Mom Goes Camping

The 7 Best Portable Toddler Beds for Camping

best toddler camping beds

Getting a squirmy toddler to sleep in a tent can be a challenge. Having their own little camping bed can make the ordeal a lot easier.  Not all portable beds work well for camping though.  You’ll need one which actually fits in the tent, doens’t make a lot of noise, and won’t tear holes in your tent floor.  Below you’ll find info on how to choose the right camping bed for your toddler plus the top picks, as recommended by  outdoorsy parents.

 

Does Your Toddler Really Need a Camping Bed?

Most toddlers are squirmy creatures. They will roll around the tent at night.  This is problematic for two reasons.  First, your toddler will likely kick you in the head (not fun!).  Secondly, if your toddler rolls off the sleeping pad, the ground will literally suck the heat out of their body.

A portable sleeping beds help keep toddlers in place in the tent so they stay warm and no one gets injured.   So, while not completely necessary, a toddler bed can make sleeping in a tent a lot easier.

Your toddler will roll off the mattress!

babies sleeping in a tent

Baby camping beds are also a good way to keep your kids “organized” in the tent.

 

Alternatives to Toddler Camping Beds

If you don’t want to bring a camping bed for your toddler, there are some other solutions for keeping your child contained in the tent.

  • Barricades: Bring some big pillows to put on each side of your toddler’s sleeping mat. Sometimes I just put my massive backpack next to my kid to keep her in place. I still do this even with my 10 year old!
  • Have your toddler sleep in the middle: If your toddler sleeps between you and your partner (or between siblings), she will at least stay on the pad and thus be warm.  This won’t prevent kicks in the head though.
  • Double wide sleeping pads: Your toddler is less likely to roll off of a wide pad. This won’t prevent them from kicking or flailing around at night though.
  • Attach the sleeping bag to the pad: Some restless campers use Velcro to attach their sleeping bags to the pads. Use gear glue to get the Velcro on the mat and sew the matching Velcro to the sleeping bag.  I’ve also heard of people tying the sleeping bag to the pad.
  • Choose a non-skid sleeping pad: If your toddler generally stays put but just slides down the sleeping mat, then try switching to one which has a textured non-skid surface such as the Nemo Switchback or the cheaper Redcamp version.

Put a body pillow next to the sleeping pad. It won’t stop you from getting a few kicks to the face but will keep your toddler off the cold ground. 🙂 Image from Morrison Sleeping Bags.

 

Warning: Camping Beds Won’t Keep Your Toddler Warm

Contrary to what you might think, toddler camping beds will not keep your little one warm at night.  Your child needs to be insulated against the ground (which literally will suck the heat from their bodies). Likewise, your toddler will lose body heat from underneath if you use a travel cot (the sleeping bag is compressed underneath their body, so it won’t insulate like the undercompressed top of the sleeping bag).  On cold nights, you’ll need to put a sleeping pad inside or under the camping bed.

 

Types of Toddler Camping Beds

There are four main options for toddler camping beds: air mattresses, cots, foam mattresses and portable playpens. None is really better than the others. It’s a matter of convenience and what your toddler prefers to sleep on.

Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are comfortable and easy to pack when deflated.  However, they have a lot of downsides. For camping with toddlers, the major downside is that air mattresses are loud.  As one parent said, air an mattresses “provides a lot of opportunity for noisy fun when you’re trying to get the little one to shut his eyes and fall asleep.” Depending on the quality of the air mattress, your toddler might fall off easily, though there are some air mattresses which have bumper rails integrated into the design.

Further, air mattresses are heat sinks: they don’t provide insulation from the ground.  If you are camping in cold weather you’ll need to put a sleeping pad on top of the air mattress. Make sure you bring a patch kit too in case of punctures.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Some have bumpers

Cons

  • Heat sinks – don’t insulate from ground
  • Noisy
  • Take time to inflate
  • Pump may require electricity
  • Prone to puncturing


Cots

A lot of daycares use cots for naptime, so your toddler might already be familiar with sleeping on a cot. They tend to sag a bit in the middle which keeps your child from rolling off the cot.  Cots are also great because they don’t have to be blown up, are very easy to clean, and won’t puncture.  Most are lightweight and easy to pack too.  I like the versatility of cots, especially if you need a portable bed which works for hotels and sleepovers at grandma’s house too. You even get storage underneath them.

The main downside of a portable cot for camping is that they don’t insulate you from below.  In summer, this helps you stay cool.  But, in colder weather, you’ll need to put a sleeping pad on the cot.   This might cause your toddler to roll off the cot more easily.  Also be warned that some cot legs can tear holes in your tent floor.

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Storage under bed
  • Keep you cool in summer

Cons

  • Lose heat from below
  • May rip holes in tent floor

Foam Mattresses

Portable foam beds are convenient to use because they are comfortable, fold up easily, and you don’t have to worry about punctures. They also provide some insulation against the cold ground.  The one reviewed here has bumper rails integrated into the design, so your toddler won’t roll off.

The downside of foam toddler beds is that they get dirty easily. If an accident occurs, it can take a while before the foam dries.  Also be warned that foam beds don’t insulate as well: when the foam gets compressed, the ground will suck heat from your child. Closed-cell foam pads are better because they don’t compress as much.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Quick setup
  • Can’t be punctured
  • Some have bumpers

Cons

  • Very bulky
  • Get dirty easily
  • Limited insulation

Portable Playpens

If your toddler is still young, you can use a portable play pen as a camping bed.  This only works if you have a very large tent though.  Make sure you put some cardboard or foam pieces under the legs so the playpen doesn’t tear holes in the floor.

