I took my baby camping the first time when she was 4 months old. She’s now 16 months old and we’ve done numerous camping trips so far. There are a ton of benefits of going camping with young children, like improved immunity, motor skills, and cognitive development – not to mention keeping you sane as a parent! But a lot of the success/failure of a camping trip with a baby depends on the sleep setup.
I realize that what works for us might not be the best baby sleeping bag 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 when camping. Instead, get your baby her own sleeping pad with a high R-value. Dress her in insulating layers, preferably made off Merino wool. Then put her in a baby sleeping bag specifically made for camping.
Table of Contents:
- Baby Sleeping Bags Specifically for Camping
- Why Your Baby Also Needs a Sleeping Pad
- How to Layer Your Baby’s Clothes
- Choosing a Baby Sleeping Bag
- What about Co-Sleeping?
- Tips and FAQs
Baby Sleeping Bags for Camping
When I first wrote this, there wasn’t a single camping sleeping bag for babies available. Since then, TWO options have become available! It looks like gear makers are finally realizing that people still want to go outdoors even after having kids. 🙂
It is possible to use a normal sleep sack for camping with a baby, but they simply aren’t as warm. Nor are they easy to clean. So, I really recommend getting one of these two baby sleeping bags for camping trips.
Option 1: Morrison Sleeping Bag
This baby sleeping bag for camping was designed by parents who couldn’t find any options suitable to their outdoor lifestyle. It’s adjustable to fit from 6 months to 2 years. So, you’ll get a lot of us out of the bag.
There are two versions of the baby sleeping bag: Down and Synthetic. Both versions of the bag weigh less than 1lb, so it’s even suitable for backpacking trips with a baby.
The down bag is a bit pricy, but it is the ONLY baby sleeping bag warm enough for camping in cold weather. It’s rated down to 20F!
The synthetic bag is affordable, but only good down to 40F. You can still use it in cold weather, but you’ll need to dress your baby in layers (more on that later in the article).
The downside is that they are a small company and run out of supplies quickly. It’s actually kind of awesome that they are selling out so quickly because it means lots of parents are taking their babies outdoors.
- Down sleeping bag: Rated to 20F (-7C), fits babies 6-24 months: (Buy Here)
- Synthetic sleeping bag: Rated to 40F (5C), fits babies 6-24 months: (Buy Here)
Option 2: BabyDeeDee Sleep Nest Travel
BabyDeeDee has made baby sleep sacks for a long time and recently released one which is suitable for outdoor use. It is TOG 3.5, which means it’s good down to about 50F. If you are camping in colder weather, you’ll need to layer your baby in warm clothes.
There are some really cool features of this baby sleeping bag — like removable sleeves, a buckle for strollers, and easy in-out.
I have this sleeping bag for my baby (actually, I guess she’s technically a toddler now). I particularly love the snaps above the shoulders. It makes it possible to get my girl into the sleeping bag while she’s asleep without waking her.
Here’s how I do it: I open up the sleeping bag, including the shoulder snaps, before bedtime. Then I rock her to sleep. Once asleep, I transfer her onto the sleeping bag. I can zip and snap her in without waking her up.
There are three sizes for 0 to 36 months. You can get it here.
***Use the discount code MOMGOESCAMPING20 at checkout to get 20% off your entire purchase!***
Not sure which one to get? I’ll talk more about how to choose a baby sleeping bag for camping later in the article.
Your Baby Also Needs a Sleeping Pad
Your baby will absolutely need her own sleeping pad. Or, if you are going to co-sleep, then you’ll need a double-wide sleeping pad.
Why? Because the ground will literally suck the heat out of your baby’s body. Even if you have the warmest sleeping bag in the world, your baby will still get cold without a sleeping pad.
Choosing a Sleeping Pad for Your Baby
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-value that you can afford and carry. To keep your mind at ease, I’d get an R-value of at least 3 or 4.
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.
Here are some good sleeping pads 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.
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 are heat sinks and thus not warm.
How to Layer Your Baby’s Clothes
Layering allows you to regulate your baby’s temperature easily. You’ll want to bring layers of PJs for sleeping.
The first few times I took my baby camping, it was warm weather. I was able to get by with these layers: a onesie, fleece pants, hoodie, and then a fleece sleep sack.
Merino wool is by far the best material you could get for your baby. It’s breathable, warm, and dries quickly. If Merino is out of your budget, fleece is a good alternative.
For camping in colder weather, you’ll need these layers on your baby:
- Base layer – preferably 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)
- Sleep sack – see my picks below
- Hats and mittens – like this wool hat
*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.
Choosing a Baby Sleeping Bag for Camping
There are plenty of baby sleep sacks on the market. However, these aren’t made for camping. So, while you can use them for camping (I did at first!), they aren’t the best solution. Here’s what you need to look at.
