Why Use A Bedroll? A Quick Primer On The Pros of a Bedroll

Looking for the right camp bedding for sleeping under the stars? A bedroll might be your ideal choice!

From Marc Carlson

Bedrolls are convenient, easy to make yourself, and ideal when you’re traveling by motorcycle or horse. Consequently, they can be the ideal form of bedding in many situations, assuming the weather isn’t too temperamental.

Much like any other form of bedding, bedrolls have their benefits and downfalls. Continue on and you’ll learn all about them. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea about whether or not a bedroll is the best choice for you.

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

Why You Should Use A Bedroll

Although bedrolls may not be the most obvious choice, they can be a great option in certain circumstances. In days gone by, this form of bedding was often used by cowboys and others who traveled by horseback. Due to the design, they worked well to suit the needs of those who didn’t have such easy access to tents and the like.

Here are just a few more features that make a bedroll great:

  • They’re two in one: Many bedrolls are made up of a combination of a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag. Even when they aren’t, you can easily wrap your choice of bedding up inside the bedroll itself.
  • Useful without a tent: Bedrolls are easy to use when you just don’t have the time (or want to) set up a tent. When you want cozy sleeping under the stars, bedrolls are a great way to go.
  • DIY-friendly: If you don’t want to purchase a pre-made bedroll, you can easily make one yourself with simple and easy-to-purchase materials.
  • They’re customizable: If you choose to make a bedroll yourself, you can easily tailor it to the ideal size and weight for your needs.
  • Bedrolls double as a suitcase: If you’re just camping for a few days, you can easily place your clothes on the bedroll and roll them up inside. This allows you to avoid having to carry around a suitcase or heavy backpack.
  • They’re friendly to horseback and motorcycle travel: While bedrolls might not be suited to all kinds of camping, they are great choices if you’re taking a motorcycle, horse, quad, or similar forms of travel to where you plan to sleep.

If you’re using a bedroll anyway, you might start to wonder if you need a sleeping bag at all. If you’re camping in the summer, a few blankets tucked in your bedroll may be totally adequate. Do you really need a sleeping bag in the summer? In our article on the subject, we take a close look at whether or not you need a sleeping bag when you’re camping in warmer weather.

Where You Wouldn’t Use A Bedroll

Bedrolls can make for comfortable, reliable options in a few different situations. However, one of the main reasons they may not be as widely used today is because they aren’t suited to as many different environments as modern kinds of camp bedding tend to be.

Here are just a few examples of when you shouldn’t use a bedroll:

  • Rainy or humid locations. Some bedrolls out there are fully enclosed so you can sleep in the rain while others are not (like this one from Wynnchester), but you may consider a tent if you’re planning on camping in the rain. Even if the bedroll itself is waterproof, which sometimes isn’t the case, you will wake up in a puddle of rain if you don’t choose the best location (this is true of tents, too, I should say)
  • While backpacking. Although they are convenient in many ways, bedrolls are too heavy for backpacking. This is especially true considering you’re likely to need to pack along some items that you can’t just roll up in the bedroll, like food, tools, and water. If you have a pack-horse, than this is a different story, but if you’re carrying your own bedding, more hi-tech solutions like tents and sleeping bags are much easier to take with you
  • Cold-weather camping. Most bedrolls aren’t made to keep you perfectly comfortable if the weather starts to get close to freezing. Attempting to use a bedroll in the place of a super warm sleeping bag or quilt in freezing temperatures will likely leave you uncomfortable or worse.
  • Hike-in camping. Much like with backpacking, some bedrolls are just too heavy and bulky to take when you need to hike into a campsite. When compared to newer, more lightweight, compact items, it’s just not worth trying to pack a whole bedroll on top of your other necessities while hiking.

As an example of the weight of a “lightweight” bedroll, the Wynnchester Adventure bedroll weighs almost 9 pounds. Which isn’t a ton except when you consider that a bedroll is only for one person while a 2-person tent can weigh under 5 lbs. You certainly can bring enough bedding for 2 people with 9 pounds of gear. Don’t look for a bedroll if you are looking for lightweight sleeping options.

If you’re interested in ultralight sleeping solutions, we wrote an article about some alternatives to ultralight sleeping bags, here.

Examples Of Affordable Bedrolls

If a bedroll sounds like an ideal option for you, how much do they cost?

The good news is there are a variety of affordable bedroll options out there. Whether you’re looking for a fair-weather choice or something a little more durable, you’re likely to be able to find what you need. Even if you don’t, DIY bedrolls aren’t too difficult or expensive to make either.

The following are a few solid, affordable bedroll options:

Bullkelp Bedrolls

The price of these bedrolls might be a little scary at first but it helps to remember that they are a replacement for your tent and is made to be very rugged. You’re getting a tiny canvas tent that will last you a long time.

Bullkelp Bedrolls

Some of these have an included mattress and some are just the exterior shell.

If you wonder what the differences and advantages of a canvas tent vs. the nylon tents you’re used to, check out our article here about that.

Trapper Canvas Bed Roll

If you aren’t too picky and would prefer something that is really made for the outdoors, the Trapper Canvas Bedroll is a decent option. This simple bedroll uses an open-envelope system.

With a super-durable canvas exterior and waterproof PVC bottom, you can take this anywhere. This features an open-ended design, which means if you need rain shelter for your head you will have to provide your own. Reading this sentence to myself makes me chuckle to think of someone who would be okay with just their head getting wet.

5 Owls Ranger Pro Bedroll

If you’re unsure what the weather might throw at you, the 5 Owls Bedroll is an option worth packing along. This bedroll is made with waterproof nylon that is made to help keep you dry if there’s a little rain throughout the night. There’s even a small tent-like top that you can pop up while you’re tucked in to add to your protection from the rain.

For campers who are intent on sleeping under the stars, this bedroll is a great way to do it. It offers more rain protection than other options and still comes in at a pretty reasonable price for an entire sleep system.

DIY Bedroll

For those who prefer to design their own bedding, a simple cowboy bedroll isn’t too difficult to create yourself. After all, people used to make their own bedrolls all the time! While they may not offer all the same bells and whistles as bedrolls you can purchase, a homemade bedroll can be customized to your size and weight specifications and will surely work well when the weather isn’t being too difficult.

This video by Far North Bushcraft and Survival is a great example of how to make a simple cowboy bedroll of your own.

Easy To Make Winter Cowboy Bed Roll

Willpo Memory Foam Camping Mattress

This isn’t exactly a bedroll, but it’s kind of the fundamental concept. You can use this is a bivy or a tent as a base for your own bedroll.

The Willpo camping mattress (Amazon) is something that might look similar to a sleeping pad, but thicker. It’s really just a simple foam mattress that you can roll up and take along on any camping trip.

One thing to keep in mind is that this may not be an option intended for laying down right on the ground. If you don’t plan on using a tent, you might want to at least lay a tarp under it. Additional bedding will also be needed!


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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