How To Attach A Sleeping Bag To A Backpack

Preparation is key for most adventure activities. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or backpacking, learning how to attach a sleeping bag to a backpack is essential. Although you might think it’s easy – just throw your sleeping bag in a backpack – there are a lot of different options that all have benefits and tradeoffs.

As an example, the best hikers know how to prepare in the best possible way for the trek’s length and difficulty. And that means they know how to pack their bag the night before, bringing only what’s necessary and leaving everything else behind. 

Figuring out how to carry your sleeping bag is the first challenge with whatever adventure you have planned!

In this guide, we’ll go over the main ways to attach a sleeping bag to a backpack. After reading it, you’ll be ready to take your sleeping bag on your planned adventures.

sleeping bag in backpack

Preliminary Questions

The best option for attaching a sleeping bag to your backpack depends on a lot of factors about the type of backpack and sleeping bag you own. The type of adventure and length of time you’ll be out also making a difference.

In this section, we’ll go over some of the important questions to ask yourself while figuring out how to carry your backpack. 

What Kind Of Straps Do I Have?

The first thing to check is whether your backpack has dedicated straps for holding a sleeping bag. Many, but not all, backpacks that were designed for hiking and backpacking have such straps. 

In these cases, it’s usually best and easiest to use the straps already on the bag. However, sometimes a backpack with sleeping bag straps will have more than one option for attaching the bag, for example by having two sets of straps. 

Does My Backpack Have An Internal Or An External Frame?

The frame of many backpacks is a hard skeleton that helps the bag keep its shape, usually made of light metal or hard plastic. 

Having a frame prevents annoying problems like bunching or sagging when the bag is fully loaded. Bags with frames also keep their shape when they aren’t full. 

In general, you have more options for attaching a sleeping bag when the frame is on the outside of the bag. A frame is a great place to tie the sleeping bag using ropes. You can then choose any different position for the bag. 

How Big Is My Backpack? 

The size of your backpack changes the optimal place for you to put your sleeping bag. If you have a larger bag, it might be a backpack with a sleeping bag compartment. 

These internal compartments are great for keeping your sleeping safe and dry but come at the cost of sacrificing storage space. 

The height of the top of your sleeping bag also makes a difference. If the top of the bag comes up to the top of your head, it won’t be very pleasant to put your sleeping bag up top. 

It would be bad to carry a sleeping bag for miles if it’s constantly hitting the back of your head. You might then want to consider putting it on the bottom or the sides.

Attach sleeping bag to backpack

How Much Stuff Do I Have To Bring? 

The amount of food, water, and equipment you’re bringing with you also makes a difference in where you put your sleeping bag while on the go. 

If you’re going out on a short adventure for only one or two days, you might not even need to fill up your bag completely. With extra space in your bag, it is often easiest to put your sleeping bag inside with everything else. 

On the other hand, if you need to bring a lot of supplies and are struggling to fit everything into the bag, you should plan on carrying your sleeping bag on the outside of your bag. 

Some who have bags with internal sleeping bag compartments will even fill these in with other supplies and carry the sleeping bag on the outside of the bag. 

The Five Options For Carrying A Sleeping Bag

There are five main options for attaching a sleeping bag to your bag. We’ll go over all the tips and tricks in this section.

1. Putting It Inside The Backpack

In general, the inside of the backpack isn’t the best option for carrying a sleeping bag because of how large and bulky they are. Having your sleeping bag in a backpack cuts down the amount of space you have to store other things.

However, as we covered before, if you have extra space in your backpack or have a backpack with a sleeping bag compartment, it is an option. One great backpack with a sleeping bag compartment is Gregory Mountain Product’s Paragon 58.

When carrying your sleeping bag in backpack, you must compress it as much as possible so that it takes up the least space it can. Sleeping bags without much padding are naturally smaller when rolled up and best for carrying in your bag. 

There is also a challenge that has to do with how you pack the sleeping bag relative to everything else in the bag.

If you put it right at the top, you won’t have access to anything below, but if you put it right at the bottom of the bag, you’ll have to completely unpack everything else to access it. 

The best solution is packing the sleeping bag somewhere in the middle of the bag, with items you need to access during the day on top, and items you need overnight below the sleeping bag. 

