ESSENTIAL SKILLS

Sleeping in a Tent: Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

A tent outside in the nature during night time
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

Hiking and camping provide us with a great opportunity to throw away all the modern comforts we have been enjoying in this modern world and an opportunity to get closer to the mother nature.

No, we’re not talking about giving up the comfort you’re used to and freshness after a good night’s sleep. If you have the right gear for sleeping in a tent, you can sleep like a baby just as you would sleep at home in your comfy bed, plus enjoy the fresh air and the starry night sky.

Young couple taking a picture in a tent

So, in order to help you out in having a good night’s sleep when the sun sets down and you are ready to hit the sack inside your tent, we have made an article that includes sleeping tips for campers. You will find out things like, what you need to take with you, what to wear to bed when camping, and all the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to making sure you don’t wake up in the morning feeling like you slept on a rock the whole night. First, let’s see what kind of equipment is essential when it comes to sleeping in the great outdoors.

Equipment for sleeping outdoors

Even if you’re backpacking, hiking or camping, you can extend your chances that you will have a solid, tight sleep in the outdoors. How, you wonder? Well, for starters having the right equipment and gear for sleeping outdoors will help you a lot in achieving your “a good night’s sleep under the stars” goal. Today, we’re bringing you sleeping tips for campers, hikers and all “nature” lovers. Enjoy!

Sleeping Bag

Choosing a sleeping bag is one of the most essential parts when we’re talking about sleeping in a tent. You can’t go camping without one. You can choose a sleeping bag that perfectly suits your needs, style preferences and temperature rating (according to your chosen camping destination). For the best down sleeping bags, see our article on the subject to find out more.

Teton Sports Fahrenheit Sleeping Bags in a tent

Here are some sleeping bag types you might consider:

  • Camping bags for cars – These bags are usually cut wider which will get you more room to roll-around (perfect for people who are heavy sleepers). It provides a great comfortable space and you won’t feel claustrophobic for sure. After we mentioned benefits of car camping bags, it would be fair to mention its disadvantages such as that they are less efficient to retain human body heat. If you plan to spend the night outside where the nights are chilly, you better think twice before you opt for a car camping sleeping bag. If you still don’t want to give up on this idea there are some rectangular shaped sleeping bags that can be “boosted” with blankets and quilts for cooler nights quite easily.
  • Backpacking sleeping bags – These are usually mummies style shaped bags that will “hug” your body perfectly. They are a somewhat warmer fit for colder places and are usually much lighter (in weight) than other sleeping bags as they are designed with backpacking in mind. Many mummy-shaped sleeping bags come with goose and/or duck down system which makes them easier to compress (to fit in a backpack) than sleeping bags made out of the synthetic materials.

If you are looking for a sleeping bag that can easily fit in your backpack and doesn’t weigh a “ton”, you might find our Best Lightweight Sleeping bags article quite useful. We are pretty sure that you’ll find some useful tips in order to have your body dry and warm during long, cold (or hot) nights in the wilderness.

Sleeping pad

When it comes to sleeping pad there are 3 types:

  1. Closed-cell foam sleeping pads
  2. Self-inflating sleeping pads
  3. Air sleeping pads

If you plan to go car camping then weight is not an issue for you so feel free to carry a thicker sleeping pad or even a mattress that fits inside your tent in order to get more comfort. But when backpacking, the weight of the sleeping bag itself is crucial, therefore choose a lightweight, airy sleeping pad or maybe a closed-cell pad. Consider these two as your best option if you plan to walk a lot.

sleeping bag on a sleeping pad in a tent outdoor

For more information on sleeping pads you can also look at our suggestions in our previously published article – “Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads”.  Here you will find lots of useful information, sleeping pads comparisons, prices and a complete buying guide.

Pillows

You cannot go out sleeping in the wilderness without your pillow, can you? You can simply bring the pillow you use at home with you or, if you’re not addicted to your cozy pillow and you can sleep almost on anything, opt for a small inflatable pillow made out of the special foam materials. To give you more insight and information, see our post on the best pillows for camping.

A pillow on a wooden table

Later, you can store it for your next camping trip or use it at home, they’re pretty comfy. We haven’t published anything related to pillows yet, but we will, soon, we promise!

Ear plugs and eye mask

Both ear plugs and eye-mask can be specifically helpful when it comes to camping. Eye-mask is a helpful part of the gear if you plan to camp in northern places (famous bright northern lights). Ear plugs will save you from all the sounds that come from the wilderness and snoring of your tent mates.