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. TOG ratings assume that your baby will be wearing pajamas. With the TOG 2 to 3.5 sleep sacks, it’s assumed that your baby is wearing warm pajamas.
If you are going to be camping in cold weather, you’ll need a TOG 3.5 sleeping bag. However, even TOG 3.5 isn’t going to be suitable for nighttime temperatures on mountains. You’ll need good layers of clothes for your baby. Or, get the Morrison Outdoors down sleeping bag. It’s the ONLY option rated down to 20F (-7C).
Useful Features in Baby Sleeping Bags
In any case, here are some of the sleeping bag features that can make camping with a baby easier.
Easy Clean and Fast-Dry
Diaper leaks are inevitable. It’s smart to put a liner under your baby’s bottom inside the sleeping bag to catch leaks, Even so, you still want a sleeping bag which is made from a material which can be wiped clean. Also, it needs to dry quickly. Otherwise, your baby won’t have anywhere to sleep if the bag is still wet at nightfall. Both the Morrison and BabyDeeDee bags fit this requirement.
Removable sleeves are nice for multiple reasons: Your baby won’t overheat in warm weather. If the sleeves get wet (like when your infant sucks on them), you can remove them. It’s also easier to get a sleeping baby into her bag when there aren’t sleeves. That’s why I like the BabyDeeDee sleeping bag so much.
Smart Zipper and Snap Locations
I use the BabyDeeDee sleeping bag for camping, and I love that I can get my baby into it while she’s sleeping. That’s because the entire thing opens up when unzipped, and I can even unsnap the shoulders. Once she’s asleep, I just put her on top of the sleeping bag and proceed to snap around her shoulders and zip it up. The zips are two-way, so you could even do a diaper change without taking your baby out of the bag.
Baby Sleeping Bag Recommendations for Camping
When my baby was born, there weren’t any camping sleeping bags for babies on the market. So, we got by with a fleece sleep sack. Dressing her in layers to keep her warm enough was annoying.
You can definitely get by a sleep sack. However, I can only truly recommend the Morrison or BabyDeeDee sleeping bags for babies. These will make life easier. I’ve also listed a few other options below though, especially if you want to use the same bag for everyday use and camping.
If you are camping in cold weather or going on a hardcore backpacking trip with your baby, this is the bag to choose. There are literally no other baby sleeping bags which are rated down to 20F. Because the bags are adjustable from 6-24 months, you will get a lot of use out of it.
- Size: Fits 6-24 months
- Material: Down and synthetic versions
- Temperature Rating: 20F (down), 40F (synthetic)
- Colors: Blue and green
- Price: $ – Get here
This sleeping sack is designed for indoor/outdoor use. It is easy to clean, has a TOG rating of 3.5, and lots of nice features like removable sleeves and top snaps (which make it easier to get your baby in/out). There’s also a little open area in the sleep sack so you can put a stroller buckle through, which means you can also use this sack as a bunting bag.
The company sent me one of these for my daughter. She’s 14 months now (so technically a toddler and not a baby anymore). She really likes it and even wraps it around herself. 🙂 I’ll update with pictures of her using it soon.
Note that the sizes run a bit small, and the sleeves are a bit short (but my girl is a gigantic!). Make sure you check the sizes and consider getting a size larger.
- Available sizes: 0-36 months
- Material: Quilted polyester taffeta
- Temperature Rating: TOG 3.5
- Colors: Blue, gray, and pink
- Price: $ – Get here
***Use the coupon code MOMGOESCAMPING20 at checkout to get 20% off your entire purchase!***
Woolino is a really popular brand of baby sleeping bags and pajamas. If you want a sleeping bag that can be used for camping and at home, then this is a good option. The sleep sack is 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: $$ – Buy Here
This baby sleeping bag has a TOG 3.5 rating, so is suitable for camping in cooler weather. I also like that it has removable sleeves. If they get wet (from your baby sucking on them, for example), then you can easily remove them. You can also remove the sleeves for warmer weather camping, meaning you get more use out of one sleeping bag.
- Available Sizes: 27-51 inches
- Material: Cotton outer and lining, polyester filling
- Temperature Rating: TOG 3.5
- Cost: $– Buy Here
A cool thing about this baby sleeping bag is that it lets you zipper the bottom as a sack or with legs. This is a good choice for mobile babies who wake up before you do. I only wish the sleeves were removable. The company also makes these same sleeping bags in different colors and styles.
- Available Sizes: 2-24 months
- Temperature Rating: TOG 3.5
- Material: 100% organic cotton
- Price: $$– Buy Here
Co-Sleeping with a Baby while Camping
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. It also means that you don’t have to buy a special sleeping bag for your baby.
However, there are some issues with co-sleeping in the same 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.
