Recently a busy mother commented on my website and mentioned that she would like to go camping with her kids but getting decent sleep while camping was a concern for her. She asked if I had any suggestions that might help. In doing so, she addressed one of the most important aspects of a successful camping trip–the quality of sleep. Below you will find suggestions and ideas to help you get the best rest of your life while camping. After all, where should you be for “sawing logs” but in the woods?!

1. Start at home.

Whenever you go camping the first thing you  should do is check to make sure you have everything for a decent night’s rest before you leave the house. These are the things to pack for maximum comfort; feel free to modify the list to suit your own camping experience.

A blow-up mattress.
  •  First and foremost. Hikers and survivalists can sleep on mats and piles of leaves. I am a 56-year old suburban woman. I need air. And not just any air; I get a queen sized mattress for roomy comfort .(Make sure your tent has the room to fit one in, with enough room to get out and stand up and move around in. This also is important.) While you’re at it, make sure your mattress is a double-high airbed and self-inflating. You pay extra for this but I’m telling you, you will never regret the decision to pay the bucks, it makes that much of a difference to your camping experience.
A mattress liner.
  •  The camper’s secret weapon to a comfortable night’s sleep. Buy a sheepskin mattress pad if you can. The drawback is that these mattress toppers, while the best you can probably get, are tremendously expensive, so I would recommend looking for one in a second-hand store or buy one for your bed at home and keep it protected while camping with a duvet cover. They can be bulky, too, so that’s a consideration, but keep in mind that without a mattress liner your sleep won’t be half so comfortable, because it acts as an insulating barrier between the cold, cold ground beneath your tent and you. An air mattress alone won’t do it. If you want to go all out, a foam mattress pad between the mattress and the floor adds even greater insulating warmth. For winter camping, add one of those emergency reflecting blankets between the air mattress and the sheepskin as well.
A good sleeping bag.
  •  Sleeping bags have come a long way since the old mattress-ticking-for-filling days. You can select a bag that will do you for any weather, any time of year. If you are a warm-weather camper only, I would still invest in a three-season bag, or one designed for sleep in temperatures of +10° to + 35°. Whatever bag you choose, keep in mind that the temperatures described on the bag are in consideration of sleeping in that temperature with long underwear on and a mattress pad beneath the bag. If you have a sleeping partner you can get two sleeping bags and zip them together into one queen-sized one.
A pillow!
  •  I don’t know about you, but I don’t go anywhere without my pillow. Forget that little camping one stores try to get you to buy–use your own. It might be wise to take along a couple of pillow cases you don’t really care about, maybe get a couple from the dollar store, and if it’s raining maybe stuff your pillow into a garbage bag before putting the pillow case on it. It might be a little noisier than you are used to  but if your pillow rests against the wall of the tent and the rain seeps thru all you’ll have to do is change the bag and case. Your pillow will be safe.

2. Ensure a great night’s sleep at the campsite.

Check out your site before hand.

  • A good night’s sleep is one big reason why my family and I bush-camp. Many government and public campsites today are extremely noisy. Some (not all) site owners try to make money by stuffing as many people as they can into a site, with the result that your camping neighbor is practically in your back tent pocket. And if you like the sounds of nature while they like the sounds of Linkin Park, whose rest is going to suffer? If you are going to an established site, find out the site fees and how far away each camper is, and if they have noise restrictions that are enforced after a certain time at night.
Make sure your ground is level and pointy-thing free!
  •  Sure, your tent site may look level but take quite a few steps back and check out the  ground you’ll be setting up on.  A mild slope can result in a slanted bed.  If you are sleeping on an air mattress you would be surprised how even the gentlest grade will make you gradually slide to the top, foot or either side of the bed.  And if you lose even the tiniest bit of air in your mattress, it will make that slope even more pronounced. As for pointy-things such as sticks and sharp rocks, well, enough said.  A tent floor is just a tarp, after all.  If a pointy thing works its way through and causes a hole in your air mattress you’ll be sleeping on the cold, hard tent floor midway through your night. Highly disappointing.
Warmth and comfort in the bush.
  •  There are little things you can do to ensure a great night’s sleep while camping in the bush. Remember that if you are in the mountains the weather can change rapidly.  So remember the over-and-under rule. A tarp for under your tent gives added protection to the tent floor and helps water stay away from your tent beneath if it rains. A tarp over your tent keeps water out. You can just lay the tarp over your tent but if there’s a chance of wind you might want to consider tying it up like a roof overhead. If your tent is water resistant, not water proof, rain hitting the walls of your tent will make it wet. Investing in a tent larger than it needs to be if you can. That way you are able to move the mattress around so that keeps most of it away from the walls.
What you wear to bed is important, too.
  •  Depending on the weather, get some long underwear for bed time (and other times). Warmth is key to a good night’s rest, not fashion. Use a dedicated pair of warm, comfortable woolen socks for sleeping in. Make them a little large for your feet so there is no constriction on your toes or legs. You won’t be walking around in them, you will just be wearing them to sleep in. Depending on the time of year I also keep a toque or balaclava to pull on for sleeping.  Yes, I’m aware I probably look weird, but I sleep very well at night when it’s really cold. You can try bringing the sleeping bag up over your head but it’s hard to breathe that way. Head gear is the way to go.
One last tip.
  •  If your tent is nice and large invest in a little porta-potty to sit in the corner. Wandering around at night with a flashlight trying to find the biffy takes valuable sleep time away.

Following these tips will ensure a great night’s sleep, which will make for energy and happiness the next day, which will contribute to a wonderful camping trip. And that’s the whole point of camping, isn’t it?


3 thoughts on “Must…Sleep…”

  1. Hello There : I would appreciate some input from what seems to be a seasoned adventurist. We are going winter camping in a conservation park, the site will be plowed and hydro is available. We are looking for some suggestions as to how to keep the tent floor warm while inside. Sleeping on the ground with an air mattress isn’t good it deflates during the night. We are not seasoned vets of nature we are to buddies at age sixty looking for another night out of playing cards drinking and havin fun. We don’t want to spend any big money on this floor insulator but need and cheap sugestion.

    1. Keeping a tent floor warm is one of the hardest things to accomplish when camping, but there are some things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money. The first thing to do is put a tarp underneath your tent, the same size as your tent floor. This will help by keeping the tent floor dry, and will insulate a tiny bit as well. You can also place those emergency reflector blankets on the floor, but be careful where you step with them. The cheaper ones have a tendency to tear. You don’t need to get inflatable mattresses if they give you trouble; there are plenty of firm foam mats that roll up, that you can put between you and the tent floor, to put your sleeping bag on. Increase the warm of your sleeping bag by adding a sheep’s wool or imitation sheep’s wool mattress liner on top of that, and you should be toasty warm. Get the mattress liners at second hand stores to reduce cost. To be honest, if you can afford it, a sheep’s wool or imitation sheep’s wool queen sized liner for the floor would be awesome for insulating the floor.

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