What Is The Difference between Bedroll and Sleeping Bag

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A bedroll is like a backpack that will contain something to sleep on, something to sleep in, and something to sleep under. A bedroll is similar to a backpack because everything is contained in a single unit designed to make it easier to carry. Campers use a sleeping bag to keep themselves warm during a campout. A sleeping bag could be contained within a bedroll.

A tarp shelter with traditional tents in a forest in Florida

What Is A Bedroll

Bedrolls were very popular with cowboys in the Old West. They are still popular with people who practice historical bushcraft. You don’t see them among traditional car campers or backpackers.

The bedroll is designed to contain everything you need to camp in a single package. It typically consists of a tarp, a wool blanket or sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. The sleeping pad might be a large sack that you could stuff full of pine needles or grass to act as a sleeping pad.

The sleeping pad and sleeping bag are rolled inside the tarp. The tarp will keep the gear dry in case of rain.

You could even roll in extra clothes and camp cooking gear as well.

The tarp is your shelter. Historically it would have been a canvas or oilskin tarp. But you could use a synthetic tarp for modern times.

The bedroll would then be tied to your horse. I have seen people attach them to ATV or motorcycles in modern times.

Bedrolls are too bulky to hike with for very long and thus backpackers would not use them. Most car campers use tents so bedrolls don’t make sense for car camping.

What Is A Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is a zippered sack filled with synthetic or natural (down) insulation designed to keep you warm when integrated with a sleep system. Sleeping bags come in either a mummy bag or a rectangular shape. Mummy sleeping bags are designed so that everything but the person’s face is covered. Rectangular sleeping bags do not cover the head and are easier to move around in.

Sleeping bags have temperature ratings. Temperature ratings tell the person how cold the sleeping bag will keep you alive. Temperature ratings are the most controversial part of a sleeping bag because people often think they are not correct.

For example, a sleeping bag will say that it’s rated for 30F but people will tell their friends that they were cold at 50F.

I have <a href=https://www.campingforge.com/blog/sleeping-bags-a-complete-guide/”>a complete article</a> about how sleeping bags work and another article on how to make your sleeping bag warmer.

What I do want to point out in this article is that a sleeping bag is intended to work as part of a complete sleep system.

The sleep system is proper clothing, shelter, sleeping pad, and your sleeping bag. With proper clothing, shelter and sleeping pad you might not even need your sleeping bag at cold temperatures.

This is why a bedroll includes all of the components of a sleep system.

A shallow creek in North Texas

The Importance Of Shelter In A Bedroll

Modern bedrolls are for people who are practicing bushcraft or outdoor survival. Otherwise, you would bring along a tent or hammock because they provide more protection from the elements and bugs.

When you are setting up your campsite the most important element is shelter. The outer layer of a bedroll is a tarp. I enjoy cowboy camping (sleeping under the stars without any shelter), but most of the year, you will need some type of shelter to protect yourself from rain, snow, and wind.

Tarps can also be used for other tasks than just shelter. You can read our article on the different ways to use a tarp.

The Importance Of A Sleeping Pad In A Bedroll

If you want an authentic historic camping trip with a bedroll, you will not use a modern sleeping pad. Instead, you will bring along a large sack. This could be a sack that you sewed yourself or an old cloth sack.

But many people will opt to use a modern inflatable sleeping pad just like you would use with a traditional tent. Sleeping pads are even more important than your sleeping bag.

The reason why sleeping pads are so important is because they keep your body off the ground. Even in comfortable air temperature, the ground will still be much colder than your body. And the ground will suck the heat out of your body.

You must keep your body off the ground to avoid hypothermia. You can suffer hypothermia even if it’s as warm as 65 F.

A sleeping pad is also more comfortable than the hard ground

A good sleeping pad, a tarp to block the wind, and a small campfire with a reflector can keep you warm without a sleeping bag in cold weather.

If you use a sack, then you must fill it with material such as leaves or pine needles. I would only do this in a survival situation or if I was part of a reenactment campout.

I can get buy with a tarp and a wool blanket. But I insist on a sleeping pad.

Blanket Or Sleeping Bag In Your Bedroll

A wool blanket would be more traditional with a bedroll than a sleeping bag. If you have a large enough blanket you can wrap yourself like a burrito. This will keep you warm down to freezing temperatures as long as you dress properly. You can always add a second blanket for extra warmth.

If you feel more comfortable with a sleeping bag you can use a sleeping bag with your bedroll.

An example tarp shelter setup on a prairie in Texas

When Should You Use A Sleeping Bag Instead Of A Bedroll

You will always use a sleeping bag with a sleeping pad and a tent or hammock instead of a bedroll unless you are practicing historical bushcraft.

The reason for this is because most people prefer to sleep in tents or hammocks. Tents provide better protection from the weather and bugs. Tents also give your privacy. Hammocks give you protection from the weather and some privacy but do require trees to hang from.