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Getting a young child off to sleep in an unusual environment can be tough. How do you get a baby or toddler down for a nap in a hotel room or Airbnb rental when they are in a travel crib and there is natural light streaming through the window? Some parents just resort to living in the darkness as they close all the blinds and try for a calmer environment. But, what if you could use a portable blackout device to cover the crib or playpen and provide two very different environments in the same room?
That is the aim of the Slumberpod. This system uses a free-standing tent structure for a travel system that also blocks out plenty of light. It sounds great on paper, but does it work?
In this Slumberpod review, I want to talk about the tent in more detail. This means going through the features that are on offer, especially regarding the newer 2.0 version that they brought out. This should help showcase why this product is so advantageous for parents and children. We will look at the materials, the ease of use, and the options for enhancing the security and overall functionality of the product.
Of course, we will also consider any potential downsides. From there, I will mention some alternative products that either act as tents or blackout solutions for babies and toddlers. Here you can see what else is on the market and how they compare to the Slumberpod. Before that, let’s talk about why these blackout structures are so helpful.
Why Do You Need A Blackout Enclosure?
Blackout products are a great idea when creating a sleep environment for anyone – whether a young baby or toddler struggling with a routine or an adult dealing with a poor sleep routine in a room with a lot of external light sources. The darker the room, the easier it is to fall asleep and feel secure. This is tricky for children if you aren’t in a room with blackout curtains or need to share a room with them during vacations.
For example, your holiday rental or Airbnb apartment for the week may be perfect for a summer vacation with a bright airy design and lots of natural light through the window, but it may not get dark enough when it is time for kids to take a nap or get a full night’s sleep. Then, even if you were to adapt the room to make it darker, you have to live in that darkness while their nap. It isn’t practical for anyone.
This is why self-contained blackout products like the Slumber pod can be so helpful for parents you can create a small-scale darkened environment where the child can rest and sleep without it impacting on your own activities and enjoyment of the day. The right product can provide security and a better sleep schedule for babies and toddlers as long as it is designed with various situations in mind.
Ideally, you want something that will surround a bassinet with ease but will also work over playpens or other products for older children that need that secluded calmer environment. The Slumberpod is sold as a versatile system with some simple features and a shape that makes it more adaptable. So, is it a good choice for your child?
The Slumberpod: As Seen On Shark Tank.
If you are a fan of the TV series Shark Tank, the Slumberpod may be familiar to you. The product is the creation of a mother-and-daughter duo. The pair came up with the idea in 2014 after struggling to get a child to sleep in an unusual environment during the festive break. They came up with the idea of a blackout tent that would go over the crib, and the idea took off from there.
There were already quite successful by 2020, with money raised on Kickstarter to set up the venture in 2018 and healthy profits. But, they wanted investment to expand the brand. Barbara Corcoran gave them $400,000 for 20% equity and the company was able to build its profile and product range to what we see today.
So What Is The Slumberpod?
The basic premise here is that you get a blackout tent for babies that creates an environment dark enough to help them get to sleep. What makes this product special is that you get a structure with a bottomless design. This means that the structure can enclose a range of products like cribs, travel bassinets, pack and play structures, and anything else that is a secure and appropriate size. You can adjust the darkness and the ventilation with the flaps on the side.
The material blocks out light, but it doesn’t block out noise, so you can still talk to kids from outside or use white noise machines next to the pod. This also means you need to be careful of noise levels when carrying out activities in the same room. Finally, the company is keen to point out that this isn’t about enclosing a child in one place to stop them from getting out of their playpen.
Kids should have freedom of movement in here that they can’t get with a structure attached to a crib or pen. On the surface, this all sounds great. Let’s learn more about the potential benefits and disadvantages.
What Is The Slumberpod Made From?
Another important factor here is that we have a “unique” material that is both breathable and light-blocking. You are probably used to a certain type of mesh on child-friendly products. That stuff is sheer and breathable for safety but also provides great viability for parents so they can watch their child at any time.
That sort of mesh wouldn’t be suitable here as it would let it far too much light and you would just have a standard canopy. The alternative material here makes a big difference for that darkened enclosure and for the privacy of the child. It retains the breathability necessary for good oxygen flow.