Black Eye Mask for Sleeping

Some campers can’t go camping without having these two accessories close to them.

Sleeping tips for campers – here’s what you need to do!

By setting up a camp before darkness falls (that includes your sleeping bag and your tent) you will have more time to enjoy the evening and relax instead of rushing to set up everything. When you’re tight on schedule it can be stressful, therefore, try to avoid that by starting setting up your camp earlier while the sun is high in the sky. This altogether, adds to a good night’s sleep, trust us. Besides that, we’re bringing you a few more tips in order to get ready for your outdoor bed:

Choosing the most suitable tent

We won’t tell you how to choose a tent since we already published different research pieces where we talked about the ways of choosing the right tent for your needs, one of them being the Best 4-season Tents guide, but we simply have to stress the importance of choosing the most proper tent, as well as the site where you will place your tent.

Backpacking tent on top of the mountains

Make sure that the ground is cleared of pine cones, pointy rocks and wooden sticks.

Keep your light near

Most campers who are camping for the first time are often surprised at how dark the nights can be. It is essential to carry a headlamp (if you plan on car camping) or at least a small flashlight (for those who plan on hiking and walking to their camping site). Make sure it is always near you as you never know what can wake you up in the middle of the night and you might not see anything.

Fishing Light 60 LED Camping Lantern

You don’t want to find yourself in that situation, right? We believe you, we wouldn’t want it either! Another great tip we can provide is to have a small LED lantern hung under your roof of your tent or inside your tent in general. If you plan on using an LED lantern, set it up as soon as you set your tent so that you can clearly see when preparing for bed. We have seen some tents with LED lights built-in for moderate light and they are pretty great and useful.

Store all the food outside

This rule is well known to the experienced campers, but if you’re camping for the first we have to stress the importance that every park has their own rules when it comes to food storage.

Research the park you attend to visit and follow the rules, otherwise, you will be kicked out. It can happen that you find yourself out in the open, alone, in the dark just because you were too sloppy to follow the park’s rules. You might even pay a fine for storing food wrongly. Our article regarding putting food inside bear canisters is a must-read, so check it out.

campers having breakfast

Be careful not to be clumsy when throwing food wrappers in the trash, if you see that something fell off on the ground, don’t be careless and pick it up. Some camping sites are visited by the bears so if you cooked something or baked something in the open change your clothes because of the food odors your clothes may have absorbed.

Do the usual routine

If you brush your teeth just before going to bed, let this routine be the final thing you’ll do before entering your tent and sleeping bag. Everything you do the same at home do it here, in a camp.

girl_in_a_sleeping-bag-

This way you will not disturb your routine and when you lay down you will have a feeling that you did everything correctly and feel comfortable. Just like parents do with their children, following the routine is needed, even here in the open.

Go peeing twice

If you’re kind of a guy who visits the toilet during the night, we suggest doing this little ritual in order to prevent your midnight trips. It can be annoying to exit and enter the tent and a sleeping bag in the middle of the night, that’s why some campers, especially female campers think that peeing twenty to thirty minutes before they decide to go to bed and the second time right before they enter their tent and sleeping bag. Why not try reading our article on the DIY camping bathroom for more insight.

Three hikers near tents

In case your bladder isn’t used to this and you can’t avoid midnight trips, prepare all the things you need in front of your tent. For example, place your camp shoes right near your door and a towel (or other piece of cloth) right in front of the tent’s door that will serve as a shoe-cleaning doormat (in case you might need it). And keep in mind where you placed your flashlight.

Thirstiness

This one is pretty obvious – if you know you usually get thirsty during night, keep a bottle with fluids near your head or close to your sleeping bag. For the right amount of fluids to drink, see our article on the best dehydration needs for your active body.

Healthy Young Man Drinking Water from the bottle outdoors.

Just don’t drink too many fluids as you will have to empty your bladder more often during the night (read our instructions below).

What to wear to bed when camping

We heard many people asking what should they wear to bed when camping so we prepared two tips for all of you in doubt:

  1. Don’t wear too many clothes: Overdressing before you hop into your sleeping bag is also another rookie mistake. Wearing too much clothing will reduce the bag’s main feature – to efficiently snug and hold your body heat inside the bag. If you think you’re going to be cold, use a clothing made out of drape materials such a jacket and place it on the sleeping bag, like a blanket, for an extra insulation layer. You can also take a comforter as an additional layer if you plan on car camping.
  2. Wear only dry clothing: If your clothes are sweaty, wet or dirty change it. You wouldn’t go to bed in dirty and sweaty clothes at home, right? Experienced campers advise that you opt for clean and dry socks, long underwear and a T-shirt.

