Fall is one of my favorite times of year – school starts, leaves change, and although days are still warm, early mornings and nights acquire a crispness that create the perfect excuse for warm cocoa, crackling fires and soup. Fall is also an ideal time to head out to the great outdoors. Though camping with kids isn’t always easy, seeing my little ones have hours of fun with sticks, rocks and dirt and gain wide-eyed awe at discovering bird’s nests, ladybug hideouts and curious squirrels always makes me glad that my husband and I braved the adventure. We recently returned from an annual trip to Yosemite with two new additions to our kid camping gear – the Little Dipper sleeping bag by Kelty and the PeaPod by Kidco.
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With two kids under 3, traveling has often meant lugging two pack-n-plays, much to my husband’s packing dismay. So he was thrilled when we decided to move our oldest son into a bed and subsequently, into a sleeping bag for our camping trip. Be warned about sleeping bag shopping – there are really two classes of kid sleeping bags out there: novelty bags that often include the latest superhero or Disney star but offer about as much warmth as a sweatshirt laid over you – perfect for living room campouts; and sleeping bags for “real”camping that are warm (often rated to 30 or below), practical (pack down small and lightweight), but are still kid-friendly in terms of design. We went with the Little Dipper by Kelty and were undoubtedly impressed. I wasn’t sure how the mummy-bag design would go over, but it ended up being an asset since my son could nuzzle his head into the top of the bag to help stay warm and it kept him from inching his way out of the bag. Other features we liked? Easy to use zippers, compact and lightweight to pack, gender-neutral design, a built-in pillow pocket and a fleece-lined stuff sack that can be used as a pillow. At 60″ long, I know my 2+yr. old has many warm camping nights ahead of him in this bag. Buy it here for under $50 or check out Kelty’s other offerings – the Little Creek and Eclipse Junior.
PeaPod.jpgMy 9-month old is still in a crib so a sleeping bag wasn’t going to cut it as substitute, but my husband was eager to go pack-n-play-less on this trip. Enter the PeaPod by Kidco. The PeaPod is pretty much a pop up mini-tent that can be used anywhere from camping to the beach to grandma’s house. It’s designed like one of those car sunshades so that it folds up into this smallish circle and then pops open, fully assembled when you need it. Even before I had actually used it, I fell in love with it for this design. No assembly, no break down and storage requires less space than a pizza box. Kidco offers a number of designs and sizes that you can see here. I went with the bigger PeaPod Plus (52″ long) and got to try out their new design which includes a self-inflate mattress instead of their original models which require you use the included hand pump. The PeaPod has side vent for air circulation and a “sleeping pad” which I never quite figured out. Perfect for safe, playtime or a cozy nap, you can zip just the screen closed for air flow and visibility or zip the entire “door” shut to help your little camper catch some Zzzz’s. Whether you are traveling across the mountains or just across the street, if you’re tired of lugging a pack-n-play around with you, I highly recommend a PeaPod for its ease of use, convenience and portability. Buy the new PeaPod with self-inflate mattress here.

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