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A reader asks: How can I keep the whole family warm?
We went camping last weekend with our boys (6 and 3) and we were all very cold. Our bags are all rated to 25°F and it only got down to 35°F. Any suggestion for better bags in the future? Thanks!
—Jordan B. via Facebook
There’s only one thing worse than being cold all night, and counting the hours till the sun comes up: knowing that your kids are cold, too! I, too, am a cold sleeper, and during the course of 20 years of sleeping bag testing, I’ve had my fair share of shivering nights. There are a ton of things you can do to make your nights warmer. Some involve a pretty substantial investment, others just require some smarts.
Go down. It’s warmer. Period. Plus, I find that a down bag heats up way faster than a synthetic one. As for your kids, that’s a tough one. There are very few down kids’ sleeping bags out there. (The North Face used to make one that you can still find online.)
Down is expensive and kids grow, which is why most parents opt for cheaper synthetic bags. My advice: When they’re little, skip the kids bags altogether and instead pull the trigger and make the investment in a full size down bag that they can grow into and hold onto forever. They’ll be roomy, of course, and less thermally efficient because of all that extra space, but you can slip their existing bags inside for a double layer of warmth. Check out the reviews from our 2013 Gear Guide and be on the lookout for the 2014 Gear Guide this spring.
Be conservative. If you think that 20°F is the lowest temperature you’ll camp in, buy a bag that’s rated to 10°F or even lower.
Check your pad. You need an insulated pad, not an air mattress. Again, there are a pretty significant investment. (Here are some good ones). If you currently own an air mattress that lacks insulation, you can boost it’s warmth by layering an inexpensive closed cell foam pad underneath it, like this one. Or, you can even use a blue foam pad from Wal-Mart (it will be bulky). Kids don’t have the comfort requirements that we grown-ups have, so for them, just go with a foam pad, like the Z-rest (above), which will keep them warm. When they get older, you can augment their beds with an air pad or insulated mattress.
Make a hot water bottle. This is the best trick and it works wonders. Boil a big pot of water before bed and give each family member his/her own leakproof bottle. This not only creates an immediate burst of warmth when you crawl into your bag, but it lasts most of the night and you can move it around to where you need it: feet, belly, etc.
For a bunch more sleep-warm tips, check out this link.