circumference and it's width is slightly larger than double the height you want the collar.

Fold the ribbing in half the long way. The part of the material that will show when the collar is assembled should not be visible. From the fold measure 1/2 the collar circumference and mark a sew line.  If you cut the collar material 1/2 inch longer than the neck hole circumference than the line should be 1/4 inch from the open end.
Sew the ends together.

Fold the material in half the long way to form the loop of the collar. (see images.)
Sew the open ends together.

Lay the collar over top of the fleece neck hole and attach it fast with pins as shown in the picture.
Sew the collar fast to the fleece.

There will be a small lip inside the collar from attaching the collar. Sew this lip fast to the fleece.

Step 7: Adding Neck Hole Cover to Fleece

When the fleece is to be used as a sleeping bag or blanket the hole that forms the neck will need to be covered. For this I've created a octagon of material with Velcro on it that can be attached to cover the hole.  The reason for using a octagon is that the Velcro strips are stiff and can not easily be sewn in a circle.

Lay the fleece flat with the inside facing up.
Draw an octagon around the collar.
Be sure that the measurements are equal in all directions.
Cut and attach the Velcro. I attached the soft side of the Velcro so it would not stick to clothing you may have underneath.

Cut a piece of fleece or other material slightly larger than the octagon you made around the collar.
Hem the edges of the octagon shaped material.
Attach the opposite side of the Velcro to the octagon.

Step 8: The Completed Fleece

Pictured is the completed fleece. Use this picture as a reference for the positioning of your eyelets.

Step 9: Preparing the Sheet.

Cutting, hemming the edges and adding eyelets are done exactly like the fleece.  Refer to the fleece instructions until you reach a point where your sheet looks like the image.

Step 10: Cut the Neck Slit in the Sheet.

Align the finished fleece on top of the sheet. Be sure to tie the fleece and sheet together along the center line eyelets.
Ensure that the corners are aligned and the fleece and sheet are flat together. It may help to hang them together.

Inside the neck hole of the fleece, draw a line along the center line of the sheet.

Separate the fleece and sheet.

Cut along the line you have just made. Cut an extra 2 1/2 inches on either end of the line.

Step 11: Reinforce the Neck Slit in the Sheet

With the extra sheet material you have from sizing your sheet, Cut two pieces that are 1 inch longer than the slit and 2 1/2 inches wide.

To each piece of material do the following:
- Fold 1/4 inch of material over twice on each end to make a hem.
- Fold the material in half lengthwise so the hem on the ends are visible.
- Sew the material together about 1/4 inch from the edge to form a tube.
- Invert the tube. You may need to use a skewer or similar item to push the material through.
- iron the piece flat so the seam is in the middle.
- fold the piece in half lengthwise and iron flat.
- Place the piece over the exposed slit of the sheet and pin fast. There should be about 1/2 inch of material on either side of the slit.

With the extra sheet material you have from sizing your sheet, Cut four piece of material that are 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches.
To each piece of this material do the following:
- fold 1/4 inch in on each of the long sides. and sew fast.
- fold the material in half the long way so the hems on the side are showing.
- sew the material together about 1/4 inch from the end so a tube is formed.
- invert the tube.
- iron the tube flat so the seam is centered on the material.

Finishing off the neck slit.
- Attach one of the rectangles you just made to each end of the slit on the backside of the sheet.
   To attach the rectangle sew around the edges of it and then sew an x through the middle of it.
- Flip the sheet over and attach a rectangle to the end of each slit on the front side.
- This will prevent the split from tearing.

Since I mostly use this with the fleece attached I decided not to seal up the slit in the fleece. You may wish to add another piece of sheet material and some Velcro. If the material is sized the exact length of the slit it could be sewn fast on one side. When the sheet is worn, the material could be passed through the hole, folded over and attached to another piece of Velcro on the opposite side.

Step 12: The Completed Sheet.

Pictured is the sheet when it is completed.

Step 13: Sleeping Bag Modifications.

The modifications to a square sleeping bag are fairly simple. Place eyelet pairs so they align with the fleece/sheet eyelets.

Sewing the eyelets along the center can be difficult. You will most likely not be able to turn the quilt unless you have a quilting sewing machine. To sew the center eyelets, I rolled up the edges and sewed all the horizontal lines. Then I took the quilt out and sewed the vertical lines of half the quilt. Turned it around again and sewed the vertical lines on the other side of the quilt. I then cut the holes, passed the faux leather through and repeated the process on the other side of the quilt.

Since making this quilt I got a Jacks R Better set of quilts. I decided to use those in combination with my sheet and fleece since they are much lighter. If I were to make this again I would probably keep the fleece and sheet as they are but make down quilts similar to the Jacks R Better quilts but have eyelets on the edges. What can I say, Guess, I have a thing for eyelets.

Step 14: Ultra Light Hammock Modification

I modified a grand trunk ultralight hammock so it would attach to this sleeping system

- Take the end ropes out of the hammock.
- Fold the hammock in half lengthwise to find the center line.
- Place your sleeping pad centered (side to side) on the hammock as shown.
  My sleeping pad fits between the eyelets on the sheet, fleece and quilt by design. This is why It can be used for reference. If you don't use a sleeping pad you will have to measure the distance between the eyelets of one of your components.
- Make a mark on either side of the sleeping pad along the center line of the hammock. These will be your center attachment points. 
- Mark two rows of eyelets based on the spacing of your sheet or fleece, Work from the center line out.
- Create your eyelets

That is all there is to the modification.

Step 15: Making the Cocoon

When I have everything hooked together with the ultralight hammock I call it "The Cocoon" . This is just one way to hook things together. For demonstration purposes I laid everything out on the ground so you can better understand how things are layered and connected. With just the fleece and sheet connected this set up could be worn as a poncho with the hammock still attached. If you place a head hole in the quilt and attach it the same direction as the fleece and sheet then all the items could be worn at once by undoing only a few strings.

