AdventureExploration & Survival

How can I ramp up the warmth in a sleeping bag?

My 12-year-old daughter gets very cold at night when we’re camping. We are backpackers and tend to camp just under treeline between May and October. She currently uses a junior polyfill bag with an inflatable pad and some good long underwear. What could we do to keep her warm and give us a peaceful night’s sleep?

(Photo: Maslov Dmitry via Shutterstock)

Well, part of it is due to simple biology. Twelve-year-old girls aren't all that big, so she has less thermal mass to begin with.

But there are things you can do to make sure she stays warm. Good-quality long underwear is essential. I like wool. The Icebreaker 200 Oasis Crewe ($65) is an excellent piece. Also, make sure she has warm socks, light gloves, and a snug warm hat. At bedtime, brew up some hot chocolate that will put something warm in her stomach, along with some calories.


I think the sleeping bag is okay. You could add a liner to it, such as the REI Lightweight Fleece Bag Liner ($45). That extends the comfort range by ten degrees or so. Then, fix her mattress. If she has a true air mattress, then she has almost no insulation under her, just cold air. So do one of two things. Either swap it out for an insulating pad (Exped DownMat, which is a down-filled air mattress, $130). Or, throw a light foam insulating pad over the air mattress. Cascade Designs Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite ($29) would do nicely, adding several R of insulation values.

A plain ol hot water bottle also can do miracles.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Lead Photo: Maslov Dmitry via Shutterstock
More Adventure