Sleeping bags may have “sleeping” right in the name, but that’s not the only thing they’re good for. Even though they’re ideal for long snoozes, short naps, and everything in between, they can actually prove to be a surprisingly versatile member of your camping gear line-up. Here are five uses you may not have ever thought of when you looked at the item you spend the most time with as an unconscious lump.
This one’s pretty close to sleeping, but it’s not actually sleeping. Yes, you’re lying on the ground, but you’ve got your eyes open. It’s amazing what a difference a couple of layers of polyester can make. If you want to spot constellations, hunt for satellites, or just take in the Milky Way, you don’t want to be sitting in a chair and craning your neck. You also don’t want to be sprawled out directly on a blanket of dry pine needles or a crinkly blue tarp. A sleeping bag is your comfortable ticket to the night sky.
After a night of star-gazing, you may want to flip your opinion of the sky above and block it out as best as possible. While tree-heavy campsites offer plenty of dappled shade, more arid areas offer little in the way of sun protection. A sleeping bag unzipped and stretched out as a canopy can let hikers on a break beat the heat and avoid ultraviolet-related problems that can burn skin, dehydrate bodies, and create potentially dangerous conditions. Waterproof bags can even serve as a shield against the rain, if necessary. Basically, think of your sleeping bag as a portable barrier against the elements.
Back to night again, that sleeping bag can shift its duties once more to transition from sun-blocker to heat-holder. What is a sleeping bag, really, but a blanket gussied up with modern material technology and a zipper? Freezing campers can burrow inside and hop around their campsites like bizarre caterpillars, or they can unzip the thing and use it as the blanket it is. Spreading it out over two people sitting close together by a campfire can trap twice the body heat and keep you warm even as the rest of world starts to chill. Take this to next level and add body heat by purchasing a two person sleeping bag like the Eureka! Sandstone 30°F Double
If you’re car camping, you may have some loose and/or expensive gear that you don’t want rattling around in the trunk or bed of your truck as you drive up the mountain. An unrolled sleeping bag can be stuffed with items to keep them from sliding back and forth, as well as provide extra padding in the case of unexpected jostling. Wedged between larger items and into odd-shaped crevices, a sleeping bag can keep the entire carefully calibrated stack of gear from shifting into a jumbled mess of clothes and equipment. If you’re into nonchalant minimalist car camping, you can also use your sleeping bag as your gear carrier itself: Throw in a change of underwear and socks, a toothbrush, and some energy bars, and you’re good to go.
Portable, swinging beds now come in ultra-lightweight parachute material and can fold in on themselves to be tucked and transported just about anywhere, but if for some reason you still don’t have a hammock with you—maybe you’re backpacking with nothing but the basics, or perhaps your fellow camper responsible for bringing the hammock completely forgot—you can suspend your sleeping bag between two trees and rest there, assuming you’ve got the knot skills and don’t mind too much about the stresses on the material. Once off the ground, you can read, relax with your thoughts, swing in the breeze, listen to the birds, and even … sleep. Don’t worry. We won’t tell.
Do you have any awesome or strange ways you’ve used your sleeping bags? Tell us in the comments below!