How to sleep better while camping
Camping is one of those activities that is supposed to be fun and relaxing. But one of my least favorite parts of camping is trying to sleep.
When I am at home I have a nice comfy bed, a wonderful pillow, and two fans (yes two) to provide white noise while I sleep. I also have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter to regulate the temperature.
While camping the story changes a little. You no longer have that nice queen or king size bed. You don’t have electricity to have a fan to make some noise. You don’t have a nice central heat and air unit to keep you at a comfortable temperature.
So how do you sleep?
I know quite a few people that it doesn’t matter. They will sleep no matter where they are. But most people as soon as you get us out of our comfy bed, we are up all night. So how do we sleep better while camping?
The overall method of sleeping better while camping is to be comfortable. Here is how to sleep better while camping.
Pick a good spot to setup
The first thing to think about when camping is where is a good spot to set up our tent. Setting up your tent in a bad location can cause you a literal pain in the neck.
When setting up your tent find a nice level area. You will also want to make sure your tent is not under any trees that could potentially fall down on you in the middle of the night. Look for any dead branches that a strong wind could knock down and cause injury.
Also while looking at a good tent location you want to make sure the area is clear of rocks, roots, and sticks. I went backpacking with my son and we set our tent up in the middle of the night. I “thought” we had cleared all the sticks out. But once we got in the tent I realized we missed a rock. I didn’t get much sleep that night thanks to the rock.
If you are setting up a hammock to sleep in you won’t have to worry too much about the slope of the ground or rocks. But you will want to make sure the trees you are attaching to are good and sturdy.
Bring a pillow
I am at the age that if I sleep without a pillow my neck will pay for it for days. A pillow is a must but not always practical to bring along. If you can bring your pillow from home that would be the best way to sleep better. I would say to use an old pillowcase that you don’t mind will get dirty or smell like smoke.
If you don’t want to bring your own pillow you normally sleep with then you can try an inflatable pillow. They make some really nice inflatable pillows that air up quickly and are very comfortable.
Have a good sleeping surface
Choosing some good padding to sleep on is another important part of sleeping better while camping. When I was a kid and went camping all I needed was a thin foam pad and a sleeping bag and I could usually be ok.
Now if I sleep one inch the wrong way I might not be able to walk the next day. Having a good comfortable sleeping surface is key as I get older. Not only for better sleep but also so I don’t feel awful the next morning.
If I have a lot of room I will take a cheap air mattress. The only negative to this is they are bulky and you have to carry an air pump to blow it up. But for me, this is the most comfortable way to sleep while camping.
Some alternatives to an air mattress are the following:
Camping cot – You can get some lightweight ones but the good ones are usually a bit heavier and bulky.
Foam pad – Foam pads can come in different sizes and densities. You can get some really thin and light ones but there are some heavier pads that offer a lot of comfort.
Self-inflating pad – We use these when backpacking. These are lightweight air mattresses that blow up with just a few breaths.
Ground – I don’t recommend this. But I have slept a time or two on the ground and just propped myself up with a backpack.
Stay dry when camping in the rain
Camping in the rain is one of the quickest ways to make someone hate camping. But if you know that rain is a potential make sure your sleeping quarters are set up properly.
If your tent has a proper rain fly you might be ok with just a rain fly. But a lot of tents will leak or take in water if it sits in constant rain. One of the best ways to fight this off is to hang a tarp above the tent and allow the rain to shed off away from your tent.
Make sure that your tent is not sitting in a low-lying location where water can pool and seep through the bottom of the tent.
Make sure and protect against bugs
Bugs during the warmer periods of camping can keep you up all night. Fortunately, most tents have built-in screens and ways to keep the bugs out. But when you go in and out of your tent the chance for bugs to get to you increases.
Make sure and keep your tent screens zipped up until you are going to bed. Also, turn off your flashlights when going in and out of the tent to help prevent bugs from coming into your tent.
You may also want to use some sort of bug spray and apply it before you go to sleep. This could have a negative effect if you don’t like feeling oily before you go to bed. If bug spray isn’t an option then you can always wear thin long pants and long shirts to help fight off the bugs.
Stay cool while camping in the summer
Trying to sleep when it is hot is never an easy task. If you grew up in a warmer climate maybe it wouldn’t bother you so much. But for those of us who have been spoiled by air-conditioned houses, it makes it really hard to sleep when you are hot.
