Mountain Style: Sacks for Kids

(And, why kid-specific sleeping bags are worth it)

By Amelia Mayer

Before having my own children, I thought kid’s sleeping bags were a “luxury item.” Sure, small bags were cute and weighed a little less, but generally served no good purpose (or, so I thought). Now, after years of packing, hauling, and using sleeping bags for our own kids, I am convinced that kid-specific bags offer the best chance for keeping kids warm. And, if the kids are warm and cozy, then everyone else is bound to get a good night’s rest. 

Sure, it’s easy to want to size up to save precious money, but kids who use adult sleeping bags are inevitably going to get cold when mountain temperatures dip at night. So, before purchasing a children’s bag, ask yourself: Where will it be used? and, How much am I willing to spend? Then, consider your kid’s bag an investment in family memories, and know it will be easy to resell.

Photograph by Elise Giordano

For kids who don’t like being confined to a sleeping bag, or if you’re looking for the lightest option available for backpacking, try a backcountry quilt. Quilts allow kids to sleep directly on their sleeping pads (which takes some getting used to), and the quilt clips entirely around the pad and the kid. This means, kids stay put on their pad and can open up or cinch down the quilt, depending on conditions. Quilts also serve as a cozy wrap for around the campfire.

And, don’t forget the sleeping pads!

Truly, the key to warmth is actually the sleeping pad that goes under the sleeping bag, as the pad keeps kids off of the cold, wet ground. We particularly love sleeping bags with an integrated pad sleeve so that kids stay put. Most kid’s-specific bags will work with regular adult-width pads, if you don’t want to splurge for a shorter, lighter-weight option. 

Bags for Kids Ages 3+

Big Agnes’ Little Red and Wolverine synthetic sleeping bags fit kids up to 53 inches tall (kids size) and 60 inches tall (juniors size), are rated to 15° F, and contain a sleeping pad sleeve. Available at Skinny Skis. Little Red MSRP: $69.95 Wolverine MSRP $89.95

If weight isn’t an issue, the Big Agnes’ Duster offers a grow-with-your-kid option that accommodates both toddlers and kids up to 66 inches tall. This long-haul investment also has a pad sleeve. Available at Skinny Skis. MSRP: $109.95

Kelty’s Callisto synthetic sleeping bag fits kids up to 60 inches tall and is rated to 30° F. This roomy bag is perfect for kids who want space inside to move. Available at Yostmark or Moosely Mountaineering. MSRP: $44.95

Feathered Friends’ Flicker 20 is a grow-with-you down bag. It’s cinch at the bottom loosens to let kids’ toes hang out, and an additional tie-off accommodates kids shorter than five feet tall. At 25.5 ounces, it weighs half as much as most synthetic bags on the market. Available at MSRP: $299

Bags for Babies and Toddlers

The Milk & Honey Co. Down Baby Sleep Sack is incredibly warm when paired with base layers. It’s literally like wearing a sleeveless down comforter! The adjustable snaps allow it to accommodate babies size 3 months to 3T. Available at MSRP: $165

The Morrison Outdoors’ Little Mo 20° Down Sleeping Bag is built specifically for camping with kids ages 6 to 24 months. It is super lightweight and has closed sleeves to keep little hands warm. Available at MSRP: $159 (A synthetic 40° F version is also available for $84.95 MSRP.)

Morrison Outdoors’ Big Mo Sleeping Bag 20° is the same as the Little Mo, but made for kids sizes 2T to 4T. Available at MSRP: $179.95 (It also comes in a synthetic 40° F option for $99.95.) 

Backcountry Quilt

Enlightened Equipment’s Apex Quilt fits kids up to 60 inches tall. This custom quilt comes with Climashield APEX insulation, which performs better in wet and humid conditions than down, but still packs small. Choose a width and a custom temperature rating (down to 20° F), and allow 4 to 6 weeks for shipping. Available at MSRP $180

Safety Note!!

Remember, babies and toddlers need a safe sleeping situation when camping so they don’t end up at the bottom of a sleeping bag!!