Sleeping Bag Liners — The underappreciated adventure gear

How to make your own no-sew sleeping bag liner in a day

Sleeping bag liners have a mixed reputation. Some insist they are an expensive rip-off, others collect different types for different occasions. After a cold trip to Orcas Island in the Puget Sound during late February, I decide to give it a go and make my own sleeping bag liner.

The Benefits of Sleeping Bag Liners

Sleeping bag liners are thin, non-water proof fabric bags that are designed to slip inside a sleeping bag and create a layer between you and your sleeping bag. They come in many sizes, shapes, and fabrics. Ranging from silk to fleece, and rectangular to mummy bag shaped. There are plenty of options to choose from, however the reasons for the use of a sleeping bag liner are simple.

  1. Increase the temperature range of your sleeping bag
    Adding a sleeping bag liner will add extra warmth to your sleeping bag at night. Some products boast up to 25° of increased warmth while most indicate only 5°. Don’t rely on a sleeping bag liner for more than 5° of added warmth without testing it first.
  2. Extend the life and improve the hygiene of your sleeping bag
    Your sleeping bag is one of the most important components of any adventure. To make sure you get the longest life out of your investment proper care is required. Keeping your sleeping bag clean and dry is one of the key components. Too many washes or a buildup of oil from your skin can breakdown the materials in a sleeping bag and cause compression (compression reduces the effectiveness of a sleeping bag to keep you warm). One way of avoiding too many washes is to use a sleeping bag liner. A liner protects your bag from the moisture and oils on your skin, is easier to wash multiple times a season, and can be replaced more often.
  3. Flexible adventure travel option
    A sleeping bag liner provides you with flexibility wherever you travel. Use the liner as an ultra-light option for warm weather backpacking and camping, or take it with you when you travel abroad. If you’ve ever been to a hotel or hostel and thought “these sheets look gross”, then a sleeping bag liner is a great thing to have.

How to make your own no-sew sleeping bag liner

Before you begin, you must decide which fabric to use. Using the chart, you can see the different benefits and draw backs to each fabric and make your own choice based on your needs.

Step 1: Gather your materials
For this project, you will need:

  • Approx. 5 yards of chosen fabric at least 40 inches wide
  • Fusible bonding web for medium fabrics
  • Thread and needle
  • Sharp scissors
  • Iron
  • Washable pen or chalk

Step 2: Cut out your fabric

Lay your fabric out flat and fold over once width-wise. You should be able to see the full width of fabric. You will cut out both sides of your liner at once. Position your sleeping bag on top of the fabric, aligning the bottom of the sleeping bag with the fold of the fabric. At this stage, you’ll need to decide if you want a simple liner without a hood/pocket for a pillow. To add the hood/pocket and still only cut once, line the edge of the top layer of fabric with the front opening of the sleeping bag. You’ll have extra fabric on the bottom layer that extends past the top of the sleeping bag. When cutting follow the example where you see the dotted lines.

This part will be folded over later to create the hook/pocket and will mirror the hood of your mummy bag if you have one. Its exact shape will vary depending on the shape of your bag’s “head” area. Trim the extra section to reflect the shape of the “head” area. In the image, this is reflected by the half-circle(ish) shape sticking out on the top.

Once you have your bag positioned correctly, use chalk or a pen that is visible on your fabric to trace your sleeping bag. Do not trace too close or feel that you need to make it smaller than the bag. During the construction phase, any extra fabric will be used up in the hemming process. After you trace the sleeping bag, remove it and carefully cut the fabric ensuring that the two sides of the fabric do not slip. If you are worried about the fabric moving around while cutting, pin them together using a straight pin inside the area that will be the liner.

Step 3: No-Sew Sewing
I’ve got a sewing machine, but frankly I like to avoid using it when I can. It’s old and I feel like I’m using a crazy industrial revolution era machine that is

just as likely to take off my finger as make a stitch. Thus, fusible bonding web has become my friend. Fusible bonding web is made from polyamide fusible web that permanently bonds two layers of fabric together when activated by a steam iron. To use this technique instead of sewing, line up the two sides of your fabric, and place the web between them where a seem needs to be. Then apply the iron and hold for a few seconds. Lift the iron, wait a few seconds for the fabric to cool and lightly test the bond. Continue doing this along the outside edge of the body of your liner. Once you reach the widest part of the fabric on either side, stop.

Step 4: Hemming the Opening & Hood/Pocket
The most complicated part of this whole project is the opening to the liner and the hood/pocket. If you opted not to have a hood/pocket and are using a rectangular shape, keep “sewing” all the way to the top of your liner and use the same ironing method to hem the top of the liner for a clean finish.

If you are using a mummy shape and include the hood/pocket, pay special attention to this next part. First, fold the extra flap forward, towards the liner opening. Then, “sew” the hood/pocket just like the body of the liner. Next, hem the top layer of the liner from the widest point (where you stopped on step 3) for a clean finish. At this point you will have a flap on the front and a pocket on the back.

Step 5: Reinforcing the seems
Next, lay it with the opening face down. You will now hem the entire piece with the bonding web. Instead of bonding the two sides together, on this step you are folding the edge over and creating a hem. This will reinforce the connections you made previously and hem the area of the back piece between the hood/pocket and the widest part of the liner that has not been hemmed already.

Step 6: The only actual sewing

To complete the liner, use a needle and thread to create an anchor for the joints at the most vulnerable part of the liner. Locate the widest part of the body of the liner, where the two sides stopped being “sewed” together and the opening starts. On either side, create several closely placed stitches. This will keep the two halves of the liner from coming apart as you get in and out of the bag.

You’re finished!

Your sleeping bag liner is now ready for use, and be sure to use the fabrics care instructions for washing. If you want a bag to keep your liner in, use scrap pieces and the same techniques to create a simple little bag.

Happy adventuring in your new sleeping bag liner!

Sleeping Bag Liners — The underappreciated adventure gear was originally published in Aspen & Pine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.