When we camp, it brings us closer to nature. When I think about sleeping in a tent, being comfortable is the most important thing that comes to mind. Even if you’re a newbie or seasoned camper we don’t have to sacrifice a good sleep.
Everyone wants a comfortable nights sleep and not being comfortable the night before an adventurous day could create problems and derail any plans you may have. Backaches, neck pain and leg cramps are no fun at all. With proper equipment and gear, these may be avoidable situations.
So what are the most comfortable ways to sleep in a tent? The most comfortable way to sleep in a tent is by choosing the right bed for you, make sure you have the right bedding to stay warm, select the correct tent for the weather conditions and moisture levels in your camping area and wear the right clothes to bed.
Remember my goal is to offer tips on how to prevent discomfort and let you sleep comfortably in a tent by providing you not only tips and techniques but also some examples of gear and accessories to help you along. Some of these subjects are often overlooked but are very important to be comfortable in a tent.
Pick the proper tent size to insure a good nights sleep
First, you will need to know what tent size is best and make sure you have one with enough room.
The first thing to do is know how many family members, friends and/or children. Any of these factors could potentially affect that good night’s sleep. You are camping so always remember to manage expectations of the peace and quiet you want.
Once you know how many people you have in your party, you will then need to decide how much space each of these people will need in order to have enough space to sleep comfortably. The size of each person is important, and as you can imagine, adults will need more space than children will.
Choose the right location and terrain that you set up in.
So where will you camp? Will it be at a campground, out near a river, in the woods, with others or alone? Take into consideration if the campground is popular, the time of the year, and weather forecast.
- If possible try to be near the restroom if they have one for obvious reasons. Tossing and turning because you need to use the bathroom and one is not around will definitely leave you uncomfortable.
- Try to arrive during the daylight hours because pitching that tent in the dark may be stressful or quickly set up with things overlooked and hinder that great comfortable sleep we all need.
- Look for a level area that is relatively free of debris. A lot of cots and other equipment work best when on a level surface.
- Always clear any debris in an area the size of your tent footprint before setting up your tent. This is just as important as finding a level surface. Debris under your tent can cause damage and believe me you will feel every small branch when inside your tent.
Another factor to consider in being comfortable is the type of tent you pick.
There are different types of tents, and some are better in extreme weather than others. For most people, a basic well made tent will be enough.
Here are a few of our general tent suggestions.
- 1-2 person – MIER 2 Person Camping Tent with Footprint Waterproof
- 3-4 person – SEMO Camping Tent 3-4 Person 4-Season Double Layer Traveling Tent
- 5-6 person – NTK Cherokee GT 5 to 6 Person 100% waterproof
- 7-8 person – Coleman Tenaya Lake Fast Pitch 8-Person Cabin Tent Built-in Closet
- 9-10 Person – CORE 10 Person Straight Wall Cabin Tent
- More than 10 – Ozark Trail Base Camp 14-Person Cabin Tent
For the most comfortable night’s sleep, we always recommend getting a tent that is a little bigger than is required. This will leave you with plenty of room for gear and room to move around while sleeping.
Choose the right bedding for your tent
The right bedding can make all the difference in the world when it comes to comfort. This along with the type of bed or surface that you are laying on are the 2 most important factors for being comfortable while sleeping in a tent.
Sleeping Bag types and rating:
- Summer Season – rated +30 degrees and up
- 3 Season – rated + 15 degrees to +30 degrees
- Winter – rated +15 degrees and below
The three basic shapes are:
- Rectangular: provides lots of room for arm and leg movements. Costs range anywhere from $19.99 to $599.99
- Semi-rectangular: also called “modified mummy” or “barrel” are warm and roomie. Average price range is $19.99 for a basic type up to over $1024.00 for something that can keep you warm in negative 40-degree temperatures.
- Mummy: lightweight, comfortable and easy to store. Prices go from $19.24 to over $1000.00 for those negative 30 temps.
If the temperatures are warm or vary from night to night, a camping quilt will make it easier to get warm or cool off.
A camping quilt is like a mix between a quilt at home and a sleeping bag. This means when it’s cold you can stay comfortable by wrapping it around you, and when it’s hot, you can open it up for circulation.
Blankets from home
Blankets or quilts from home are not usually as durable or insulated as the ones made for camping but you will most likely already know how warm or cool they are for sleeping if you use them at home.
Don’t forget to look at your bedding insulation.
