The 2 Sleeping Bags We Like for Kids of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter – The New York Times

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REI has not, in fact, discontinued our top pick, the Kindercone 25—it was simply out of stock, and it is now available again.
A $20 cotton sleeping bag from a big-box store is fine for indoor sleepovers, but if you’re planning family camping trips, or even a backyard night under the stars, it’s worth investing in something warmer and more versatile. After testing seven sleeping bags on two weekend trips, we found that the best sleeping bag for most kids is the REI Co-op Kindercone 25. It’s inexpensive and warm, comes in cool colors, and should last all the way from toddler to tween.
You’ll appreciate this versatile, affordable bag with a convenient attached stuff sack.
The REI Kindercone is warm enough for most three-season camping trips; plush enough for the hard floor of the school gym; and tough enough that parents need not fret if it occasionally morphs into the wall of a fort or the vehicle for sliding down stairs. Our testers liked the bag’s built-in stuff sack, and the fact that it comes in more colors than any similar bag we found.
With a slide-in sleeping pad for added warmth and comfort, the Little Red earns backcountry cred.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.
If nighttime lows in the 30s or below sound like normal camping weather to you, the Big Agnes Little Red is the best bet for your kid. The bag is warmer than our other picks and, like most bags made by Big Agnes, it has a built-in sleeping-pad sleeve, guaranteeing that your little camper will stay put—and warm—throughout the night. The Little Red also packs up smaller than any of the others we tested, though it's more expensive, and that's without the required sleeping pad.
You’ll appreciate this versatile, affordable bag with a convenient attached stuff sack.
With a slide-in sleeping pad for added warmth and comfort, the Little Red earns backcountry cred.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.
Kalee Thompson has evaluated gear for multiple magazines, including Popular Science, Wired, and National Geographic Adventure, where she was a senior editor. She is a longtime camper and the mom of two little boys, each of whom has now slept in more sleeping bags than most people go through in a lifetime. When researching this guide, she and her family lived in Southern California, where weekend car camping is a year-round activity. Originally from New Hampshire, Kalee futilely attempted to convince other SoCal parents—including her own husband—that 35˚F nights are “not that cold.”
In additional to drawing on personal experience and the expert advice we collected for The Wirecutter’s review of adult sleeping bags, we scoured online reviews and collected informal opinions from an assortment of camping parents from Alaska to Maine. Most important, we recruited nine other California families—with kids age 9 months to 9 years—to test bags on weekend camping trips to the high desert of Joshua Tree National Park and the sycamore groves of Point Mugu State Park on the Pacific Coast. We also reached out to Helen Olsson, whose guidebook The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids provides a fun and practical intro for parents looking to make a smooth transition into family car camping.
Is a kid-size sleeping bag even necessary? Many people have an extra adult bag or two in the attic or garage; is one of those just as good? “In a perfect world, people who have small kids should have small sleeping bags,” Helen Olsson said. “That air pocket around your body inside the sleeping bag is what keeps you warm. Put a little kid in a big, adult-size bag and they’re going to get cold.”
That said, kids can grow out of small bags quickly, and many kids sleep warm, shedding the bag in seemingly any weather. Olsson says her own kids started using hand-me-down adult bags when they were about 6 and 7, but that they tend to sleep hot. If you have older adult sleeping bags that are in good shape, sure, try them out before buying something new. You could even shrink that air pocket yourself by cinching the bottom of the bag using the drawstring on a stuff sack or a jumbo-size elastic band.
But if you are going to buy a tyke-specific bag—which may help get your kids excited about family camping and outdoor adventures—you should get a bag that will ward off cold and damp and be a camping and sleepover staple for years to come.
We wanted a bag that would be warm enough for three-season camping, whether in a national park or in a neighbor’s backyard. That meant a rating of 30 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Sleeping bag ratings generally state the lowest temperature at which the average person can expect to sleep comfortably using a sleeping pad and wearing long johns. Of course, your kid might not be average. If they tend to be cold you may want to choose a warmer bag. (Note that while most high-quality adult bags now use a standardized “EN” rating, which is validated by an independent scientific group, kid bags don’t use this standard. We didn’t find any reason to think the companies’ stated ratings weren’t basically accurate, but keep in mind that they're self-reported).
