Taking a baby camping is not crazy – but a lot of the success/failure of the trip depends on your sleep setup. I’m still figuring out what the best sleeping bag for a baby for camping is (and I imagine what is “best” is going to change as my infant grows up). So, here’s a lowdown on baby sleeping bag options and recommendations from other parents who’ve gone camping with babies.
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 a good camping sleep mat is the way to go. The problem is that babies can be wiggly things – don’t expect an older baby to actually stay on the mat! A good solution (especially if you are going to co-sleep) is to get a double-wide sleeping pad.
*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.
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.
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?
You could just put a few normal width sleeping pads next to each other on the ground. Make sure you get a rectangular pad so there aren’t any gaps between the pads.
Even with a rectangular sleeping pad, gaps inevitably form between the pads as you move around at night– meaning you or your baby get cold.
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.
As far as single-wide sleeping bags go, Therm-A-Rest BaseCamp 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. For a bit more money, you can get the Therm-A-Rest LuxuryMap. 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: Camping Sleeping Bags for Babies/Bunting Bags
There are a few brands that make camping sleeping bags specifically for babies. You could also use a bunting bag, which is basically the same thing as a camping sleeping bag.
There are a few downsides to using these sleeping 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
Because of these issues, I’d only recommend a sleeping bag or bunting bag for older children (about two years old seems right). Or use it with a really young infant that can be swaddled inside (and thus isn’t going to wriggle around).
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 only about $36. 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 2: Co-Sleeping
If you are already co-sleeping with your baby, then this is probably the best sleeping option for camping. Since your baby is getting heat from your body, regulating temperature is a lot easier.
Breastfeeding is also a lot easier with co-sleeping. You can just do it in the side-lying position. Neither of you have to get out of the sleeping bag and get exposed to the cold air.
With that said, don’t try to co-sleep in a mummy bag!
You’ll go crazy squeezed into a standard-sized mummy bag with your baby. Good luck trying to nurse, and both of you will have to get out to do nighttime diaper changes. Oh, and it is probably a suffocation risk if your baby wriggles down into the bag. Instead, you need a double sleeping bag.
I’ve heard really good things about the Big Agnes Dream Island 15 Degree Double Wide Sleeping Bag. Not the cheapest option, but definitely warm and comfy. A more affordable option is the Teton Sports Mammoth bag, which is also very warm but a bit bulkier.
The big concern with co-sleeping with a small baby in a double sleeping bag is that the bag might be pulled up too close to her head. The bag could go over her 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.
Tips for Co-Sleeping 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 3: Layers + Baby Sleeping Sack
If you don’t co-sleep, then this is probably the best sleep setup for camping with your baby. The better-quality baby sleep sacks are made from fleece or wool. Some are even rated for 4 seasons and very warm.
I’ve asked a lot of camping moms and these are the layers they recommend:
- Wool base layer – like these
- Fleece or wool sleep suit (with arms and feet) – like this fleece suit or this wool sleep suit
- Fleece or wool sleep sack – like this 4-season wool suit
- Hats and mittens – like this wool hat
Unfortunately, quality baby clothes can be pricey — but worth it if you want to make sure your baby stays warm.
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 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 sleeping 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 first rely on layers and a sleep sack (as talked about above). Use the snow suit only when 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.