How to Achieve Great Tent Sleeping

Air mattress + sleeping bag = COMFORT
Air mattress + sleeping bag = COMFORT

Getting a good night’s sleep in a tent should not be as rare as it seems.

In this article, we take a deep dive into what you need to sleep comfortably in a tent and what you should not be doing.

Tip: sleeping bag + air mattress = COMFORT.

Choose the Right Tent

Choosing the right tent is normally underestimated
Choosing the right tent is normally underestimated

If you think tents don’t affect your sleep, think again:

  • A tent too small will hinder your sleep as you won’t be able to fit a large sleeping bag or air mattress inside, or you won’t be free to move or stretch as you wish if you’re sharing the tent

  • But a tent too big isn’t perfect either:

    • It’ll make it harder for you to stay warm, as it will hold more air than a smaller tent

    • And be heavier, which means more weight in your backpacking tent (except if you’re going car camping)

The Camping Location Matters

If you don't spend time choosing the campsite, then don't bother
If you don’t spend time choosing the campsite, then don’t bother

You can spend hours picking the best tent for your needs but if you drop the ball when researching and choosing the campsite, no tent will save your camping trip.

You should be aiming for a flat surface, although you can still have a great trip if you adapt the surface and make it leaner using clothes or shoes (putting folded clothes on the corners of the tent that are not lean).

You’ll likely need to clear the area of any objects that may damage your tent (the most common are stones and branches) and you should carefully inspect the ground, especially if you can’t see it too well (e.g., in tall grass and sand).

Finally, we recommend you use a tent tarp to protect your tent floor and sleeping pad from damage or getting dirty.

Never Ignore the Sleep Surface

Never skip sleeping pads: they are magical to your sleep and comfort
Never skip sleeping pads: they are magical to your sleep and comfort

You’ve cleared the tent site and set up your tent. Great! What’s next?

Where are you sleeping? On the ground? Or you brought your large air mattress with a 50cm height?

The truth is that the sleep surface will depend on each camper, but, as a rule of thumb, and especially for inexperienced campers, we recommend a comfortable & inflatable sleeping pad combined with an air camping mattress.

Trust us: that will make your sleep in a tent like your sleep would be in a castle.

However, if you don’t have an air mattress and don’t want to buy one, don’t worry: you have other setups that also work:

  • Using a thick sleeping pad with a comfortable sleeping bag over it also gets the job done

    • Side note: when checking sleeping bags, you must know that some are insulated with feathers (perfect for cold weather but worse if they get wet) and others with synthetic fibers (heavier but water doesn’t affect their warmth)

  • Use the sleeping bag you maybe bought some years ago and equip it with a sleeping bag liner

    • You’ll be able to use it for colder temperatures without having to buy a brand new one

What we do not recommend is skipping the sleeping pad: these act as a physical barrier between you and the ground, protecting your body heat and acting as a lean surface to help you sleep comfortably.

Sure, some people sleep with only a sleeping bag on the floor (and we’ve done it), but the truth is that if you haven’t camped a lot, you won’t sleep much, and you will wake up with a sore back. Sleeping pads exist for a reason, so just drop the 30 bucks or something on one; it will be worth it.

Soft Camp Pillow & Comfortable Bedding Items

Pillows: the last ingredient for ultra comfort
Pillows: the last ingredient for ultra comfort

Camping pillows are the missing piece of the puzzle of the bed setup, so you better include them in your sleeping gear.

Once again, you have a great variety: you can use a fancy camping pillow or go old-school, roll a pair of jeans, or fold a t-shirt under your head. It all depends on what type of experience you’re trying to have.

If you want extreme comfort, get an inflatable camp pillow and use the trio of bedding items to get proper sleep in a tent: the sleeping bag (or inflatable air mattress) and the sleeping pad. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Clothes You Should Wear

Clothes are an easy win to improve comfort
Clothes are an easy win to improve comfort

While sleeping bags, inflatable pillows, air mattresses, and sleeping pads are crucial when sleeping outdoors, a whole universe of other items and strategies are available to enhance your sleep in a tent.

