I love camping any time of the year. Having an air mattress is a luxury, but one I’m not willing to give up. The hard ground is not that comfortable any more.
The downside to an air mattress is evident when you lay down to sleep. When inflated, the air temperature inside the mattress matches the ambient air outside. During the evening, the heat in air moves into the cold ground by convection. The result is a cold air mattress.
Sleeping with blankets is fine, but if you’re lying on an ice cube, you’re in for a long night. Sometimes the cold seeps through my sleeping bag. In Texas, you don’t really need to buy an expensive super-cold temperature sleeping bag.
I had a choice. I could either give up camping in cool weather or figure something out. I’d like to share with you what I figured out. This article assumes the reader knows how to sew or knows someone who does. There is a lot of long, straight lines, perfect for beginners.
You will need:
- A long zipper
- General sewing equipment
- Outdoor fabric
- Thinsulate® insulation material
- Inner lining material
- Quilt batting or sleeping bag insulation fill
These items can be purchased online or in most fabric stores. Some specialty stores carry them.
Carefully measure your air mattress for length, width and height when inflated. Mattresses will vary by manufacturer and type such as twin, double, queen and king. Record your measurements and decide if you want to have rounded corners for your cover.
You can indeed make a paper pattern first, but I did not do this. I first measured the sides of my single-wide mattress after inflating it. I made a strip that included all of the materials and inserted my zipper to run along the top, side and bottom of my mattress. I have no trouble inflating the mattress when it is inside the bag. I only need to move the zipper a little way to insert more air, if needed. The steps for layering the fabrics are given in step three.
You can make two large quilts and insert the zipper along the sides if you wish. This saves time in making a side seam, but your mattress may move around a bit. If you plan for this, your bag could be a little tight. Careful planning will allow you the best fit.
I placed the inner lining fabric on the floor. On top, I placed the layer of Thinsulate®, the sleeping bag insulation fill, and the outdoor fabric on top. You could also use the outdoor fabric only on the bottom and a soft felt fabric on the top. The choice is yours.
I carefully pinned and sewed the layers together. I quilted the pieces together by using the tie method. Along the side seams, I attached my mattress side pieces.
I placed the mattress inside the cover and inflated it. I zipped the cover closed and spent the night on it in my tent. I slept warm and cozy even though the temperature was in the high ’30’s.
The insulation material greatly slows the movement of heat from the mattress to the ground. It also reflects the body’s heat back toward the sleeper. This helps you stay warm and toasty on cold nights. It also works on cold floors.
Source: The author has over 40 years of experience as a camper, crafter and designer of outdoor projects, sewing and more.