All babies/toddlers are different and I am definitely no expert in baby sleep, but we have done a fair amount of experimentation with sleeping the backcountry. In this blog post I will share the phases and solutions we have gone through.
Our very first backcountry trip with F was to Brew Hut in May at 7 month old. At home we co-slept and night nursed, so I expected to do the same on the trip. The hut is pretty warm, but gets colder throughout the night, which is kind of tricky for little once as they can not add extra layers themselves. We ended up dressing her in her normal clothes and sleep sack, and then covered her with my sleeping bag as it got colder. The night was generally pretty rough, there were many wakings and I think F ended up sleeping mostly attached to my breast, which meant basically no sleep for me.
The whole summer we basically followed the same strategy of F just sleeping in her clothes, a sleep sack and then covering her with my sleeping bag if needed. However, during our trip to the Sierras, where temperatures dropped to close to 0 °C we did experiment a bit. I found that zipping a down jacket around F's waist for extra warmth worked pretty well. I liked this solution because it doesn't require any extra gear. The down side is that the feet and arms and hands still gets cold. The feet are easy to fix with a pair of booties. The hands and arms are trickier as a lot of babies prefer to sleep in the star fish position. A pair of long mittens work well if they are tolerated. Luckily F just seems to have way better circulation that I do.
F never really wanted a blanket on, and before she turned one I was still a little bit worried about putting her in a sleeping bag. I don't know if I am crazy, but mostly I worried that putting her in a sleeping bag would increase the risk of SIDS. I did not want anything that could potentially cover her face or restrict her movement to much. However, during her second spring of camping I started to fell better about sleeping bags, so we tried out a stroller bag. There was no way she was getting into it - I think it was to constricting to her movements. We quickly discovered that leaving her in her merino wool, fleece and snowsuit was the way to go, and if it was extra cold we would cover her with one of our sleeping bags. This method has worked great. The only downside with this solution is when F decides that she wants to sleep on top of me. She will now be too warm to wear a sleeping bag and I am therefor forced out of my sleeping bag. Good thing I have a warm down jacket.
Last spring we started experimenting a bit again. F is slowing becoming more tolerant of blankets, so we have acquired a down quilt - just a cheap adult size from Costco. F sleps very warm and often insist on going to bed wearing little clothes and on top of the sleeping bags. The quilt makes it easy to wrap her up little by little as it gets colder.
In preparation for our trip to Alaska this past summer we also bought a new sleeping pad, the Exped Synmat Hyperlite Duo. It is a double sleeping pad with synthetic insulation, and it only weighs 800g (~100g more than two Neo Air). It is the best thing that ever happened to family camping! It is warm, comfortable, and I no longer end up half way in between sleeping mats. It has two different valves, so I can turn without worrying about waking up F. I just love it!
I am sure that the sleeping arrangement will continue to evolve throughout the seasons and the years, but I think the Exped and the down quilt get to stay for a little while.
What does your sleeping arrangement look like?