- Breastfeeding 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 co-sleeping in the same sleeping bag, make sure you are following the guidelines below.
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 wide 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.
Tips and FAQs for Camping with a Baby
#1: How Cold Is Too Cold to Camp with a Baby?
It can get REALLY cold at night in the wilderness, especially if you are at a high elevation. Even if your baby is warm, you might end up worrying that your baby is too cold. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when you are constantly sticking your hand in the baby’s sleeping bag to see if her skin is cold (speaking from experience here).
However, it is possible to go camping at cold temperatures. Just make sure your gear matches the temperature. Here’s what to do:
- Check the nighttime temperature of where you are going. Remember that you will lose approximately 3.5 degrees F for each 1000 feet of elevation gain. More on that here.
- Look at the rating of your baby’s sleeping bag. If it is going to be cold, the Morrison down bag is the only one suitable for down to 20F.
- Make sure your baby stays on the sleeping pad. The ground will quickly suck heat out, no matter how warm the sleeping bag is.
*Resist the urge to over-bundle your baby just because you are worried she’s cold though. This will cause your baby to SWEAT. Then your baby will be WET. And then you will really worry that she is cold and won’t know whether to remove layers to stop the sweating or put on more layers to protect against evaporative cooling (again, speaking from experience).
#2: Breastfeeding Moms – Wear a Down Jacket
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!
#3: Consider a Portable Bed
My baby wasn’t crawling or walking yet when we took her camping the first time. This actually made it a lot easier. For our trips this summer, I’ll have to worry about her crawling out of her sleeping bag at night and possibly getting smacked in the head by her big sister (who flails around while sleeping).
One solution is to bring a portable baby bed (like one of these) for car camping. Or, you can bring along a Pack N’ Play though obviously you’d need an extra-large tent to fit this inside.
Note that you still need to use a sleeping pad. Cold air will circulate underneath the playpen, drawing heat away from your body. So, put a sleeping pad in the play pen under your baby. Alternatively, use a few thick blankets to line the playpen.
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.
4: Plan for Leaky Diapers
Be sure to put a waterproof pad inside of your baby’s sleeping bag to catch any leaks. Alternatively, you can open and spread out several diapers beneath your baby.
#5: Use Your Down Jacket As a Baby Sleeping Bag
As AniaLife talks about in her great post about traveling with babies, adult down jackets can be used as a baby sleeping bag for really cold nights.
This is a great solution if you have a diaper explosion and the baby’s sleeping bag becomes unusable.
Just dress your baby in layers and then put him/her in a sleeping sack. Then you put the baby in the down jacket. For really small babies, you can tie the sleeves to keep the baby snuggled tightly in the jacket.
#6: What if it Rains?
Well, you can try to keep your baby inside the tent until the rain passes. Or walk the baby around in the stroller with a rain cover.
But, once your baby is crawling (and thus not staying still), the rain can make camping a pain. You will want to…
- Have a backup plan. Don’t tough it out if you don’t have to. See if there are any fun indoor activities that you can do if it rains.
- Bring a rain suit: A rain suit was one of the best things we got for our baby. It meant we could go out in any weather. It also meant she could sit on wet or muddy ground without getting all wet (and thus cold). See recommendations for baby rain suits here.
- Make a rain shelter: If you bring a tarp along while car camping, you can set it up to make a shelter from the rain. At least then you’ll have a small area that your baby can hang out in outdoors until the rain stops.
*Read more about what to do if it rains while camping
#7: How to get a baby to sleep while camping?
I had a very good infant who would fall asleep while breastfeeding and stay asleep. So, camping with her wasn’t an issue.
As she got a bit older though, sleeping became an issue. She’d wake up multiple times during the night and want to be held. I worried how I would get her back to sleep inside the tent. At campgrounds, I was also worried about her waking up other campers.
It turns out that my baby actually slept better while camping than at home. I guess all that outdoor air and outside play really tired her out.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure your baby has plenty of time to crawl/run: Try not to keep her in the carrier or stroller too much. Bring a rain suit or gigantic picnic blanket so she can be on the ground without getting wet or dirty.
- Bring two tents: I have an older daughter and didn’t want her getting woken up by the baby. So we brought two tents. I stayed in one tent with the baby and my daughter and husband were in the other.
- Reserve the most isolated campsite: When making reservations at a campground, say that you are coming with a baby and ask if you can get the most isolated campsite. Then you won’t have to worry as much about bothering your camp neighbors.
- Don’t stress too much about bedtime schedules: While it’s nice to maintain your normal schedule as much as possible, don’t obsess over it. Naps are bound to happen at different times, which means your child might end up going to sleep at night at a different time. I was happy to let her fall asleep in my arms in front of the fire and then transfer her into her sleeping bag much later on.
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