Do you want a down or synthetic fill? Down Insulation is lightweight, has excellent performance in cold weather, easy to fold up small for packing and is durable giving you lots of years to use. Synthetic insulation is affordable, non-allergenic and quickly dries.
Car camping bags have a bigger width, offer more room to move around (great comfort). However, it may not be good at keeping in body heat on cold nights. Rectangular styles can be unzipped and used in a quilt manner for those chilly nights. Make sure any sleeping gear you obtain is suitable for the elements you may come in contact with and be exposed.
If a sleeping bag is not up your alley because you’re new, alternative arrangements to sleep are available. Cots may be used to reassure that first-time camper because it feels more like a “bed.” Hammocks bring down the weight if you need to go light. They are tricky to put up in a tent so these may not be a great idea.
We have a great article about if synthetic or down is better for insulation. This can really help keep you warm and is great information to know. Click here to read it.
If you are not a fan of sleeping bags, there are some comfortable alternatives.
Let’s all be real and say that sleeping on the ground can be uncomfortable. Unless you have the great fortune to carry a mattress with you, this is the next best thing. Sleeping pads are soft, flexible; some are inflatable and easy to store. There are three types that are popular. However, as with anything else they have their pros and cons.
A). Air Pads are comfortable, lightweight and easy to pack. Additional comfort can be obtained by releasing air while lying on it. The more lightweight though, the more expensive and some pads make crinkle sounds with movement and be annoying.
B). Self-Inflating Pads are comfortable and provide excellent insulation with adding or releasing air. This type of pad is heavier, cost more and is not as compact as some other types of pads.
C). Closed-Cell Foam Pads are dense foam filled with tiny closed air cells and lightweight, inexpensive and offer good insulation. The downside is less comfortable, stiff and bulky. Remember to choose the correct length and width. Regular is 72 inches in length with Long being 78 inches, and this helps insulate legs and feet.
Standard widths are 20 inches and do not help much if you move around a lot. In this case, those that are 25-30 inches work better for comfort. Just remember to measure your tent so that you can get two wider pads side by side.
c). Cots usually fold up for easy transportation and are similar to a small bed. Cots can be found in a wide range of sizes and shapes. This means you can find them in small, lightweight versions to large very sturdy versions. You can also add a small mattress or pad for even more comfort.
If you need an ultralight cot for hiking or mobile camping, check out our review page here.
Check Equipment and Gear.
Taking the extra time to go through all your equipment prior to going out could be the difference between a terrible or comfortable night of sleep. I don’t want to wake up to inches of rain because I didn’t see the hole in my tent wall before I went out and I’m sure neither do you. Always check your gear for damage, if you don’t this can have a considerable effect on your comfort levels.
Lighting For You Tent
While darkness is ideal, having some light will help you feel comfortable should you need to use the facilities in the dark or if you feel uncomfortable being out in the woods? There are a ton of lighting options on the market, but you will need to decide what will fit your sleeping style the best. We do recommend led versions of each type of lighting as they provide tons of light and your batteries will last much longer.
- Headlamps- These are great for the middle of the night adventures to relieve yourself, and best of all, they are hands-free. It’s definitely a bonus to have the use of both of your hands.
- Traditional flashlights- These are available in all types of shapes and sizes and having one by your bed while sleeping will make life much easier if you wake up needing a drink or to find something.
- Dome lamps- These can usually hang somewhere inside the tent, and some even have a different level of light variations. This is ideal if you would like a light on while sleeping. This often makes kids, and first times campers feel much more comfortable and offer them a sense of security.
- Camping light bulbs- These are great for hanging around the camp to so that you can see everything if you need to get up during the middle of the night.
- Solar lights- These are ideal for long camping trips, as there is no need to replace batteries.
How do I stay warm while camping in a tent?
A quick recap of sleeping comfortably in a tent. If you’re not used to sleeping in a tent, all of this could be overwhelming. Sleep can be elusive, and this is especially the case if you are not comfortable. However, there are many techniques and equipment to help keep us comfortable throughout the whole night.
Finding a great location, choosing that excellent sleeping bag and sleeping pad, having some type of lighting, staying warm or cool, eating and drinking the appropriate things, exercising, keeping out the critters and having dry clothes, are some things we do in our regular daily routines and by using common sense we are able to roll these tips over to our camping outings ensuring our comfort level of sleeping in a tent is achieved.
