You’ve got a camping trip planned. You need to get a decent kids' sleeping bag. You start to look around but soon realise that there is more to choosing a sleeping bag than you thought. Shapes, sizes, temperature ratings and seasons. Where do you start?
Very early on in your parenting career, you realise that the best way for you to get a good night’s sleep, is for your child to get a good night’s sleep. And this is even more evident when you’re sleeping together outside and in close proximity.
So, how do you choose the right sleeping bag for your child and make sure you both get to sleep well?
If you want the sleeping bag mainly for sleeping indoors (a sleep-over or a quick extra bed), then the choice is pretty simple. You don’t need to worry about weight or temperature ratings. Go for a simple, rectangular sleeping bag that provides enough room and warmth to sleep comfortably inside. These basic sleeping bags are generally cheaper as they only need a “1 season” rating.
If your child will be sleeping outdoors, then there are a few more things to consider. Sleeping bags work by trapping air against your body so that your body heat warms this air. So you warm the bag, the bag doesn’t warm you.
If your child is over the age of 3 (or taller than 95-100cm), you should start looking at “Junior” sized sleeping bags. They are shorter and less wide than adult bags which means that there is less air for your child to heat and so it is easier for them to stay warm. Junior sized bags also come with more child friendly designs and patterns, making them more appealing if your child is slightly nervous about sleeping outdoors for the first time.
Once your child is tall enough, generally around 8-9 years, they can progress to an adult (full size) sleeping bag. This can save you money by getting them a sleeping bag that will last a long time.
Top tip: If there is a lot of space between the end of your child’s feet and the end of the sleeping bag, then fold up the excess and put in the stuff sack to reduce the amount of air circulating in the bag. This will keep them warmer and stop them sliding down inside the bag.
The weight of the sleeping bag is really important if you’re going to be carrying it for a significant distance on a hike or if you're backpacking. If you’re using the car for your trip, then you won’t be too concerned. As long as you can fit them in the boot!
The most common shapes for kids' sleeping bags are rectangular or mummy shaped.
Rectangular shaped sleeping bags have the same width from head to toe and give you lots of room to move around. Because of all this extra space, they are best for sleeping out in Summer or using indoors as they won't keep you as warm in cooler temperatures as Mummy shaped bags.
As an alternative to standard-width sleeping bags, you can also get extra-wide sleeping bags that provide even more wriggle room if your child is a real fidget.
Mummy shaped sleeping bags follow the natural shape of the body. This reduces the amount of air in the sleeping bag and is a more efficient design for keeping you warm. If you want to sleep outdoors outside of the summer months then a mummy shaped sleeping bag is a better option.
Top tip: Teach your child how the zip works, and which side the zip is on.
What season do you need?
To help you choose a child’s sleeping bag that’s right for the conditions you’ll be sleeping in, look at the temperature ratings to give you a guide on suitable temperatures.
The temperature at which a person will start to get too warm.
The key temperature range for a good night’s sleep
The lowest temperature at which a person should have an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Any colder, you're likely to wake up cold in the night.
These figures are only a guide as there are quite a few influencing factors that will determine how warm your child will be:
As well as the type of sleeping bag, you can control your sleeping temperature in other ways:
Sleeping bag liners – these provide an extra layer to stop warm air escaping and they also mean you don’t have to wash your whole bag as often which will prolong it's life.
Sleeping mats – prevent heat loss in the ground and provide a comfortable base.
Clothes – make sure you have enough layers on to stay warm. On really cold nights a hat is a really good idea.
Getting into bed – if you’re warm before you get into bed then you’re more likely to stay warm through the night. So move around a lot, eat something or sit next to the campfire before you climb into your sleeping bag.
Blanket – a fleece or wool blanket can really help trap the heat in.
And if your child does get too hot then you can take off layers or unzip the sleeping bag. It’s much easier to cool them down than warm them up.
To prolong the life of a sleeping bag, store it as loosely as possible. Most come with stuff sacs these days but it’s better not to store them in this and to just use it to get your sleeping bag from A to B. An easy option for storing a sleeping bag is to use an old pillow case. Or just leave them loose somewhere out of the way.
Like all bedding items, a sleeping bag needs to be cleaned so pay careful attention to the washing instructions.
A sleeping bag is a really important part of the outdoor experience and some thought needs to go into which one is right for your child. The main decision point is the size of bag that they need - if it’s too big then it’s harder to heat. Then think about the night time temperature of the conditions you’ll be sleeping in and choose a bag that suits.
Then you’ll all have a great night’s sleep!