Taking a baby camping is not crazy – but a lot of the success/failure of the trip depends on your sleep setup. They don’t make sleeping bags for babies specifically for camping, but there are several ways you can keep your baby warm and comfy.
I realize that what works for me and my baby might not be the best solution for others. So, I also compiled advice from other parents who have gone camping with babies. Here’s a complete guide to baby sleeping bag options, advice, and recommendations from me and other parents who’ve gone camping with babies.
(Not sure what else to bring for camping with a baby? See my baby camping gear checklist here)
The Short Summary
Don’t try to co-sleep with your baby. Instead, get your baby her own sleeping pad (a good one!). Dress her in insulating layers, preferably made off Merino wool. Then put her in a baby sleep sack with a high TOG rating. And, if it is really cold, put your baby in a bunting bag in addition to all these layers. Just make sure you’ve got something to catch diaper leaks!
Start with an Insulating Ground Layer
You can have the warmest sleeping bag in the world. If you put it directly on cold ground, it isn’t going to keep you very warm. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you get a good sleeping pad for your baby!!!
Option 1: Pack n’ Play
A lot of parents recommend bringing a pack-n-play, portable bassinet, or travel playpen for car camping. Obviously, you are going to need an extra-large tent to fit this inside. If your tent is large enough, then the playpen means your baby is off the cold ground.
Cold air will circulate underneath the playpen though, so you’ll still need to insulate the bottom of the pen. A few thick blankets lining the playpen should be enough. Or, cut a foam sleeping mat to size.
Travel Mad Mum uses this awesome setup when camping with her baby. At night, the baby wore a vest, sleep suit, sleep sack, hat, mittens, and a light blanket on top.
The Pack n Play is super-useful for baby to play in during the day too.
I’ve heard from some moms that a Kidco Peapod is great for camping with infants and really young babies. It will also keep mosquitos out.
Option 2: Camping Sleeping Pad
If your baby is going to be sleeping on the tent floor, then she’ll absolutely need her own sleeping pad. If you are going to co-sleep, then you’ll need a double-wide sleeping pad (more on this below).
Sleeping pads have an R-value rating for how much insulation they provide. If weight isn’t an issue, I’d go ahead and get the highest R rating that you can afford. You can also double up – such as putting a self-inflating pad on top of a foam pad. If, for example, the foam pad has an R value of 2 and the self-inflating pad has an R value of 3, you get an accumulative value of 5.
When I took my baby camping the first time, it was warm weather. So, I could get away with using my normal cheap closed-cell foam sleeping pad. I folded it into thirds to fit her body length. The normal R-value is just 1.6. But, folded 3x means the R-value became 4.8.
*Note: Do NOT use an inflatable air mattress! While some parents have success with this, babies should really be sleeping on a hard surface. It is safer to use a foam or self-inflating mattress instead. Plus, inflatable air mattresses really aren’t that warm anyway.
As far as single-wide sleeping pads go, here are some good options for your baby:
- Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest (closed-cell foam mat): For an incredibly cheap price, you can get this sleeping pad. It has an R-value of 2.6. However, since it is foam, you can fold it to suit your baby’s length and get double or triple the R-value. Or, you can even cut it to size to save weight. 🙂
- Therm-A-Rest BaseCamp (self inflating): is super popular (and affordable). It is rectangular shaped so can be put side-by-side with another pad without gaps forming and has an R-value of 5 and 2 inches thick, so is warm and comfortable for sleeping.
- Therm-A-Rest LuxuryMap (self inflating): For a bit more money, you can get this one. It is 3 inches thick and has an R-value of 6.8, so even warmer and more comfy.
Best Camping Sleeping Bags for Babies – 4 Options
Option 1: Co-Sleeping
If you are already used to co-sleeping with your baby, then this is might be an okay option for camping. Since your baby is getting heat from your body, regulating temperature is a lot easier.
However, there are some issues with co-sleeping in a sleeping bag with a baby:
- You’ll worry about rolling over on baby: Virtually all moms who’ve tried this say that, while baby got a good night’s sleep, they couldn’t sleep because they were too worried they’d roll over and crush their baby.
- Nursing is a challenge: You’ll have to wriggle up and out of the sleeping bag so your boobs are level with baby’s mouth, meaning you get cold and uncomfortable.
