Get The 411 On Kids Camping Gear: An Authentic Review

Girl wearing camping gear in a provincial park

Check me out mom!

There’s an old adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment. Nowhere is that more true than in BC (also known as the wet coast).

So with that in mind, we started prepping for our upcoming first-of-the-season trip with the purchase of new gear for our 4-year-old daughter. Yes, the weather shows a good chance of sun, but between surprise showers, condensation, and a need to graduate her to ‘big girl stuff’ (e.g. not sharing a sleeping bag with mom or dad), we ordered her a set of gear.

Girl sleeping in a little dipper sleeping bag

I am ready to camp!

Here are our thoughts on the gear we ordered:

1. Little Dipper Sleeping Bag, Size “Regular” (retails for $68).

Did I mention we were tired of sharing a sleeping bag with a small person? At 40 pounds and 3’4″ tall, it’s high time this girl had her own bag. What we liked: keeps her warm down to 5 Celsius (fine for tenting in May), nice shade of purple, cool star pattern (could be used for younger siblings of either gender). It’s not a “cars” or “princess” bag, it’s a real sleeping bag. It’s certainly roomy for a 4-year-old, but we would recommend ordering the ‘regular’ unless you upgrade your equipment every year. Kids grow!

Drawbacks: looking at the website made it look like it doesn’t come with its own carrying bag, so we ordered a generic stuff sack for $7.00. Don’t bother! It comes with a stuff sack, and the general one is cotton (not waterproof) and huge.

2. MEC Reactor 2.5 Sleeping Pad (retails for $58).

If you get a kid their own bag, they probably need their own sleeping mat. What we liked: it’s her own, and relatively easy to set up. The bottom is ‘grippy’ so it stays put, it folds in half for rolling up into its own travel bag. Because it’s kids-sized, it makes for a very small mat – we could see adults using it in a pinch.

Drawbacks: only the bottom is grippy, so we found our daughter slid around a bit on the surface (something easier for a heavy adult to prevent). The vent is not that intuitive (although it comes with instructions) and we found we had to breathe into the mat to get it really full. If you’re looking for something fully self-inflating, this is not the one for you.

Note: with a travel mat and sleeping bag, you also have extra accommodation for when you’re not camping! We used this set-up in a hotel as a spare bed. Perfect.

3. Kids Black Diamond Headlamp (retails for $18).

When we were kids, headlamps were for miners, but now they’re an essential part of camping. What we liked: again, it’s her own, and theoretically could be used to help her be self-sufficient with lighting. It powers off after a few hours, and the light is good for 120 hours of use (we’ll get back to you on that).

Drawbacks: not inexpensive, can be lost by a small child, and our daughter didn’t actually like wearing hers for stretches of time. That, and the batteries (included) are put in using a teeny tiny screwdriver (provided) so be sure to do this before you hit the road. It’s a finicky operation.

4. Yeti Hooded Fleece Jacket ($39) and Fleece Pants ($19) in midnight blue.

Fleece clothes are another essential part of camping – great for rain, cool evenings, and can be used at home. Normally we go second-hand but a matching set was too appealing. What we liked: cute, well-made, warm (it’s Polartec), and made of recycled materials.

Drawbacks: watch for campfire sparks (as with any synthetic clothes), child didn’t actually want to wear the items (your mileage may vary) – had we gone with purple we might have guaranteed they’d be worn. Still, a good investment for any camping clan.

5. “Newt” Rain Suit ($59) in Kelly green.

A full-body rainsuit is as practical on the playground as the campground, so this is always a smart purchase. What we liked: comes with its own storage bag, covers head to ankles, allows for play in all conditions, can be used in the city year-round (well, our city anyways) – and you can order up a couple of sizes (we got a size 6 for a kid who wears size 4 and 5 clothes) because the elastic wrists and ankles hold the suit in place.

Drawbacks: can’t think of any – these resell very well and are a good investment if you live in a rainy climate.

Well folks, there you have it. If you have the time, try looking for these items second hand (online or in stores)- but in our experience they’re so essential they get passed down in families and guarded like gold. So if you have more than one kid in mind, the investment may just well be worth it.

Note: all products were purchased from Mountain Equipment Co-op (membership required to shop), and the author was NOT compensated for her review in any way. Just a happy member!

Published: May 14th, 2014

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Avatar by vancouvercampingmom

Morgan was raised on camping by her father and maternal grandparents. A life-long Vancouverite, she is a tourism instructor at BCIT and Royal Roads University and a customer service trainer. Morgan lives in East Vancouver with her family and puts a heavy emphasis on family travel as a way to learn, grow, and reconnect.

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