Camping & Hiking

How to Attach a Sleeping Bag to a Backpack

If you’ve ever been camping or hiking with a backpack, you’d know how easy it is to overpack. After all, items like your sleeping bag can take up a good portion of your backpack.

This can be a problem especially if you don’t have room for essential items such as tools, utensils, or food. The solution to this is attaching your sleeping bag to your backpack. Most backpacks these days have all the provisions needed for the attachment.

How To Attach A Sleeping Bag To A Backpack?

There are 5 ways to store your sleeping bag to the outside of your backpack, and all of them are very easy to learn.

backpack loops

1. Connecting Loops And Straps

Most backpacks have loops on the backside, but not all sleeping bags will have straps. If your backpack doesn’t have straps, you can skip this method.

This process isn’t very complicated, as you slide the straps through the loops and tighten them. And now your backpack and sleeping bag are good to go!

Do note that your sleeping bag may swing if not securely fastened, or if the loops are too low. This may not be the method for everyone.

compression straps

2. Using Compression Buckles.

Compression buckles are a great way to keep your sleeping bag attached, and without the risk of it swinging around.

Compression straps are fitted to most backpacks and the idea is that if you over-pack, then the straps can be used to keep the contents from bursting out. As any smart camper and hiker knows, you never want to over-pack as this can lead to fatigue and strain.

So if you’re not over-packing, put those compression buckles to use! It’s quite easy to attach your sleeping bag to your backpack this way. Open the buckles, slide in your sleeping bag, and close the buckles.

Make sure the grip is tight or else your sleeping bag might fall out. The benefit of this method is that it’s quite easy to set up, and your sleeping bag isn’t going to be swinging about while hiking.

Most backpacks have compression buckles, so this method is going to likely be your go-to method of storing your sleeping bag outside of your backpack.

3. Build Your Own Support

If your backpack has loops, but your sleeping bag has no straps, why not make your own support system? It doesn’t take much, and you’ll need four pieces of twine or an elastic rope, and some buckles.

Using the first two pieces of your rope or twine, wrap them around your sleeping bag and make sure they’re nice and tight.

The next two pieces will attach from the loops on the backpack to the sleeping bag. And voila! Now you can carry your sleeping bag under your backpack.

Of course, the same problem applies as it did with the straps method, and if everything is not right then the sleeping bag could break away. If everything is nice and tight, you shouldn’t have a problem.

4. Using The Tie Points At The Bottom

This is similar to using the compression buckles. Using the tie point at the bottom of an external frame backpack, slide your sleeping bag in and then pull on tight to keep everything in place.

Some internal frame backpacks, which we’ll talk about below, also feature these ties which you can use. I highly recommend you do so, as it’ll be easier than the next method.

sleeping bag backpack

5. Compress The Sleeping Bag With A Lid Tie

If you’re using an internal frame backpack, an easy way to attach your sleeping bag would be to use the bottom tightening strip to keep your sleeping bag compressed.

The one major flaw of this method is that you have a gap at the top of your bag which could let water in. You’ll want some proper covering, which I’ll get into later.

For this method to work, pack your backpack as you would normally and put your sleeping bag on top. Take the compression strap you would use for the lid and tie it around your backpack to keep it held steady in place.

Again, simple, but with the added flaw that you’re not really holding the rest of the bag down.

Should I Store My Sleeping Bag On Top Of My Backpack Or Below It? And Does It Matter?

Yes, this does matter, at least what I’ve found.

Keeping your sleeping bag tied to the bottom of your backpack makes it much more likely to swing around, and come in contact with the damp ground.

However, keeping your sleeping bag tied to the top, or the side, of your backpack, is a much safer alternative. Not only are the chances of it getting wet lower, but I’ve also found it’s much more comfortable with it at the top, as I have less back fatigue.

What’s The Best Way To Attach A Sleeping Bag To A Backpack?

For me, besides attaching the sleeping bag to the top of the backpack, I highly recommend attaching it to the side as seen when using the compression buckles.

Not only does this keep the sleeping bag in place, but pulling your sleeping bag out or storing it is very easy. Check to see if your backpack has any compression straps on the top, bottom, or sides.

