How to Get the Best Sleep During Camp

Camping allows us the opportunity to break away from the modern luxuries and be closer to nature. However, that doesn’t mean sacrificing a good night’s sleep. With the right gear and preparation, we can get the most rejuvenating sleep underneath the starry sky. 

Gear for sleeping outdoors

There are a number of options for creating your sleep system. Whether your car camping or backpacking, having the right gear is key to making your night’s sleep in the outdoors a success. 

Sleeping Bags: Choose a sleeping bag with the temperature rating that holds appropriate for your destination. There are a few varieties if sleeping bags to choose from, with each meant to serve a purpose for the type of camping you will be doing: 

  • Car camping sleeping bags are shaped wider and often rectangular in shape. The shape allows for more freedom to roll around offering a more comfortable sleep but falls short for keeping your body insulated.
  • Backpacking sleeping bags are often mummy-shaped, providing a more close and warm fitting. Backpacking bags are designed for optimizing a warmth to weight ratio.
  • Top quilts have been a popular 3-season choice for ultralight backpackers. The design of a top quilt comes without a hood and unzips at the foot box to serve as a quilt or blanket.

Sleeping Pads: Your sleeping pad should provide you comfort and warmth from the ground. When sleeping during colder nights, bring a thicker pad with a high R-Value. Just like your mattress, we all enjoy different types of firmness in our sleeping pads. There are three types of sleeping pads, test the firmness of each and find your sweet spot: 

  • Self-inflating pads normally consist of foam inside the pad and are the most heavy and bulky option.
  • Air sleeping pads are the lightest and offer the most warmth to weigh ratio between the three choices. Air sleeping pads may come with or without built-in insulation.
  • Closed-cell foam pads are the most durable and lightweight option but the least packable. Foam pads can be combined with both self-inflating or air sleeping pads to increase warmth.

Pillows: For an even better night’s sleep, bring a pillow. A pillow is commonly the most overlooked piece of gear for backpackers. Pillows will provide neck support and keep you more rejuvenated after a long hike. If you’re car camping where weight or space isn’t an issue, bring your most comfortable pillow. When out backpacking, there are plenty of great inflatable or small foam options that are packable. 

Earplugs: If there’s one micro-sized piece of gear every camper can agree on, it’s earplugs. Light sleeper and easily awoken from the rustling of leaves or branches? Or perhaps your tentmate is a snorer? Ear plugs.

Eye masks: An eye masks can help shield your eyes from the sunlight when you’re not quite ready to get up yet.

Preparing for Bed

(Source: NPS)

Having your campsite organized and prepared before bed will allow you to enjoy your evenings more and ensure your sleep is not disturbed at night.

Set up your tent in a proper area. Before setting up your tent, make sure to clear the area from vegetation such as pinecones, sticks, and rocks. 

Store all food and scented toiletries outside of your tent. Each park may have their own rules for food storage, so it is important to abide by them. Some locations where bears are prominent  may require a bear canister for food storage. 

Have the lights ready. Keep a headlight or lamp ready when the sun sets. Having plenty of light available will allow you to finish up any nightly routines before stepping inside your tent.  

Keep clean with a shower or wet wipes. It’s amazing how being clean and not sticky can affect your comfort when sleeping. If you can, try to shower before bed. Can’t shower? Use a wet wipe for your face, body, legs, feet, and anywhere in between.

Wear clean clothes. Change out of the dirty and sweaty clothes you wore for today and into a dry clean pair. Base layers, top and bottom, are a great choice for sleepwear. Although optional, nice pair of clean socks are great during colder nights.

Pee before going to bed. To prevent midnight trips to use the bathroom, try to pee twice before hitting the sack, 20-30 minutes and immediately before sleeping.

Keep a bottle of water near you. If you tend to get thirsty at night, keep a bottle of wear nearby to quench your thirst.

Have a pair of sandals or accessible shoes outside. In case of midnight trips to the restroom or you plan to get up early and cook breakfast, keep a pair of accessible footwear right outside your door.

Winding Down

Once you’re primed for bed, repeating the same routines that you would normally do at night can help with your sleep.

Enjoying a warm beverage: Sipping on a cup of tea can help warm your body and be a great winding down ritual for many. Chamomile or valerian are great caffeine-free herbal teas that can have a sedative effect and help promote sleep. 

Have a light snack: A light snack that is high in protein and low in sugar can help keep your belly full, and the process of digestion generates heat to keep your body warm during the cold. Peanut butter and crackers are a staff favorite when it comes to an evening snack.

Reading or listening: Reading or listening to your favorite novel/audiobook at night can put you into the right state of mind before going to bed.

A nightcap: Alcohol is actually not recommended for a good night sleep. Although it can aide in drowsiness, it may actually interfere with your sleep cycle and cause one to feel groggy in the morning. However, if cracking a cold one or swigging on your favorite wine or whiskey is part of your ritual or enjoyable part of your even, do so in moderation and accompany it with plenty of water.

Meditate: A moment of silence, breathing, and pondering about tomorrow’s adventure can help relax our mind and relieve tension and aide with sleep. 

Avoid screens: Turn off all gadgets that consist of a screen. The blue-light that comes out of most screen devices throws your brain of rhythm and can keep you up at night.
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