That unique material is a combination of 85% polyester and 15% spandex. The use of polyester gives it some durability and structure that you might not see with something like cotton. The addition of the spandex means a fair amount of elasticity. This allows for some give when setting up the product and if a child were to push against a panel.
The other important material used here is the aluminum in the poles. This makes them light but also strong enough to support the structure and withstand damage. That lightweight will come in handy when it comes to transporting the pod between home or on vacation.
On the subject of the materials used, I want to point out that the company has expanded its range of colors. You will see a lot of sales pitches and online listings with the dark black model, perhaps with some nice turquoise blue accents and branding to brighten it up. But, there is also a softer navy and now a nice olive green. The lighter color shouldn’t have any impact on the blackout features, but it may make the product a little less obtrusive in a small room.
The Size Of The Slumber Pod And Compatibility With Different Products.
When fully assembled and ready to use, the structure is 56 inches tall to cover a range of bassinets and cribs, as well as 50 inches long and 36 wide. This large capacity enhances its suitability for different situations but also makes it a large and dominant feature of a room.
Thankfully, it is also collapsible so it doesn’t have to be out all the time and so that you can travel with it with greater ease. It folds down to a shape of 17 by 5 by 6 inches. This shows how the majority of the product really is just stretchy mesh with some solid support poles. You can then put the pod in its travel bag for portability or just for storage. The lightweight of all that mesh and the aluminum also means that it weighs just five pounds so isn’t difficult to carry around.
This size and the bottomless structure means that this product is great for use with a range of products. You can put it over a travel crib, a pack-n-play structure, a small mattress for toddlers, or anything else that will sit inside with plenty of room. There is a section on the company’s website that discusses some of the specific compatible products, so I recommend checking that out.
Using The Slumberpod With Older Children.
What I love about this product is that it isn’t limited to babies of a certain age. The shape and bottomless structure make it ideal for use with toddlers too. This works great for a lot of young children that may have developmental issues or sensory considerations where darker quieter spaces are really helpful.
A blackout pod like this becomes a place to escape with the added knowledge that their parents are right nearby if needed. Kids can take a nap to rest, play in the dark, or do anything they need to do to make them feel better and eventually lead to a better night’s sleep. Eventually, the child will outgrow the space, but not as quickly as you might imagine.
Using The Slumberpod When Travelling.
The foldable design mentioned above is important. As this is a travel product for use on holiday, as well as something for a nursery or playroom, it needs to be portable and easy to set up. You can carry this small bag and light structure with you when traveling. It should fit into the back of the car or a roof bag with no problem at all. This portability is great for vacations for that ideal darkened setting, but also for playdates or short stays with family. This goes back to the idea of this being a good tool for kids with sensory issues as well as babies trying to sleep.
Are There Any Downsides To Using A Slumberpod With Your Child?
There aren’t any problems of note with the quality or construction of the structure. But, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. The first is the age restriction of 4 months and above. I will talk about that more in the safety section below. Another is the need for patience and practice setting this product up, especially the first time.
The poles need to be secure and the material taut so that it can go over the crib or pen with ease. The travel system is great, but it isn’t a simple pop-up structure. With practice, you should be fine. Have a couple of test runs at home before using it on a vacation.
On that note, it is also a good idea to give kids time to get used to the structure while awake at home. This will help them learn that it is a safe place for them to sleep and play. Familiarity with the pod at home should make things less confusing and reduce the potential for anxiety when you go on a trip.
How Safe Is The Slumberpod?
A big concern for parents is whether this approach is safe? The differences between the fabric and the idea of a bottomless full-coverage structure can lead to some concerns over the safety of the product. While you gain the blackout effect, you lose the visibility of other mesh structures. In turn, this means you don’t have the same level of surveillance for your child to check their breathing, sleeping position, and general fussiness. However, there is the benefit that the child feels more secure in the enclosed space and may be less likely to get anxious and fussy.
The biggest issue here is the recommended age. There is a warning not to use this tent with any child under 4 months old. This is simply because they need such constant attention as newborns that the lack of visibility would be a hindrance. You can’t just glance over to watch their movement and breathing.
There is also the fact that some kids may not feel that comfortable at this young age if they don’t have that immediate connection with their parents by their side. If you are concerned about the amount of light in a nursery with a newborn, look into getting a retractable canopy for your crib that provides a little more darkness and seclusion but that isn’t a complete cover.
