Did you know that spending time outdoors can do wonders for your physical health? Camping, when done right, can decrease stress levels and lower blood pressure. Being closer to nature may even promote better sleep habits.
Sleeping underneath the stars sounds romantic and almost otherworldly—but reality has a way of taking the magic out of communing with nature! A relaxing vacation can swiftly turn into an anxiety-inducing one without proper measures to make sure all campers get enough nighttime rest and recuperation.
First-time campers may be surprised or alarmed by the low temperatures, the hard ground, and the wildlife noises. Don’t worry too much, though, as getting comfortable at a campsite is easier than you think.
If you have a camping trip coming up and you’re worried that you won’t be able to sleep well outdoors, check out our five tips below.
1. Buy high-quality tent bedding and a sturdy sleeping bag.
This is Rule #1 for camping beginners: Make sure that there’s something soft and supportive between you and the ground. A simple blanket laid over the ground or your tent floor isn’t enough, even if you’re normally not a finicky sleeper.
There are several types of sleeping bags for outdoor use. Backpacker sleeping bags are typically more lightweight and snug, although they may not be as plush as other camp bedding products. If you’re traveling via car and not on foot, you may consider wider and softer sleeping bags that may be unzipped to act as a blanket for cold nights around the campfire.
Make sure that you buy a sleeping bag with the correct temperature rating for your prospective campsite. Keep in mind, too, that some materials can be squeaky or noisy for people that move around a lot in their sleep.
If you choose to go with an air mattress, test it overnight before you go on your trip. Don’t ruin your first night of camping by finding out that there’s a hole in your bedding you didn’t know about.
Don’t forget about pillows! Bring one from home if you’re not backpacking. The latter may even be useful for short naps in the car on the way to the campsite. If you’re pressed for space, you can invest in an inflatable one that’s especially for camping.
2. Don’t forget to bring earplugs and an eye mask.
Most people will have some difficulty falling asleep if they’re in an unfamiliar environment. Does this sound familiar? If you find yourself missing your bedroom during vacations and holidays, you may need to take extra measures to bring comfort to your camping experience.
Pack earplugs and an eye mask, at the very least. If you’re not hardcore camping and have access to smart device chargers, you should also download a white noise app or a few episodes of your favorite podcast.
The great outdoors are louder than you expect! Longtime campers may love the real-world sounds of nature, but newbies may find some sounds unnerving. You may also be camping with a snorer, which will be harder to ignore in close quarters. Earplugs may very well be your camping trip best friend.
Camping with a big group or under a full moon? You may also need an eye mask to keep your sleeping space as distraction-free as possible.
3. Pick the perfect camping spot to pitch your tent.
Don’t go camping without a tent—particularly if it’s your first time—and only pitch a tent where it’s allowed. This greatly increases your expected comfort level, and it just makes sense for camping beginners. Why make things difficult on your first outdoor venture?
If you’re planning on staying at a shared campsite, try to set up far away from loud tent neighbors but still near the bathroom facilities. Choose an area that is relatively quiet, as flat as possible and free of debris.
Twigs and leaves may puncture bedding and other materials. They will also contribute to background noise, as they will snap and crackle when people step on them. Camp on soft grass if you can find it.
Only choose a site on an incline if you have no other choice. Note that tent setup may also be a bit more involved if you’re not working with flat ground. If you must pitch a tent on a hill, unroll your sleeping bag so you lie down with your head elevated.
4. Focus on keeping yourself warm and cozy.
When you’re camping, you don’t have automatically regulated humidity and temperature, as you would normally get at home or other indoor establishments. Maintaining warmth and coziness is entirely up to you.
Check the weather forecast and make sure you’re adequately packed for the lowest temperatures of each night you’re outdoors. You can pack sleeping bag liners, blankets, beanies, scarves, wool socks, thermal sleepwear and more.
Keeping your travel bags light? Here’s a hack: Boil a pot of water before going to bed. Pour and seal the liquid into a heat-resistant container. Throw the water bottle into the sleeping bag and enjoy the added warmth as you get some shuteye.
5. Keep pests from interrupting your sleep.
As with your air mattress and bedding, it’s essential that you check for holes and rips in your tent or RV screens before you go off camping. Nature is beautiful, yes, but full of pests like mosquitos and other less familiar insects. Shared campsites and rest stops can also be prime spots to pick up bed bugs.
Make sure to pack a spray to ward off bed bugs. A natural alternative, like citronella sticks, may also be useful if you’re managing a wide area with many campers. Mosquito nets or solar-powered mosquito killer tent lights are a must if the said pest is a natural inhabitant of the camping area.
Finally, don’t encourage pests to explore your campground. Store food and dispose of waste properly. Wash and put away utensils and plates as soon as possible. If you must wait until daylight, keep them in an airtight container.