Keeping your Infant/Toddler Warm at Night

(This post has been updated to address some of the concerns parents had in the comments with sleeping a baby in their infant carseat.(September, 2017))

Recently, I was asked by a few friends for any tips on keeping their babies warm at night while camping. This might well be one of the most challenging aspects of camping with a baby!

Tips for Keeping Baby Warm

  1. When our kids were under 1 year old, we slept them in their infant car seat, with straps fastened. They were very warm with a J.J. Cole Bundle Me ( in there with them.

HOWEVER, recent guidelines suggest that we should not let a baby sleep in their carseat for prolonged amounts of time. Pay special attention to this warning:

Never allow a baby, asleep or awake, to remain in a seat when the straps are loosened or unbuckled, so he can’t maneuver into a position that compromises his breathing.

This being said, I would sleep baby in a travel bassinet (link at bottom) right by my side, so I could address their warmth throughout the night. (We aren’t big co-sleepers). I would layer them as mentioned below.

2.  Depending on how cold it is at night, I usually layer as follows – onesie, light weight long johns (we have REI brand), fleece pants and top, long sleeve sleep sac, sleeveless sleep sac, down coat/vest, hat… and yes, then they cannot really move. And this is the most layering we have done – probably 40 degrees at night. I would probably just use sleep sacs and a hat- with a tighter fitting long john or sleep n’ play underneath if it was 60ish degrees. We have a lightweight Patagonia hooded long john top (pictured) that I LOVE because I can pull the hood up to keep Esme’s head warm at nights, yet it isn’t so bulky that she fights it or has it pull down over her face while she sleeps.

3. We’ve found the biggest factor in keeping them warm is what is beneath – when they are older, a good camping pad rather than just on the ground does wonders. Pac-n-plays (awesome for containment at night) are off the ground – making then much cooler because of the air flow underneath- good in warm weather but if you are worried about them being cold, opt for the travel bassinet that sits directly on the ground.
Patagonia Baby Bunting

Patagonia Baby Bunting

4.You can test how cold/hot they are by feeling the back of her neck, that is how I usually check throughout the night, cause it will be coldest 3-5am.

5. Don’t layer them up too early, they’ll sweat, then get really cold. We’ve made that mistake. Often, when I wake up to pee at 2am, I add a sleep sac or hat before I go back to bed.

6. We recently purchased a tent heater. It is just enough to take the sharp chill out of the air.
7. When in doubt, scratch all this and let them climb in the sleeping bag with you. My kids just don’t do well sleeping with mom and dad.
Below are products mentioned in this post. Shopping through these links helps keep the site up and running! Thanks!

6 comments on “Keeping your Infant/Toddler Warm at Night
  1. Alyssa, you were very helpful to me when deciding what to bring for Ella's first camping trip! I am happy to say that she slept through the night!! It was around 60 degrees at the coldest and I had her in a onesie, long sleeve fleece sleep and play, and 2 sleep sacks. I took your advice and started her off in the onesie, as it was pretty hot still, and then layered throughout the night. I also put the blanket in the pack and play. Thank you for sharing your advice and thoughts. I will definitely go camping with her again!

  2. As an addition, this weekend I am bringing a down throw blanket to try with Ezzie. I have no hope that she'll stay under it but now that she is 16 months, I figure it is worth a try.

    • Well, Honestly I don’t. Sometimes they did get woken up. We were also blessed with good sleepers who didn’t wake up or fell right back asleep. One possibility would be to layer the clothing on them and hold the down quilts/sleeping bags until temperatures dip, then you can just toss it on top of them without waking them.

  3. We are about to venture out with our young toddler and I really appreciate the detailed advice – thank you for posting!

    One item caught my attention though – carseats are not safe sleep surfaces, especially for infants, and I was surprised to see this here as a recommendation. They are meant for transportation, not sleeping. Children left to sleep in carseats can asphyxiate because of partially fastened straps or positioning.

    Adding a blanket on top of the pack and play mattress also creates risk, especially for very young babies. If at all possible, babies should sleep on a flat surface without bedding or bumpers.

    It is entirely possible that these guidelines weren’t set when this post was written, but at the same time, I thought it was worth mentioning.

    All of that said – the way that you laid out ideas about monitoring temperature and layering were really useful. Thank you so much for sharing them!

    • Thank you Erin for adding these concerns! I was also surprised to see them here and would recommend the article be updated to exclude them.

      Thanks for all the other great advice though!

Leave a Reply