Most cheap department-store bags are rated for between 40 and 55 degrees, meaning they well may leave your kid shivering on a spring or fall camping trip. Many of them are also made of cotton, which doesn’t do much to repel moisture, be it early-morning dew or a leaky water bottle. Unlike the synthetic materials used in our picks, cotton no longer insulates when wet. We wanted a warm bag that wouldn’t get soggy in a spill.
We knew the ideal bag would be lightweight and portable enough that even toddlers could lug it around by themselves. All the bags we seriously considered weigh less than 3.5 pounds and come with their own carrying sack.
Kids grow fast. We wanted a single bag that would last a kid a good way through the elementary school years. The bags we looked at are generally intended for kids age 3 or 4 up to 10 or 11, though we also found good options designed for toddlers and teens.
Finally, we knew that our top sleep sack should be affordable. When we asked parents how much they’d spend on a kid's sleeping bag, we heard answers ranging from $40 to $70. We focused on bags within that price range.
Adult sleeping bags are filled with either down or synthetic materials. However, we found that companies simply don’t make down bags for kids. Conversations with reps from Kelty and Big Agnes confirmed that the reason is twofold. One, very few parents are willing to pay the extra money for a down-filled kid bag. (Down-filled bags can cost twice as much as synthetic.) Two: pee. Kids wet the sack a lot more than adults do and synthetic fill holds up to pee, puke, and other messes a lot better than delicate duck feathers do. So synthetic it usually is.
Companies simply don’t make down bags for kids.
All the bags we seriously considered are mummy-style bags. That form-fitting shape provides more warmth with less mass than a rectangular bag does. We found that most kids prefer a mummy-style bag, though probably more because it says “I’m a serious camper” than because they’ve calculated the weight and warmth benefits. The most frigid nights we experienced on our weekend camping trips were in Joshua Tree National Park, where temps dipped to 36˚F. All the kid bags we were testing kept their inhabitants warm enough at that temperature.
We spent six hours examining online reviews of kid-size sleeping bags on Amazonas well as on the sites of outdoor stores like REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, Backcountry, CampSaver, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Cabela’s. We visited company sites to look at the specs on different bags, comparing materials, shapes, features and price. We polled parents we know about the bags their kids have conked out in over the years.
We identified the bags that met our criteria, garnered high praise from online reviewers, and cost less than $100. Then we got them in and brought them on two weekend-camping trips with a total of 15 kids, age 9 months through 9 years.
You’ll appreciate this versatile, affordable bag with a convenient attached stuff sack.
The right balance of features and price makes REI’s Kindercone our top pick for both sleepovers and casual weekend camping trips. REI has been making this bag since at least 2008; it’s rugged, fits everyone from toddlers to small teens, and has consistently good reviews. Since we completed our testing, REI has come out with a new version of the Kindercone, which is rated to 25˚F rather than 30˚F like the one we tested. It should be slightly warmer, but otherwise the bag is similar enough to the one we tested that we feel comfortable continuing to recommend it as our top pick. The bag’s best feature, one unique to the Kindercone, is an attached stuff sack that can be used to cinch the foot of the bag, creating a smaller sleeping space for littler kids.
The size of the air bubble around your body inside your sleeping bag is one of the main factors that determines how warm you are. This is why a mummy bag is generally warmer than a rectangular bag: smaller is better. Using the cinch, we put kids as young as 13 months in this bag. Without the cinch, a 9-year-old could still fit comfortably inside, and even small adults can squeeze in if they have to—one 5-foot-5 mom on our Pacific Coast camping trip did just that when her 2-year-old son insisted on sleeping with his dad in the middle of the night. The newer Kindercone 25 is a few inches longer than the older Kindercone 30 we tested and REI says the new bag will fit kids up to 5 feet 5 inches tall. We think many kids might start to feel cramped a few inches earlier than that. Still, it’s a bag you could buy for a 1-year-old and expect them to still be using in the third or fourth grade.
It’s a bag you could buy for a 1-year-old and expect them to still be using in the 3rd or 4th grade.
The Kindercone's synthetic polyester fill insulates even when damp. The ripstop nylon shell, while not particularly soft to the touch, feels tough. You won’t have to scold your kid to be careful with this bag.
Even if you never actually use the cinch feature, the attached bag is a hit. As five families were packing up after a group car-camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park, there was a fair amount of confusion about which camp chair, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, or tent matched to which carry bag. The Kindercone’s attached stuff sack was a top draw for obvious reasons: one less thing to misplace, and one less excuse for a kid to take care of packing up their own bag.
