Once you have procured a tent, you now can move on to the family backpacking sleeping bags your family will sleep in while backpacking. Like tents, there is great diversity in sleeping bags. Also like tents, there is a compromise that must be made between cost, comfort and weight when choosing your sleep gear.
Family Backpacking Sleeping Bags:
When choosing a sleeping bag, the first thing that must be considered is the weather and temperature you will be backpacking in. REI has a great article (click here to read it) that helps explain how to choose the right bag. As I have said previously, we are budget backpackers and we also tend to backpack in mostly moderate temps where the temperature gets no lower than about 35 degrees fahrenheit. As synthetic fill is quite a bit less expensive than down, we all have synthetic bags. True, synthetic bags are heavier and harder to compress but the cost savings and durability made them the obvious choice when we started backpacking and they are great starter bags. That being said, while our synthetic bags have served us well, I do plan to upgrade to down fill one at a time when they need replacing. The warmth, fluffiness and ability to pack into the tiniest stuff sack make down sleeping bags a compelling (though expensive) choice. While the exact Marmot bag I use is no longer made, except for the color, this Marmot Women’s Synthetic Sleeping Bag is almost identical. I have used this bag on warm summer trips and also when we woke up to snow and I always sleep well. To help increase warmth, we do wear hats and gloves and extra sleep layers when sleeping in colder temperatures. The drawbacks are inherent to all synthetic bags- this bag takes up a lot of space in my pack, so I push it to the very bottom and jam it into compression with the weight of all my other gear. It is also much heavier than the typical down bag.
When the kids were little, we used Big Agnes bags made for children like the Big Agnes Kids’ Little Red Sleeping Bag. These were wonderful bags, but we now have needed to update to longer lengths as the kids have grown. When replacing their bags, I honestly choose based on what is on sale at the time that gets good reviews and isn’t too heavy. We have purchased a Kelty Cosmic 35 Degree Synthetic Sleeping Bag which we like, and the ALPS Mountaineering Blue Springs Sleeping Bag: 35 Degree Synthetic has worked well too.
One thing to consider is that camping in hot weather may negate the need altogether for a sleeping bag. When we did our Grand Canyon rim to rim hike, we each carried only a thin sheet to sleep in. A sleeping bag would not only have been extra weight, it was way too hot to climb inside at the end of a long day’s hike. Another option you could choose for warm weather hiking is to carry a Sleep Sack which is much thinner and lighter than a traditional sleeping bag. And cheaper too!
You may also choose to carry added sleep gear. For example, I find that carrying the Thermarest Compressible Pillow allows a much better night’s sleep so it is worth the extra weight on my shoulders. And Naomi received an inflatable pillow that she loves. However, everyone else in my family uses their clothes bag as a pillow.
Another thing to consider when procuring family backpacking sleeping bags- to cut costs, you may be able to rent gear. Our local REI rents sleeping bags so this would be a great option if you are just starting out.
The sleeping bag you choose will influence how well you sleep but you will have to decide whether cost, weight or comfort is the most important feature to your family. Whatever you decide, I hope it brings you many happy nights of sleep under the stars!