When people think about taking kids camping, their biggest concern is almost always how are people going to sleep (and WILL sleep actually happen???) And with good reason – it’s hard for kids to do change sometimes…and even more so when they’re suddenly in a sleeping bag instead of a bed. Because of this we did some extensive testing and rounded up the best sleeping bags for kids.
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Best Sleeping Bags for Kids – WHY?
Not sure WHY kid-specific sleeping bags are worth it?
Kids grow. Fast. Many parents will argue that paying full-price for equipment that kids are going to outgrow in one season (or less) is simply a waste of money. I get it. There is a lot of gear out there built specifically for kids that just isn’t necessary. Modifications of adult equipment can be made, cheaper stuff can be purchased and no one is worse for the wear.
Before having my own children, I was absolutely convinced that sleeping bags for kids were a “luxury item”. Something that was cute, weighed a little less, but really served no good purpose.
After getting my facts straight, seeing how my kids manage camping (with their own cute, small bodies), and doing a bunch of research, I would make the claim that sleeping bags for kids are the KEY to keeping kids warm while camping.
The science behind it is actually pretty simple: A smaller sleeping bag means less space that a child’s body has to heat up to keep them warm.
You’ll notice that our focus here is on more serious camping. These aren’t go-on-a-sleepover bags that you would use indoors. They’re not meant to be cutsey, but rather keep your kids warm and happy while camping.
As a parent, it is important to note that sleeping bags for kids don’t always have a temperature rating.
I AM including the ratings in this post because I think they are a great way to help compare the different bags (roughly.)
However, here’s the scoop: there are a TON of factors and variables that change how warm your child will stay in a bag all HAVE to be factored in:
- Your child’s body in general (if they run cold or hot)
- Whether or not they are using a sleeping pad (and what kind)
- The air temperature
- The relative humidity
- The wind speed
- How many bodies they are sharing the tent with (or if they are sleeping outside) .
Obviously, it’s not very cut and dry. No matter what bag a child is sleeping in, make sure they are dressed appropriately for the weather (wool or synthetics, hat if needed, extra layers to add on if needed, socks, etc. etc.)
1. Backcountry Quilt Option
While most of us think of only using sleeping bags for kids while camping, there are other options. Backcountry quilts are basically down (or synthetic) quilts that are kid-size (or adult if you go that avenue..but we are just talking about kids here!)
They are our top choice for backpacking because they are so small and light. BUT, you’ll end up spending more than other sleeping bags.
You’ll notice that both of these above (from Enlightened Equipment) can be used flat like a quilt, or the toe box can be zipped like below (perfect as you adjust for different temperatures).
How Backcountry Quilts Work
With the quilts, you are sleeping directly on your pad. This allows more warmth with less fabric/material. Remember that when you’re in a sleeping bag, the material under you is compressed and really does almost nothing for warmth (which is why sleeping pads are so essential).
Kids that are really sensitive to how things feel may not love sleeping directly on their pads, but our kids are usually just in long underwear anyway so they don’t even notice.
We have used and loved the Protege (on the left right in the photos above) from Enlightened Equipment. It is the more budget-friendly synthetic option. We also have a Revelation Junior (on the left in the photos above), which is a lot more expensive (because it is treated down), but is very warm and larger.
Enlightened Equipment quilts are made to order, which means they take a little longer to get to you, BUT you can also decide how warm you want your quilt to be! Since we live in the mountains and nights are almost always cold, we opted for the colder settings.
Note that the Revelation can be built to a colder rating than the Protege. Our Revelation is a 10 degree quilt and the Enigma a 20 degree quilt.
The quilts come with straps so you can attach them directly to your pad to avoid rolling off and losing your warmth. They can also be cinched at the toe box and around the head.
Pros of Backcountry quilts:
- They are very small and light for backpacking in particular
- They allow more movement than, for example, a mummy bag
- Some, like the ones from Enlightened Equipment, have built-in straps that keep kids on their sleeping pads <–this is HUGE!
- They can be used for more than just sleeping (think more like a throw blanket or used like a pillow)
Cons of backcountry quilts:
- They tend to be more expensive than a sleeping bag
- You are sleeping more directly on your sleeping pad, which has no effect on warmth, but is just something to get used to
Also definitely check out the review by The Kid Project. They have a great video that shows how these quilts work and how they keep kids on their sleeping pads.
2. Built-In Sleeve Option
Sleeping pads are key to keeping warm while camping and are important in conjunction with sleeping bags for kids. When you roll off of them (or spin or nudge or whatever your kids do), you lose a ton of warmth.
Big Agnes Sleeping Bags & the Nemo Punk bags have an integrated sleeve that keeps your bag and your pad attached. So, the only way you are going to be separated from your pad is by completely ditching the whole system.
Big Agnes Little Red and Big Agnes Wolverine 15 sleeping bags for kids
Our favorite sleeping bags for young kids are the Little Red 15 and Wolverine 15. They’re both synthetic, both have pad sleeves and both keep kids really warm. We also like the “neck pillow” to trap warm air in the bag (see second photo below).