The Kindercone has a history of strong reviews at REI.com (like the company’s other products, the bag is sold only at REI stores and on rei.com). Reviews of the Kindercone 30 recounted kids sleeping soundly at temperatures in the 30s, and even 20s. Quite a few others complain that the bag is bulky for backpacking and is more appropriate for car camping and sleepovers. We agree. (See our better for backpacking pick below.)
This guide to kids’ bags from a former employee at Montana’s Glacier National Park—where rangers have no doubt sent many shivering families on a long journey to the closest outdoor store—concludes that the Kindercone “costs 1/3 less than competitive child sleeping bags from big brands and accomplishes much of the same.”
This reviewer says he has washed his daughters’ Kindercone bags 8 to 10 times in a top-loading washer with no ill effects (though REI recommends washing in a front loader).
REI’s warranty allows dissatisfied customers to return products for a refund within a year of purchase.
With a slide-in sleeping pad for added warmth and comfort, the Little Red earns backcountry cred.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $150.
If your family does a lot of backcountry or cold-weather camping, where ground pads are necessary, it m
ight be worth buying a Big Agnes bag for your kid. Big Agnes built its brand on high-quality sleeping bags with built-in sleeping-pad sleeves that—when stuffed with a sleeping pad you buy separately—eliminate the need for insulation in the bottom of the bag. At first, we thought that the system—rated down to 15°F instead of the 30°F of the Kelty and REI bags—seemed a bit much for little kids. But a couple of mid-30-degree February nights in Joshua Tree convinced us of the Little Red’s superiority for cold-weather camping, even if it's far too expensive for most casual car campers, at around $150 for the bag and pad.
We were used to putting our 5-year-old's sleeping bag on a 22-year-old Thermarest sleeping pad left over from our backpacking days. He’d typically roll off it in the middle of the night—not such a big deal when it’s not too cold. But on truly chilly nights, it was nice to know that his insulating pad was going to stay securely under his little 37-pound body, significantly reducing the chance he’d wake up wedged between air mattresses, cold, confused, and begging to climb into bed with mom and dad. The Big Agnes system solved a problem it had never occurred to us to try to solve.
The power-red Big Agnes bag also got a “best” rating from our camping kids. In Joshua Tree, our son literally asked to go to bed while everyone else was still roasting marshmallows (yes, he was exhausted from all that rock scrambling, but his cozy sleep system was also a draw). He slept in later the next morning than he does at home.
Big Agnes makes kid bags in three sizes, all rated to 15˚F. The smallest Little Red, the one we tested, is made for kids up to 4-foot-5; the nearly identical bright-red Wolverine is for kids up to 5 feet tall, like the REI Kindercone; and the adjustable Duster goes up to 5-foot-6. If we were buying a Big Agnes bag for a 2- or 3-year-old we’d get the Little Red, assuming the kid would get at least three years of use out of it. Any older than that and we’d likely go straight to the Wolverine—unless there’s a little sibling to pass down to, that is.
All of the Big Agnes bags pack down much smaller than the REI or Kelty kid sacks, making them an ideal option for first backpacking trips. (Unfortunately, Big Agnes discontinued its 20- by 48-inch Air Core pad, which fit the Little Red bag perfectly; Nemo Equipment makes a short version of its Switchback pad that should work, and Therm-a-Rest’s RidgeRest SOLite should also fit the sleeve.) The Little Red bag weighs just under 2 pounds, with a compressed bag size of 7.5 by 8 inches. That's tiny compared with the 3-pound, 4-ounce Kindercone’s compressed size of 12 by 16 inches. A Boulder, Colorado, dad we know bought one for his son five years ago, when he was just 1. “In tents, in sub-freezing temps, he’s cozy and never wakes up,” he wrote to us, praising the stay-put pad system.
The only downside of the Big Agnes bags is cost. The Little Red has a list price of $70, and requires a 20-by-48 rectangular pad that runs another $20-40. The Wolverine bag costs $90, the Duster $110.
All the Big Agnes bags integrate with any 20-inch-wide sleeping pad; you don’t have to buy the Big Agnes brand.
We know some parents who reserve pricey gear like this for camping only, and buy a cheaper bag for sleepovers, stair-sliding, fort-building, and the like. And there’s no doubt your kid risks looking like a pint-sized gear geek if she packs her two tiny stuff sacks for a birthday sleepover where everyone else is cuddling up with Elsa and Anna sleeping bags. Then again, she may be the only one to get a good night’s rest.