Hiker in a Teton_MP-272 tent

How to ignore all those noises?

Although it is really enjoyable and nice to hear crickets and an owl, sometimes it can prevent you from sleeping and disturb your sleep through the entire night. Mostly novice campers think this is fun to stay awake all night listening to the beautiful sound of nature, but experienced campers know that the sound of critters sound bigger than he is, at night.

A woman lying in a tent

If you forgot to bring your earplugs, then simply relax your body. If you stored your food properly you don’t have to bother about animals entering the tent for some leftovers. If you’re nearby a rushing stream its sound can be like a lullaby so just peace your mind and body and let the sound of a stream take you to your dreams.

Tips for staying warm through the cold nights

On warm, dry, summer nights you probably won’t even think about zipping your tent or a sleeping bag, but during cold, wet nights you will. Here’s our article showing tips on how to layer your clothes to keep warm in winter, check it out.

Two adults sleeping in a tent

This is why we prepared some advice in order to stay cozy and warm through the entire night:

  • Snacks before bed – This time having snacks before going to bed is not forbidden, it’s welcomed. This is probably the only time you won’t have to think about nutrition and that you might get a few pounds if not being careful what you eat late. The more caloric meal the warmer your body will be. The process of your body to digest the food you have eaten will keep you warm internally. It will make the heat your body will need to sleep cozy and comfortably.
  • Warm beverage – We all know that drinking a non-alcoholic warm beverage before going to bed will help you fall asleep easier, so before you hop in your sack have a cocoa or a tea.
  • Exercising – A bit of exercising before going to “bed” is welcomed too. But not too much. You don’t want to get sweaty and wet. A couple of quick sit-ups while sitting in your sleeping bag will do. This is also an easy way to warm your sleeping bag and your body fast.
  • Warm clothing – Wearing warm long underwear when it’s cold outside is everything when in this situation. Just remember not to overdress like we mentioned above. Wear some clean, dry, warm socks and a comfy shirt. In case your sleeping bag doesn’t cover your neck and you feel chills, then opt for a neck gaiter. Same applies for the hat too. If you feel the breeze or that your head is cold, pull a knit hat and put it on your head. The head is the body part where the body heat loses fastest.
  • Zipp the hood – If your sleeping bag has a hood, zip it around your head, this will add additional warmth to your head, even if you are wearing a knitted hat.
  • Leave the opening open – In case it is really cold outside, leave the opening on your hood open so that the air from your mouth and nose can get out and not become wet. When something is wet, it loses the temperature and freezes faster.
  • Additional stuffing – If you see that your sleeping bag doesn’t provide enough heat and is too loose around your body, take some extra clothes from your backpack and stuff it in the places where you feel the area is most empty.
  • Warm yourself with a warm bottle – Having a warm bottle close to your body will generate its heat to your body and keep you warm. In order to warm your body faster put it between your legs as this is where the femoral arteries are.

So, what have we learned?

If this is the first time you plan on sleeping in the outdoors in a tent, then we’re sure these tips above will help you, but if you are an experienced camper we are sure you will find an additional tip that might come in handy and worth to try next time you feel chills in your body.

We hope we managed to provide some useful tips on how to safely, warm and comfortably sleep in your sleeping bag outside your home and your comfy bed. In case you, found out that there are some things (processes) that work better than those we included above, feel free to let us know in the comments section below and we’ll try our best to include it in our article.

AR Sleeping system

We would love to hear more from you on how you sleep in your tent! Feel free to share this post on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and share your pics of you sleeping in a tent (or your tent mate) on Instagram, just don’t forget to tag us in the pictures. We look forward to seeing your tent sleeping habits. Stay warm while sleeping in your tent in the open and happy camping guys!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

  • Alex Rodman

    Overdressing is indeed rookie mistake that I am guilty of. Some of the tips on this article are a must do for campers least you have quite a bad camping experience. For instance, you would not want to pour food let alone store food in the tent unless you want to wake up at the middle of the night with all types of insects in your sleeping bag.

    • John C. Porter

      We agree.

  • Alan Coogan

    I never thought I would use earplugs to help me catch some sleep in the wild until I went on this one camping expedition and the only place we could pitch out tents was near a swampy area. I think it must have been mating season for frogs because they croaked so loudly all night and we even had to talk to each other louder. Anyway, the beauty of nature is that it is quite unpredictable so if you think you might need something, better make sure you carry it.

    • John C. Porter

      For sure!

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