Your Kids Sleeping Bags are Essential to Ensuring the Best Time at Summer Camp or Really Any Outdoor Adventure.
Some Handy Contents
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.
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 out 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.
The Best Sleeping Bags for Summer Camp in 2023
There are summer camp adventures to be found all across the United States. The lodging can vary widely, as can the types of adventures that the young campers will be embarking on.
That’s why we’ve split up our sleeping bag recommendations between sleeping in a cabin versus sleeping outdoors. Though many camps also feature open-air designed cabins where some extra warmth might be necessary.
During the bright and warm days of summer, we recommend Wenzel’s Sunward Sleeping bag.
Based in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, Wenzel creates a number of quality outdoor products with a focus on affordability. I have seen many a Wenzel sleeping bag at summer camp, and many comfortable nights enjoyed in them by the kiddoes.
The Wenzel Sunward sleeping bag is a rectangle design with synthetic insulation. Wenzel has filled their sleeping bag with the popular, hypoallergenic Insul-Therm polyester fiber fill. It features a 30 Degree rating for warmth. We feel that this is on the extreme side of the comfort range. Considering that all kids respond differently to the weather, we would recommend this bag for any temps as low as 40-60 degrees.
Weighing in at 5 lbs, it’s a bit too heavy for any kids to be lugging it on their backs for any prolonged period of time. But a quick walk from the bus to the cabin shouldn’t be any trouble with this sleeping bag. To make things easier, it also comes with it’s own stuff sack.
The Wenzel Sunward sleeping bag measures at 33 x 78 inches. Plenty of room for the sleeping bag to grow with your camper, and become a reliable sleeping option for many years.
What we like most about this sleeping bag is that it unzips fully flat to convert easily to a blanket. Every kid sleeps a little differently, and this kind of adaptability ensures that your young camper will find a comfortable set-up for their bedding. The sleeping bag also features a 2-way zipper design to provide easy ventilation to any part of the body.
Warm summer nights should be peaceful and content for your campers with the Wenzel Sunward Sleeping Bag.
For colder nights during winter conditions in a cabin, Wenzel also provides a warmer option in it’s Backyard Sleeping Bag. From personal experience, it can get quite chilly in the cabins during the early hours of the morning.
Wenzel’s Backyard Sleeping Bag is comfy, warm option with a mummy design and synthetic insulation.
This bag features a warmth rating for temps in the 40s to 50s. This sleeping bag is filled with the popular, hypoallergenic Insul-Therm polyester fiber fill. This is the same fill as the Sunward sleeping bag, but it’s design makes it far more effective for trapping heat. With a quilt-through construction, Wenzel is able to pack in more of their fill with a higher loft value.
And weighing in at just 3 lbs, it is a suitable option to carry on the kids backs. An included Stuff Sack with a carry string is handy for transport, though it is not the compressible type. For outdoor sleeping adventures, this sleeping bag might prove a little too thin for adequate warmth.
The Wenzel Sunward sleeping bag is ideal for campers up to 5’4″ in height.
Although it lacks the bells and whistles of more expensive bags, the Wenzel Backyard sleeping bag holds up well as a suitable option for colder nights in the cabin.
Sleeping outdoors is always a uniquely incredible experience for any kids or teens. The crisp night air, the plethora of strange sounds, the sense of true adventure, and the collective spirit of all your mates huddled beneath a glorious sky full of stars. There’s no experience quite like it in our younger days.
Since 1952, Kelty has been a pioneer of the outdoor industry. Since the earliest days of their first external frame hiking packs, Kelty has been commited to developing gear that is affordable and built to last. This is another of those brands that is extremely popular amongst kids, and will be seen at every summer camp.
Kelty’s Kids Mistral 30-Degree Sleeping Bag is a popular mainstay at summer camps for outdoor camping.
No matter how sunny and warm the day might have been, the early morning dews around 2 to 3 in the morning can be piercingly cold for your young campers. The Kids Mistral creates a warm and sealed pillow of comfort, with a mummy design and synthetic insulation. Kelty has filled this bag with it’s own Cloudloft insulation, and offers varying sizes that can snugly fit any camper or teen.
Weighing in at just 2 lbs 15 ozs, it hits that sweet spot of “less than 3 lbs” for comfortable overnight hiking. Though it does not include a compression stuff sack, which would be recommended for easier packing.
The Kids Mistral sleeping bag also features a large open hood design, lofted footbox, and an inside hidden pocket (ideal for a headlamp).
Summer nights outside will be warm, comfortable, and unforgettable with Kelty’s Mistral sleeping bags.
The Best All Around Sleeping Bag for Summer Camp
Our favorite outdoor brand for sleeping bags has been changing the game in this area since 1974. Since my earliest days exploring as a kid to current adventures as an adult, countless nights have been enjoyed in these sleeping bags. I am talking about the venerable and trusted outdoor brand that is Marmot.
Like it’s namesake, their sleeping bags are hardy, persistent little things that’ll keep coming back for more.
The Marmot Trestles is no exception and is our recommendation for the best All-Around Sleeping Bag for your kids. A solid indoor or outdoor option with a moisture resistant mummy design and synthetic insulation.
