Cozy Kids: What We Learned About Sleeping Bags


AK Kid snuggles in his new bag.

AK Kid snuggles in his new bag.

My family camped a lot when I was growing up. I spent many a night trying to sleep in a flannel-lined bag adorned with red and black ducks that held water like a sponge whenever it rained. I won’t even start with the tent. At any rate, parents today are so much luckier when it comes to outdoor gear then my own mom and dad, both avid outdoor enthusiasts but nonetheless held captive by fabrics of the time.

Even since 1994 when #1 AK Kid appeared, brands have changed to reflect the desire of parents to provide their children with clothing and outdoor gear that holds up to anything kids can dish out. I recently began a quest for coziness while trying to find #2 AK Kid his own sleeping bag and discovered that yes, quality gear equals happy kids, and well, we all know that happy kids are a key to happy parents. Ta-da!

Why does it matter so much? Sleeping bags, I learned, matter a ton, after talking with Scott Rader, the guru of Footwear and Adventurewear for REI’s  Anchorage store. He says, echoing pediatricians world-wide, that kids are not little adults, and their gear should reflect this philosophy. “Children are sensitive to temperature changes and do not manage moisture as well as adults,” he maintains. “A child who has to use their body heat to warm up an adult-sized bag will have a hard time.” Ah-ha. So the adult-sized, flannel-lined, cotton sleeping bags of old were not just ineffective, I was ineffective in my ability to create a pocket of toasty air to stay warm due to my pint-sized frame.

I took AK Kid with me to REI a few weeks ago with my yearly dividend and 20% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket. Glad I did, since the forest of sleeping bags hanging by their feet proved to be more daunting than I had anticipated. Tempted as I was to shop large as I usually do when purchasing kids’ gear, I remembered Scott’s advice and instead laid Kid out on the floor on a bag just to see how much space he’d have to fill. Turns out a lot. I pulled out all the children’s bags from the racks and looked them over, noticing for the first time the different outer coverings and amount of “fill”. Some offered cotton linings, others synthetic, still others, down. Hmm. Rader states that frankly, the synthetic bags (inside and out) are the best deal for kids.“They’ll stay warm, even when wet, dry quickly, and are cheaper than down.” Plus, maybe we’ll be able to pass them down to another kid, which we all know is important when considering any purchase.

After looking at everything from the Big Agnes Porcupine +15 F bag made for backpacking at a lightweight 2 lbs and hefty price tag ($150) to the REI Kindercone +30 F bag for car camping ($60), we settled on a family favorite. North Face makes a nifty bag (in boy and girl colors, no less) called the Tigger 20+ F, retailing for $99; with our dividend and coupon, we scored it for $35. Tigger has an easy-to-zip zipper, cozy hood, and mummy design that keeps heat in. It even comes with little pockets for valuables and a water-resistant synthetic outer layer called Climashield HL. Meaning it might repel chocolate milk, juice, and other kid-related fluids. It fits kids up to 5’ and weighs a mere 2lbs. Works for me, and it obviously works for AK Kid who has slept in it most nights since we brought it home.

REI is not the only distributor for sleeping bags. Try Sierra Trading Post  for their deep discounts (we actually buy tons of stuff from SD).  is also a helpful search tool for gear and vendors. REI offers a Product Guide both on their web site and in store departments for sleeping bags (and just about anything else) that can aid parents in their search. We found it to be very helpful in testing and evaluating.




Posted in Gear.