When I go camping, it is essential that I get a good nights sleep so that I can enjoy the great outdoors while I’m awake. This means a comfortable place for me to get those zzz’s. I have tried many types of equipment to sleep on, and now I’ll Share that knowledge with you.
So what do you sleep on while camping? The answer isn’t simple. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep while enjoying the great outdoors, you need to find something comfortable and warm. Your options may seem limited, but the truth is that there are all sorts of sleeping bags, mattresses, hammocks, and mats to fit your needs!
Today, you will be able to find exactly the right fit for you with a little bit of help. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Here’s what we will cover to get you sleeping comfortably while camping.
Sleeping bags are generally the first thing people think of when deciding to sleep under the stars (or in a tent.) Did you know that there are several different types of sleeping bags, though? If not, you are about to learn!
Square Sleeping Bags
This is the most basic type of sleeping bag. It is actually shaped more like a rectangle to fit your height, but you get the idea. These are perfect for having room to move your feet around or to sleep beside your partner or your child if you are a parent. These also come in double wide for even more space! Here is an example, one of the most highly rated on Amazon.
The Teton XXL sleeping bag is super comfortable. I love that the foot area does not unzip since its usually the zipper on the foot area of bags that come undone just when you don’t want it to. This bag is simple to zip up and down, I don’t have to wrestle with fabric, or baffles because it all stays in place as it should.
Its wide and long enough for even a large, tall man. I bought a left and a right sleeping bag so I could zip them together. Again, it zips together so quickly and two of them together is wider than a queen bed.”
Mummy Sleeping Bags
These sleeping bags start wide at the top and taper down at the bottom to keep your feet warm. There isn’t much room to move around in these, but they are most suited for camping in colder temperatures. They hold in your body heat better than square shaped sleeping bags because the air cannot circulate as well. You can find examples here at DICK’S Sporting Goods.
These are more similar to square bags, but they are half as wide and twice as long. This is perfect for summertime camping, and you will have plenty of room to move around. They also seem similar to mummy bags, but they have a more rounded shape instead of the sharper angled former.
No, not those body bags. These sleeping bags simply conform to your body shape! That means you can walk around in them as well. These would be the warmest option, seeing as how they are the tightest fit available. You don’t have to worry about sleeping room, though!
You can toss and turn with abandon because the sleeping bag will never move. Most have zippers around the extremities so you can give yourself a little bit of cool air if you need it.
Which sleeping bag should you choose based on the weather?
The colder the weather, the tighter the fit of sleeping bag you should have! The less room you have at the top, the better because the heat that your body gives off will not escape. Wide sleeping bags are better for summer nights when the air can be just a little too hot and muggy.
Choosing a sleeping bag based on weight?
It is also essential to determine how lightly you plan on packing for your camping trip. If you want to pack as light as possible, you should go with something with less insulation. This is only safe if temperatures will not be freezing. You don’t want to catch yourself with inadequate padding in the winter or chillier climates. You can find more information here at Greenbelly!
If you want to sleep with a little more cushion from the hard ground, you may want to buy an air mattress! Some have pumps that require electricity to function, but there are several models with manual pumps perfect for taking along on an expedition!
Benefits and detriments of sleeping on an air mattress
There are a few pros and cons that come with bringing air mattresses with you for your trip. You just have to weigh them against each other yourself and decide on what is right for you!
- Having a barrier of air and cushion between yourself and the floor of your tent is always more comfortable! You can even buy a pillow-top mattress cover for it. This is especially great for do-it-yourself glamping! “Glamping” is the art of taking boring old camping and making it luxurious with items meant for extra comfort like this. Just a tip!
- Cooler temperatures. In a sleeping bag, you can get overly hot pretty fast. Many sleeping bags have zippers for a little extra ventilation, but if you happen to be someone who sweats in your sleep, you’ll still want something cooler. You can bring blankets for when you do get cold, too! You can always add things to make yourself warmer, but once you have something hot, you can rarely take things off.
- Air mattresses are, of course, more easily portable than actual mattresses. They are similar to sleeping bags in the way that they roll up! I’d like to see you try to do that with your home mattress.
- More difficult setup. With sleeping bags, you can just unroll the pack and snuggle in. Air mattresses require inflation, and manual pumps are slower than electric pumps.
- Air mattresses are thicker than sleeping bags, and even rolling them up will take up more precious room in your vehicle. They can also make for less room in your tent; if you are bringing a group, they may not appreciate your sleeping choices.
- More easily breakable. Sharp objects and air mattresses simply do not mix. If you ever accidentally set one too close to packing equipment with sharp corners, you can puncture it. Then your sleeping situation is even more uncomfortable than a sleeping bag!
Air Mattress Accessories
There are a few things you should keep on hand if you want your trip to go smoothly when you bring an air mattress. After all, the reason you bought it was to last for this and all future camping trips, right?
- When you roll up your mattress, you want it to stay exactly as you intended. Without securing it, the air bed will just unroll again and risk getting punctured by anything else you have laying around beside it.
