Camping is exhausting, not just physically but mentally too. Nothing beats getting to lie down after a long day of assembling tents, hiking and gathering equipment for a campfire. But what if you can’t sleep? No matter how much you reposition yourself, or your sleeping bag, you just can’t get comfortable?
Luckily you aren’t alone, lots of people struggle to get comfortable in their tents. Either because it’s not their usual environment, or whether they just aren’t comfortable. Thankfully, there are ways to remedy this discomfort and find a way to finally relax in your tent.
Preparing to go camping sometimes equals the amount of effort you put into actually camping. Having a camping checklist is key, and if you’re an experienced camper, you’ll have your own necessities you know you can’t leave behind.
Preparing for your sleep certainly isn’t something on the forefront of your mind when getting ready for a camping holiday, but whether you’re experienced or not, it’s worth thinking about. Luckily, there are multiple products you can invest in beforehand to take with you. Unfortunately, like a lot of things regarding camping equipment, a lot of trial and error is involved, so using home-made hacks would be worth trying out first before sinking money into additional products.
- Inflatable Pillows – Every camper seems to own a pair of inflatable pillows but they never seem to get used. Have you ever tried inflatable pillows? Or do you just have them collecting dust in a closet somewhere? If you have a couple that you’ve never used, make sure to dig them out and test them. The good thing with any pillow items is that you can use them in place of your regular pillows before the trip to see if they’re worth taking or not.
The downside to these inflatable pillows is that they’re usually made of a flimsy material and don’t tend to last very long. They’ll also sometimes deflate during the night due to the constant pressure being placed on them. So if you’re a light sleeper, you might want to reconsider this option.
- Sleeping Bag – The sleeping bag is a staple for camping, and its design has barely changed since its inception. They’re reliable for a reason, though – the trusty sleeping bag is easy to carry and provides full body coverage, unlike a duvet or comforter. Making sure the sleeping bag you intend to use on your camping trip is comfortable is half the battle. Making sure it isn’t dirty or smelly can also go a long way. Nobody wants to get ready for bed, lie down, and regret having nostrils. Sleeping bags can luckily be machine-washed if the drum is large enough for it.
- Blankets – Sometimes a sleeping bag can be too restrictive, and perhaps some home comforts will help you sleep better. Blankets are useful when camping as they can easily be thrown over what you’re wearing if you’re too cold or taken off if you get too hot.
- Camping Cots – Investing in a camping cot might be the way to go if you just can’t get comfortable lying on the floor (regardless of how much padding there is). Camping cots offer more support and due to being raised, any lumps and bumps from the terrain beneath the tent won’t be an issue. And if it’s wet or rainy, any water or dirt on the base of the tent won’t be able to reach you.
- Padding and Foam Mats – If a camping cot isn’t ideal, there are other ways to make the surface you’re lying on much more comfortable. Foam mats and flooring are available for tents to even out the landscape and soften the floor. Using these mats will remove any muscle stiffness you may be experiencing after waking up in the tent. Some people also use foam mats to create a makeshift patio outside of their tent.
- Comfy Clothes – Sometimes your comfort can come down to your clothing choice. Perhaps bringing your favourite dressing gown or pyjamas will help you fall asleep easier the next time you’re camping. The things we do before getting to bed is a ritual that we might not even be aware we do, and sometimes changing one thing in that process will drastically affect our ability to sleep properly. Trying to keep as much of that process as normal as possible, even when camping, will help with your sleeping habits and routine.
- Inflatable Mattress – A self-inflating mattress is ideal for camping in a tent as it requires little effort to set up and doesn’t need a pump connected to the mains. An air mattress has a lot of pros and cons when it comes to camping, as everything can be ruined instantly if a hole develops in it. Inflatable mattresses also have a tendency to deflate during the night even if there are no punctures in it. Sometimes these punctures can be fixed quickly with some duct tape and your mattress will last you until the end of the holiday – but other times you’re fighting a lost cause. It’s a gamble.
One other helpful way to decide what will help you get more comfortable in the tent is to consider how you normally sleep at home. Try to think about what helps you drift off to sleep and if any of those items or conditions can be replicated or brought along when camping.
How to Sleep Comfortably when Camping
There are also makeshift ways of getting comfortable that don’t require as much (if none at all) preparation at home. These methods are great if you’re already camping and have realised you can’t sleep properly.
- Have a Warm Drink Before Bed – A warm drink of tea can help you chill out and begin getting ready for bed. Just make sure you’re not having a warm cup of coffee! Making warm beverages whilst camping can be a case of trial and error, but sometimes putting more effort into something will tire you out even more (which is a good thing, in this case).
- Take a Hot Water Bottle to Bed – A hot water bottle is easy to carry and takes up very little room in a backpack. They’re definitely worth having on your camping checklist, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Boiling water over a campfire is easy if you have a vessel to keep it in, and it’s just a case of transferring the water over to the hot water bottle. A hot water bottle can provide a lot of comfort when trying to sleep and can help keep your tent warm when it begins getting cold outside.
- Using a Bundle of Clothes – Using clothes that have been bundled up makes a great makeshift pillow. Not only is it soft, but it can also be rearranged in a way that suits your needs. This means you can make your pillow as small or as big as you want it. This method also makes for great neck support when sleeping as well. Of course, for this method to work, you’ll need spare clothes that are 1) comfy enough to sleep on and 2) enough spare clothes to make a small pile from.
- Wearing Multiple Layers – Sometimes you can’t get comfortable because you’re too cold. One of the quickest ways to warm yourself up when camping at night is to slip on a couple extra layers. Especially socks. Whilst it might not be the most comfortable option available, it’s definitely better than sitting up shivering all night.
- Do Some Yoga or Light Exercise – Light exercise or yoga before bed can help put you in a better headspace and can relax you.
Alternatively, you could potentially try hammock camping as a way to get a good night’s sleep. Hammock camping is the same as regular camping, except that the tent is swapped out for a covered hammock instead. Some people find hammocks much more comfortable and easier to sleep on, which is why this could be a viable option if you struggle to get comfortable in a traditional tent.
Some things to consider when planning to hammock camp:
- The Time of Year – Hammock camping is best done during a warm summer. Due to the lack of protection a hammock has in comparison to a tent, it’s much more likely to be colder than a tent during the nighttime, and it’s more likely to get wet when it rains, regardless of whether you use a tarpaulin covering or not.
- Where You’re Camping – Whether or not you’re able to hammock camp comes down to whether or not you can actually hang the hammock up. Forested places with an abundance of trees are ideal for hammock camping, along with places that have tall rocks that can also be used to tie the hammock up.
- Where You’re Keeping Your Items – Hammock camping unfortunately means there isn’t a specific, covered area for belongings to go. Some people bring a pop up tent when hammock camping just in case their hammock fails or they need somewhere to keep their items safe.
Additional Things to Take
Whilst staying comfortable in a tent is the key to good sleep, there are other items that can come in handy for getting a good night’s sleep.
- Earplugs – Persistent and loud noises outside can potentially disrupt your sleep whilst camping. This is particularly an issue at loud campsites or festivals, and if you’re busy the next day it’s even more vital to get your head down. Sometimes noise-cancelling headphones also do the trick.
- Eye Mask – Eye masks are also given out to passengers on long haul flights for this reason too – they’re sometimes essential to fall asleep wearing. Eye masks are great if you’re intending to get a couple more hours in during the morning, as the sun shining through the tent can easily wake you up otherwise.