Friday, October 14, 2011

Swags / Bed rolls.

Swags Or Bed rolls have a long history in Australia and America, Having their peaks during the Depression of the 1890s and again with the Great Depression of the 1930s.  They were typically carried by shearers, miners, travelling farmers, and the unemployed.  While here in the Americas we generally saw them carried by Cowboys.  The term Swagman is/was a common phase down under for a foot traveller. The historical swag consisted of a durable canvas outer cloth and wool blanket inside to keep you warm.  Commercial Swags are still made of Canvas, but usually made to fit your standard sleeping bag, and sometimes they contain integrated foam mattresses.  They are finding a place again around the world with bushcrafters and traditional campers who enjoy sleeping under the stars and don't mind carrying the extra weight.  Duluth pack makes a very nice bed roll, thought I think it would be great if it had a waxed bottom for added durability. And a quick Google found many tent makes and tack dealers do make their own bed rolls for reasonable cost, while making your own seems quite easily possible! The most accurate description of a swag is probably from the 1907 book "The Romance of the Swag" by Henry Lawson.

"The swag is usually composed of a tent “fly” or strip of calico (a cover for the swag and a shelter in bad weather—in New Zealand it is oilcloth or waterproof twill), a couple of blankets, blue by custom and preference, as that colour shows the dirt less than any other (hence the name “bluey” for swag), and the core is composed of spare clothing and small personal effects. To make or “roll up” your swag: lay the fly or strip of calico on the ground, blueys on top of it; across one end, with eighteen inches or so to spare, lay your spare trousers and shirt, folded, light boots tied together by the laces toe to heel, books, bundle of old letters, portraits, or whatever little knick-knacks you have or care to carry, bag of needles, thread, pen and ink, spare patches for your pants, and bootlaces. Lay or arrange the pile so that it will roll evenly with the swag (some pack the lot in an old pillowslip or canvas bag), take a fold over of blanket and calico the whole length on each side, so as to reduce the width of the swag to, say, three feet, throw the spare end, with an inward fold, over the little pile of belongings, and then roll the whole to the other end, using your knees and judgment to make the swag tight, compact and artistic; when within eighteen inches of the loose end take an inward fold in that, and bring it up against the body of the swag. There is a strong suggestion of a roley-poley in a rag about the business, only the ends of the swag are folded in, in rings, and not tied. Fasten the swag with three or four straps, according to judgment and the supply of straps. To the top strap, for the swag is carried (and eased down in shanty bars and against walls or veranda-posts when not on the track) in a more or less vertical position—to the top strap, and lowest, or lowest but one, fasten the ends of the shoulder strap (usually a towel is preferred as being softer to the shoulder), your coat being carried outside the swag at the back, under the straps. To the top strap fasten the string of the nose-bag, a calico bag about the size of a pillowslip, containing the tea, sugar and flour bags, bread, meat, baking-powder and salt, and brought, when the swag is carried from the left shoulder, over the right on to the chest, and so balancing the swag behind. But a swagman can throw a heavy swag in a nearly vertical position against his spine, slung from one shoulder only and without any balance, and carry it as easily as you might wear your overcoat. Some bushmen arrange their belongings so neatly and conveniently, with swag straps in a sort of harness, that they can roll up the swag in about a minute, and unbuckle it and throw it out as easily as a roll of wall-paper, and there’s the bed ready on the ground with the wardrobe for a pillow. The swag is always used for a seat on the track; it is a soft seat, so trousers last a long time. And, the dust being mostly soft and silky on the long tracks out back, boots last marvellously. Fifteen miles a day is the average with the swag, but you must travel according to the water: if the next bore or tank is five miles on, and the next twenty beyond, you camp at the five-mile water to-night and do the twenty next day. But if it’s thirty miles you have to do it. Travelling with the swag in Australia is variously and picturesquely described as “humping bluey,” “walking Matilda,” “humping Matilda,” “humping your drum,” “being on the wallaby,” “jabbing trotters,” and “tea and sugar burglaring,” but most travelling shearers now call themselves trav’lers, and say simply “on the track,” or “carrying swag.”


  1. great post, stuff is sometimes so easy, while recently sleeping outside under the stars we used a bivouac bag which is usually to survive in the mountains. but due to the fact we used the thick down sleeping bags there was to little space to move for us and for the air. my idea was to use an old us-army poncho as a cover but your find looks much better.
    check out the post:


  2. Very Nice Alex! great pictures man!! I know what you mean no space. I am 6'5" 220Lbs and Most sleeping bags alone leave me cramped! I could only imagine in a bivi bag!

  3. Surprisingly, people are also very understanding when an older person wets the bed. We all know that as we get older, we sometimes lose control over some of bodily functions. It's a good idea to install a waterproof mattress pad before the older person knows. It'll save the person from embarrassment.

  4. What is another option for softer sleeping? I have a bad back and very sore when I get up with out a air bed ? Any is great and I'm heavy weight please bo tude comments

  5. A bad mattress can give you some spinal problems, backaches and a number of other aches and pains. Best Places to Buy a Mattress for your Bed