Stuart Born hadn’t planned on spending that night in 2017 wrapped in two blue tarps and a 30-degree sleeping bag shivering in the red-walled canyons of Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. But when a surprise cold front sweeps in, what’s a cowboy—or a special operations-qualified, former military officer—to do? “You ride it out,” Born laughs. The next morning, exhausted and frustrated, he made a vow: “I’m never using a sleeping bag again.”

If necessity is the mother of invention, then misery must be the nasty great aunt of a family-funded startup. Born’s promise to ban sleeping bags from his gear closet evolved into Born Outdoor, a brand focused on recreating the bedroll—the classic ranch hand’s sleep system—with modernizations (like a cell phone storage pocket). “The cowboy bedroll has been around for forever and a day,” Born says. “It’s a bed—mattress, sheets, quilt—and you roll it up. You can sleep anywhere you want.”

Raised in Lander, Wyoming, Born grew up the fifth of six boys to parents with a free-range approach to child-rearing. He spent summers out in the Wind River Mountain Range with his family, sleeping under the stars and enjoying steaks and sourdough biscuits cooked over an open fire. Earning an engineering degree at the United States Military Academy West Point led to serving eight years on active duty as a Ranger-qualified field artillery officer before he entered the medical industry selling devices like spinal implants and radiation oncology equipment. Having to understand that technology to effectively sell it didn’t bother Born. “I’ve always been curious in looking at how things work,” he says. “I see a problem and try to address it.”

When he got back to the Front Range after his freezing night on the Western Slope, he set to work with his son to build a modular system that combined a tarp, sleeping pad, sheets, and blankets. His inspiration? Every protagonist in a Louis L’Amour Western novel. “The romantic idea of cowboy camping is sitting by the campfire, laying on the ground, and falling asleep underneath the stars,” Born says. From there, he just had to figure out “how to take that old idea and update it with modern materials.”

Birth of the Badger Bed

Born’s first iteration, effectively a waterproof fabric box, was rudimentary at best. But after a handful of nights in the field, which resulted in tweaks like using a more breathable fabric, he managed to create a setup just over 16 pounds fully packed with a mattress, sheets, and quilts (compared to standard bedrolls, which typically weigh 25-30 pounds). It got noticed. “People were starting to see it and say, ‘That’s pretty cool,’” he remembers. “I said, ‘OK, how cool? Can I sell 500 units ‘cool?’”

Photo courtesy of Born Outdoor

The answer was “yes.” In January 2022, he introduced a more refined product: the Badger Bed, which features durable (600-denier ripstop), waterproof, recycled fabric on the bottom. Three straps hold the user’s sleeping pad, sheets, and quilts of choice (sold as a bundle with the shell or individually to supplement gear you already have) in place. Its four-inch side walls prevent chilly drafts and deter creepy crawlies if you’re sleeping directly on the dirt. A burly, stretchy, and quiet 210-denier nylon top layer zips to the lower shell but still permits easy movement when you’re snuggled in below. Why bother with the cover? “It keeps the bedroll clean when your muddy dog inevitably jumps up on it,” Born says.

The whole ensemble can be assembled at home, so the user just lands at the campsite, unrolls the Badger Bed, inflates the air mattress, and falls asleep beneath the Big Dipper. “We’ve taken that concept of how everybody sleeps all the time, packaged it up, and designed it in a way that it can be used in the field,” Born says, noting that his take on this old idea earned a U.S. patent last November. “The Badger Bed is effectively a shell for your bed at home.”

The Benefits of a Badger Bed

Photo courtesy of Born Outdoor

At 6.6 pounds for the shell alone, the Badger Bed is intended for adventures where something else—a vehicle, or maybe a horse—is hauling gear to the campsite. Yet what it lacks in packability it makes up for in customization, comfort, and durability, Born says. The bedroll system allows for easy temperature tweaks; simply add or shed layers throughout the night. “It’s a system you can use all year,” Born adds. “You don’t need to have this summer sleeping bag and a winter sleeping bag.”

A bedroll is also less restrictive than the typical mummy sleeping bag and stands up to far gnarlier terrain. Born points out the Badger Bed even works as a guest bed in a pinch, calling it a more attractive option than offering up a sleeping bag (which has likely never been washed) to someone staying the night.

These benefits are relatively obvious, assuming the user knows what a standard bedroll is and how Born Outdoor’s take might be better. That’s a significant assumption. Born has found that hunters typically know the lingo; other outdoors-lovers often don’t. “You go into an REI, and they have sleeping bags, and they have mattresses, a few quilts,” Born says. “They don’t have bedrolls.”

Despite that hurdle, Born is making headway beyond direct-to-consumer sales. He’s partnered with major outdoor gear hubs like CampSaver and REI (the latter, however, passed on orders this year after its overall loss report) and is set to ink a deal with two more national retailers any day now. The Badger Bed is also available at Castle Rock gear shop Spirit of 1876, and Born hopes other local outfitters will follow suit.

After all, he’s selling something many Coloradans are chasing: an opportunity to explore, see the world, and, perhaps, not suffer if they forget to check the forecast. “It gives you a lot more flexibility,” Born says. “With the Badger Bed, you can literally sleep comfortably anywhere you put it down.”

The Badger Bed starts at $390 for the 25-inch width. Mattresses, sheets, and quilts sold separately, unless you opt for one of Born Outdoor’s bundles, starting at $755.