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What Is a Cowboy Bedroll?

What Is a Cowboy Bedroll?

If you’ve ever thought of camping and sleeping in a cowboy bedroll instead of a tent, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn all about what a cowboy bedroll is, where the idea originated, and how to make your very own cowboy bedroll. We also have a few cowboy bedroll recommendations, so when it comes time for a night under the stars, you’ll be able to sleep as the cowboys do.

Let’s dive in!

The Cowboy Bedroll

What Is a Cowboy Bedroll?

The open range is where the deer and the buffalo roamed and the cowboys worked in the Old West. Even now, cowboys often work far from civilization. So, where they work, they also sleep.

Since there are no hotels on the range and horses can be the primary mode of transportation, a rolled-up blanket has typically been the bed of choice. It’s convenient to transport and pack up. In the past, the cowboy bedroll was as essential to a cowboy as his horse.

Originally for ease of use and efficiency during cattle drives, the cowboy bedroll came into existence in the mid-1800s. It only needed to be as long as the person in it and wide enough to wrap up in, so most cowboy bedrolls were around 7 by 15 feet. This gives enough space to keep a cowboy covered while being small enough to retain warmth during a brisk evening under the stars.

When the time came to rest after a day of herding cattle, cowboys in the 1800s would grab their bedroll and unroll it for some protection against the elements. If it was merely a moment of rest between working, they unrolled the bedroll against a tree trunk or large boulder to give some support. The stereotypical image of a cowboy bedroll features a cowboy lying back for a quick nap, hat covering their eyes, with a stick of grass in the corner of their mouth.  

In the bunkhouse on the ranch, it was just as easy to unroll the cowboy bedroll for personal bedding, providing added comfort to a cozy bunk.

Cowboy and horse by campfire
Cowboys would keep warm while camping by using a waterproof cowboy bedroll.

What Did a Cowboy Bedroll Consist of Originally? 

The cowboy bedroll consisted of waterproof canvas on the outside and a wool blanket inside. These two materials were readily available and provided the best insulation to keep cowboys warm and dry. Not only were these bedrolls perfect for sleeping in, but they also offered an easy way to store all the cowboys’ belongings while on the trail. They could easily carry the bedroll on the horse behind the cowboy on the saddle, on top of the saddlebags.

The Cowboy Bedroll Is Still Used Today

Today, cowboys, hikers, hunters, ranchers, tent campers, and horseback trail riders can all appreciate the use of a cowboy bedroll. While the original cowboy bedroll materials of canvas and wool are still the foundation for this primitive sleeping bag, there have been improvements along the way.

Some improvements are D rings and straps to keep bedrolls secure when not in use. Another improvement is the high-quality canvas. With the advent of sleeping bags, today’s cowboy bedrolls have the comforts of a sleeping bag inside, making this sleeping accessory a must on any outdoor excursion. They can be beneficial even if that excursion includes your SUV or RV.

Camping set up under starry sky
Snooze under the stars in a cowboy bedroll.

What Makes a Cowboy Bedroll Better Than a Sleeping Bag?

What is the better choice for modern times; a cowboy bedroll or a sleeping bag? While many sleeping bags have ratings for sub-zero temperatures and can be pretty compact, we think cowboy bedrolls have advantages over sleeping bags in certain situations. When camping without a tent or in rougher conditions, the durability and robustness of a cowboy bedroll can’t be understated. They have ease of use and efficiency, warmth, weatherproofing, cleanliness, and multi-tasking capabilities. 

Cowboy bedrolls are convenient to unroll when it’s time to sleep and store anywhere when it’s time to move on. With Grade A canvas and high-quality inner layers, including space for a sleeping bag, cowboy bedrolls can be sub-zero sleeping bags with durability that allows them to be stored on the outside of your pack, ATV, or horse. The ability to place all of your belongings on it and roll it all up into one neat, convenient package also sets it apart. The tough canvas also keeps dirt and debris out of your blankets for a clean and tidy pack.