For most campers camping in colder temperatures, these are perfect. However, they are, obviously, heavier than carrying a down quilt + a pad (like the Enlightened Equipment ones shown above).
Big Agnes Duster Adjustable Sleeping Bag for Kids
The Big Agnes Duster is Big Agnes’ kids’ sleeping bag made to grow WITH your kids so you don’t have to get a new bag every few years. WIN!
It’s a synthetic bag, rated to 15 degrees F with lots of room to move and wiggle as needed in the shoulder area, while maintaining heat thanks to the adjustable height clips. It’s slightly wider than the Little Red or Wolverine, and works for kids aged ~2 – 10 in my opinion. The photos below show it in the three different lengths from shortest (with my 2 year old on top) to longest (which is what my 9 year old uses).
Nemo Equipment Punk
The Nemo Punk also has an integrated sleeve and is another great option for keeping kids on their pads. See more below about the bag and how it is also length-adjustable.
3. Small and Length-Adjustable Bags Sleeping Bags for Kids
Here’s the smallest sleeping bags we know of available in the U.S.
- Kelty Big Dipper 30 *blue in photo below* – Adjustable
- Kelty Woobie 30 *pink in photo below* – NOT adjustable, but short
- Big Agnes Little Red 15 *red* – NOT adjustable, but short
- Big Agnes Duster (see info in the above section) – adjustable
- Nemo Equipment Punk – integrated cinch strap to cut down on airflow
You’ll notice in photos below that the Big Dipper 30 is the same length as the Woobie when it is zipped to it’s smaller setting. You do have the extra bulk in the Big Dipper 30 (for carrying, etc.), which is a reason to choose the Woobie over the Big Dipper.
The Big Agnes Duster and the Nemo Equipment Punk both have a pad-sleeve option AND are adjustable. You can see by this photo below that the smallest setting is about the same (notice the clips on the Duster lining up with the toggle on the Punk).
The Duster has a slightly wider girth at the top that gets smaller closer to the toe-box. See photos in section #2 to see better how the Big Agnes adjusts
The Nemo Punk has a cinch at the bottom that can be used like the above photo, or tucked inside and then cinched like below to fill in the space slightly more for smaller kids:
At a rating of 20 degrees F and a fleece-lined hood, this bag is another excellent choice to keep kids warm and grow with them.
4. Sleeping Bags for Kids that Don’t Like Being Restricted
If your child really prefers to have some extra room to move throughout the night, we suggest going with a rectangular shaped sleeping bag over a mummy shape. The following below are the ones we love and recommend.
The REI Kindercamp is great for backyard and car camping for slightly warmer temperatures (opposed to some of the bags rated to 15 degrees above).
We like that REI Kindercamp 40 stuff sack is integrated into a pocket at the foot, makes packing up so much easier!
It also zips to other sleeping bags like it to make a big double or as a blanket, which we use more than we thought we would. The bottom also unzips, so you can ventilate your feet if it gets warm.
If you want a sleeping bag for kids that is slightly warmer and slightly lighter than the REI Kindercamp, go with the Kelty Kids’ Callisto. It is rated to 30 degrees, fits kids up to 60″ (slightly shorter than the Kindercamp which fits up to 66″).
5. Sleeping Bags for Babies and Sleeping Bags for Toddlers
YES, please do take your baby camping. Find our best tips on getting them to sleep while camping here and some other outdoor baby gear we highly recommend here.
While you can certainly put a baby in a larger sleeping bag with you, it always makes me a bit nervous. Instead, we recommend these infant and toddler sleeping bags from Morrison Outdoors (also available at REI). Note – sizing correctly is very important for safety (AKA don’t size up for your 9 month old!)
Little Mo is for babies aged 6-24 months. They have two different styles for babies.
The synthetic 40 degree Little Mo bag is for warmer weather and has hand cuffs you can open up for warmer weather.
The down 20 degree Little Mo has enclosed hand areas, perfect for really cold temperatures.
Big Mo is for kids aged 2-4 years and just keeps them warm and snug. Again, the synthetic is rated for warmer temperatures and has hand cuffs that open; the down version does not.
Sooooo….which one do I want?
- If you’re backpacking and can afford it, go with the Enlightened Equipment Backcountry Quilts
- If your kids roll a lot, go with a Big Agnes Bag or a Nemo Punk sleeping bags for kids.
- If you need more of a summer weight and want the sleeping bag to last longer as they grow, go with the Kelty Big Dipper, Nemo Punk or Big Agnes Duster.
- If your kids prefer being a little less restricted in their bags and you don’t worry about weight, go with the REI Kindercamp or Kelty Callisto.
- Because they’re rated for colder temperates, grow with the child AND have the pad sleeve, we choose the Big Agnes Duster or Nemo Punk for our kids.
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