A Brief History of Sleeping Bags

French customs officers were among the first to record sleeping bags. They watched the Pyrenees mountains pass between France and Spain. These bags were lined with wool and made from sheepskin for their water resistance. They could be rolled by five buckles. Arctic explorers made beds from a wool blanket and linen. This was covered with Mackintosh rubberized fabric, invented by Charles Macintosh in 1824. We recognize this fabric as the raincoat fabric of today. German peasants used another early sleeping bag in the 1850s. This simple, strong linen bag was filled with straw, hay, and dry leaves. Francis Fox Tuckett tested one of the earliest alpine sleeping bag designs in 1861. The early bag was made of a wool blanket and a Mackintosh rubber base. The rubber bottom collected condensation during sleep, so Tuckett decided to abandon the design. These early designs were difficult to access and remove because they were basically sacks one could climb into.

Pryce Pryce Jones, a Welsh-born inventor, created the Euklisia Rug. It was the first mass-produced, commercially profitable sleeping bag. Pryce-Jones (or P.J. Pryce-Jones, or P.J. The Euklisia Rug, a wool blanket made from two layers of wool and attached together by fastenings, was an alternative to the cumbersome task of having to carry a bag. A sewn-in rubber pillow was also included in the rug. The first large order was the Russian army, which had 60,000 Euklisia Rugs. There is evidence that they were used in the Siege at Plevna in the Russo-Turkish War. Pryce Jones was left with 17,000 additional rugs after the city fell. The extras were added to his catalog and marketed as affordable bedding for charities that provide aid for the poor. They were soon in use by the British Army and Australian Outback. The Euklisia Rug measured 6 feet 11 inches in length and 3 feet 31 inches width.

The development of the mass-produced sleeping bag was also influenced by the military. Before WWII, military sleeping gear consisted of five wool blankets with a ground sheet. The M-1942 design and the mountain sleeping bag both had a mummy shape by the start of WWII. In the years preceding WWII, the mummy shape was becoming more popular among athletes. The military adopted the mummy design to reduce weight and space in soldiers’ backpacks. It also addressed a shortage in down feathers (fewer were required to fill a Mummy shape). The mummy design was more efficient at conserving heat than the rectangular one. The zipper on military sleeping bags was a full-length, quick-release zipper. Later, the M-1942 was replaced by M-1949. This was a mummy-shaped sleeping bag filled with feathers. The M-1949 was a modular design. It had a waterproof case that could be attached to the main body of the sleeping bag to provide warmth and protection. The Modular Sleeping System was introduced by the military in the 2000s. It consists of a variety of liners that can be combined to reach different temperatures.

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