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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Make a Sleeping Bag Liner

Add 10-degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag with this simple DIY project.

by: Annette McGivney

Sew a DIY sleeping bag liner (illustration by Supercorn)
Photo by Sew a DIY sleeping bag liner (illustration by Supercorn)
Sew a DIY sleeping bag liner (illustration by Supercorn)

Silk, wicking Coolmax or cotton bag liners cost anywhere from $20 to $80, but by purchasing on-sale fabrics (anything high-quality and under $4/yard is a bargain) you can save big money and avoid upgrading to a winter bag you'll only use once a year. The liner's design is simple: basically a sheet folded in half and stitched together. Allow yourself a few hours to complete this money-saving project.

- Packing paper or newsprint for tracing a pattern
- Marker
- Liner fabric that best suits your needs (fleece and silk are warm and lightweight), you'll need about 2 yards
- 8 to 10 tab snaps (inch-long pieces of fabric with snaps on the end) that will be used to attach the liner to the bag (or a yard or two of ribbon)
- Thread
- Scissors
- Needle (you can hand-stitch or use a sewing machine)


- Lay your bag on the floor and roughly estimate the square yard surface area it occupies when zipped closed. Double this amount to come up with the estimate of how much fabric you will need to purchase. (1)

- After you have your supplies, roll out the paper on the floor and place your bag on top. With the bag fully zipped, trace its shape onto the paper using a magic marker. Trace around the hood but also draw a line on the paper to mark for future reference where the top side of the bag ends (just below the chin when you're zipped up in it).

- Cut out shape to create your paper pattern. (2)

- Lay your fabric on the floor and carefully double it over, like a folded sheet. Place the paper pattern on top of the fabric (pin it to keep it in place, if necessary) with the pattern edge flush against the folded edge of the fabric.

- Cut the fabric around the pattern at the bottom and open side. Do not cut along the folded side. (3)

- To make a pillow pocket, use a yardstick to draw a rectangle onto one side of the doubled material that is the same width as the top of your sleeping bag but extends approximately 20 inches above the hood (allowing enough fabric to double over to create a pillow). (4)

- On the other side of the fabric, use your pattern to determine where the liner should be marked and cut to create the head opening. The top side of the liner should be cut in a straight across to be flush with the top of your sleeping bag.

- Once your fabric is cut out, fold it in half so that the exterior fabric (the side you don't want against your skin) is exposed. Stitch together the bottom and 3/4 of the open side. (Stitch about one inch in from the edge of the fabric.) (5)

- With the liner exterior fabric still facing out, sew the snap tabs or short pieces of ribbon to the bottom and both sides. The liner can be secured to the sleeping bag with two attachments equally spaced at the bottom and three equally spaced along each side. Snaps or ribbons will allow you to easily remove the liner for washing. (6)

- Turn your sleeping bag inside out, place your liner on top of it and mark on the bag fabric where the matching snaps or ribbons need to go. Using a tack stitch, sew the attachments to the inside of your bag. (7)

- Hem the top side your liner so it does not extend above your chin when you are inside the bag.

- On the opposite side, hem around the liner where the pillow pocket will go. Double over this hemmed extension into a rectangle so that it fits inside the sleeping bag hood. Sew along the bottom and one vertical side of the rectangle so the pocket is closed on three sides and attached to the fabric underneath. This will leave the other vertical side open for stuffing a fleece or puffy jacket to create a removable pillow. (8)

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Reader Rating: Star Star Star Star Star


Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 21, 2014

bought a cheap double duvet cover set and stitched the pillowcases to the top opening go the duvet cover, works fine as a double sleeping bag liner

Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 21, 2014

bought a cheap double duvet cover set and stitched the pillowcases to the top opening go the duvet cover, works fine as a double sleeping bag liner

Star Star Star Star Star
Snowshoe Hare
Feb 17, 2014

My only thought to this is to NOT use cotton fabric, but rather light synthetic fleece. Cotton kills. ;)

Star Star Star Star Star
Sep 21, 2013

I used a flannel sheet I bought at a markdown store. Didn't use or need snaps. It's not going anywhere.

Star Star Star Star Star
Sep 20, 2013

You don't need to snap or tie the liner in. I've got a store-bought liner that snaps over my shoulder to stay with me in the bag, but it's not connected to the bag at all. Works fine. Love the idea of a DIY liner!

Star Star Star Star Star
Aug 09, 2013

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Star Star Star
May 04, 2013

A few years back after pricing liners, I used very lightweight rip-stop nylon for an extra outside layer. It did warm it up with the benefit of a water repellent layer (nice because we had unexpected frost/ice). I worried a bit about it impacting breath-ability, but no significant difference. Also have used thin fleece for an "inside" version. good too. Lastly, I agree I like the "wiggle room" without the snaps.

Star Star Star Star Star
Apr 18, 2013

I was just thinking of making one of my own thanks for the article.

Star Star Star
Mar 21, 2013

Save a few steps: fold the fabric in half, lay the sleeping bag on top of it with the folded edge following the bag outline. Cut away all the fabric that sticks out from under the other side. Make it 6" long on the foot end and make a boxed foot so your toes don't get wedged into the bottom. Maybe skip the snaps on the inside. It's kind of nice to squirm around inside your sleeping bag without it rolling around with you. This keeps the top on top and the zipper on the side where the draft tube does the most good. The pillow pocket is a good idea, but optional.


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