Do you have trouble sleeping while camping? While some people may have some of the best nights of sleep out in the wild, others aren’t always as lucky. Those who already find it hard to sleep at home will have an even harder time falling asleep while camping. However, I am a firm believer that sleeping while camping can be a cozy experience. Who doesn’t love to cocoon in a sleeping bag after a long day outdoors?
As exciting as sleeping in a tent may seem, the novelty wears off quickly when you can’t fall asleep. Whether it’s sleeping on the cold, hard ground or being woken by the sounds of nature, it can be difficult to get a restful sleep while camping.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to sleep well on your next camping trip, from the gear you pack to the way you prepare for bed. Get ready for plenty of zzz’s with these camping sleeping tips!
Gear for Sleeping Outdoors
Whether you’re not accustomed to sleeping outdoors or you have insomnia in general, the gear you pack can make a big difference in your sleep quality. By carefully packing, you have a better chance of getting some great rest in the great outdoors.
1. Pick the Right Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags come in several different styles and temperature ratings. Pack one that’s appropriate for the camping trip you’re taking.
Sleeping bags made for car camping tend to be wider, giving you more room to move around if you’re a restless sleeper. But they don’t retain body heat that well, so they’re best for camping trips in milder climates or people who sleep hot.
Backpacking sleeping bags are usually cut in a mummy shape. They’ll fit closer to your body and retain body heat better. Because they’re designed for backpackers, they’re lightweight and easier to carry. Mummy bags are great for camping in cold weather or for trips where you’re hiking into your campsite. But if you want space to move and don’t need the extra heat, a car camping bag might be a better choice.
A bonus for co-sleepers, if you and your partner are used to cuddling at night and sleeping in separate bags will negatively affect your rest, you can buy a two-person sleeping bag. They’re gigantic and can be difficult to stuff back into their bags, but two-person sleeping bags are perfect for a romantic couple’s camping trip. Alternatively, you can purchase two of the same sleeping bags and zip them together to create one large sleeping bag if you prefer having a single or a two-person sleeping option.
2. Don’t Forget Your Pillow
If you can’t sleep without a pillow, raise your hand! I’m certainly raising mine. Some sleeping bags and mattresses have a built-in pillow. While they save room for backpackers, they’re not necessarily the most comfortable pillows.
If you’re driving into your campsite, bring your pillow from home or purchase a small foam camping pillow. For campers who love comfort but need to save space, an inflatable camping pillow is also a great option.
Get the best sleep with these top camping pillow recommendations.
3. Stay Comfy with a Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress
It’s difficult to fall asleep on the cold, hard ground, and doing so will leave you with a sore body the following day. Knowing what to sleep on when camping and packing a camping cot, sleeping pad, or air mattress to avoid this issue.
If you’re driving into your campsite and have enough room in your tent, an air mattress is a great option for a restful sleep, especially if you already own one. Give it a test run and inflate it at home to ensure it has no holes so you don’t wake up to a deflated air mattress.
The air below you can also be quite cold while sleeping, so be sure to have enough layers of blankets or a thick sleeping bag to separate your body from the air mattress.
While sleeping pads aren’t as thick as air mattresses, they can be just as comfortable. And they have the added benefit of insulation that traps your body heat and keeps you warmer, which makes them the best thing to sleep on when camping in a tent in my opinion.
You can choose from self-inflating, air, and closed-cell foam pads. The best sleeping pad for you will likely depend on the weight of the sleeping pad. If you’re backpacking and need to carry your pad with all the rest of your stuff, a lightweight air or closed-cell pad is your best bet.
4. Pack an Eye Mask
For those with blackout blinds at home, sleeping outdoors will give you a bright awakening! If you’re not looking to wake up with the sun, pack an eye mask for your camping trip.
They can also keep your sleep undisturbed by other campers’ flashlights. And if you’re camping in northern latitudes during the summer, an eye mask can help you fall asleep even when the sun is out at night.
Getting Ready for Bed While Camping
Just like falling asleep at home, getting restful sleep while camping requires preparations. Here’s what you should do to guarantee you sleep soundly.
5. Set Up Your Tent on a Level Spot
Choosing the right spot for your tent is key for a good night’s sleep. Find a level spot to set up your tent. If you find yourself on a slight incline, point your feet downhill. And if you’re at a crowded campsite, pitch your tent away from anyone who looks ready to party all night.
Clear the area of rocks and sticks before you set up your tent. Make sure the tent is securely pitched and take precautions for wind so you don’t wake up under a collapsed tent in the middle of the night.
6. Avoid Eating Large Meals Before Bed
In the evening, stick to eating just one or two s’mores! Consuming a heavy meal late in the evening can cause indigestion, heartburn, or an upset stomach. If you’re feeling hungry, eat a light snack that won’t bother your stomach.
7. Follow Your Normal Bedtime Routine
Although you’re in an unfamiliar spot, sticking to your regular bedtime routine can help you wind down and signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. If your bedtime routine involves drinking a cup of tea, washing your face, and brushing your teeth before climbing into bed, do the same while camping.
Try to go to sleep and wake up around the same time as you do at home so your body’s clock remains uninterrupted. These tips are even more important when camping with kids, as routines can help them feel reassured in unfamiliar situations.
8. Visit the Bathroom Before You Call It a Night
If you think getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the washroom is hard, imagine the difficulty of getting out of a tent to go to the outhouse!
It’s extra tough to get back to sleep after you wake up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. You must grab your flashlight, crawl out of your tent, pull out your shoes, and walk to the bathroom. Then, you have to reverse the process to get back to bed. At that point, you’re wide awake and might have difficulty getting back to sleep in the tent.
To avoid this, visit the bathroom right before you zip up your tent for the night. As well, try not to consume water and other liquids an hour before bed. And just in case nature does call at 2 a.m., keep your flashlight and shoes handy so you don’t have to search for them in the dark.
9. How to Stay Warm During the Night
When you’re camping in cold conditions, it can be difficult to stay warm enough to get a night of proper sleep. While it may be tempting to sleep in your regular pyjamas, knowing what clothes to sleep in while camping will make a huge difference. To help you stay warm, wear long underwear, socks, and a knit hat to bed. Always change every item of clothing you were wearing during the day, as the moisture from sweat can keep you cold.
For extra heat, cinch the hood of your sleeping bag around your head.
Do light exercises to generate body heat before you call it a night. Opt for a sleeping pad rather than an air mattress to benefit from the extra insulation.
You can even fill a hot water bottle with water you’ve warmed over the fire or stove and bring it into your sleeping bag with you—make sure it won’t leak! If you have enough heat to begin with, tents are excellent insulators, and you should be able to sleep warm and dry all night long!
10. Eliminate Noises
Although we sleep during the night, nature is still awake. Blowing leaves, snapping twigs, and critters big and small can make it hard to fall and stay asleep. Plus, it can trigger a wild imagination for some!
Eliminate noises by wearing earplugs or downloading a white noise app on your phone. If you opt for the latter, wear headphones so you don’t disturb other campers who enjoy the sounds of nature at night.
If a bad night of rest stops you from giving camping another go, try these tips. While nothing in the world will come close to sleeping soundly in your own bed, we can certainly get close!
I want you to wake up and be ready for another day exploring everything nature has to offer. Although you’re roughing it, there’s no reason you can’t get a restful sleep while camping. You’ll sleep like a baby on your next camping trip with the correct gear and preparation. Happy camping…and good night!