Camping out in the great outdoors can be a very fun, immersive, and relaxing activity, as you’re able to free yourself from the concerns of everyday life and connect with nature. But as fun as the time you are awake can be, it is also just as essential to make proper preparations for your downtime.
Having a comfortable sleep continues the great feeling you had in the day, so if you don’t prepare properly, that good feeling might get disrupted. And rather than having an excellent end to your day, you might be left feeling uncomfortable and unable to sleep well instead.
This guide aims to help you get the most out of your sleep experience in your tent. We provide you with some essential gear that maximizes comfort, along with some tips you can follow for an overall best sleeping experience.
There are several ways to make sleeping in a tent feel more comfortable, which can be grouped into pieces of equipment that assist in doing so or procedures that you can follow and make into a routine.
Essential gear to bring with you
Of course, you can’t go camping without a proper shelter. You will want a tent that makes you feel as comfortable as can be, and there are several primary factors that you can look to for maximizing such comfort, such as being lightweight and size. but the main factor you should consider is your tent’s ability to protect you from the elements.
Because a tent is a shelter first and foremost, make sure that your tent can hold up to different kinds of weather conditions. Three-season tents are an excellent choice as they are made to fit most climate types. These tents usually come with a detachable rainfly that protects you from strong winds, keeps you dry when it rains, and can be removed when the weather is fair.
A good feature a tent can have, for when the temperature increases, is having multiple ventilation options. Mesh walls, large mesh windows, and roof and floor vents provide more unrestricted airflow and help keep your tent from being stuffy. Having a camping tent prepared for most anything keeps a load off your mind and will help you sleep better.
A sleeping bag is one of the most critical pieces of equipment you can bring with you on any camping trip. It provides you comfort when you sleep and is an excellent source of insulation, maintaining your body heat in cold weather conditions. The most common factors to consider when choosing a sleeping bag are its shape and its material.
Sleeping Bag Shape
Mummy sleeping bags are designed to keep you as warm as possible by minimizing body heat loss. These bags are wider at the shoulder area and become narrower towards the feet – a design that prevents air from entering while providing you a snug fit. These sleeping bags also come with attached hoods for keeping your head warm.
These bags are best used in winter conditions and are too warm to use for summer weather. A downside with this sleeping bag style is that it doesn’t provide you much room to move around in.
Rectangular sleeping bags generally provide more room for your arms and legs to move around and are more comfortable compared to mummy bags. Because these bags are more spacious, they allow more ventilation and are thus more suitable to summer conditions than colder weather.
A downside to rectangular sleeping bags is that they are relatively bulkier and heavier than mummy sleeping bags. If you prefer to use rectangular bags even in colder conditions, make sure to bring a blanket and extra layers of clothes.
Sleeping Bag Material
Down typically has better insulating properties than synthetic material, making it the better option to keep your body heat in. Down material is also relatively lighter, more easily compressible, and is easier to pack. A downside to down is that it is not water-resistant, so it loses its insulating properties once it gets wet; you will want to look for down material that has a waterproof treatment. Down is generally the more expensive option too.
Synthetic material is naturally waterproof, which allows you to continue staying warm even when it gets wet. Compared to down, synthetic is the more affordable option. A downside to synthetic is that it is generally heavier and bulkier than down.
Sleeping Pad, Mattress, or Bed
As cozy and warm as a sleeping bag can be, it typically isn’t enough to keep you comfortable on the cold, hard ground. Having a quality camping bed can significantly help, as it keeps you off the ground and provides you more insulation from the cold. There are three most common types, which are as follows:
A. Sleeping pad
Sleeping pads are another essential piece of equipment you will need when tent camping. Whether you sleep on your back or your side, a sleeping pad helps to keep your body warm and keep you off the cold, hard ground. They work in great combination with sleeping bags which is why they usually accompany each other.
There are three main types of sleeping pads to choose from, each with its pros and cons. See below which style fits your needs best.
