Wondering how to get the best night sleep possible during your next outdoor adventure? Believe me, you’re not alone.
It seems the older we get, the harder it is to get a good nights sleep in a tent while camping alone or with the family. So what is the most comfortable way to sleep in a tent?
Well, to answer this question we’re going to go over some key factors to consider before you head out on your next camping adventure. Let’s review some of those factors:
- Tent bedding
- Tent clothing
- Tent location
- Tent footprint and covering
- Tent temperature
Tent Bedding – The Key to Comfortable Tent Sleeping
The most important aspect of getting a good night sleep in a tent is the bedding. Without the proper tent bedding, you’re tenting adventure will quickly take a turn for the worst.
So what are the key items to bring with you when sleeping in a tent?
The Right Sleeping Bag
The most important item when tent sleeping is a sleeping bag. The right sleeping bag doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money.
In fact, you can find many high quality sleeping bags on Amazon that aren’t expensive. What’s more important is choosing the right sleeping bag for the weather conditions.
For cold-weather camping, you’ll want a sleeping bag that wraps the body more tightly. These sleeping bags are often mummy shaped and are specifically design for cold temperatures.
If you’re ambitious and contemplating cold-weather camping then I’ll recommend one of the Duraton Mummy Sleeping Bag priced at less than $70.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, then you’ll be very comfortable tent sleeping with the Cascade Mountain Tech sleeping bag.
If you’re more of a fair-weather camper (like me), then you’ll want a sleeping bag that is more square in shape. This will allow more airflow and prevent you from over-heating throughout the night.
The nice thing is warm-weather sleeping bags are much cheaper than their cold-weather counterparts. In fact, you can pick up an inexpensive sleeping bag that is great for everyone in the family for around $30.
A Good Camping Pillow
The next thing you’re going to want to make sure you have is a good camping pillow.
Now, you don’t have to go out and buy a pillow specifically for camping. You can bring whatever favorite pillow you have from home if you’re car camping.
However, if you’re a back-country camper then you’ll want to buy a good camping pillow that you can stow easily in your backpack.
For this job we highly recommend the Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Pillow.
This is one of the best inflatable camping pillows we’ve tested. It is incredibly comfortable and is roughly the size of a can of pop when stowed away.
If you’re not a fan of air pillows, then you can opt for compressible foam pillows, such as the Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow.
However, these types of pillows tend to be heavier and bulkier. So they may not be ideal when backpack camping.
Sleeping Pad, Air Mattress or Tent Cot?
Alright, we’ve got the sleeping bag and pillow taken care of. Now let’s discuss options for what to sleep on that will give you the most comfortable night sleep in a tent.
Of course, this again is going to depend on whether you’re car-camping or back-country camping.
You’ll always get a better night sleep in a tent if you are at least 6 inches above the ground. The air is dryer and the dampness won’t set in.
The best way to get off the ground is with a tent cot. These are light-weight, collapsible beds that are among the most comfortable ways to sleep in a tent. Again, you don’t need to spend a lot.
For about $30 you can pickup a Coleman Trailhead II Cot.
This tent cot is of high quality construction, even for bigger and taller people. It’s military grade construction means it will stand up to the harshest conditions.
Camping air mattresses are another popular option for tent sleeping. My personal preference is you steer clear of them for a couple of reasons.
- In my experience, when the evenings are cooler, the air inside the mattress also tends to cool. This has a couple of downsides:
- The mattress tends to deflate during the night.
- The cool air in the mattress is damp, which can make for an uncomfortable night sleep.
- The other reason I tend not to go for air mattresses is because they are bulkier and they simply don’t last.
Believe me, I’ve gone through my share of camping air mattresses and the one common denominator with them all…they leak!
There’s nothing worse than waking up at 5am with your back on the ground because the seam on your camping air mattress decided to give-way.
The option that I would recommend over a camping air mattress is a sleeping pad. They are light-weight and comfortable making them ideal for car or back-country camping.
The only downside to a sleeping pad is they don’t get you high off the ground.
However, if you buy a high quality sleeping pad, such as the WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad, the materials used are very good at combatting the dampness.
Tent Clothing – Dress for Camping
This is an often overlooked aspect when heading out to the great outdoors. Make sure you have the right clothing for the camping.
I recommend that you have a separate set of clothes (pajamas) that are only used for sleeping. You want to avoid wearing wet, damp or dirty clothing to bed.
You also don’t want to wear the clothes you wore outdoors during the day. If you’re doing any hiking or biking, your clothes are likely to pickup dirt and pollens. These can irritate the skin when sleeping.
Following these simple tips can make sure you get the most comfortable sleep in a tent.
In cold weather, you may want to consider wearing socks and may even a pair of mitts. Couple that with a good quality sleeping bag as mentioned above and you’ll be well on your way to getting the much needed rest you need when camping.
