Parenting & Family

Summer camping with kids

  • Last Updated:
  • May 18th, 2017 12:21 pm
Jun 23, 2006
302 posts

Summer camping with kids

Hi all, we are total newbies to camping culture but would like to learn to camp with our kids 3 & 5 yrs old. We could borrow a bunch of gear from friends but I would like to ask for your advice about kids' sleeping bags. What differentiates between the Sportchek/Cdn Tire/walmart bag ($30) vs ones from MEC ($75) if the temperature rating (5 degrees Celsius) is the same? Polyester fill, comes with its own packing sack. We figured rectangular shape would be roomier for them instead of mummy style. We would be using it for mild summer camping, cabins at first, maybe car camping, maybe tents if we ever graduate to be more adventurous. Would it also suffice for elementary school/scouts camping trips? I want to make sure it's decent enough quality so they would enjoy the outdoors and wouldn't be cold and miserable. It would be nice if it could be used for the next few years. Do kids need therma rest pads to go underneath too? Thanks.
6 replies
Sr. Member
Jan 8, 2009
658 posts
Someone else can probably help you better with the sleeping bag question but I thought I'd mention the following.

I don't know where you are or how quickly these fill up but MEC (in concert with Parks Canada) offers these great "learn to camp" sessions that are fairly inexpensive and they'll teach you all the basics: ... /ltc-dlc08

They provide the tents, sleeping pads, dinner and breakfast and teach you how to pitch a tent, build a campfire, camp cooking and camping safety. I don't see the pricing listed but they're usually fairly reasonable.
Deal Addict
Jan 2, 2015
1162 posts
We are in the process of taking our kids car tent camping this summer as a family, but my kids have been camping for a while with Giril guides.

Here's some random answers.
You will want a higher better temputure rating especially if the kids go into scouts in the higher level. Lower levels, they don't have the kids out in tents over night often, it tends to be cabin 'glamping'.
A general rule I use it 10 degrees lower than what you think the lowest temperature you will be camping in . So if you go camping when some nights get down to zero, you would want about -10 degree rating. 5 degrees is really for summer camping only. I did a September camp and at night it was about 4 degrees, and my -10 was a little chilly.
Mummy bags stay warmer. They are less room, but I don't mind, you don't want a lot of air in the layers. The retanular bags are good because they can be unzipped and some can actually zip to together for a couple.
A$30 bag vs a $75 vs $300 often come to durability, the ability to keep you warm (some materials keep the moisture off), and weight. If you are a car camper or are just getting started, not need to spend a ton of money even for the lower levels of scouting. U can always send an extra liner.
For elementary, you can get away with a mid one, and upgtade if they show interests. Get the better temp rating though.

In terms of thermarests, I find for smaller younger kids,a light one is fine. I have even seen kids nbeong yoga mats. For cabins, you don't need it. Again, when they get older or heavier a better thermarest is good. If you are going family camping and space is not an issue, you can even bring a blow up air mattress. We have one for sleepover, and guests plus it comes to camp, usually for me though.

Honestly though, For cabin or car camping you don't need much.
On a 'smart' device that isn't always so smart. So please forgive the autocorrects and typos. If it brothers you, then don't read my posts, but don't waste my time correcting me. If you can get past the typos, then my posts generally have some value.
Jun 23, 2006
302 posts
Yes, that's the type of program we signed up for this summer. The local nature park runs it and they provide tent and cooking gear but we're responsible for bedding and food. It's held in a nature reserve the Vancouver area so my husband jokes that we could always order pizza if all else fails. Smirking Face
Jun 23, 2006
302 posts
Thanks! Good tip about buying a warmer temperature rating. I figure they could unzip to cool off if it's too warm, better than too cold and shivering. I vaguely recall elementary school camping as a kid and wearing everything I brought and was still cold. Probably coz my parents sent me in a bag meant for sleepovers at friends.
Deal Guru
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Jun 15, 2012
10548 posts
Southern Ontario
I don't know what's in BC but we've been camping with our kids for years and go to Ontario Provincial Parks. They are maintained, have running water in their washrooms, hot showers, laundry, some have park stores that sell camping supplies, food, ice cream, where you can also rent bikes, paddleboards, etc. There are fun educational programs run all day, every day by staff. Our kids have learned about wildlife, eco-preservation, seen wild turkeys, deer, flying squirrels lol. They know how to pitch their own tent (although we have graduated to a trailer and book hydro enabled sites), canoe, fish, and it's great family time without electronics. Our provincial parks do not allow motorized water vehicles and one of the places we go has a beach like the caribbean. This is another place Grundy, my kids/ their friends cliff jumping:


Before we had kids, I portaged with friends to remote areas in Algonquin Park. The silence out there is surreal.
To answer your question, layering is key, A better made sleeping bag will not fall apart and it's fill will remain even and working for a longer period than a cheaply constructed one.
Test camping by going for just a weekend. Be prepared and you can make it a wonderful experience. We have met some great people from across the province.

You probably have your own provincial tips: ... /checklist
Deal Fanatic
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Mar 31, 2008
9841 posts
stoppy wrote:
May 18th, 2017 12:54 am
Thanks! Good tip about buying a warmer temperature rating. I figure they could unzip to cool off if it's too warm, better than too cold and shivering. I vaguely recall elementary school camping as a kid and wearing everything I brought and was still cold. Probably coz my parents sent me in a bag meant for sleepovers at friends.
I went to camp kearny as a kid in Grade 6 (sleeping indoors) but my parents probably didn't know and got me the heaviest, thickest sleeping bag. Mann, I woke up sweating like crazy. So it's also easy to over do it. I agree, just layering is fine.

Maybe better to go with someone first who's been before.

I would also suggest a pop-up tent. More pricey but really worth it. I've been camping with my daughter (just 1 night though) when she was 1.5 and 2.5 as well. It was summer so wasn't too cold. It's really not bad. Just maybe add an extra layer of clothes and get a lighter bag.