The main benefit of using a playpen as your toddler’s camping bed is that you can take it outside during the day.  Your toddler can safely play or nap there while you do camp tasks.  My daughter got too tall for her playpen at 2 years old; she was also able to climb out of it by then. So playpens only work as camping beds for young toddlers.

Pros

  • Doubles as playpen during day
  • Can put mosquito net over it

Cons

  • Very bulky
  • Can tear holes in tent floor
  • Must have large tent
  • Only suitable for young toddlers


 

Best Toddler Camping Beds

1. Baby Delight Go with Me Bungalow Portable Cot

baby delight portable camping bed for toddlers

I really like this brand and their chairs are on my list of best baby camping chairs. It’s a bit pricier but the canopy means you’ll get more use out of it, like being able to take it to the beach.

Features

  • Side rails on 3 1/2 sides
  • Removably canopy with UV protection
  • Open size: 50″ long x16.5″and 26″ tall (with rails); Folded size 6x9x32″
  • Weighs approx. 12lbs
  • Feet won’t tear tent floor
  • Storage pocket
  • Rated for 75lbs but holds adult weight too
  • Buy Here

2. Milliard Portable Foam Bed for Toddlers

Milliard foam toddler camping bed with rails

Unlike many other foam toddler mattreses, this one has bumper rails. It folds closed to create a box where you can store things inside.  There is a separate mattress inside the bed which you can remove (such as if you want to use a camping pad instead).  The only issue is that the bed is VERY bulky to pack.

Features

  • Bumper rails
  • Waterproof washable cover
  • Inner mattress 20×48″
  • Open size 54x25x7″; folded: 27×14.5×14″
  • Can store bedding and toys inside when folded
  • Buy Here

3. Regalo Toddler Cot My Pals

regalo toddler cot for camping my palsThis is a cheap but durable toddler camping cot. It comes in a few different designs with cute animals on the fitted sheet and a removable pillow.  The bed is very sturdy and two kids can sit on it.  I like how easily it folds up and is compact for packing.

Features

  • Up to 75lbs
  • Carry bag included
  • Open size 48×24.5×9″; folded: 24x9x8″
  • Fitted sheet with removable pillow
  • Different colors with cute animals
  • Buy Here 

4. Hiccapop Toddler Air Mattress

hiccapop toddler camping bed

I like this toddler bed for camping because, unlike most air mattresses, it has two parts: an inflatable frame and inner mattress.  You can remove the inner mattress (put a campign pad in its place) and just use the frame as a bumper to keep your child in place.  The bumpers are tall even with the mattress inside so your child will stay put.  Compared to other camping air mattresses, it is fairly quiet but will still make some noise.  It holds air well andn doesn’t need to be reinflated for days.

Features

  • Holds up to 300lbs
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Open size 62x39x12″; inner mattress 48″ long
  • Deflates down to size of a rolled sleeping bag
  • Comes with electric pump and carry bag
  • Buy Here 

5. Shrunks Wally Inflatable Bed Rails

shrunks inflatable bed rails for camping

If you only need a way to keep your toddler from moving all around the tent, these inflatable bumpers are a cheap and easy solution.  They come with a foot pump, so you don’t need an electric hookup to inflate them. There are grips on the bottoms to keep them from sliding around the tent.

Features

  • Set of two
  • Grids on bottom to keep in place
  • Inflated size: 48×7″
  • Includes foot pump and storage bag
  • Comes with electric pump and carry bag
  • Buy Here

6. REI Air Rail Sleeping Pad

REI Air Rail Camping Sleeping Pad

This pad obviously isn’t a toddler camping bed. However, it is good option because of the side rails which will keep your toddler in place (so long as he isn’t too squirmy).  It has an R-value of 3.3, so is good for cold-weather camping.  The pad is 1.5″ thick, self-inflating, and packs down to 6×11″.  The women’s version is slightly shorter than the men’s.  Your child (and you) will be able to use this pad for years.

Features

  • Self-inflating pad with side rails
  • R-value 3.3
  • 72x25x1.5 inches
  • 1.9lbs
  • Comes with electric pump and carry bag
  • Buy Here 

7. Baby Delight Nod Portable Playpen

baby delight portable playpen

This playpen also made my list of best baby camping beds.  It’s slightly longer than other portable playpens, so is good for toddlers up to around 3 years old too.  It’s even sturdy enough to withstand your toddler shaking it. What I really love about it is the zipper opening at the bottom so your toddler can get in/out by herself (which saves your back!).  The playpen comes with a removable mattress. It’s fairly thin though so you’ll need to use a camping pad inside in colder weather.

Features

  • Comes with removable waterproof mattress
  • Open size: 44x23x26″
  • Weighs 17lbs
  • Suitable for kids up to 50lbs
  • Zippered entrance at bottom
  • Buy Here

Need more advice? Read:


Resources:
https://www.rokslide.com/forums/threads/what-sleep-systems-do-you-use-for-children-under-5.77138/
https://www.reddit.com/r/camping/comments/3qd9u0/will_a_memory_foam_topper_increase_r_value_at_all/
https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/14529/
Image credits:
babies camping” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by alaska meads,
IMG_5013” (CC BY 2.0) by abbybatchelder,
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About the author /


Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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