Do you always get a good night’s sleep when camping? Many people don’t and there can be many reasons for this. Today, we will talk about how you CAN get a good night’s sleep when camping.
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Why You Need A Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone. This is especially true when you are really active during the day or are planning a strenuous day after camping out. Sleep is just as important if not more than exercise and a balanced diet for staying healthy.
Did you know that continuous poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease, and obesity and can in fact increase your blood pressure?
A good night’s sleep not only allows your body to rest and recover from the day’s activities. It can also help improve your learning, memory, decision-making, and even your creativity. When we’re tired, our ability to focus on tasks, reflexes, and reaction times decrease. In fact, being severely sleep-deprived is comparable to having consumed excess alcohol. This is not what we want when we are out in the wilderness, trying new activities or even on a campsite. Simple tasks such as cooking a meal on a small gas stove can become a dangerous task.
Know-How You Sleep & What Makes You Sleep Better
An important part of getting your sleep system right for when you are camping starts with knowing how you sleep. What kind of sleeper are you? I’m not just talking about if you are a hot or cold sleeper. You need to look at how you sleep and what makes you comfortable. Do you sleep on your back, front or side? Do you move around a lot during sleep? Do you like a hard or soft pillow?
Spend a few nights at home really thinking about how you sleep and what makes you comfortable at night. It can also be useful to thank about your nighttime routine. How we relax before bed can also help set us up for a better night’s sleep.
It could also be useful to ask your partner what you are like during the night. They might be more able to help you understand how you sleep. especially if you move a lot during the night.
Looking at Your Sleep System
Once you understand how you sleep and what makes you comfortable at night you can start looking at your sleep system for camping. Different people need different systems. There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Understanding how you sleep will allow you to make better choices when it comes to buying what you need. It is also worth remembering that if you camp all year round you may need more than one sleep system. By understanding R-Values when it comes to your mats, pad & SIMs you can choose one that you can use all year. This can be done by pairing it up with a lightweight foam sleeping mat to boost the R-Value.
Sleeping Mats, Pads & SIMs
First, we need to look at what you sleeping on. There are many mats, pads and SIMs on the market. They come in all shapes and sizes and weight may be something you want to take into consideration. For campsite camping, we use SIM’s and for wild camping, we use a pad. Our SIMs have a 4-season r-value which is great but is way too bulky and heavy to take wild camping.
If you are a side sleeper or move around a lot you will be wanting a thicker and wider pad. many side sleepers tend to sleep with one leg outstretched and the other bent up and out in front. A wider pad will help keep your bent knee from falling off the mat. When this happens there is more strain put on our spines and hips. A deeper or thicker pad will also support you better. It will save your hips and shoulders from compressing the mat and digging into the ground. This will also provide you with a more comfortable sleep and stop achy joints.
Sleeping Bags & Quilts
Choosing a good sleeping bag or quilt is a must for a good night’s sleep. Sleeping bags are not a one size fits all either. When buying a sleeping bag you need to know you are going to fit inside it comfortably. Because sleeping bags differ in size, you are better to try them out before purchasing one. They differ in size in both length and width, so really know what you are looking for in one. What may fit a 5′ slight woman with extra room, would be too small for a 6′ well-built man.
There are also a few different styles of sleeping bag, mummy, envelope, pod, with or without hoods. And, of course, they come in many seasonal ratings. Again this may depend on whether you camp solely in summer or are out all year round. If you do camp all year it may be best to get 2 sleeping bags and a liner. This way you can mix and match what you need for each camp depending on the weather.
What about camping quilts? Have you ever considered one? have you ever heard of them?
These can be considered if you move around a lot during sleep or are a side sleeper who likes to stretch out your legs. I have started looking at camping quilts for this very reason. I am a side sleeper and feel sleeping bags are too restrictive. I also tend to move around a lot while camping and think this may be due to feeling restricted and not being comfortable.
Camping quilts are rated just like sleeping bags when it comes to how warm they are. Some come with straps that you can put under your mat to help keep them in place and prevent cold spots or drafts. Most have poppers that you can still create a boxed foot section or form an envelope-like bag.
What about your pillow, have you ever given thought to how that affects your sleep? Some people like soft pillows, others hard. When camping a good pillow often comes pretty low on our list of essential gear. But what if this one item could change how you sleep when camping. Would you carry an extra few ounces if it ensured a much better sleep? I know I would!
Just like pads, mats and sleeping bags, this is worth giving thought to and trying many if possible. At the moment I use the Forclaz Inflatable Pillow which I rather like. I must admit I have started putting a little piece of fleece inside the cover for extra comfort. My wife hates this pillow, she says it is too hard for her. As I am a side sleeper I like the support it gives me.
Small Additions That Make A Difference
What other small additions can make a big difference to how we sleep?
There are many small things we can use or do that will also aid you in getting a good night’s sleep while camping. From small aids like earplugs (I use these ones) and eye masks, yes, they too can make a big difference. I use earplugs often when camping and they can make a huge difference to how well I sleep. Eye masks annoy me though, I now try to use tents with darkened bedrooms where possible. However, when sleeping in hammocks or bivvying this is not an option.
Hot Water Bottles
If camping on site these are a great option in colder weather. We have mini ones but they are enough to heat your sleep system before you get in. We place ours inside our bags about half an hour before we settle to bed. If wild camping a Nalgene bottle filled with warm water works well, you can even reuse the water in the morning to make your first cuppa.
Hot Food & Drinks
Another thing you can do is to make sure you have something warm to eat or drink before bed. We tend to opt for cuppa soups. Something that is not too heavy as you don’t want your body to be working too hard to digest things when it should be resting.
Clean and dry socks. Some people don’t realise the difference this can make. If you suffer from cold feet these are a must. Always put clean and dry socks on just before you get into bed. If you have been wearing socks throughout the day or for a few hours before bed, it is likely they will be damp. You may not even realise this and that damp will turn cold during the night and that can make you feel much colder.
Another item that is worth packing, especially in the winter is a warm hat. We can lose up to 10% of our body heat through our heads. So when it is particularly cold it is always best to cover the head and keep it warm. Especially if you have little hair there.
Get into Bed Warm
Make sure you go to bed warm. You can get quite cold while sitting about in the evening, especially if outside. Try not to get ready for bed until you are going. We see this a lot on sites, where people will get ready for bed and then sit out. The problem with this is that your clothing may get damp. If you go to bed with damp clothes it will make you cold during the night.
You can use the above to get you warm before bed or do a few light exercises. A few jumping jacks will help heat you up. It may look silly but it is better than a terrible night’s sleep.
Proper Sleep System = Good Night’s Sleep zzz