The Slumberpod is safer than some other options for a couple of reasons. The first is the way that the structure provides more freedom of movement. This isn’t a tent pulled taut over a crib so that kids can’t escape. With those products, there are concerns that kids may feel too restricted or injure themselves if the tent is used incorrectly. Here, kids can move around on mattresses and leave play areas and not be at risk. The stretchy material helps too.
Then there is the fact that you can use additional tech with this product to improve its safety long-term. You can also improve the security of this system by bringing in a monitor and a fan for better ventilation. This is something the 2.0 version handles better than the 1.0. You can learn more about this model and the compatible fan below.
A baby monitor is a good idea as you can still listen out for cries and alerts and react accordingly. You may also choose to add in a temperature gauge and a monitor with a sensor to be doubly sure that the ventilation system works in hotter environments.
You don’t want the child overheating in this structure but also don’t want it getting too cold. A nice bonus feature here is that you do get a pocket for a monitor on the side of the pod. These features and the upgrades on the new model are something I need to talk about in more detail.
The Slumberpod 2.0.
I urge parents to watch out for the 2.0 version of this Slumberpod when buying online. The original model is still beneficial in the right situations, but there are additional features to the new 2.0 version that you can enjoy. They tie in with that idea of improved safety and make the product more suitable for regular use.
The main difference here is that the company added new pouches for additional tech. This includes the fan, which is highlighted below, and a monitor. A monitor is an important part of the system when keeping track of your baby’s activities and health. The new design raises the device a lot higher than on the previous version for a better view.
There was also the decision to change the ventilation panels so that they were better for blocking out the light. This might not be noticeable if you haven’t used the previous version of the Slumberpod, but that switch to the fly design does help reduce the amount of light that can come through. Every little bit of light-blocking helps when creating that ideal sleep environment and minimizing distractions for the child. But, adaptability also means you can increase the light if kids need a little more.
The Slumberpod Fan.
There are three options that you can choose from when getting one of these pods. You can get the tent structure on its own, get the Slumberpod Fan combo, or buy a separate fan at a later date after testing out the tent on its own. There are pros and cons to these different options. You may find that it is better to see what the tent’s ventilation is like on its own before paying extra for a fan that you don’t really need. Or, you may prefer to have everything together in one package to start you off.
The fan is a great little tool that can help cool the interior down. There is a UBC connection at the back and an 8foot cord, so you shouldn’t be restricted when setting up the pod away from an outlet. It is also small enough to fit in the pouch with ease and is very lightweight. The use of multiple speed settings enhances it further to customize the experience in the pod. Personally, I would get the combo pack to have this on hand as you get a fully compatible model for very little money. On that note, let’s talk about the price.
The Slumberpod Cost.
I found that the retail price for this product on the official site wasn’t as high as I expected. As of the time of writing, you can get the structure on its own for around $174. This could increase in the future, but it seems fair for the quality offered and the practical features. The combo version with the fan isn’t that much more expensive and comes in just shy of $200. So, there is value in buying them together.
I also want to take a moment to point out some of the additional products on the sales page. There are spare poles for the tent, a conversion kit for the fan for the older pod, and even a version to go over a pet crate. This shows that the company is keen to help and to diversify its range.
The Pros And Cons Of The Slumberpod.
Before we look at some alternative products, let’s consider the pros and cons again.
[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-up” cons_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-down” show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]The blackout material is stretchy and breathable.
The bottomless structure makes it suitable for use over various cribs and playpens.
The improved ventilation system allows for more air and light as needed.
You can add a fan and a monitor for better peace of mind.
It is affordable with a great deal on the pod and fan combo.[/i2pros][i2cons]Not suitable for children under 4 months due to the lack of visibility.
Some parents may find it fiddly to set up at first.
You may want to give kids time to get used to the structure before traveling[/i2cons][/i2pc]
Slumberpod Alternatives That Could Be Helpful
The Slumberpod isn’t the only product on the market to offer a blackout system for babies. But, it is unique in other ways. You may be looking at this system thinking that it is too large, too excessive, or too expensive for what you are looking for. With that in mind, we need to consider what else is on the market. However, you will find it hard to get something that is simply a cheaper version. Instead, you would have to go for an entirely different design or related product.
