Roll with It

Bedrolls for adventuresome bird hunters

By Greg McReynolds

Bedrolls are an old idea come new again. Cowboys driving herds of longhorns out of Texas called them “sugans,” and Australians call them “swag bags.” The idea is simple: a heavy-duty, waterproof, canvas bag lined with blankets or a sleeping bag to keep you warm and dry when sleeping rough. Soldiers in the Civil War and World War I and in conflicts around the world carried bedrolls, often storing their spare clothing and valuables inside. 

A bedroll is generally larger than a sleeping bag—closer to a twin bed even—and often is used with a matching large sleeping pad. Comfort is prioritized over compactness. A bedroll is perfect for late-season trips to the Southwest, where you might fall asleep next to a campfire of juniper coals with a million stars overhead, only to wake up under a few inches of snow. It also works well in a pickup with a topper. 

Maybe more important in these times, a bedroll is handy in a hotel room, cabin or guest bedroom. Simply toss it on the floor or on top of a bed and climb inside without having to worry about the cleanliness of the hotel blankets or sheets. And like cowboys, soldiers and sailors of old, you always have a comfortable bed, if you carry it with you.

We tested four models while spring camping in Idaho to discover the best sleepers.




Designed for wildland firefighters, Bullkelp bedrolls are stripped to the essentials, with an emphasis on being light and compact while still offering the comfort of a bedroll. Made of 12-oz waterproof canvas, the Wildland has full-length zippers protected by rain flaps on both sides but does not have a separate pocket for a sleeping pad. (Bullkelp does offer another model with the sleeping-pad pocket.) The included 2”-thick FlexCore pad, made by ALPS Mountaineering, is comfortable and self-inflating, and it deflates to keep the Wildland compact when rolled. A 2-foot head flap keeps the rain and snow off, and a built-in pocket keeps necessities close at hand. This is a well-crafted bag and was the lightest and tightest rolling of the test group. Paired with a light synthetic or down sleeping bag, this would be an excellent bag for taking into the backcountry, tucking into a raft or keeping behind the seat of a pickup. Dimensions: 78” (l) x 28” (w). Weight: 6 pounds 6 ounces. Price (including FlexCore pad): $309. Bullkelp.


Butler Bag
Butler Bag

The Butler Bag All Season Bedroll is the Cadillac of bedrolls and is made in the US. Unlike designs that use a separate sleeping bag or blankets, the Butler has an integrated, flannel-lined sleeping bag. Multiple layers of insulated blankets are laid out like the pages of a book, giving you three sleeping compartments to choose from. When it’s warmer, you can sleep on top of some blankets for extra padding. This roll is comfortable without a pad, but it does have a separate pocket for a pad beneath the blankets. It has a rain-protected, full-length, right-side zipper and a large head flap for cover in inclement weather. The good news is that I can hardly imagine it being too cold for this bag. The only drawback is its bulky size. If you want a self-contained system that will let you sleep under the stars in any weather, this is it. Dimensions: 80” (l) x 41” (w). Weight: 22 pounds. Price: $489. Butler Bags.


Canvas Cutter
Canvas Cutter

This is a modern spin on the classic design. What really sets the Canvas Cutter Dominator apart is the poles that lift the top over your head, giving the bag bivy-sack styling and making it a good choice for sleepers who don’t want blankets crowding their face. Also, because the poles lift the top over your head, there is a zipper system that can completely enclose the bag—as opposed to the head flaps on other styles. This might come in handy when it’s buggy. The zippers are protected by rain flaps, run down both sides of the bag and allow the bag to open on both sides to the foot. The Dominator 2.0 comes packaged with an excellent 3”-thick, high-density foam pad. It also is well suited for use with a sleeping bag. Unfortunately, with the included pad and poles, it is bulky. Dimensions: 84” (l) x 34” (w). Weight: 8 pounds 8 ounces (without the pad). Price: $451 (with pad and poles). Canvas Cutter.


Duluth Bag
Duluth Bag

A simple-but-well-made piece of equipment, the Duluth Pack Bedroll is true to historic examples. Made in the US, this bedroll is a blank page for you to set up with blankets or a sleeping bag and the pad of your liking. It does not include a pad or a head flap, but it does pack down extremely small. While made from the most heavy-duty material in the group—15-oz canvas—it also was the softest material. There are zippers on both sides and a separate pocket underneath for a sleeping pad. A feature I really liked is a small pocket at the head that works great for stuffing clothes or a jacket in to make a handy built-in pillow. Lined with a flannel sheet and a warm blanket, this bedroll would be my first choice for motel sleeping. Duluth offers this bag in a dozen colors and a waxed-cloth version. Dimensions: Short—73” (l) x 40” (w), Long—83” (l) x 40” (w). Weight: Short—7 pounds 6 ounces, Long—9 pounds. Price: $395. Duluth Pack.


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