We had the pleasure of interviewing Tavis Malcolm – founder of Morrison Outdoors and friend of Keith’s from high school. This year, Tavis and his wife Amber launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce the world’s first sleeping bag for babies approved for temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. We had a great conversation about their mission/founding story, the future of the company, and some helpful tips for outdoorsy families with babies/infants.
As an eagle scout and a pediatric nurse, it seems you and your wife Amber make the perfect team for creating a practical (and quite cute) baby sleeping bag. Walk our readers through your decision to start Morrison Outdoors and make the baby sleeping bag.
Thanks Keith! Really excited to share our story with you.
The idea for the Baby Sleeping Bag came about as we were researching ways to prepare for camping with a baby. We’d always known that camping was something we looked forward to as a family, but weren’t exactly sure what we needed to prepare.
As it turns out, there are lots of resources out there for hiking with a baby, but not a lot of resources for sleeping outdoors in cold weather. We knew that sleeping with the baby inside our own sleeping bags would not be a safe option, so when I couldn’t find something online, I set out to make my own.
We heard you originally started developing the baby sleeping bag by connecting two blankets with an old sewing machine. Tell us about the trial and error process of designing the baby sleeping bag at home.
That’s exactly right – the first versions were two down blankets sewn together with a zipper and collar. Not really understanding baby dimensions, the first version was so small I couldn’t even fit it over my baby’s diapered bottom! Each new version grew progressively larger until I was able to work out a system that allows the sleeping bag to grow with babies from 3 months all the way up to 24 months old.
Overall we’ve done about 6 versions so far, with each getting a little bit more refined until we had the design exactly how we wanted it.
Sounds like you’ve come a long way! For those of us who don’t know, describe the process for getting a 20° temperature rating.
The unofficial 20° temperature rating is the result of thick insulation that wraps all the way around the bag. We use 2.5” “baffles” – or internal walls – to keep our insulation in evenly place and prevent cold spots.
Being in pre-production, our temperature rating is still unofficial, but we’ve taken care to use levels of insulation similar to adult sleeping bags with 20° ratings, and done our own hands-on testing to ensure our baby sleeps comfortably at cold temps.
Temperature ratings aside, I’m sure safety is the #1 concern for most parents taking their babies camping. What measures did you take to make sure the baby sleeping bag is as safe as possible?
Absolutely – we take safety incredibly seriously and are proud to offer a design that conforms to all SAFE sleep guidelines for infants as recommended by the AAP.
In our case, that means that bags have no hoods, drawstrings, or anything else that could present a suffocation hazard. For the youngest infants, our bags roll up from the bottom to create a smaller sleep environment, which works together with a snug fleece collar to keep babies from slipping inside.
The sleeves of the bag connect together on the outside to act as “swaddle” wings for young infants and keep the sleeves away from their faces.
As your son Morrison grows older, I’m sure you guys will have to come up with more creative ideas for camping as a family. Do you anticipate expanding your product line to include family camping products? If not, do you have any other directions in mind?
Definitely! Our mission as a company is to make life outdoors easier for parents. We have a lot of ideas for ways we can do that, including more new products, leading hikes and campouts for families, and eventually retail stores and community camping centers.
But that’s all a long ways off, and right now we’re just focused on making the best baby sleeping bags we can offer.
We know consumers are starting to care more and more about about sustainable and humane production, especially when it comes to goose down products. As you grow, do you have any plans to maintain a sustainable and cruelty-free supply chain?
Absolutely. It’s important to me that our production process uses ethically-sourced materials and that we offer equitable wages and working conditions to the people who are producing our bags. I’ve recently traveled in person to spend time hands-on with our manufacturers and ensure that we can be proud of what we’re offering customers, both in quality of product and in terms of how it’s being made.
Based on the success of your Kickstarter campaign, it’s become clear that there’s a high demand for this product. Could you let our readers know when and how to go about purchasing one of your sleeping bags?
The Kickstarter campaign is still going on and active through this Friday, March 8th. After that, readers can check out our website morrisonoutdoors.com for pre-orders. We’re working with our manufacturers on a July delivery date for our first production run, at which point we will (hopefully) have sleeping bags to sell directly online.
When it comes to camping as a family, it seems like you and your wife are very much on top of things. Other than keeping your baby warm and cozy at night, do you have any other advice/tips/tricks for families that want to take their baby camping?
Great question! My biggest piece of advice is just to plan on taking it slow. Maybe you usually hike 5 or 10 miles at a time. This time, plan on 2 or 3. Plan on stopping a lot. Plan on changing diapers on the trail (that means having a changing pad, and somewhere to keep the dirty ones). And most of all – enjoy it! With the right preparation, getting outdoors is very stress relieving, and that’s something every parent needs.
Thanks so much for doing this interview, we’re very excited to see your product go live! Are there any last things you want the world to know about Morrison Outdoors? Also, where can our readers keep track of everything you’re up to?
We’ve made our New Year Resolution to get outdoors with our baby every single week in 2019, which you can follow along on our Facebook or Instagram. For product updates, discounts, and giveaways readers should join our email list at morrisonoutdoors.com.
Thanks so much for having us!