Do you struggle to sleep well while camping?
If yes, this simple, comprehensive guide will discuss effective strategies and approaches you can use to get the best sleep you will ever get while camping.
Let’s get right into it:
Getting the right gear is the first thing you need to do to ensure that you sleep better while camping. While you’re free to personalize your sleeping gear, at the bare minimum, you need the following essentials:
A sleeping bag
Years of camping experience have taught me that the best sleeping bag to get is a lightweight one that’s easy to carry around. It should also be comfortable enough with a temperature rating that is appropriate for your destination.
For instance, if you are camping during the summer season, look for a temperature rating of 300F and higher. If you are camping in winter, look for a bag with a temperature rating of 150F and lower.
For other seasons, a rating of 150F to 300F will do you good.
Another factor to consider when choosing a sleeping bag is its shape. There’re four standard shape types. They include:
- Mummy, and
- Double bags.
Let’s discuss each type:
1: Rectangular bags
I’ve found that rectangular sleeping bags are the roomiest. If you want to give your arms and legs enough space to stretch out, you won’t go wrong with these types of sleeping bags.
2: Semi-rectangular bags
Semi-rectangular sleeping bags are semi-roomy, but not as roomy as their rectangular counterparts.
3: Mummy bags
Mummy sleeping bags are the best for warmth because they offer a snug fit, and you have to roll over with them rather than rolling over inside them.
4: Double bags
If you’re camping with your significant other (SO), double bags are the best because they’re roomy enough to accommodate couples that want to sleep together.
As you think about which sleeping bag to buy for your needs, think about the insulation type too. In general, you have two options from which to choose: synthetic and down insulation.
- Synthetic: Synthetic insulation is best for damp areas—mainly because it dries fast after washing.
- Down: Down insulation often has water-resistant treatment to protect you when you’re camping in a damp environment. They perform very well in cold, dry weather.
If you’d rather not use a sleeping bag, you can always opt for a sleeping pad. Sleeping pads are very comfortable and can keep you warm throughout the night. Moreover, they’re very bd-like, meaning when you use one, you won’t miss your bed too much when you’re out camping.
There are three types of sleeping bags you can choose from:
1: Air pads
Air pads are the sleeping mattresses you manually fill with air before sleeping on them.
- They are very comfortable and lightweight, making them easy to pack and carry.
- You can customize the firmness to your ideal comfort by adding or releasing air from the valve.
- The lighter or more compact they are, the more expensive they tend to be.
- If the temperature fluctuates, they tend to feel like they are losing air.
2: Self-inflating pads
These pads feature an opening valve that allows foam to expand and automatically fill with air in readiness for use.
- They are comfortable, offer excellent insulation, and you can adjust the firmness by adding or releasing air.
- They are usually heavy and a little expensive.
3: Closed-cell foam pads
The main feature of these pads is the dense foam that is usually filled with tiny air cells that are closed.
- They are inexpensive, durable, lightweight, and offer consistent insulation in all conditions.
- They are bulky and tend to be relatively stiff and firm.
After years of camping experience, sleeping on many different types of “sleeping surfaces,” experience has taught me that the best way to choose an ideal sleeping pad is to decide based on your warmth requirements.
Bring one pillow from home or purchase an inflatable camp pillow.
A pillow helps you sleep well/comfortably because it supports your neck, giving it a more natural body position as you sleep. Ensure you don’t get just any pillow. Get a good one that can help you sleep better.
Earplugs and eye mask
Eye masks could prove very helpful when camping during the summer or in areas with a lot of light.
On the other hand, earplugs block out or dampen noises from snoring tent mates or other rustling noises from the bushes.
Once you’re out camping—assuming you already have the gear you need—and ready to sleep, you’ll need to make your sleeping arrangements before dark.
Arranging your tent and sorting out your sleeping set up early enough will give you time to enjoy the evening and relax in readiness for a night of being under the stars. Setting up your camp and tent before sunset can significantly contribute to a night of good rest.
To get ready for:
Choose a proper tent site
Ensure that the place you want to pitch your tent is a flat, durable surface without any sticks, stones, or pinecones. In places where people have camped before, seek out a previous campsite. Also, ensure that you camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. Lastly, try camping in an area free of vegetation.
When it comes to wind interference, look for natural windbreakers when setting up your tent, something like a tree or hill will do well. Avoid areas with damaged trees or branches susceptible to falling in case of strong winds.
Seek out higher and drier grounds to avoid excess moisture condensation when the temperature drops at night.
