This summer we released a kid’s version of our popular Flicker sleeping bag. Ben Popper invested in one for his son, and recounts why he chose the bag and what it was like on their first trip. Words and images by Ben Popper.
The Flicker changed my night’s sleep in the backcountry for the better. Feathered friends says it is filled with goose down. I’d argue it is full of magic unicorn hair and clouds. My Flicker started coming on our family backpacking trips this spring and almost immediately our five year old took a shining to it. I sleep with it as a blanket and a month ago in the Goat Rocks Wilderness after waking up, he crawled underneath it with me to reiterate how “soft and warm” it is. His words not mine, I swear. His bag is good enough, but even compressed it was larger than his torso and takes up nearly half of my 65l pack. He’d made it through the summer without any of the dreaded backcountry overnight “accidents” so I pitched the idea of the new kids Flicker to my partner and then him. Purple like mom’s or blue like dad’s? Purple. We looked at the options available and surprisingly there are not many kids down bags available. It was decided we get out enough with him that it would be worth it. Being local to Seattle, I gave the store a call.
We had two weeks before our next trip to the Galena Chain Lakes near Mount Baker. This was a perfect amount of lead time for one of the bags that was in production to be ready at the store. The bag is an investment in our son’s future outdoors and we wanted to make sure he is ready for it. We made the trip to the store a family event. In his excitement, the little guy was practically covered as the bag was unfurled onto the sleeping pads in the showroom. Shoes off, he was up there on the platform and pulling the bag over his head, a muffled voice making exclamations of warmth and softness from inside his new cocoon.
Having a five year old excited to go on a four mile hike, in the potential rain, to sleep in a crowded tent, on a cold night is an amazing gift. It took and continually takes work, but with the right snack breaks I am pretty sure we could get him on the summit of Rainier if we really wanted to. Having the carrot on this hike of saying, “The sooner we get to camp, the sooner you get to crawl into your sleeping bag!” must be a first. Even better, this was the first trip he was carrying his own sleeping bag and pad, adding to his confidence and self-esteem. I had maxed out the amount our 6l compression sack could compress, the bag seemed to disappear. It was pretty clear he didn’t notice the additional weight next to his stuffed animals and bedtime books.
On the hike it was hard to tell what he was more excited for; picking the abundant fresh huckleberries or going to sleep. The weather held and the views of Shuksan and Baker from the trail were beautiful. We set up camp above Hayes Lake, went for a walk to Arbuthnot Lake after dinner and watched the first few stars appear before sneaking off to bed. We were half way through the second story, Dr. Suess’s McElligot’s Pool, when our son interrupts to say, “Mom, I think I am going to sleep in extra tomorrow. My new sleeping bag is so comfy.” He kept true to that promise and after a later than normal awakening looks over at me from inside his bags drawn porthole, reaches out a hand and says, “Dad, feel my hand, isn’t it toasty?!”
The backpacking season is winding down for our family this year, but the list of places to go next season is already growing. Our son and his use of his bag seem to know no season. He has routinely asked if he can use it on his bed instead of his blanket.