That way, you can get to everything you need while hiking, camping, and backpacking while also being able to access everything you need to set up.

2. Using Straps At The Top

Using straps at the top of a backpack to secure a sleeping bag is one of the most popular methods. There are several methods to accomplish this, depending on the type of bag you have and the available straps.

Pros 

The biggest advantage to this method of carrying your sleeping bag is that it will stay safe and dry when you put your bag down for a rest. You won’t be forced to sleep in a wet sleeping bag because the ground you put your bag down on was wet. 


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Secondly, your sleeping bag is most protected from branches and bushes when it’s on the top of your bag, which can avoid problems like ripped and torn sleeping bags. 

Cons

The only downside to putting your sleeping bag at the top of your backpack is that you may have to remove it to access anything in the body of your bag. 

It’s no big deal to do once or twice but can get annoying and time-consuming if you’re always going into the bag. 

On A Backpack With External Frame 

If your backpack has an external frame the best idea is to tie your backpack directly to it. This will be especially easy if your bag’s frame protrudes over the top of the lid. 

In that case, you can tie a rope to the top of the frame, around your bag, and then finally to the bottom-most area of the frame you can reach. 

If the external frame stops below the lid, you’ll have to get a little more creative and use some loops to securely attach the sleeping bag to the top of your bag. 

The Vargo Exoti 50 is a great backpack with an external frame.

On A Backpack With An Internal Frame

If your backpack doesn’t have an external frame, then you’ll need to use the straps provided to attach your sleeping bag to the top of it. 

If you don’t have staps either, you should be able to find something to attach a rope to and get a tight and secure hold on it. This method is one of the most difficult to give instructions for because it depends on the exact nature of the specific bag you own. 

3. Using Straps At The Bottom

Attaching your sleeping bag to the bottom of your bag is another popular method of carrying a sleeping bag. You might prefer this option if you’re sensitive to objects restricting the range of movement of your head and neck. 

It’s also quite easy to do on most bags. This is a popular spot for backpack manufacturers to place straps for carrying the sleeping bag. If there aren’t any straps, you should just tie the sleeping bag to the external frame (super easy because the frame has to cover the bottom). 

Pros 

It can be slightly more comfortable for some people to walk with the sleeping bag at the bottom of the bag. In addition, you won’t have to remove it whenever you go into your bag.

Cons

There’s more of a risk of your bag getting wet or dirty if you carry it at the bottom of your bag. 

4. Using Straps On The Side

Although this is less common, some swear by carrying their sleeping bags on the side of their backpacks. There are some good reasons to use this option. 

It’s usually very easy to find a place to attach your sleeping bag to the side of a backpack because almost all of them have compression straps at the side of the bag. 

You should be able to wedge your sleeping bag between the cavity and the compression straps very easily. Even better, many bags have clips on their compression straps, so you can conveniently attach and detach your sleeping bag.

Pros

It’s really easy to attach and detach your sleeping bag when it’s on the side. You might not even need to put your bag down to do it. It’s a great option if your bag doesn’t have straps specifically for carrying sleeping bags (or if it only has them on the top or bottom and you don’t like carrying it there). 

Cons

Some people find that a sleeping bag on the side of a bag can throw off their balance while walking or get in the way of arm movement. 

5. Using The Lid Of The Backpack As A Strap

One final method of attaching your sleeping bag is to use the backpack’s lid as a strap. In this case, you’re closing the lid over the top of your sleeping bag. To do this, you’ll need to have some extra space in your bag. 

This is an easy and convenient way of carrying your sleeping bag, especially when your bag doesn’t come with any dedicated straps. One note of caution is that your bag might get wet on the inside if you have a gap in the waterproofing due to the lid being partially open. 

Pros 

It’s a very secure place to strap your sleeping bag—there’s almost no chance of it coming loose. The procedure for strapping in the sleeping bag is very easy. 

Cons 

Your bag can get wet on the inside if it’s rainy out. You’ll also be stuck removing the sleeping bag whenever you need to get something from the inside of your bag. 

Final Thoughts

When going on adventure activities, chances are that the largest and bulkiest item you’ll be carrying is your sleeping bag. 

It’s also one of the most essential—you need somewhere warm and dry to sleep each night! Make sure you find a way of carrying your backpack that you’re comfortable with.

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