Keep a light source handy
Since you are off the grid, it can get very dark at night. Therefore keep a flashlight handy or hang a small LED lantern inside the tent. You can turn it off once you’re ready to sleep.
Repeat your familiar bedtime routines
Routines, like brushing your teeth before bed, wearing pajamas, etc., trigger a feeling of normalcy even when you are camping in alien surroundings.
Store all food and scented toiletries outside the tent
Different parks have different rules about food storage. Nonetheless, you can find a secure place to keep your food and toiletries. It could be in your care or a separate tent explicitly built for food storage. If you are camping in an area where bears are active, do not sleep in clothes that may have food odors.
Wear dry clothing
If your day attire is a little wet, get out of it as part of your sleep preparation. I’ve found that, combined with the general cold temperatures of the night, sleeping in damp clothing will be a monumental challenge—and can detrimental to your health.
Wearing bulky clothes can reduce your sleeping bag’s ability to trap and retain your body heat. Instead of wearing lots of clothes, place your jacket or blanket over your sleeping bag for that extra layer of insulation.
Pee at least twice before going to bed
Peeing before getting into bed helps you avoid midnight trips to the loo—or the bush, which, as you know, can be a dangerous place once it’s dark.
Pee 30 minutes before you’re ready to jump into your sleeping bag and once more immediately before sleeping.
However, if you can’t avoid going out at night to relieve yourself, you can prepare for the midnight restroom trips.
Before bunking down, ensure your sandals or shoes are near the tent door, have a headlamp near you, and an extra, warm jacket for when you step outside.
Try not to be distracted by the night noises
Sure enough, you will hear an owl, small critters, the rustle of the woods as the wind breezes past everything, and stream or lake burble or ripples. No matter what you hear, even if it’s a bear, try to relax. As long as your food is not within your tent, no animal cares enough about you to attack your tent. Thus, the best thing you can do is put on your earplugs and calm yourself to sleep.
On the other hand, white noise is a plus. If you are camping near a river, an ocean, or a place with a breezy atmosphere, you will sleep more soundly. Research published in the Journal of Caring Sciences in 2016 concluded that natural sources of white noise could make it easier to fall asleep.
Keep a pest-free zone
If you leave the door to your tent open past dark, mosquitoes and other bugs can get in and trapped inside your tent. Be vigilant with your zipper, especially at night. If you have bug repellant, use it before you sleep.
These tips may seem very foundational, and they are, but without them, it’d be impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Warm is the other thing that can contribute to how well—or badly you sleep while camping.
During warm nights, you may not even need to zip up your sleeping bag or cover yourself. If you are camping during warm nights, bring sheets or light blankets instead.
However, when camping in cold weather, you can keep warm at night using the following tips:
Eat a meal or a light snack before you doze
At first, I wasn’t sure why this works, but as I did more research, I realized that it’s because the digestion process generates heat that can help get you comfortable enough to fall asleep.
Enjoy some tea
Enjoying a cup of warm tea can warm you up before you go to bed. Choose a caffeine-free herbal tea like valerian or chamomile, both of which have a sedative effect. Other teas like lavender and passionflower tea also have a calming effect that can help you sleep soundly.
CAUTION: DO NOT drink alcoholic beverages like beer: Alcohol dilates blood vessels, encouraging heat loss.
Engage in moderate exercise
Engaging in moderate exercises like sit-ups can warm you up enough to make falling asleep a whole lot easier.
However, remember that too much exercise can keep you wide awake at night. Therefore, avoid high-impact activities like running, skipping ropes, or even energy-intense work too close to your bedtime.
Wear warm clothing, preferably long clean underwear (pajamas) and dry socks. Long underwear is ideal because it’s easy to sleep in—not to mention comfortable.
Stuff dry clothing inside your sleeping bag to fill up the empty spaces that your body must heat before the environment gets warm enough for sleep.
You can also place a hot water bottle close to your body to help with extra heat generation. If you need to warm yourself up fast, set your hot water bottle between your legs until you feel warm enough.
You can always bring some sleeping medication to boost your sleep, but you don’t need it. Camping helps correct your internal clock (circadian rhythm), making you wake up at the right time and sleep at the right time.
Generally, camping is fun, the sleep is excellent, and when it’s all over, you go back home feeling ready and inspired to take on the world.
Here’s a quick summary of the various things you should do to sleep better while camping:
- Get the best sleeping bag
- Keep bugs out
- Wear warm attire
- Pitch your tent at a cozy spot
- Pee twice before turning in
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