Travel Gear We Use: Top sleeping bags for backpacking families

It’s time to think family camping! Get your family geared up for the summer camping season by snuggling up in a down or down-alternative sleeping bag! Today on Travel Gear We Use, we’re listing our favorite sleeping bags for backpacking and camping families, with lightweight and kids’ picks.

Best sleeping bag we use for kids:



We love our son’s The North Face Dolomite 20F Youth Sleeping Bag. No, it’s not the most compact bag on the market, but that’s ok with us. Kids’ bags, by definition, are smaller, so it’s possible to get away with a bulkier model and still fit it into smaller sleeping bag compartments in youth-sized backpacks. The Dolomite is rated to 20 degrees, plenty warm enough for us, and ours has lasted through three kids and counting! The price is right, too, at only $119.

Best sleeping bag with a larger toe box:


If you’re wondering what a ‘toe box’ is, you either haven’t used a ‘mummy’-style sleeping bag, or don’t mind its restricting nature. I fall in the latter category (I actually love the tight space that warms me up faster), but some members of our family hate it. They’ve been looking everywhere for a sleeping bag made for backpacking that offers a roomier toe box, and we finally found it. The Big Agnes Lulu 15 stuffs into a compression sack and is lightweight enough for carrying long distance (it weighs in at just over 3 pounds), but features a wider bottom half that most bags. It’s rated at 15 degrees, with a fill weight of 24 ounces. Pick one up for as low as $139.

Best sleeping bag for ultra-light backpackers:


Maybe you’re not trying to beat any ultra-light backpacking records, but you’d still like to carry one of the lightest sleeping bags on the market. Or maybe, you’d like your older kids or elderly parents to carry a lighter bag. We love the Kelty TrailLogic Kelty SB20 delivers, with a weight of two pounds. The best benefit of a lighter bag? It fits into a stuff sack roughly half the size of its counterparts, which means more room in your backpack. Hey wait a minute…that means I carry more gear, doesn’t it? The SB20 will set you back $299, but you’ll see why once you pick it up.

Best sleeping bags for those who prefer a quilt:

backcountry-quiltDid you know there was such thing as a sleeping quilt or backcountry quilt? These ‘sleeping bags’ don’t zip all the way around, which prevents that clammy, enclosed feeling some of us just can’t stand. If you’d rather sleep outdoors under a blanket or quilt than in a sleeping bag (but still need the warmth of a bag), Sierra Design’s Backcountry Quilt may be for you. You still get the 2-season warmth of 800-fill synthetic down, plus a hide-away hood and hand pockets to keep extremities warm at night. But the design remains open on the upper half, which allows you to feel like you’re under a blanket, not wrapped like a burrito.

The Backcountry Quilt is sold for as little as $150 for a 1.5 season weight, but you’ll want to spring for the $250 version to ensure you can use it in almost all conditions.

Our other favorite is the new Big Agnes Big Pine bag, which works with any pad size and is a great quilt option for road tripping, couch surfing, hotel stays where perhaps a child is on a rollaway bed, and the like. It can be used as a quilt or can be zipped to be a sleeping bag. It’s also great for summer season camping and backpacking. Our favorite feature is that it’s made with DownTek, which is sustainable down that’s water repellent. You can even zip two together for a double sleeping bag! This is by far the most versatile quilt option we’ve tried.

Best budget sleeping bag:

cosmic-20If you need a solid sleeping bag for a family member that is rated to 20 degrees for three-season comfort in the backcountry, you don’t have to break the bank. The Kelty Cosmic 20 gets our pick for the best bag for your buck. It’s only $149, and while a little heavier than most bags, you still get DriDown, Kelty’s down blend that resists moisture (so you don’t get that soggy, damp issue with your down sleeping bag after being dusted with morning dew). You also get a draft collar, a feature that used to be found only on more expensive models. It packs down into a stuff sack, though again, it won’t be as compressible as it’s more expensive cousin, the SB20.

Best luxury car camping sleeping bag:

sierra-designsThe Sierra Design backcountry beds are so comfortable, you’ll think you’re sleeping in a bed…really. They’re not as lightweight as some, so we think they’re best for car camping and road tripping, but they’re ultra-plush and fit nicely on or over think pads and cots. They come in single or duo size, with two basic designs: front country (rectangular for comfort) or backcountry (mummy-style and more packable for backpacking). They all come with an extra blanket flap that makes the sleeping bag feel more like a made bed, as well as hand pockets and slips for your pad. We love them!

How to choose sleeping bags for your family:

Start by deciding whether to go with down or a down alternative. It’s hard to ethically harvest down for sleeping bags, and since the synthetic version is arguably just as good, it’s easy to go without. Not sure which is best for you? We like this down vs synthetic guide from Sierra Trading Post.

Next, access your temperature needs. Will a bag rated at 30 degrees be enough for your use? Will you need a zero degree-rated bag? Determine where you’ll be using it, and in which season.

Finally, make sure a ‘youth’ sized bag will fit your kids (tweens may fit better in adult bags). Go into your local outdoor store to try out bags, and while you’re at it, bring your backpacks so you can be sure the sleeping bag of your choice fits into the sleeping bag compartment (if you care about that).

Once you’ve bought your bags and brought them home, remember to store them in a space where they can remain free of their stuff sacks. This is better for the bags. We hang ours from pegs in our garage, with each bag’s stuff sack set inside.

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