I’m not a guy who knows how to sew. So the idea of making my own hiking quilt was rather intimidating. But what else was I going to do? Most quilts are prohibitively expensive, Jacks-R-Better for $210, Nunatak 32 degree Arc Specialist for $433?
That’s just something that isn’t in my budget.
Hell, my entire Long Trail End to End Hike didn’t cost that much.
Sure I could stick with my 2 1/2 pound, 35 degree sleeping bag(that’s probably more like 45 degrees after 2 years of abuse) and save the money. But 1 pound, that’s what I was shooting for, that was the dream. I was on a mission to reduce my base pack weight from 10 pounds to at least 6 or 8 pounds.
So what’s a broke ass thru hiker looking to reduce his pack weight going to do?
Buy one of those quilt kits? The Ray Way quilt kit is $80, and besides, that still seems like way too much work. Sewing baffles and working with down? Forget that!
There has to be a cheaper easier way.
What I came up with isn’t pretty and wont win me any fashion awards out on the trail. The idea seemed so simple that I couldn’t see how it could fail. Take a rectangular sleeping bag, rip off the zipper and trim it down to the right size for a quilt. Wider at the shoulders and tapered at the bottom. Slap together some kind of footbox thing and it’d be perfect.
Enter Walmart. Their cheapest sleeping bags start at $16 with a slightly better version for $19. Only none of the Walmarts in my area carried the more expensive one and in fact they only had one of the cheaper ones left.
At 2 feet 9 inches wide when folded it was easy enough to measure in 2 feet and make a mark, then do the same on the opposite, diagonal side. (See the picture) Then simply draw a line between these two points connecting them. This’d give you a shoulder area 3 feet 6 inches wide and a tapered foot area 2 feet wide. It would also give me two identical quilts for the $16 I had spent.
Next I used a seam ripper to remove the zipper, tags and elastic straps. I had hoped this would remove a portion of the 3 pounds that the entire bag weighed, however it turned out to be a measley 2 ounces.
After that I used pins to pin through both sides of the sleeping bag on either side of the line I had drawn diagonally across the bag. This was to hold everything in place after the cut was made.
After the bag was cut in half I folded the edges inward and did my best impression of a mental institution detainee allowed to sew for therapy. Haphazard and uneven but at least the strong polyester thread wouldn’t rot like cotton.
I used a KISS approach to the footbox area. Since it came with two elastic straps that had been removed I cut one into three pieces of varying length. Two of the shortest were sewn across the folded foot area and the longest was sewn across a little higher up. Sure it wasn’t a true footbox but this’d keep it in place around my feet inside the bivy.
And that is that.
Sure it’s still not the 1 pound dream goal and the cheap polyester fill is bulkier than I’d like but it is lighter than my sleeping bag, durable and cheap as hell. For $16 and less than two hours of sitting in front of the TV watching some god awful movie I now have two 40 degree quilts.
*** Authors Note: In the future the only change I would make is would be to invest an extra $10 or $20 in a less bulky, lighter weight bag to start with. The above quilt still ends up being almost two pounds but it was a great confidence builder as far as thinking about making another one.
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