The reason for this is that the bottomless aspect of this product is actually part of a patent. The company was struggling to get off the ground following their investment and Shark Tank’s appearance because of copycats. Other companies could make their own bottomless tent for cribs with inferior features and charge less.
The patent means that as of October 2021, no company can create anything that is free-standing or that had a pouch for a monitor that is accessible outside the pod. These restrictions mean that the Slumberpod remains unique and those copycats on Amazon were removed.
Let’s start with this product from Khikily. To be honest, there are a lot that look like this because there is a standard design for this sort of tent. The basic idea is that you have a stretchy piece of fabric that you pull over the crib for a tight fit. You then tie it to the corners and create a blackout environment. The zippered windows on the top and side provide light, access, and breathability. There are concerns about the safety of this sort of product compared to the Slumberpod and you should never leave kids unattended. But, the reviews are positive.
[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-up” cons_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-down” show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]A stretchy material with great light-blocking properties.
Easy-access windows for light and ventilation.
Easy to set up and tie into place.[/i2pros][i2cons]Safety concerns due to the restrictive enclosure.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
This is a very similar product regarding the material used and its fit around a playpen. The material is meant to block out 90% of light and seems to be effective in creating that dark and calm environment. It should also stretch easily up to 48×39 inches. Because it is so similar, you are going for the darkness and the design here. The pattern of the giraffes in the starry sky is much nicer than plain black.
[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-up” cons_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-down” show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]Great light-blocking properties from the material.
Lots of elasticity for added ease of use.
The cute design makes this a lot more fun.[/i2pros][i2cons]Same issues as other structures of this nature.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
This alternative product is excessive and not in line with the protective blackout structures for cribs and playpens. However, I wanted to point this out as a more complex structure for toddlers and older children that need a safe space to nap or play. Here you have a tent that is 75x39x47 inches and goes over twin beds rather than play areas. However, it is still great for blocking out light and providing some privacy as users sleep. Maybe consider this when kids outgrow the size of the Slumberpod but not its function?
[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-up” cons_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-down” show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]A large enclosure for a twin bed and kid’s beds.
Plenty of privacy from others in the room or for security.
Some light-blocking properties.[/i2pros][i2cons]Too big to be a substitute for the Slumberpod.[/i2cons][/i2pc]
Finally, there is a different type of tent for babies. While this is sold more as an option for sun protection and outdoor play, thanks to the bug and sun protection, it is possible to use this as an indoor tent as somewhere that kids can rest and play. It isn’t going to go over a playpen or crib, but it comes with a comfortable self-inflating pad. This could prove to be a helpful vacation tool for a lot of parents.
[i2pc pros_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-up” cons_icon=”icon icon-thumbs-down” show_title=”false” title=”Pros & Cons” show_button=”false” pros_title=”Pros” cons_title=”Cons” ][i2pros]A great pop-up design for indoor and outdoor use.
Protective materials that keep out light, UV rays, and bugs.
The larger size is made for kids aged 6 months up to 5 years.[/i2pros][i2cons]Not big enough to be an enclosure for other products[/i2cons][/i2pc]
Should You Get A Slumberpod Or One of These Alternatives?
While there are some benefits to the products mentioned here, there are also limitations. Each one has one or two of the advantages of using a Slumberpod, but not the complete package. The biggest issue with the blackout covers that stretch over the cribs is the safety aspect and restriction of movement.
The patent for the bottomless Slumberpod means that it is the only one that can provide this sort of ease of use and freedom. The alternative tents have their advantages in certain situations but aren’t practical for regular use as a cover for a crib or playpen. Therefore, if you want the best travel blackout tent for a crib, the Slumberpod really is the best solution.
My Final Thoughts On This Clever Slumberpod Blackout System.
This Slumberpod review shows there are so many benefits to this product and so few disadvantages that it makes sense to go for this product if you know you will travel a lot or struggle with external light. What I love the most about this product is the long-term value. That smart bottomless approach means that you can adapt the tent for use with toddler beds and simply create a secure space for kids.
This is great for privacy and better sleep, but also for kids that have ongoing developmental or sensory issues. Just make sure to get the 2.0 model to be sure of the best ventilation and additional features, and consider adding on that fan as an extra precaution.