Pro Tip: If you’re doing remote camping, make sure you have one of these 7 Best Emergency Sleeping Bags for When You Really Need One.

Do Cowboys Use Pillows?

That one neat and convenient package can even include a small pillow. However, if you want to be tough and sleep like a cowboy from the 1800s, leave your pillow at home. To ease the horse’s burden and avoid carrying too much weight and bulk, cowboys rarely used pillows. A saddle or an extra blanket served that purpose fine. Today, many modern bedrolls come with space for a pillow. Some even come with a raised vented hood allowing for warmth and airspace.

Exchange your sleeping bag for a cozy cowboy bedroll on your next camping adventure.

What Are the Best Modern Cowboy Bedrolls?

With a pillow or not, modern cowboy bedrolls offer many of the comforts of home in a compact package. Some need a sleeping bag inside, while others have everything you need to be included. Some are customizable. Others are ready to head out on the trail.

However, cowboy bedrolls are typically not for a backpacking trip. These are not ultra-light, nor do they squish down to actual backpack size. But all will give you a convenient and comfortable way to sleep under the star-lit sky without a tent.

Ellis Cowboy Bedroll

About: With high-quality canvas materials by Colorado canvas legend Dave Ellis, this deluxe bivy sack with a sleeping pad will become your go-to companion when roughing it. It’s straightforward to use. Roll up essentials like your mattress, sleeping bag, pillows, clothes, and toothbrush into one tidy bundle before cinching it in minutes. It also provides weather resistance to keep your contents safe and intact. 

Size: 34 or 46 inches wide by 9 inches tall by 84 inches long

Features: With a full zip closure and a vented headboard, you’ll be safe from the elements while having excellent breathability. The wooden dowels provide additional support and stability to the mesh headboard. You can also add a three-inch thick sleeping pad for comfort.

Price: Starting around $415.00

The Cowboy Bedroll

Capriola Cowboy Complete Bedroll

About: This reliable cowboy bedroll set comes with a useful bed tarp, foam for extra cushioning, and straps for easy setup. With its canvas material, it won’t just keep you dry; it’ll keep you warm, too. Plus, it ensures that your bed stays clean no matter how dirty the terrain is.

Size: 17 feet long by 7 feet wide

Features: With a 15-ounce heavy untreated canvas, this cowboy bedroll provides three inches of luxurious and comfortable foam to ensure a good night’s rest. The broad canvas has rings and snaps down the center for secure storage, so you can trust that everything stays in place during transport. 

Price: Starting around $295

JM Capriolas - Assembling Your Cowboy Bedroll

The Dominator 2.0 Bundle

About: The Dominator 2.0 Bundle bedroll is a heavy 12 oz canvas that will keep you safe from rain, mildew, and other moisture dangers thanks to its waterproof coating on the inside. Double-stitched seams prevent rips for long-lasting use. Nylon straps with quick-release buckles fasten it securely so you can move around without worry. 

Size: 84 inches long by 34 inches wide by 17 inches tall

Features: This bundle has a 12oz canvas with treatment for water and mildew resistance, so you can trust that it will stand up to whatever nature throws your way. Plus, there is a breathable polyurethane coating inside the bundle to add an extra layer of protection. It has three quick-release buckles on nylon straps, making it convenient to carry around and secure. With four zipper sliders, you can control airflow, temperature, and access with ease thanks to its #8 YKK zipper. It also has a pole system for headspace and a foam pad for comfort.

Price: Starting at $529

Cutter Cast Ep. 12 "DOMINATOR 2.0 BEDROLL"

TrailMax Canvas Calvary-Style Cowboy Bedroll

About: The experts of TrailMax in northwest Montana make this bedroll, and they even test their camping items themselves. They constructed this cowboy bedroll using preshrunk canvas on its outside shell and 100% cotton flannel on its liner. The thick canvas prevents dew and frost from collecting on your sleeping bag or bedding while allowing moisture to escape when you sleep.

