How to Sleep While Camping
A summer camping trip is a great way to unplug from stress, reconnect with nature and spend quality time with friends and family. According to a study at the University of Colorado Boulder, a week-long camping trip — with lots of natural light — can actually help reset your internal clock.
Of course, a camping trip isn’t always an ideal recipe for a restful night’s sleep. You may find yourself sweating through a heat wave, shivering through a rainstorm, worrying about critters or waking up with a stiff neck. If camping tends to make you wish you’d never left your comfy bed behind, here are a few tips from avid campers for getting a good night’s sleep in the great outdoors.
1. Choose your campsite wisely.
“Find as level of a camping spot as possible, and if it’s not level, keep your head above your feet,” says Will Jenkins, backpacking enthusiast and owner of the outdoor lifestyle brand Full Curl Brand. Rake the ground to make sure there aren’t any sharp rocks — your ribs will thank you later.
2. Pack a sleeping pad.
“It is one of the simplest ways to keep comfortable,” says Christina Saboe, owner of Fireside Camp Supply in Philadelphia. Yoga mats are typically too thin to provide much cushioning and inflatable mattresses may sink in the middle overnight. Sleeping pads offer just enough protection.
3. Drown out animal sounds.
If you’re not used to sleeping outside, earplugs can help muffle any nerve-wracking noises. And Tina Duffy, who grew up traveling all over the country in an RV and now camps with her three kids, says, “No matter where we go, we bring a battery-powered white noise machine. It drowns out ‘scary’ noises that might keep our kids up.”
4. Use a fan.
It’s not exactly roughing it, but camping enthusiast Crystal Sprague — who’s visited campgrounds from New York to North Carolina — says a fan can keep the air flowing and ward off mosquitoes on sticky summer nights. A regular box fan will do the trick if your campsite has electric; if not, there are battery-powered options too.
5. Invest in a good sleeping bag.
It’s hard to sleep when you’re freezing, so make sure your bag can stand up to the elements. “The temperature rating assumes you’re using a sleeping pad and wearing a non-cotton base layer, wool socks, a beanie and thin gloves,” says Dan Duffy, who’s backpacked around the United States and Asia. “If you’re shivering in a 30 degree bag while it’s 30 degrees out and you’re only in your underwear, that’s why.”
6. Stay cool (or warm).
While roasting marshmallows, warm a hot water bottle by the fire. Alannah Gamblin-Jensen, co-creator of The Campsite Blog, recommends tossing it in your sleeping bag to take the chill off when climbing under the covers. On hot nights, she suggests tucking a gel ice pack in your pillowcase before bed so your pillow instantly has a cool side.
7. Try a hammock.
If you have back problems, these can be far more forgiving than sleeping on the ground. “I never go camping without my ENO hammock,” says avid camper Stephen Vosloo, who’s camped throughout the Midwestern United States, Canada, and along the coast of Mozambique.
8. Soothe your sore muscles.
If you plan on hiking to your campsite, a mild pain reliever of the over-the-counter kind that you keep in your bathroom at home might help. “It’ll help keep your aching knees and quads from keeping you awake,” Jenkins says.
9. Bring a tarp.
Mackenzie Piggott, who’s camped along the Appalachian Trail, packs a tarp if the weather forecast is sketchy. Not only can it keep your sleeping area dry, but it’ll also keep heavy rain from pounding on the roof of your tent all night.
10. Plan around the sun.
Don’t stay up until all hours telling ghost stories. Saboe recommends turning in early and getting up with the sun. You’ll be rewarded with even more relaxing moments alone with nature. “I like to get out when it’s still cool and dewy to enjoy a cup of tea while everyone is still sleeping,” she says.
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