- An alternative to securing your air mattress with straps is putting it in a large bag or sack that fits it snugly. Keep the bag away from anything sharp, because your bed can still be ripped or torn if it is jostled around too much.
- Air mattress repair kits are pretty vital items for an activity as rough as camping. If the worst happens and your mattress does get torn, you can fix it before things go from bad to worse. Save yourself the trouble of buying another one and have this near at all times!
- Air pumps (both electric and manual). There are certain types of electric air pumps that are rechargeable, meaning that you do not need an outlet nearby to power it up! The only thing is that you need to remember to actually charge it in the first place. This can be heavier than a manual pump, but the manual models take a long time to inflate.
Air Mattress Models
- Self-Inflating Air Mattresses
Some air mattresses simply need to be unrolled to be inflated. You do not have to waste time with all the pumps and issues a larger mattress may require. These are meant for only one person to sleep on; if they were any bigger, self-inflation would take much longer. After it is all blown up, just plug it again and rest happy! A word of warning: sleeping pads tend to be on the pricier side of the spectrum. Only get one if you are willing to make an investment and know you will use it more than once.
A Different Kind of Bed
Believe it or not, some companies manufacture air mattresses meant to fit in the bed of a truck! They are on the larger side, so they will more than likely need an electric pump if you want to save yourself a lot of work pumping it with your hands or feet. How cool is that, though?! You get to sleep underneath the stars with no tent needed! Truck beds are generally easier to get out of than hammocks, too. We will get to those in a moment.
If you plan on doing something more along the “glamping” side of things, you may want to bring your own mattress from home! There are some definitely big pros and cons to lugging yours along for the ride, and you need to plan accordingly for the area you will be sleeping in and the size of your tent.
- This is one of the most comfortable options available. You can have all the luxuries of sleeping at home without actually being stuck inside! Maybe you have your own mattress groove now from the way you tend to sleep, and it has become a comfortable little rut. You can’t get that with any other camping equipment.
- Regular old mattresses are far warmer than anything else because they provide the most insulation from the ground. Air can not circulate underneath you, so you won’t have to worry about your backside getting cold. If you happen to be taking your trip during the summer, though, that may not be such a good thing to have.
- Things like sleeping pads and cots do not offer as much cushion, and air mattresses require inflation. With this, you will not have to worry about either! It is as simple as picking it up, bringing it to the campsite, and plopping it down inside.
- Mattresses are heavy. Anything but a toddler-sized mattress is going to be hard to tote around. It definitely won’t be portable if you want to move quickly, and it is a two person job to get it out of the door, into your vehicle, and into the tent.
- They are bulky. You will not have as much room in your tent if you decide to shove a queen-sized mattress up in there. If you plan on just hanging out or having a large number of people staying over, they will want plenty of room to sleep themselves without being crushed by your bed.
- You have less space in your vehicle when packing if you bring your mattress. If you are in an R.V., this might not be any trouble at all, but anything smaller requires careful positioning and packing light.
- Standard mattresses are not very weatherproof. If the ground gets wet and it happens to seep through the floor of your tent, your bedding may be ruined forever. Cots and hammocks solve that problem completely by being off the ground, but air mattresses are made of easily cleanable material on the bottom and sleeping bags do not retain quite as much moisture as an indoor mattress would.
If you feel like sleeping off of the ground to get away from the bugs and the damp grass that can seep through tent floors, try sleeping in a hammock! There are several different types on the market that will suit you based on your body weight and height as well as the conditions you are camping in.
Choosing a hammock based on body type
Hammocks have wider models and narrow or lightweight. If your weight is on the heavier side, you need something sturdier and wider because you may fall out of or break the hammock if you choose something made of lighter material or something too narrow for your body shape.
No shame in that! We just want to make sure you are more comfortable at night. If you are taller, consider buying a wider model because the positions you sleep on can vary more with more material.
Hammocking based on climate and environmental conditions
There are also different types with accessories meant to keep you warm and keep rain or bugs off of you while you dream. Lightweight materials are not suitable for cold climates because the air circulating underneath you will penetrate the hammock and make you chilly.
If you do want something lighter, make sure to pad the bottom with hammock underquilts or your own blankets from home.
If you are camping in a place with lots of bugs or rain, get a hammock with a rain fly and a net. A rain fly is usually a tarp that is strung over the top of your hammock.
They are waterproof, so the water will slide right off! Just be sure to watch for mud when you climb out the next morning. Nets are made of mesh with tiny holes so any bug that tries to invade will be caught outside instead of snuggling in next to you. No one wants that!
Now we will get into the types of hammocks on the market so you can make a more informed decision.
- Lightweight models
These are better for people who are backpacking across a certain region or are planning on taking a trip to somewhere warm. They are far more portable than warmer models, but you must keep in mind that they almost always have a lower weight limit.
They are easier to rip if you don’t pay attention to the manufacturer’s information regarding their specific hammocks!
- Expedition Hammocks
These are sturdy, heavy-duty cocoons for those people braving a humid and mosquito-ridden climate or campers going hardcore and setting up shop in the winter. They often come with those features I mentioned before (i.e. rain fly and net.)