Fighting cold: Though a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating should keep a kid warmer, what that bag is placed on matters, too. When temperatures are mild, plenty of kids are just fine slapping their bag directly on the ground (did the backyard campouts of a few decades ago happen any other way?). But on cold nights, the more insulation between a little body and the heat-sucking earth, the better. A foam sleeping pad or insulated air mattress made for camping is probably best, though an exercise mat, cheap piece of foam, or cotton futon could work, too. Even a folded blanket placed under a pint-size sleeping bag will make a difference in fighting off chill.
In cold weather, put your kid to bed in warm socks, jammies, and a hat, maybe one that snaps under the chin so it stays put. Bring a hot water bottle from home or make your own at the campsite by—wait for it—filling an actual water bottle with hot water. Stick it inside a thick sock then stuff it in the bag with your chilly child. Just make sure the bottle is protected enough that it doesn’t risk scalding your kid’s skin. Hot cocoa before bed never hurts, either.
Cleaning: Avoid the wear and tear of machine-washing when spot-cleaning will do. We slung bags over the clothesline and simply wiped them down with a wet cloth following our particularly sticky and dusty trip to Joshua Tree (no, our kid did not brush his teeth before bed, and evidence suggests he may have hit the sack with marshmallows still gripped in his grimy fists). Most companies recommend that bags be washed in the bathtub, or in front-loader washers with cold water and gentle soaps (REI recommends these). More care tips from REI are here. Big Agnes’s sleeping bag washing instructions are here.
Storage: It’s better to store a sleeping bag out of its stuff sack, though who has the room to do that? Of the bags we looked at, only the Big Agnes ones come with two storage bags: a compression sack for on the trail, and a larger, looser mesh bag for long-term storage. As with any camping gear, avoid mildew by ensuring a sleeping bag is completely dry before returning it to its bag. Big Agnes’s FAQ includes a discussion of optimum storage.
Our kid testers liked the Kelty Big Dipper, our former runner-up pick, just as much as the REI Kindercone, though parents missed the attached stuff sack. However, Kelty has discontinued the bag; we’re looking into its replacement.
Though our testers slept well in Eureka’s ultra-affordable, cotton-candy-pink Lady Bug (the green version is the Grasshopper), it didn’t feel quite as lofty or comfortable as the bags we liked best. (Eureka has since stopped making sleeping bags altogether.)
Rated to 20˚F, the L.L.Bean Kids’ Adventure Sleeping Bag was more expensive than any of the other bags we tested and had a couple of weird features we didn’t like, namely a tiny pocket that seemed too small for either a phone or headlamp—the most obvious things you might want such a pocket for—and an unusually narrow cut from the waist down. (It has also been discontinued since we tested it.)
We did check out one non-mummy-style sleeping bag, the L.L.Bean’s Kids' Flannel-Lined Camp Sleeping Bag, which seemed like one of the highest-quality traditional bags we could find after an hour or so of internet searching. The Bean Camp Sleeping Bag is a rectangular bag with a plaid cotton-flannel lining. The kids who slept in it liked it, and the soft flannel lining seemed comfy. The Camp could be a fine choice for weekends at grandpa’s house, the bunk at summer camp, and most summer camping trips, but it was far bulkier and had fewer features than any of the other bags we looked at, making it easy to eliminate as a top pick, especially as the 40˚F bag costs $80.
Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids, Interview
REI Staff, Sleeping Bags for Backpacking: How to Choose, REI, March 23, 2015
Perry Rosenbloom, Reviews of Youth Sleeping Bags, Glacier National Park Travel Guide
Peter Spiller, owner review by Peter Spiller: REI Kindercone 30 F (-1 C) Sleeping Bag, BackpackGearTest.org, August 4, 2008
T.D. Wood, Sleeping Bag Care, REI, December 3, 2014
Steve Graepel, A Sleeping Bag That Grows With Your Child, GearJunkie, November 14, 2014
Washing Your Sleeping Bag, Big Agnes
FAQs, Big Agnes
Kalee Thompson
Kalee Thompson is the senior editor heading up the team responsible for health, fitness, sleep, and baby/kid coverage. She has been a writer on the emergency-prep and outdoor beats at Wirecutter and has also covered natural disasters for Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines.
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