How To Pick The Best Kids Sleeping Bags For Camp

Kids Camping is WAY too much fun!

Your Kids Sleeping Bags are Essential to Ensuring the Best Time at Summer Camp or Really Any Outdoor Adventure.

Firstly, there’s never an absolute right answer to this question.  It will depend mainly on the location of the camp, the time of year of the camp session, and whether the camp offers an out-camping activity or not.  

When I think of kids sleeping bags, an impacting and vivid memory comes to mind.  I had just purchased my very first sleeping bag online, one to call my own for many years and many adventures.  I was a teenager at the time, and my anxious mind couldn’t stop conjuring up all kinds of epic outdoor adventures.  The thoughts were haunting me as I was haunting the tracking page.

Then the happy moment finally arrived.  I heard a knock at the door and knew that it was my time at last.

Excited to be at Summer Camp

Doesn’t everybody derive some small sense of satisfaction from having a large package delivered to you with something really cool inside. This was one of the coolest for me at this point in my young life, a new SnugPak Softie Elite 5 sleeping bag.

I must have spent hours that day lying in it, just for fun, with a big smile drawn across my face the entire time. I realize now, that at that time, army surplus gear was the shazam-be-all, end-all for me. It was where I concentrated my research, with no clue of the wider world of awesome outdoor gear ou there (especially these days!). Though I must say I still own that bag from many years ago, and it has delivered many, many awesome adventures.

Keep in mind that the sleeping bag that you ultimately purchase will significantly impact your kids camp experience. A good night’s sleep is always necessary to fully enjoy an active day of fun activities at summer camp, or really any outdoor experience. Groggy is never where you want the day to start.

Avoid the Mistake of Buying a Kids Sized Sleeping Bag!

It is my feeling that your most important pieces of outdoor gear should last for years and through many awesome adventures.  This is simply not possible with kids-sized sleeping bags, they outgrow them too quickly.  

Putting your kid in an adult-sized sleeping bag will potentially create a large area of free space in the sleeping bag.  To ensure the best warmth in the sleeping bag, you will want to cinch up this extra space.  I suggest showing your young camper how to tie off this extra space in the bag with the drawstring from the sleeping bags included stuff or compression sack.

This tip will not only maximize the warmth in the bag and add years of extra life to your kids sleeping bag, but it will also ensure that the included stuff sack is not lost in the cabin.  These included sleeping bag sacks can be a real hassle to lose and replace.  It is actually very difficult to find a quality kids-sized down sleeping bag. The market is simply too small for the major outdoor brands.  That, and a common camp mess, such as pee or puke, would, unfortunately, ruin the down feathers.

A kids life at a specific camp could, and should, last a number of years.  The growth and confidence that they can realize for themselves at camp are immense and life-changing.

Over the past decades, I’ve seen many, many packing mistakes from both kids and adults.  It’s really an instant confidence drop the moment you realize you are unprepared out there.  Avoid other packing mistakes to ensure the best outdoor adventures for the kiddoes.  We scale the daunting challenge of the camp packing list for parents with our recent post, The Essential Packing List for Camp.

Kids Camping and Having Fun at Summer Camp

Picking the Right Kids Sleeping Bags should Be First Approached by Considering the Following Three Questions:

Where is the Camp Located?

The location of the camp is key to choosing the right sleeping bag.  Any camps located at lower altitudes and coastal regions will have different considerations to a camp that is located at 6500 ft in a mountain range.  One camp will definitely be warmer than the other.

What is the Time of Year?

Winter is cold at times anywhere you go.  I remember bright, sunny days walking around coastal camps back home in New Zealand as a kid.  No matter how warm the day felt though, we all knew to carry a jacket at all times.  Because when that wind started blowing strong from the south, an arctic chill was coming our way.  Winter won’t be as dramatically felt in most coastal camps, but in mountain camps, it’s a different story.

Is There an Out-Camping (Overnight Outdoor Camping) Activity?

If there’s not an out-hiking activity, then a sleeping bag alone will be plenty enough for your kid to gain some valuable winks in the cabin.  But if there is an out-hiking activity, you should always pack a sleeping pad alongside the sleeping bag.  When we sleep outdoors, we lose our heat through the ground.  It’s important to provide your kid with some insulation here in the form of a sleeping pad.  Inflatable types are far more comfortable and much warmer than the foam kinds.

It is crucial for your kids warmth to pack a sleeping pad with the sleeping bag.  Or make sure that the camp is providing them.The out-camping activity at kids summer camps were the best activities of not just camp, but my entire childhood.  They created ripples of confidence and empowerment that carry with me to this day.  I have seen it have the same magical effect on many kids.  Check out this post to find out more on this life impacting camp activity.

The First Decision On Your Kids Sleeping Bags: Rectangular vs Mummy Design.

Mummy bags can trap more heat and are usually lighter but can feel a bit restricted.  It can inhibit your kid from being able to sleep in multiple sleeping positions.  But keep in mind that staying warm is all about trapping body heat and less on keeping the cold out.  Your kids ease of sleeping will have a huge effect on the attitude and well-being of their camp experience.

The Next Decision to Consider for Your Kids Sleeping Bags: Synthetic or Down Fill.

This is the material filling the inside of the sleeping bag that is responsible for insulation, or how much heat can be trapped within the bag.  I have a good mix of synthetic and down sleeping bags myself.  As my Dad would say, “it’s horses for courses.”  Basically, each will have their purpose and be the right choice at different times.  Let’s break them down to find the right choice for your kid.