Also, avoid over-dressing in warmer weather. Wear light clothes so you don’t over-heat through the night. Heavy clothing will cause you to sweat and your clothes will get damp.
Let your sleeping bag moderate the air around you and do its job.
Tent Location – Choose Level Ground
Another important aspect of the most comfortable way to sleep in a tent is choosing a piece of level, flat ground. You want to pick a location that is reasonably flat and free of rocks and other debris.
Also, take a look at the gradient of the ground and which way the water will travel in the event of rain. The last thing you want in the middle of the night is water pouring in or under your tent during a storm.
If you’re warm-weather camping, consider a location that is shaded during the day so that your tent doesn’t heat up.
For cold-weather tenting, find a clear place away from trees. Snow falling from trees can damage your tent and make it difficult to to get a good night sleep.
Finally, if camping in a busier campground, try to distance your tent as far away from your neighbors as possible. Sound tends to travel when outdoors and the slightest talking or laughter can keep you up.
Tent Footprint and Covering
What is a tent footprint? A tent footprint is just a fancy way of saying to put a covering under your tent. This will help protect the floor of your tent and also help mitigate dampness and moisture.
You can buy a specialized tent footprint, however, a run-of-the-mill tarp from your local hardware store will do just fine.
In fact, we recommend you buy a 2-pack of heavy-duty tarps. One to act as your tent footprint and the other put over your tent.
You have a couple options for your tent covering:
- In the anticipation of rain, you can simply slide the tarp over your tent. Due to the tarp material, this will provide another layer of protection against heavy rain and keep you dry.
- The other option, particularly if there are trees at your campsite, is to string up a tarp with rope above you tent. This will provide shade from the sun during the day and if it rains keep your tent dry. This method provides good air-flow, and possibly a place to sit outside your tent during a rain event.
The most comfortable way to sleep in a tent is to get good at controlling the temperature inside it. We’ve already discussed a couple ways you can do that:
- Use a tent footprint and tent covering
- Wear the right camping clothes
- Use the right sleeping bag and bed
Following these tips will help control the temperature in your tent. At the very least, they will help control the dampness and your comfort level while sleeping.
When camping in the summer months tents can get hot and humid. Anyone who has experienced camping in hot and humid weather will know that it can be stifling!
Luckily, hot, humid weather is rare when camping as evenings tend to cool down in the outdoors. However, it never hurts to be prepared for such weather conditions.
Therefore, consider these options:
If you know you’ll be camping in the “dog-days” of summer, you may want to consider bringing a portable air conditioner or portable camping fan.
We really like this Misby Camping Fan with LED lights. For around $25 dollars you will not be disappointed. It has a convenient hook to hang off your tent ceiling.
It comes built-in with LEDs to light up your tent. The batteries are rechargeable via USB or solar, which is a great feature when you don’t have power.
When tenting in the fall or winter months you will want to keep your tent as warm as possible. You can look at portable camping heaters, however, it’s better if you learn to keep your tent warm without one of these from a safety perspective.
The best way to keep the chill off in your tent during the colder months is with a fire. This will get rid of the cold and dampness.
Of course, make sure the fire is a safe distance away from your tent. You don’t want flying ambers to hit your tent.
More Pro Camping Tips
We’ve covered some good strategies that will provide some of the most comfortable ways to sleep in a tent. Here are some more pro camping tips that are sure to help as well.
Bring Bug Spray
This is probably an obvious one, but make sure you have a good ration of bug repellent. There’s nothing worse than getting bit by mosquitos, tics, spiders and all the other creepy-crawly’s we try to avoid.
This will not only prevent you from a good tent sleep, but these nasty insects carry diseases like malaria, lime disease and a host of others.
Be sure your bug repellent has DEET as an active ingredient. This will provide your best protection. If you forget your bug repellent, natural oils from lemon and eucalyptus can help.
Don’t eat or drink too late
This one might be easier said than done when camping! However, try not to eat or drink at least two hours before you go to sleep in your tent.
Stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages before bed as they are proven to keep you up at night. You want to avoid having to fumble around in the middle of the night to go for a whiz.
Of course, if you have a weak bladder it’s always a good idea to keep a pair of shoes you can slip on easily by the door and a flashlight handy.
Ear Plugs are Great
If you really want peace and quiet, consider bringing ear plugs with you. If you are a light sleeper then I highly recommend you bring some. Nature is not quiet!
At night the forest is very active, from racoons, bears, coyotes, you name it, they’re likely out there. Which brings up another important point. Make sure you properly store all your food away.
If you’re car camping then this is easy. Simply put your coolers in the car and be sure to rid your site of all open food.
If you’re back-country camping this is even more crucial. We’ll do another article here on the site on how to safely stow your food away, especially when camping in bear country.
At the end of the day, while camping and tenting is a lot of work, it is supposed to be relaxing. It is often unsettling to sleep in a strange place, especially outside. So close your eyes, breathe and enjoy all that nature has to offer.