Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
Review: LL Bean Children’s Sleeping Bag
A mistake new parents make is thinking their toddler requires special gear for everything.
I made that error two years ago when I surveyed the land of travel beds and settled upon an inflatable bed for my then-2-year-old daughter. At age 4, she has outgrown it.
A simpler solution escaped me â€” a traditional children’s sleeping bag.
Specifically, an LL Bean kid’s flannel 40 degree camp bag. You could easily miss it in a web search or even while browsing LL Bean’s website. On its product page, the only giveaway is the size selection buttons: regular, extra-large or kids’.
We were tipped to the bag upon noticing our daughter’s sleepover friend had one. First I felt stupid for not thinking of it, and second I admired the bag because it was devoid of Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Train imagery. I was sold right then and there, but here are a few additional selling points.
1. Durable, good quality. My wife argued for a less expensive option, dragging me to K-Mart where there was a nameless Dora-free bag for $10. Let’s just say it looked like a $10 bag. Yeah, LL Bean’s bag is $44, but I wanted one that would survive two kids.
2. Machine washable (cotton flannel lining, nylon shell and non-clumping polyester stuffing). Prior to this, my concept of sleeping bags was that they needed dry cleaning, but this one calls for a front loading washer and drying in an industrial (Laundromat) dryer or simple line drying.
That’s a huge selling point. I can wash the whole thing, after every use if I wish. I’ve never dry cleaned our adult outdoor sleeping bags.
3. It stores in a large kid-friendly stuff sack. In my youth, I despised how tightly you had to roll your bag in order to fit into its storage sack. The LL Bean bag has room to spare, making it easier for my daughter to pack. We keep a travel pillow inside, and when actually preparing for use, jam a teddy bear in there too.
4. While the camper in me wants to balk at the bag being rated for only 40 degrees (hardier bags are available from outdoor stores), I know my family won’t be camping in colder conditions for quite a few years. And, the higher rating means my kids won’t get overheated as easily indoors.
5. Considerable length with room to grow, yet not too imposing for a toddler. Rated to fit a child up to 4-foot 6-inches. The bag’s dimensions are 28″x60″. Weight: 2 lbs. 1 ounce.
6. A zipper latch at the top optionally prevents the zipper from moving down in your sleep.
7. A monogram is possible for $6 more. I’m not sure if that’s for the sleeping bag or the carry sack. I wasn’t interested because it reduces the bag’s reuse value. I fully hope the bag has a healthy life long after my kids are done with it.
8. The bag is thick and pillowy and would make a nice comforter once its useful life as a sleeping bag is over. It can be zipped together with a second bag to make a large comforter.
Here are a few things I learned after two years with an inflatable bed:
1. Kids don’t need extra padding when sleeping on a carpet.
2. “Inflatable” means time spent blowing up the bed. A toddler never does an adequate job of it, but will balk at the notion of your helping out.
3. When a kid learns to jump on his bed, anything inflated is doomed. My daughter didn’t do this, but I hear about it quite often.
4. Built-in pillows are unnecessary. Buy an adult travel pillow. It’s toddler-size! (A rectangular machine-washable pillow about 10″x13″.) We found ours at a JoAnn Fabric Store, but you could find a pricier pillow at a regular travel supply shop.
While there isn’t a stated minimum age range for the LL Bean bag, use common sense. I would guess at least 2-years-old and able to sleep with covers.
(The LL Bean Camp Bag in front of an inflatable Ready Bed for size comparison. Keep in mind the Ready Bed’s “headboard” is not sleepable space, thus reducing the usable length of the bed even further.)
(The LL Bean Camp Bag sack above also contains my daughter’s travel pillow.)
Unfortunate Update: LL Bean took the liberty of adding me to its newsletter e-mail list without my consent. Sorry, just because I’m a customer, it doesn’t mean I want their spam. I’ve since unsubscribed, but the fact I had to is shameful.