- Diaper changes are also a challenge: Both of you will have to get out of the sleeping bag to change a diaper.
- Suffocation risk! You’ve got to be careful that the sleeping isn’t too close to baby’s head, causing suffocation risk. To prevent this, you’ve got to keep the baby high up in the sleeping bag – meaning a lot of warmth is lost. You’ll need to make sure your baby has warm layers on and definitely a hat on cold nights.
Because of these issues, I would never consider co-sleeping with my baby while camping (even though we often co-sleep at home). If you want to try it though, make sure you are following these guidelines below.
You MUST Use a Double-Wide Sleeping Bag!
A double-wide sleeping bag means you won’t be cramped inside with your baby (and worrying about crushing baby all night). However, nursing and diaper changes can still be a problem. And you’ve still got to be careful that the sleeping bag doesn’t go over baby’s head and suffocate her.
I’ve heard really good things about these sleeping bags:
- Big Agnes Dream Island 15 Degree Double Wide Sleeping Bag. Not the cheapest option, but definitely warm and comfy.
- Teton Sports Mammoth bag: A more affordable option which is also very warm but a bit bulkier.
You’ll Also Need a Double-Wide Sleeping Pad
In theory, you could just put two normal width sleeping pads next to each under your sleeping bag. However, gaps inevitably form between the pads as you move around at night– meaning you or your baby get cold. So, you seriously need to get a double-wide sleeping pad to match your double-wide sleeping bag.
Here are some really good double-wide sleeping pads:
- Big Agnes Hinman Double Sleeping Pad: This sleeping pad has an R-value of 5.5 and is rated to -30 C. It’s only 2.5 inches thick, but still pretty comfortable.
- Exped SIM Comfort Duo 7.5: This is a pricier option, but really comfortable and warm. It can even be folded in half to make it even warmer. I love that there is Velcro on the sides so it can be attached to another pad to make a giant sleeping surface. The R-value is 6.4, it’s good to -28 C, and the Duo option is 7.5cm thick.
Don’t want to buy a double-wide sleeping pad?
Some people have success with tying sleeping pads together with paracord. The pads will probably end up pulling apart though. Another solution is to use a glue-gun to attach Velcro to your sleeping pads. (Even better, use Aquaseal). Then you can just Velcro them together to make a double-wide pad. Or try these methods to make your own 2-person sleeping pad.
Another solution (if your tent is wide enough) is to put 2 or 3 sleeping pads horizontally (as opposed to vertically). The pads still move apart from each other, but your baby is probably only on the top sleeping pad so won’t be exposed to gaps.
Tips for Co-Sleeping with Baby while Camping:
- Your baby still needs warm layers to help regulate body temperature. Wool pajamas are great to regulating temperature!
- Put a hat on your baby, and mittens too, if it is really cold.
- If your baby hates wearing hats, then put a fleece hood or blanket under her head for added warmth.
- Make sure you have a double-wide sleeping pad. If you try to put together two standard sleeping pads, gaps will inevitably form (as talked about above).
- Use a waterproof pad underneath your baby in case of any leaks.
- Move up when nursing (as opposed to pulling baby down). Wear a warm top layer so you don’t freeze while nursing.
This couple (shown below) went backpacking with their baby for 7 weeks. They put their baby in layers and co-slept to keep baby warm even in subzero temperatures. You can read about their adventures here.
Option 2: Layers + Baby Sleeping Sack
I personally think this is the best sleep setup for camping with your baby (and what I used on camping trips with my baby). The better-quality baby sleep sacks are made from quilted cotton, fleece, or wool. Some are even rated for 4 seasons and very warm.
I went camping in warm weather, so I was able to put my baby in a onesie, fleece pants, hoodie, and a fleece sleep sack. I also had a long sleeve shirt to go under the hoodie if it got colder.
For camping in colder weather, you’ll need these layers on your baby:
- Base layer – perferably wool, like these
- Fleece or wool sleep suit (with arms and feet) – like this fleece suit or this wool sleep suit (You can also get away with putting your baby in warm pants and a hoodie)
- Fleece or wool sleep sack – see my picks below
- Hats and mittens – like this wool hat
TOG Ratings for Baby Sleeping Bags
Good baby sleeping sacks have a TOG rating. The TOG rating tells what room/tent temperature the sleeping bag is suitable for. Remember that your baby will be wearing layers under the sleeping bag, so a 3.5 TOG sleeping bag is suitable for very cold weather — assuming that you’ve got a high R-rating sleeping pad.
