Cowboy Bedroll Instructions For Comfortable Camping
Make camping badass again by going for the cowboy bedroll instead, which you’ll learn to make here!
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In this article:
- Cowboy Bedroll vs Sleeping Bag
- What You Need to Make the Cowboy Bedroll
- DIY Cowboy Bedroll Instructions
- Cowboy Rollup Done in Three Easy Steps!
How to Make a Cowboy Bedroll
Cowboy Bedroll vs Sleeping Bag
Want to know how to make a cowboy bedroll with your own efforts? While sleeping bags are convenient and popular these days, the cowboy bedroll has an old-world charm reminiscent of the romantic Wild West.
After all, cowboy bedrolls are the precursor of today’s sleeping bags. Both have advantages and disadvantages where bedrolls come cheaper than sleeping bags.
So in the debate of bedroll versus sleeping bag, it’s really a matter of personal choice. If you’re up for some adventure, cowboy bedroll camping is just perfect!
What You Need to Make the Cowboy Bedroll
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 waxed, but not waterproof. But if dew falls at 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 a 10’x 20’. 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 lightweight, so we figured it would work well.
Futon mattresses also work well. They are very comfortable and they can be heavy though.
When you are looking for the perfect bedroll pad, decide what is right for you based on comfort, weight, and size. You can do this with a queen bedroll mattress. Roomier, but also heavier.
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DIY Cowboy Bedroll Instructions:
Step 1. Lay Out the Canvas
The cowboy bedroll 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 should completely cover it.
Step 2. Fold and Roll
Once 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.
Step 3. Secure
My dad 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.
Cowboy Rollup Done in Three Easy Steps!
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 a blanket wrapped in the canvas.
That would be closer to the original cowboy bedroll. 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.
You might also want to check out this easy-to-make winter Cowboy bedroll in this video from Far North Bush Craft and Survival:
Any self-respecting survivalist should learn to make a cowboy bedroll if they want comfort and safety out in the outdoor elements. We have to warn you, though. A cowboy bedroll is not something you would take backpacking!
They are very comfortable but they can be very heavy. If you are traveling on horseback, a motorcycle, or four wheels, a cowboy bedroll for camping is just fantastic.
Which do you prefer between a cowboy bedroll and a sleeping bag? Share your thoughts about it in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 25, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
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Michael W. Perry
June 25, 2014 at 8:12 AM
Those who’d rather not do all that sewing or who want gear more backpackable might want to look into military surplus bivy sacks. They’re Goretex, so they breathe and can be used in lieu of a tent in the rain.
Amazon has a number of sellers. Here’s one:
The bivy sack is part of a system that snaps together, including three different, nesting sleeping bags for different climates and a compression stuff sack.
One great plus is, as with the above, a sleeping pad slips easily into that bivy sack and will stay under you as you roll about. Youtube has videos about the system.
The system is a bit bulkier than regular backpacking gear but is extremely well-made and much less expensive. The prices wander up and down, depending on supply, so you might want to wait for a price you like.
–Michael W. Perry, Across Asia on a Bicycle.
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July 10, 2017 at 10:37 AM
Camping? Your just like the ones that go CAMPING in a motorhome. That ‘cowboy roll’ is not camping, you might as well stay in a motel.
May 25, 2018 at 9:40 AM
check out aussie swags. my first one just had a pocket each end for the thin mattress which helps when rolling it up but otherwise was little more than a cover. the ones you can get now are more like mini tents
May 30, 2018 at 3:12 PM
a certain cavalry General during the Civil war had men that used a bedroll made up of a length of canvas sailcloth ,a wool blanket two pair of socks, and backup pants. it was stiffened with tent pegs and tied with
rope. it weighed less than the Yankee army carried by half. There are many pictures of these about Civil war troops.
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April 13, 2023 at 8:22 PM
If one is SO much into DIY vs buying bivy sac and other commercial, lightweight products.. one may want to consider an oilcloth tarp made from a bed sheet, to take the place of the canvas tarp… process for the oilcloth can be found online..