TrailMax Canvas Cavalry-Style Cowboy Bedroll;...
  • DURABLE PREMIUM MATERIALS- The TrailMax Canvas Cavalry-Style...
  • DESIGNED BY EXPERIENCE- We improved on a classic! The TrailMax...
  • WE THOUGHT ABOUT THE DETAILS- The TrailMax Canvas Cavalry-Style...

Size: 33 inches wide by 84 inches long with a 36-inch long flap

Features: With high-quality canvas for superior durability, this bedroll can last. It features heavy-duty zippers on each side for access. Plus, there’s an eight-inch gusset all the way around that adds even more room for comfortable sleeping.

There’s also a generous head flap providing extra warmth and protection while you sleep. As if that wasn’t enough, the flannel lining pocket will hold your sleeping pad or other items securely and keep them all in one place. 

Price: Starting around $234

Zippered Cavalry Bedroll

1844 Helko Werk Germany Handmade Waxed Canvas Bedroll

About: Whether you’re planning a camping trip or need a comfortable place to sleep while away, the 1844 Helko Werk Germany Handmade Waxed Canvas Bedroll is an ideal companion. This brand has quality outdoor gear that always keeps things friendly and straightforward.

This cowboy bedroll can last with a heavy-duty 16 oz 100% waxed cotton canvas. It features a durable beeswax finish, and you can easily roll it up to take it wherever you go. The bedroll also provides ample space for any blankets or sleeping bags you want to add. They’ll keep you safe and sound throughout the night.

1844 Helko Werk Handmade Camping Bed Roll with...
  • Made in USA: The Helko cowboy bedroll allows you to easily travel...
  • Heavy Duty 16 Oz. Waxed Cotton Canvas: This bedroll is built from...
  • Waterproofing Canvas Beeswax Finish: The built-in leather bedroll...

Size: 80 inches long by 40 inches wide

Features: This rugged, compact sleeping bag has handmade canvas and is perfect for those who often camp or find themselves in unexpected places. It features full-length heavy-duty zippers that provide easy entry and exit from either side and protection from the elements. It also has removable, adjustable leather straps. They’re strong and long enough to accommodate storing a heavy blanket or rolling in a bed. 

Price: Starting around $365

Canvas bedroll for sleeping under the stars - 1844 Helko Werk

Pro Tip: Cozy up your camping set up with one of these 7 Best Insulated Sleeping Pads That Actually Keep You Comfy Camping.

Can You Make Your Own Cowboy Bedroll?

There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a cowboy bedroll, but you can make one with little effort. All you need is some bedding and creativity. First, you’ll need to decide the size of your cowboy bedroll. 

Whatever size you choose, find or purchase a canvas for the outer layer. The inner layer can consist of any type or size of blanket, depending on the warmth you need. Once you’ve chosen the outer layer and inner blanket, you might consider adding a sleeping pad or a thin foam mattress for comfort and warmth.

Lay the canvas on the ground. Place the mattress or pad on the canvas. Place the bedding on top of the pad, along with a small camping pillow or any extra blankets as needed. Roll everything up from the bottom to the top and secure the roll using leather straps or sturdy rope. Voila! You have a cowboy bedroll to match your desired comfort.

Easy To Make Winter Cowboy Bed Roll

Stay Cozy As a Cowboy 

A cowboy might not need much more than a tree trunk and a hat to relax in style. However, a sturdy, soft, and warm bedroll is an accessory that enhances any outdoor camping experience, especially when you camp without a tent. With the perfect bedroll, you can tuck away in a private hideaway, staying as cozy as a cowboy. Whether you’re traveling by ATV, SUV, or horseback, ensure your cowboy bedroll is ready for some star-gazing, no matter where your travels take you.

Where would you travel with a cowboy bedroll? Tell us in the comments!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
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