The basic idea of a cowboy roll is a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag all rolled up in a big piece of canvas. This makes sleeping on the ground, under the stars comfortable, warm, and weather resistant. The canvas is a waxed canvas that is not waterproof, but if dew falls that night, you will not get soaked. So the canvas should be a little more than twice as wide as your sleeping pad and a little more than twice as long.
You can make these as big or small as you would like. For ease of carrying, we decided to make a roll the size of a full size bed. We got a piece of canvas on Amazon. It was 10’x20’. We didn’t need all of the canvas, but we did not want it to be short either. We purchased a foam mattress from Ikea. They come all rolled up and fairly light weight, so we figured it would work well. Futon mattresses also work well.
They are very comfortable. They can be heavy though. When you are looking for the perfect pad, decide what is right for you based on comfort, weight, and size. You can do this with a queen mattress. Roomier, but also heavier.
The cowboy roll is very simple to put together. Lay the canvas out. Lay the foot of the mattress at about the center point of the canvas with the width centered. Then when you fold the canvas up over the mattress it completely covers it.
Once that is done, take the sides and fold them in on each other over the top. Starting from the bottom roll it up and secure it down.
My dad’s has really nice leather straps that tie his cowboy roll up. We just bought ratcheting tie-downs from the store to secure ours closed. It is easier to transport rolled up, but it is heavy and a little awkward. We put flannel sheets on the mattress with wool blankets for warmth. We wanted to camp in the snow. In a tent of course, but the canvas does offer that extra layer of protection in case the tent leaks a bit.
These can be made in twin size, or sleeping bag size. Think one of those blue pads that are under $10 at Wal-Mart with a sleeping bag for blanket wrapped in the canvas. That would be closer to the original cowboy rolls. These are made to be able to sleep under the stars with no tent. You are shielded from the elements with the canvas. We just adapted ours to be a luxurious bed away from home. More comfortable and warm than an air mattress. It is bigger. But for the same price of a double sleeping bag rated for zero degrees, you can have all the comfort of home on any trip.
One last warning – This is not something you would take backpacking!
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