We each are in control of everything that we do, and hopefully, all of these techniques provide you some level of comfort. After all, throwing a pair of earplugs or an eye mask in your bag takes only about 10 seconds and could provide hours of comfort and relief.
Being adequately prepared will help tremendously, follow a checklist of the things that you need so that you know you’ve got everything, and there will be no surprises on your part. Surprises are also a part of life so keep that in your mind.
With all of that being said, load up your favorite gear, find a great destination to explore, scout out the perfect location for your tent set up, enjoy, relax, follow the suggested tips and techniques, maintain a routine and go get a comfortable night’s sleep!
Here are some tips to help you stay comfortable all night long
- Proper Temperature. Camping in a tent in different elements can produce problems and taking steps in staying cool or warm is crucial. Being hot and sticky in a tent can be unbearable, and these steps can be followed to cool down.. Find a shady spot to place your tent, near a hill or by some body of water (creek) provides air flow so place the tent opening or air vent point in that direction. If you have access to a power supply, small air conditioners and fans are alternative sources. To stay warm use a space heater if you can safely and make sure it is turned off and cool before bed.
- Warmth. Eating something hot or drinking hot tea before bedtime provides a source of warmth to help you get comfortable and fall asleep. Try to stop drinking anything 4 hours before you settle in and stop caffeine 8 hours prior. A hot water bottled gently heated up over a campfire then placed in your sleeping bag will also provide an added layer.
- Exercise. To help quickly increase body heat go for a jog or brisk walk around the area. Use weights, if you have them, for a quick workout.
- Dry Clothes. This is probably the second most crucial aspect of sleeping comfortably in a tent, with the most important being the sleeping bag. If your clothes are damp or wet, you may not fully get to sleep, toss and turn or simply just be awake the entire night. Make sure you have an excellent choice to pick from and include long underwear tops and bottoms, as well as clean socks. If space is available to add a beanie and gloves to help stay warm. Take into consideration that “bulky” clothing in a sleeping bag is not only uncomfortable it also aids in reducing your body’s heart regulation efficiently.
- Pillows. Additional cushions in the hips, shoulders and the neck area are always nice to have and help you sleep comfortably in the tent. Since space to bring full-size pillows from home may be limited, you can always make one on site. Take a jacket and a Buff, headband or neck gaiter. Fold the jacket into the Buff, headband or gaiter and use a hair tie to close up any loose ends. Inflatable camp pillows due to only needing minimal storage space are also an option. Prices start at $12.99 and can go up to $69.99.
- Do not overdress. Wearing too much inside the sleeping bag traps heat in and keeps you warmer. When overheated getting comfortable is next to impossible.
- Ear Plugs. If you sleep with a white noise machine at home to enjoy the sounds of nature, think about the reality of the “true” outdoors. The wilderness is loud with sounds of animals, rustling trees, the crunching of walked on underbrush, people talking and children playing. Ear Plugs provide a noise reduction outlet and are another aid in comfortable sleeping.
- Eye Masks. If you’re that morning person then these do not apply but for those wanting to shut out the morning for a few more hours then a great item to have.
- No heavy meals. Instead find foods that are easy to pack, do not need refrigerated and help in promoting sleep. Nuts and cherries fall in this category.
- Eliminate Bugs. Who likes those pesky mosquitoes and pests? I know I don’t and use mosquito netting to help control them. Bug spray and Citronella works as well to maintain a comfortable level. Keeping your tent zipped while away also cuts down on bug exposure. For more great information read this How to keep insects out of your tent.
- Food Outside of Tent. This keeps you from rolling around on pesky crumbs that could make you uncomfortable but also helps eliminate those unwanted visitors that show up looking for a snack.
- No footwear. Eliminating footwear in the tent will help keep out rocks, bugs or anything else that may become trapped on the soles. While preventing everything from coming into the tent, this precaution will help in getting comfortable to sleep.
- Normal Routine. Keeping a regular bedtime procedure and routine helps get your body and mind sleep ready. Sleeping in a tent can be stressful, exhausting and exciting. Stress causes discomfort and doesn’t allow for comfort. By following as close as a routine as allowed sleeping in the tent after a long day can still be comfortable and pleasurable.
- Just relax! Strange places may be unsettling and frightening. Take deep breaths or engage in meditation. An hour before bed take a shower or a dip in the lake if you’re lucky enough to be near one. This will loosen your muscles and help you sleep better.