We won’t write much about the clothes to bring camping as we’ve written about it, but the primary rule is to bring comfortable and spare clothes according to the weather forecasts.

Never wear wet clothes before bed: that’s not a comfortable way to sleep. It’s a comfortable way to get sick.

Locating the Toilet

Look for these being you go to bed
Look for these being you go to bed

There are worse things than waking up in the middle of the night, looking for your flip flops and getting dressed, and still having to find a good spot to do the bathroom business.

You don’t have to dig a hole and know the exact coordinates of where it is, but you should have an idea of spots you can use that are near your tent to avoid wasting time.

The same way you would do if you were home, try to minimize the time you spend wandering around in the middle of the night on your camping trip, especially outside. Not only does your precious body heat get sucked, but you become more awake and may have trouble returning to your restful sleep.

A Water Bottle Does Wonders

Pick whatever shape you want, just have it by your side
Pick whatever shape you want, just have it by your side

A water bottle is excellent in two ways: a hot water bottle can warm your sleeping bag, and cold water to combat your thirst.

If it’s freezing and your bedding items are not doing the job, you can place a hot water bottle (with tea or chocolate) inside your sleeping bag. Just ensure the hot water bottle is tightly lid and you’re good to go.

It’s also always great to have a bottle of drinkable water next to you to avoid standing up, getting dressed, and going outside looking for a water supply.

Getting a good night of sleep in a tent isn’t that hard; you just have to take the easy wins.

Avoid the Late Snack

These are never a good idea, especially right before bed
These are never a good idea, especially right before bed

It always feels like a great idea to grab a snack right before bed on your camping trip because you’re finishing a long conversation with your family or dinner wasn’t a lot of food.

We’ve felt that, and we’re to tell you it isn’t such a good idea: food before bed will hinder your comfortable night’s sleep.

The scientific explanation is that when your stomach is digesting the food you’ve eaten, it draws blood there and makes your heart pump more. The simple explanation? You won’t fall asleep quickly.

So if you can, skip the midnight snacks when going on camping trips unless you skipped dinner and are starving.

Create a Sleeping System

You need to develop a routine
You need to develop a routine

We’re sure you’ve noticed that your best sleep happens when you’ve developed a routine and stuck to it for a long time.

When you go to bed at a particular time, don’t change it every week and keep the consistency.

The same is true for your camping trip: create a routine, stick to it, and allow for narrow exceptions.

No matter how comfortable your sleeping bags are, you won’t get a good night’s sleep if you have a bizarre sleep routine.

It doesn’t matter what exact time you go to bed and wake up. You decide that. What matters is applying consistency and following that routine day in and day out.

Earplugs & Eye Masks

When camping, earplugs and eye masks are your best friends
When camping, earplugs and eye masks are your best friends

Everyone has shared a tent with snoring tent mates or been woken up by strong sunrays, and we can all agree that that is not a pleasant experience.

Night noises are common when camping, and they can be very uncomfortable (for example, having a dog bark nonstop all night), so we highly recommend you use earplugs when tent camping, as these will block all minor noises and let you sleep in peace.

Bringing an eye mask is also something we highly recommend, as it will shield you from sunlight or other natural or artificial lights during your sleep.

Meditation & Podcasts

Breathe in, breathe out. It's not rocket science
Breathe in, breathe out. It’s not rocket science

Meditation has helped us tremendously (not only when tent camping) but in life in general, and we highly recommend it.

While there are numerous different types of meditation, and we don’t intend to spark a discussion about it (as we are not experts on it), we can tell you what we do and what has been working for us for a long time.

Inhaling using the nose and exhaling slowly using the mouth. That’s it. We try not to think of anything and let our minds rest, but that is up to you.

Feel free to practice deep breathing even when you’re not meditating; it can only benefit you!

Alternatively, you can lie in your sleeping bag and listen to a podcast until you feel sleepy – this is also great.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people like sleeping in tents?

It’s a different feeling than sleeping in your bed at home. Ultimately camping is all about experiencing different things and getting out of your weekly routine.

Can I share my sleeping bag with my partner?

Yes, you can, but it won’t be comfortable because you’ll both feel tight.

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