Closed-cell Sleeping Pad
Closed-cell pads are the most lightweight sleep pads available because they use only foam to cushion you. This type is the ideal option for those who usually go backpacking and want as light gear as possible. A closed-cell is also the cheapest type of sleeping pad.
A downside to a closed-cell is that they are not the most comfortable because the foam is thin. Also, a closed-cell generally doesn’t provide as much warmth as other types, so extra layers of clothes or a blanket are recommended. Overall, these types are worth considering, given their ultra-lightweight and affordable price range.
Open-cell (Self-inflating) Sleeping Pad
Open-cell or self-inflating pads use a combination of foam and air to act as a cushion. When unrolled, their valves suck air in until it becomes fully inflated. An open-cell offers more warmth than other types of sleeping pads and is also comparatively more comfortable.
Some downsides to these types are that they are typically heavier and bulkier; they are better suited to car camping since the vehicle will do the heavy lifting for you. These types are also generally more expensive, but the warmth and comfort they provide make them worth it.
Air sleeping pad
Air pads are the most variable type of sleep pads. Because this type uses only air to cushion you, you can adjust its thickness to your liking by adding or releasing air. Of course, you will need an air pump to more easily inflate these types of pads.
An air sleeping pad can be lightweight and highly packable, making it a viable option for ultralight backpackers. Some downsides to air pads are that they are not as durable as other types and generally don’t provide as much warmth.
B. Air mattress
If you want a much larger camping bed option, go with an air mattress or air bed. Air mattresses are like sleeping pads but much larger, and similarly, they also need an air pump for easier inflating. Because they are relatively thick, it won’t be much of a problem even if some air leaks overnight.
An air mattress is also relatively lightweight, packable, and affordable. A downside to an air mattress is that it doesn’t offer much in the way of insulation, so having extra layers, a blanket, or a sleeping bag is recommended, especially for cold weather conditions.
C. Folding camp bed
Folding camp beds or simply foldable beds are the most durable type of camping beds. They don’t cause you too much trouble even when slightly damaged, unlike inflatable beds where a small puncture can be very problematic. Folding beds also don’t need to be inflated and are easy to set up.
Foldable camp beds are relatively larger and heavier than other camping beds, so these types are more suited for car camping. Foldable beds are also not as soft, as they are typically made of canvas stretched out over an aluminum frame but can still be comfortable. A plus with foldable camp beds is that they have space underneath them for storing your gear, which saves space in your tent.
Camping air pillows
You can’t have a quality night’s sleep if you don’t have a comfortable pillow or pillows accompanying you. Pillows are also essential as a support for your head and neck. If you are not a car camper, though, packing your home pillow can be a bit difficult. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry too much because inflatable pillows are available in the market. These camping pillows are lightweight and highly packable, so they easily fit in your bag.
Bugs can be such a nuisance, and they seem to always find ways to get into your tent; this is especially true for the summer, where you might keep your tent entrance open for better ventilation. You might think of using bug repellants, but they are probably not the best solution as these may have chemicals that can be harmful to not just the environment but you as well. Insect repellants may also have undesirable odors.
Bug nets don’t have these kinds of caveats and can still keep insects away from you. Their mesh composition also doesn’t take away from your visibility and ventilation. Bug nets can give you peace of mind resulting in a worry-free, quality night’s sleep.
Camping tent heater
Camping tent heaters are a great asset to have, especially in the winter. Tent heaters provide you with a comfortable level of warmth in otherwise freezing conditions, which can go a long way in getting you a good night’s sleep.
Wearing an eye mask can help you fall asleep faster and protects your eyes from any light source, especially if you prefer sleeping with a light on. An eye mask also protects your eyes from sunlight early in the morning, so you are not disturbed, and you can sleep a little bit longer.