You also want to distribute weight evenly, so you may want to look into alternative placements for the sleeping bag if carrying it at the side is adding too much uneven weight.

You may want to consider having it at the bottom, as this will keep the weight more balanced, but at the cost of possibly damaging your sleeping bag.

attach sleeping bag to backpack

What If I Want To Store My Sleeping Bag Inside My Backpack?

No matter how hard you try, you may just not like how your sleeping bag is packed. The weight is off, the straps keep falling off, and no matter what you do your sleeping bag just feels damp. If this sounds like your experience, you may want to consider just storing your sleeping bag inside your backpack.

To do this, however, you will need to be a careful packer. This means only packing the essentials you’ll absolutely need and nothing else.

So compass, maps, food, water, your tent, and other essentials need to have higher priority over more frivolous things. Yes, a pump that allows you to drink from a river and remove the bacteria and microbes sounds great, but if you’re going to a campground with running water, you won’t need it.

As I mentioned earlier, pack for the occasion as opposed to over-packing. If you’re still worried about spacing and how you can carry all your supplies, practice packing at home before you go to the camp or hit the trail. This way you can better organize and not have to worry about wasting time fiddling with your pack while on the trail.

How Do I Avoid My Backpack Getting Wet?

If you’ve decided to carry your sleeping bag on the outside of your backpack, you’ll want to take into consideration that your sleeping bag will be exposed to the elements and can get damp or have debris falling into the folds as you make your way through the trail.

There are a few ways to deal with this problem, and the first is to pick a good sleeping bag. One that’s water-resistant and can keep you warm.

hiking with backpack

Another thing you’ll want to do when carrying your sleeping bag on the outside is to double-pack the sleeping bag itself. All sleeping bags are sold with a carrying bag, but as you might quickly notice, even if you pull the strings as tight as possible there will be a small hole at the top of the bag.

This can lead to water getting into the bag, and making the sleeping bad unpleasantly damp. To overcome this obstacle, I recommend double-packing your sleeping bag. Find a water-resistant trash bag and roll your sleeping bag into it.

Now put the sleeping bag and trash bag into its carrying bag. As you do so, keep the opening of the trash bag facing inward and not outward.

This double-packing method, as well as keeping your sleeping bag stored on top of your backpack, is a great way to keep water away!

Now, this being said, there are those that prefer to keep their sleeping bags hanging below their backpack. I recommend keeping the straps around the sleeping bag to be as tight as possible.

Why Attach A Sleeping Bag To A Backpack?

First, ask yourself why you should attach your sleeping bag to your backpack? After all, if it’s on the outside it’ll get all wet and no one wants to sleep in a damp cold sleeping bag.

I’ll cover how to avoid your sleeping bag getting damp in a moment, but for now, let’s look at the benefits of keeping your sleeping bag outside and attached to your backpack.

For starters, you’re saving space, and lots of it! Sleeping bags take up precious space that can be filled with other essential camping gear.

Along with space saving, having your sleeping bag on the outside of your backpack can help with weight distribution. Having a heavy load focused on one part of your back will cause back strain, compared to an even weight distribution.

Most hikers and campers carry their sleeping bag on the outside of their backpacks to save on valuable space, and it’s not a bad idea for you to do the same, especially if you’re one who tends to over-pack.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your sleeping bag attached to your backpack on the outside is a great way to save on interior space, but at the same time, it may be more beneficial to keep your sleeping bag on the inside.

The methods I went over today for storing your sleeping bag on the outside of your backpack were not hard, and most can be done in a few minutes.

Enjoying the great outdoors is a personal experience, and so is packing and carrying your gear. You want to prepare for any scenario, but also not be lugging a very heavy pack either.

The best advice I can give about attaching your sleeping bag to your backpack is to always consider how long you’ll be gone, where you’ll be going, and any possible issues that are likely to occur.

Once you’ve packed for that trip specifically, see if you can fit your sleeping bag inside your backpack. If not, take into consideration our double-bagging method and then secure your sleeping bag to the side or top of your backpack.

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!