This sleeping bag will sleep comfortably for most kiddoes down to temps as low as 30 degrees. Featuring a unique combination wave construction that provides warm lofting on top, and a plush feeling on the bottom.
The Trestles is filled with Marmot’s own SpiraFil synthetic, high-loft insulation that attempts to mimic the soft compressibility of down. This results in a comfortable sleeping bag that will have your young campers feeling like they are being wrapped in a pillow.
The Marmot Trestles is available in 5 different sizes, ranging from a 70″ length ideal for younger kids to the longest 88″ length for growing teens.
And weighs from 2 lbs 9 ozs to 3 lbs 12 ozs, depending on the length. It also includes a compression stuff sack, making it a suitable option for overnight hiking.
Marmot has enhanced the comfort of this sleeping bag even further with zippers on both sides, and an anatomically shaped foot box.
Sitting up by the camp fire roasting a s’more or two will be especially comfortable for your young camper with the Marmot Trestles Sleeping Bag.
The Best Sleeping Pads for Summer Camp in 2023
Sleeping bags are fantastic at trapping heat, but with staying warm outdoors, that’s only half the battle. The cold ground pulls heat away from the body and it is necessary to insulate your young camper with a sleeping pad.
Sleeping pads also make a huge difference in the level of comfort. And a good nights sleep on an outdoor adventure is never to be underestimated in it’s influence on your camper’s overall experience. If they sleep well, it puts them in a better position to fully enjoy the day and soak up all its opportunities.
We recommend a few different sleeping pads that are sure to deliver on this better night’s sleep for the campers. Two of the brands represented are outdoor industry leaders.
The first has been in the outdoor industry for a very long time, and pioneered itself as an early industry leader with sleeping pads, Therm-A-Rest. The other is a newer outdoor brand that began with a simple goal of providing the most comfortable nights sleep possible in the backcountry, Big Agnes.
Depending on your needs, we have recommended three different options for sleeping pads.
Our first option is your traditional close-cell foam sleeping pad. There doesn’t need to be any fancy bells or whistles here, but we do prefer options that can serve a dual-purpose.
REDCAMP’s Close Cell Form Sleeping Pad weighs a mere 17 oz, and folds out to 72″ in length. It’ll keep your camper well protected from the ground, and features a thermal capture surface that can reflect heat back onto the body.
What we really like about this sleeping pad is that when folded, it can used as a quick and handy seat. You never know when that 5 minute breather will come for the young campers, and a sleeping pad like this can make all the difference on the trail.
This virtually indestructible piece of insulating foam should last a very long time and see many adventures.
The Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout has been faithfully serving kids on outdoor adventures all over the world for decades. It weighs a comfortable 0.88 lb, and is available in 3 different sizes ranging from 47″ to 77″ in length.
It self-inflates to a comfortable 1 inch in thickness. But we do recommend that your young camper top it off with a few extra breaths just for a bit of extra firmness.
We also recommend the intuitive winglock option as this valve features a quick deflate and one-way inflation to save breath.
With a stuff sack included, the Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout is ready and able to ensure a good nights sleep on all your kids future adventures.
For the absolute best night’s sleep in a sleeping pad for under $100, there is one option that sets itself apart from the pact. The Big Agnes Air Core Ultra sleeping pad will deliver night after night of outdoor comfort over many adventures.
It weighs just 20 to 28 oz (depending on size), and features varying sizes ranging from 66″ to 78″ in length.
What really sets the Air Core Ultra apart is it’s Thermolite insulation and it’s proprietary I-Beam construction. The Thermolite insulation is a heat-reflective film on the sleeping pad that maximizes the heat trapping ability.
And the I-Beam construction is a unique tube design with 3.25 inches of thickness. The outer tubes are also designed slightly larger to create a cradling effect for your kids and teens.
An inflation sack is also included, and in a sustainable way with upcycled excess materials. This will make blowing up the pad up an easy, quick, and lungs-free process.
Pair that with an included Repair Kit for in-the-field maintenance, and aviation grade TPU Lamination for a strong outer protective layer.
The Big Agnes Air Core Insulated or Uninsulated (without the Thermolite insulation) options are an absolute steal for under $100. And will serve your kids with the best outdoor comfort for many adventures to come.
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.
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.
Other Considerations for Sleeping in a Cabin
Snug and cozy nights in a cabin are a different consideration with kids for both warmth and comfort. In my experience, the combined body heat of 12 kids coupled together with any kind of heating system can make for a roasty night.
This of course depends on the size and build of the cabins. Many summer camps feature open-air type cabins with roll-up canvas walls for the kids to be immersed in a closer outdoor experience. It’s also far more affordable for camp managers to maintain these types of cabins.
On the other end of it, your camper might find themselves sleeping in a dormitory-type structure that can house a far higher number of kids. In this circumstance, the structure might run a little colder than a smaller one cabin-group type of lodging.
The size of the building can present a tougher challenge to maintaining a comfortable heated pace all-night long for the kids. The camp manager will be very much aware of how a constantly running heating system can hit their books. They will do their best to find the best balance of comfort for the kids and a lower impact on the overall operating budget for the camp.
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.
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.
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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