Synthetic Fill Type

The two real benefits of synthetic sleeping bags are the price and its ability to still insulate when wet.  They are also usually hypoallergenic.

Biggest Weakness:  Synthetic just can’t trap as much heat as down.

And on cold nights at higher altitudes in the great outdoors, warmth is the only consideration.  These bags are still very comfortable and are suitable for shorter overnight trips at lower altitudes.

Down Fill Type

Down sleeping bags are typically warmer, and far more packable.  They can compress to a smaller size, and take up less room in your kids pack.  And let’s not forget they feel like your being wrapped in a soft pillow. 

Biggest Weakness:  If it gets wet, it will lose all of its heat.

If the sleeping bag gets wet, the down fill material will completely collapse and will lose all of its ability to trap heat.  It will need to be completely redried.  Hopefully, this is not relevant though as your camp shouldn’t have the kids sleeping exposed in foul weather conditions.

And Let’s Not Forget About The Down Rating.

The down rating is a measurement of the quantity and quality of the feathers filling the sleeping bag.  It is basically how warm and how compressed the sleeping bag can be.  It typically ranges from 500 to 900.  500 fill down is more affordable, and not quite as warm as higher down ratings.

Whereas 750 to 900 is the down rating on the highest quality sleeping bags out there and can be many hundreds of dollars.  I have personally camped in many different outdoor environments (and even above 14,000 ft.) with my trusty 650 fill down Marmot Sawtooth, and have always been comfortable.

How Much Do The Right Kids Sleeping Bags Weigh?

The right answer depends entirely on the location and circumstances of your kids camp adventure.  If they’ll be carrying it on their backs, and hiking with other pack weight, then keeping it around 3 lbs would be highly encouraged.  Just for the sake of their backs. 

If it’s just going to be a case of lugging it back and forth between the bus stop and the cabin, then anything less than 5 1/2 lbs should work out well.

What About The Temperature Rating On Your Kids Sleeping Bags?

We all sleep differently; some will be more susceptible to the cold than others.  Outdoor brands typically run their own internal testing on their sleeping bags to determine their temperature ratings.  It’s usually a warehouse full of expensive weather simulating contraptions designed to put their sleeping bags through the wringer. 

To be honest, it actually sounds like a crazy fun place to explore and have a bit of a play.  There are a couple of outside companies that are available for the outdoor brands to submit their sleeping bags to for verification. 

These are found within the EN and ISO ratings on certain sleeping bags in the outdoor industry.  Many outdoor brands though do not submit for this verification, and it is not required.  It is also important to note that these rating authorities do not test kids sleeping bags.  And the testing is conducted with sleeping pads and appropriate base layers. 

Finding the EN or ISO tag can be tricky sometimes. Think of it as the garment washing instructions on your favorite pieces of clothing. Sometimes those instructions are not printed directly on the logo tag, but on a smaller sub tag attached somewhere else.

So when searching for a possible EN or ISO tag, be sure to inspect the potential bag thoroughly. The biggest thing to keep in mind when considering the temperature ratings is that we all sleep a little differently.

The testing is taking place under set conditions. As you well know, each kid is a completely different spice of life. It is, therefore, necessary to consider how vulnerable your kid is to warm and cold conditions. With this in mind, buy a sleeping bag with a temperature rating that will work for them.

What Does 3-Season Mean?

This means that the sleeping bag is designed to handle temperatures of about 20°F and above.  These sleeping bags are built for colder spring and fall trips as well as outdoor summer adventures in the mountains. It is common in the outdoor industry to see sleeping bags and other gear described as 3-Season.  These highly durable bags will feature a few more bells and whistles than your average, run of the mill rectangular sleeping bag.  

How Can I Make My Kids Sleeping Bags Even Warmer?

Some kids sleep a little colder than the rest and will require just a pinch of extra heat in their sleeping bags.  But where can you find it?

  • Two good ways to add extra heat to your kids sleeping bag is to add a sleeping bag liner and to have your kid wear some extra layers while they are sleeping.  Staying warm in the great outdoors, or at camp, comes down to packing and wearing the right layers.  We want to seal in the warmth, as best we can, to keep it from escaping the bag.  
  • A sleeping bag liner is a thin layer of soft fabric, such as organic cotton or silk, that is placed inside the sleeping bag.  It provides an additional layer of insulation and comfort.  

I actually used to know a buddy who worked for the trail maintenance crews in the national park system.  Sleeping bag liners were always a necessity for those guys.  Their jobs required them to spend weeks and weeks committing to some hard physical labor from a remote camp.  All in the mission of keeping our beautiful national parks clean and accessible for all of us.  

Due to their remote work locations, cleaning the sleeping bag properly simply wasn’t an option.  Sleeping bag liners provided an effective way for them to keep the sleeping bag free from their work grime and ensured that they just needed to keep their liners clean.  A much easier cleaning task in the backcountry.

That’s A Wrap!

Hopefully, this post on the ultimate kids sleeping bags guide is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you.  Some of my best nights ever have been spent lying on my back staring up at a beautiful sky.  Nestled snugly within the comfort of my sleeping bag, and letting my mind dance in thought with the stars!

All kids should experience this same sense of wonder at their Camp.  We want to ensure the best night’s sleep for your unplugged kids.  This post is a part of our KCE Camp Tidbit – How To Prepare Your Camper (available through our Kids Camping Bundles).  Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable outdoor adventure!

“Camp is my second home.”

– Current Camper

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