They’re thicker and made of durable material. If you are a heavier or taller person, this may be a better fit for you!
- Open Model Hammocks
These are perfect for anyone staying in a milder but not exactly cold climate. While they are mostly used for lounging instead of sleeping, they do just fine either way! The best part is that you can stargaze until you nod off.
These are shaped like boats, long and wide! If you are a smaller person, you’ll have a lot of room to move. These are ideal for burlier campers because they fit their proportions just right!
Pros and Cons Of Hammocks
As is true of any other camping equipment, there are good things and bad things about sleeping on a hammock. Let’s go through both!
- Protection from the elements. Hammocks provide a way to get off of the ground where you are more likely to be bothered by creepy crawlers or damp from any rain or dew that may soak through a tent floor, provided that the floor isn’t waterproof. Depending on the model you chose, you will wake up warm, dry, and free of bug bites!
- Swinging in the air makes things far more comfortable — that is unless you prefer sleeping on the hard soil and clearing away a bunch of rocks and twigs before pitching your tent. You’ll feel like a swaddled little baby or a caterpillar in a cocoon. If you prefer more open spaces, I get that this may not be your thing.
- Lighter packing. With a hammock, you may not even need a tent at all! Campers usually bring tents as a way of sheltering themselves at night, but you’re covered in that area when it comes to buying one of these.
- Hammocks are just as portable as sleeping bags, and some are less bulky! Some models may even allow you to roll them up into a backpack, leaving more room to pack anything you might need or want.
- Views of nature. If your hammock is an open model, you will be able to fall asleep right under the stars! Tents do not usually provide a view of the sky or your surroundings unless they come with a lot of windows.
- More difficult setup. You have to string up your hammock at the right angle and find the right trees to do it. There are a lot of steps that pitching a tent doesn’t require. If you are up for the challenge, go ahead! Some people just want a more convenient trip that does not involve a lot of work.
- More accessories to buy. In order to set up, you need straps, cords, rings to connect them, a ridgeline, and all protective measures.
- More expensive. Sleeping bags are rarely as expensive as even the most basic of hammocks. Add in the price of the various accessories and you can rack up quite a bit of credit card debt.
- Hammocks can be hard to get in and out of, especially if you have problems with your back or knees. They require a bit of maneuvering and lifting to get settled n comfortably. If you are not really careful, you may fall out and tumble onto the ground. Even if you don’t get hurt, you will probably get dirty. Yuck!
- You have to pay closer attention to the weight limits, length, and many other specifications of the equipment you are buying. Sleeping bags are pretty straightforward. You have to judge how tall you are and how it factors into your decision, and then you make sure you have enough insulation.
Cots are narrow, portable beds specifically made for outdoor adventures and makeshift sleeping arrangements. They have been used for a long time, so they must be doing something right! When it comes to sleeping on one of these, you do not have to worry about dealing with sleeping on the ground.
Cots have legs that fold out to keep you elevated. This will keep you from getting too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter because, like a hammock, the air will circulate underneath you. Cots are just far lower to the ground so you will not have to deal with much hassle getting in and out of them.
The downside to this is that they are often less comfortable than other options. The cloth is held taught with a metal frame, so it gives you less cushion. Cots also have weight limits similar to the way hammocks do, so you run the risk of wearing them out more over time. If you are a tall person, you may want to avoid them unless you can find one long enough to accommodate your height.
These are vaguely similar to air mattresses, but they do not provide as much cushion or bulk as air mattresses do. Some are inflatable, but others are made of foam. They do come in different sizes like the air mattresses do, though, and they also have a range of models and insulation thickness to suit your needs.
But what is the difference between a foam sleeping pad and an inflatable one when it comes to getting a good night’s rest? Let’s find out!
- Foam Pads
These are the most affordable sleeping pads you can buy, and they do not require an air pump or manual inflation at all! They are lightweight and still comfortable to sleep on, though they offer less cushion than an inflatable pad. Foam sleeping pads do tend to be bulky when rolled up, though. It is a plus that they are still as portable as sleeping bags!
- Inflatable Pads
These are typically slightly more comfortable than foam sleeping pads. They offer more cushion and protection from the chill of the ground. As the pads get thicker, the insulation is warmer. This seems like a simple concept, but sometimes we tend not to think of the smaller details!
Typically, sleeping pads are made for individual people and not a couple or family sharing one, but you can certainly find them in bigger sizes if needed. They run in the same sizes as regular mattresses (i.e. single, double, queen, king.) Just be advised that the bigger the mattress is, the more space you need in your tent or sleeping area and the heavier it will be.
I hope you are now educated and ready to make a decision on which sleeping equipment is the right fit for you! Check your bank account, consider your body’s measurements and limitations, compare the size of your tent to the size of the mattress/cot/pad, and make sure you have enough room for whatever you choose to fit into the car/RV/truck!
Now you can go out there and have some fun. When the day is done, you can rest assured that your back won’t be hurting in the morning.