Best Baby Sleep Sacks for Camping
Woolino is a really popular brand of baby sleeping bags and pajamas. Their products are made from soft Merino wool, which is great for naturally regulating body temperature. They say that you can use this sleeping sack for all seasons, though realistically it’s going to be too hot for summer.
- Available Sizes: 0-18 months
- Material:Merino wool lining with organic cotton outer
- Temperature Rating: 4-season/winter
- Price: $$ – Buy Here
This baby sleeping bag has a TOG 3.5 rating, so is suitable for camping in cold weather. I also like that it has removable sleeves. If they get wet (from your baby sucking on them, for example), then you can easily remove them. You can also remove the sleeves for warmer weather camping, meaning you get more use out of one sleeping bag.
- Available Sizes: 27-51 inches
- Material: Cotton outer and lining, polyester filling
- Temperature Rating:
- Cost: $– Buy Here
A cool thing about this baby sleeping bag is that it lets you zipper the bottom as a sack or with legs. This is a good choice for mobile babies who wake up before you do. I only wish the sleeves were removable. The company also makes these same sleeping bags in different colors and styles.
- Available Sizes: 2-24 months
- Temperature Rating: TOG 3.5
- Material: 100% organic cotton
- Price: $$– Buy Here
Tanya from Rockies Family Adventures has a lot of good advice in her post about camping with a baby – sleeping warm. She recommends that mom wears a down jacket. That way she can keep her upper body out of her sleeping bag so nighttime feedings are easier.
Here’s a picture of Tanya and her baby all bundled up and ready for bed!
This camping baby is also super cozy in a fleece sleeping suit.
Option 3: Bunting Bags
A bunting bag is basically a sleeping bag for babies. However, they aren’t meant to be used camping, so there are some issues with using them as sleeping bags.
Problems with Bunting Bags for Camping:
- You may have to remove the baby completely to change a diaper (exposing her to the cold air)
- Nursing a baby while she is in the sleeping bag can be difficult
- Some babies just won’t keep their hands inside
- The baby could wriggle down into the sleeping bag, causing risk of suffocation
- You can’t regulate temperature easily like you can with layers
Because of these issues, I’d only recommend a bunting bag for:
- Older children (about two years old seems right)
- Really young infants that can be swaddled inside (and thus isn’t going to wriggle around)
- As a final layer over a sleeping sack (for really cold nights)
If your baby doesn’t wriggle while sleeping though, then it might be an okay solution. I’d just opt for a sleeping bag which has zips down the front or at the bottom. This makes diaper changes easier. Oh, and do a test run with your baby to see how she acts in a sleeping bag before you rely on it during a camping trip!!!
As far as bunting bags go, the JJ Cole Bundleme is popular. It has an extendable bottom so it can grow with your kid, meaning you get more use out of it.
A cheaper option is this one by Fairy Baby (for ages 0-6 months). It is lined with fleece and an affordable option. Since it has a front zipper, it is easier to do diaper changes while camping.
*Apparently adult down jackets make great sleeping bags for babies, as AniaLife talks about in her great post about traveling with babies. 🙂
Option 4: Snow Suit
If it might get really cold where you are going camping, then your baby can sleep in a snow suit. These are generally better than bunting bags because your baby can’t wriggle down into them.
The major issue with snow suits for camping is that they usually are waterproof, which means not very breathable. Your baby could easily overheat in one! So, I’d say you should instead use the layer system with a sleeping sack and bunting bag over top of this if it gets really cold.
- Don’t make the mistake of putting your baby in too many layers just because you are worried she will be cold. Babies only need the same amount of warmth as us or one extra layer.
- Diapers with a cloth over them make a great pillow!
Have you gone camping with a baby? What sleep setup did you use?
“201603 Patagonia” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Steve Behaeghel
“201603 Patagonia” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Steve Behaeghel
“She may be a morning person…” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by jenpilot
“Striking Camping Trip #1” (CC BY 2.0) by Graham and Sheila
“5-31-10 (40)” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by jenpilot