If you are lucky enough to be on an electric camping site you can always run an extension cord and plug in a fan. Or if you don’t have any electricity they make battery-operated camping fans. Although I find most of these don’t push enough air to really cool you off.
If you have access to a water source then rinsing your body off can help you cool down and sleep better. Even if it is jumping in a creek or lake near you to rinse your body off.
Stay warm while camping in the winter
I like to be cold when I sleep at night. When at home during the summer we crank down the air conditioning to stay cool. But while camping I do not like being cold.
Make sure if you are camping in cold weather to have a sleeping bag that is rated correctly for the temperatures you will be facing. And if you don’t have a sleeping bag make sure to have plenty of blankets to pile on top of you.
Layer up clothes to help keep warm. I find that if my feet get cold then my whole body feels cold. I will typically wear two pairs of socks and maybe put on a sock hat to keep my head warm.
Another idea is to boil some water and put it in a water-tight water bottle (that doesn’t leak) and then put that hot water bottle in your sleeping bag to help stay warm.
Don’t eat right before bedtime
If you have been hiking all day or if you get a late start it may be late before you eat your dinner. But try not to eat or eat as little as possible right before you go to sleep.
If you eat something that contains caffeine or sugars it can disrupt your sleep or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and want to stay up.
Also, some foods can trigger acid reflux or indigestion, and if you didn’t bring any medicine to combat those you might be up all night dealing with heartburn.
Relax before going to sleep
Camping is supposed to be relaxing. When camping we like to do physical activities. We like to hike and fish and go swimming. Doing these activities right before bedtime can cause us to not sleep well.
Eventually, you will tire yourself out and go to sleep. But if you do these things right before bed it will elevate your heart rate and cause you to not fall asleep quickly.
You would want to avoid hiking or swimming late at night. Try sitting by the campfire and relaxing for at least 30 minutes to give your body some time to regulate.
Avoid caffeine before bedtime
This is an obvious tip but sometimes it is so hard to avoid a nice hot cup of coffee on a cool fall evening. Or maybe you are a soda drinker and want a nice cold soda with your supper.
It’s ok to enjoy those things just try and pick the decaffeinated versions. And who doesn’t love good s’mores by the campfire? Well, that chocolate has caffeine, so if you are having issues sleeping while camping you may want to skip the s’mores.
Have something to handle the noise
When you think of camping you think of peaceful nights away from all the noises you may hear if you lived in a city. Depending on the time of year you camp and where you camp, camping can be quite noisy.
During the warmer months, you have bugs and animals that are constantly making noise at night. And depending on where you are camping you may be near a busy road or another location that has a lot of noise. Or maybe you have a friend or family member camping with you that snores. Loudly.
To combat this noise you have a few options. You can wear earplugs. I would recommend some soft earplugs that are comfortable to sleep in. My kids will also use earbuds and play music softly in their earbuds until they fall asleep.
You can also try something that makes white noise. A battery-operated fan or an app on your phone to generate some white noise to help put you to sleep better and drown out some of the noise.
Use the bathroom right before you lay down
I don’t know why but one of my least favorite things about camping is having to get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night. But having that urge in the middle of the night can disrupt your sleep more than anything.
I would say avoid drinks before going to sleep and make sure you and your kids use the bathroom before you go to sleep. And you may want to have a plan and location of where you will use the bathroom if you wake up in the middle of the night if you are in a primitive camping area.
Bring something to cover your eyes
I am not a fan of wearing face masks to sleep, but when camping there isn’t much to block out the sun early in the morning. If you are not an early riser and like to sleep in late, then you might want to bring a facemask or something else to block out the extra light.
A full moon can also disrupt your sleeping patterns if you are sleeping in a tent. A facemask can help block out that extra light. When it gets colder I like to wear a hoodie and pull the top of the hood over my eyes to help me sleep.
Our family loves to camp, but sleeping well while camping is always a challenge. I enjoy being in a tent and breathing in the fresh air, but I don’t always enjoy fighting off bugs and sweating while I try to sleep.
If you take a few easy steps you can sleep better while camping. Dress correctly for the weather, make sure to stay dry, and avoid caffeine as much as possible the later it gets in the day.
Do you have any tips on how to sleep better while camping? If so drop us a comment below or let us know on our Facebook page.