If you are sensitive to sound and can’t fall asleep unless your surroundings are completely silent, then you might need to pack some earplugs. The outdoors isn’t exactly free of noise – there are multiple sources of sound, such as insects chirping and the rustling of branches in the wind, so earplugs are accessories to consider bringing with you on any camping trip.
Portable air conditioner
The weather doesn’t always get cold at night and will depend on where your camping area is. There are plenty of instances where the weather gets warm in the evenings, and at times there is no wind to help you keep cool.
In such cases, having a portable air conditioner can relieve you by lowering the temperature of your tent and help you feel less uncomfortable. If you are aware that your campsite is susceptible to such conditions, then if you can afford a portable aircon, it is recommended that you get one.
Tips that can help with a better sleeping experience
Test your camping equipment before bringing them to your campsite.
Always test out any new camping gear you might bring with you on your camp trip. You don’t want to find yourself having problems with your equipment once you get to your campsite, because by then you won’t have the chance to switch out faulty gear with ones that work well.
For example, if you plan on bringing an inflatable bed, check it for any punctures or rips. If it turns out that there is some damage to your airbed and you’re already at your camping area, repairing it might be troublesome. In the worst case, you won’t have a functioning bed come nightfall, and you could be forced to sleep on hard and uncomfortable ground.
Look for a suitable location to pitch your tent.
Look for a clearing that has relatively flat ground to pitch your tent. Ideally, the terrain should be free of debris or should be quickly cleared of any; this is especially important if your camping bed is thin, where stones and pebbles can cause you much discomfort and prevent you from sleeping comfortably.
Also, look for a shaded area, as the cover of trees can protect you from both sun and rain. Make sure, though, that the trees surrounding you don’t look like they might fall at any second and that there aren’t any dead branches that could be blown off by the wind and can drop on you, causing injury.
Keep your tent as clean as possible.
It is no exaggeration to say that the cleaner your tent is, the more comfortable your sleeping experience can be. A clean tent is not limited to being clear of debris, which can be disruptive if any gets under your bed. Weird odors, such as the smell of any wet clothes hanging in your tent, can also be a source of discomfort, so you should dry them outside instead.
Food with strong smells can also cause discomfort and attract animals into your tent, so you should always keep them in tightly sealed containers; you can also hang such foods on trees to keep them outside the reach of any critters.
Use the bathroom before going to bed.
You will want to use the bathroom before you go to sleep. Having nature call in the middle of the night can be a nuisance, especially if you’re already comfortably tucked in.
Have a jug or bottle of water within reach.
You can wake up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty, but at the same time, you might not want to go through the effort of getting out of bed to get some water. Being hydrated is always essential, so to avoid any hassle, you can keep a water bottle close by before you go to sleep.
Follow the bedtime routine you have at home.
If you have a routine you usually do at night before going to bed, such as brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, or reading a book, it is best to follow it even when you’re out camping. Following a routine can help you get more comfortable with your surroundings, especially if it’s your first time camping outdoors, and can help you fall asleep faster.
What is the best camping bed to use when you sleep in a tent?
The most comfortable type of camping bed to lay on would be open-cell sleeping pads. These self-inflating beds help keep you warm better than other camping beds and are comparatively more comfortable to sleep on too.
How can I sleep in a tent more comfortably?
There are several ways you can make sleeping in a tent feel more comfortable. One way is to prepare all the sleeping equipment you need, such as your preferred type of camping bed, a pillow or pillows, and an eye mask and earplugs. Another way is to set up your surroundings properly to serve your needs, such as having your portable aircon on standby or keeping a water bottle within reach.
Which way should you sleep in a tent?
Usually, it wouldn’t matter which direction you face when you sleep in a tent, but this changes when the surface you are sleeping on has a slope, even If only a small one. Your head should lay on the side that is sloping upwards – otherwise, blood will flow towards your head instead.
In any camping trip, preparing well for your downtime goes a long way in getting you as comfortable a sleep experience in your tent as possible. With the right gear and routine, having a good night’s sleep is possible anywhere you may be.