In this set up you sleep in the folded sheet.
A channel is formed for the pad between the sheet and hammock.
The fleece and quilt wrap around the top and underside of the hammock.

The ideal way to tie the edges of your bag together is to overlap the layers. Putting two layers flat against each other and tying them will create a way for more air to enter. It is best to fold layers over each other in different directions. See diagram below for clarification.

the 'o' represents the eyelets.
Not a good way to tie together.
----o---------layer 1
----o---------layer 2
----o---------layer 3

Overlapping the layers is a much better way to attach them together.
+----------------------  Layer 1
|      +----------------- Layer 3
|   |  |
o o  o
|   |  |
   +--------------------- Layer 2

I tested the cocoon configuration this past fall in temperatures in the high 30's. Wearing nothing but my skin I woke up in the middle of the night sweating because I was too warm. I had to remove the reflective pad.  I had no problems with air coming in the bag. The most likely place for this to occur is at the feet. Properly tied this does not occur. The entire configuration was in the same state in the morning as when I went to sleep. The only issue I had was the pad would slide lengthwise. Minor modifications could fix this.

Step 16: The Cot Hammock Setup

In this configuration you can put the sheet, fleece and quilt together as a sleeping bag and slide the hammock between the sheet and fleece layers. Then slide a sleeping pad on top of the hammock and under the sheet. The eyelets will line up with the rope attachment points of the hammock if you wish to secure all the layers to the hammock. 

The images show the summer configuration.

The instructions for making the cot style hammock can be found at

Step 17: Wearing the Fleece/sheet Combo

The way to wear this is up to you and your imagination. The simplest way is to wear it as a poncho. When wearing it as a poncho I like to attach the front and back below the sleeves to seal the garment down the sides. You can get fancy and tie it up all kinds of ways using the eyelets,  You can even fold and tie it to create pockets. If you really want to get crazy you can run around the woods as "The Bat".



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    28 Discussions

    Great instructable (loved the final pics wearing the fleece/sheet combo).
    I was thinking of crafting my own fleece inner sleeping sack and this instructable of yours has given me the directions I needed. Thanks!!

    Really nice 'ible. I have been thinking about trying to figure out a 4-season sleep system, and I like the multi-use aspect of your design. Thanks for posting.

    1 reply

    Very nice build; hammocks are the only way to go for us old guys who want to sleep comfortably in the woods. I have made something very similar, and plans can be found on, using an army poncho liner and a wool blanket. The surplus blankets and poncho liners match up to the same size without cutting. I also suggest you post this to hammock forums, as the folks there would like your idea of multi function.

    1 reply

    Yea, sleeping on the ground sucks! It is rocky where I live. Trying to find or make a comfortable spot is a task. I have looked at those forums a lot but never signed up. Just set up an account. I'll look for your gear there.

    Have you ever tried running the pins at a right angle to the direction of the stitch? As long as the head of the pin isn't in the path of the presser foot, you don't have to remove the pins until after your stitch is complete.

    1 reply

    I have done it parallel and perpendicular to the stitch. Out of habit I remove the pins as I go along. I have bad aim (or good depending on how you look at it). Broke a few needles by hitting the metal of the pins. :)

    Very nice. One comment about the reflective blanket. It IS a bad idea to put it on the outside, but it will add significantly if you put it on the INSIDE. Vapor-barrier liners work well to add significant temperature rating to any sleeping bag system, and they are not uncomfortable as long as you don't get over-heated. The other advantage of an interior VBL is that you can then add an impermeable layer on the OUTSIDE, since your perspiration is blocked by the inner liner.

    Obviously, you need ventilation for your breathing, so that won't condense on either impermeable surface, but that's always an issue. And of course you are right about insulation underneath. In a hammock, as long as the insulation under you is not compressed, it is every bit as effective as the insulation above you. It presents a challenge for insulation from the ground, and most standard sleeping bags are essentially 50% useless, because the insulation under the sleeper gets compressed to the point of being nearly useless.

    1 reply

    I hadn't considered using the liner inside. I looked at it for emergency use. Could be really useful for a cold weather set up though.

    Neat. I like your design.

    I've been getting by in cold weather by zipping my bag around the hammock and then sleeping in a blanket and sheet inside the bag. This works but I get a lot of drafts from the top and bottom openings of the bag.

    Occasionally in the summer when nights aren't that cold (but still chilly) I just hang a blanket and/or a plastic painters tarp under me with clothespins. But on top of the bother of set up and the extra packing weight it just isn't a good solution.

    I built a double layered hammock at one time. I made it so I could slip a pad or blanket in between the layers if needed, however I didn't like the way it felt with the pad and the blankets kept slipping and bunching up, so I gave it up.

    I was currently thinking of sewing a down under quilt that hooked on with buttons (if I could find down). Now I need to consider your idea.

    1 reply

    Thanks. You're pretty resourceful! Just don't go chasing any geese! :) There is water repellent down out now. It's used in a lot of outdoor equipment. One company I know that makes it is called Downtek. If I were to do this again I would make two quilts. One for the top and one for the bottom. I'd have some kind of head hole in the top quilt like the jacks R better sniveller so It could be worn.

    Really interesting instructable! Well done, with tons of helpful images all the way through. I have a recommendation for a better method to reinforce the slit in the sheet, however, which is a classic sewing technique. It's used to make bound buttonholes, the bound slit openings in back pants pockets in dress pants, etc. A search for these techniques will turn up many, many tutorials, but one I found that has very good instructions and photos is here: (I don't have any connection to the site, but found it to be a very well written and illustrated tutorial on this technique.)