If you’re a first-time camper, or if you’ve been camping but had trouble sleeping at night, you may be wondering how to choose between the endless options of sleeping gear available. There are cots, air mattresses, foam sleeping pads and inflatable air pads. There are so many different sleeping bags, it might make your head spin.
The truth is that each of these devices has its own purpose, and when used correctly, can help you sleep like a baby under the stars. Here are some tips to making heads and tails of the different types of sleeping gear.
Where You Put Your Tent Matters!
Before setting up any of your gear, make sure you choose a good spot for your tent. Many campsites have designated tent pads, but you should always check the ground for sharp rocks and twigs. Not only will they poke into your back all night long, they could poke a hole in the bottom of your tent. Always clear the area before setting up your tent.
No matter what kind of cushioning you choose, you will likely want a sleeping bag to snuggle up in, especially if you’re camping in cold weather. There are various types of bags: camping vs. backpacking, mummy vs. rectangular, down-filled vs. synthetic. Camping bags are often rectangular and are designed to be roomier for extra comfort. Backpacking bags are lighter weight and are often tapered in a semi-rectangular or mummy style to help keep you warm. The insulation can be down or a synthetic material, often polyester. While down bags are noted for their packable nature and extra warmth, they are more expensive and cannot stand up to water as well as synthetic insulation. Synthetic-filled bags, on the other hand, are more affordable, quick-drying and may be better for people with allergies.
Sleeping bags also come with a temperature rating, usually from 15 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that because each person’s metabolism is different, and what you wear to sleep varies, these ratings are not perfect but more of a guideline to follow. If you’re camping in the summer, you’ll want a bag with a higher rating such as 35 degrees or higher. However, cold and freezing weather calls for a bag with a low rating such as 25 or 35 degrees. Choosing the correct temperature rating can go a a long way to keeping you comfortable while camping, especially in the cold!
Which sleeping pad you choose will depend on how much weight you want to carry and how much comfort you want. There are foam pads of varying thicknesses, and inflatable foam and air pads. Some are even self-inflating to make your job easier! Sleeping pads are smaller and more packable than air mattresses and cots, but do not provide as much comfort. If you plan on backpacking more than car camping, invest in a good sleeping pad.
If you have a bad back, sleeping on a raised cot could definitely help you sleep better while camping. Some provide the bare minimum while some even come with a mattress. You can put a sleeping bag and sleeping pad on your cot for extra comfort. Just make sure it will fit inside your car and your tent!
Although they can take up the most space, air mattresses provide ultimate comfort while camping. They come in all thicknesses and sizes, from kid’s to king size. Don’t forget to bring the pump to air it up! You will also need to make sure your tent can accommodate your air mattress. If you’re camping in colder weather, bring some extra blankets as air mattresses do not keep you as warm as a sleeping pad and bag.
Blankets, Clothes, Pillows, Etc.
Now that you have the essentials, you can bring a few extra comforts to sleep like a baby. Bring some blankets to snuggle in while sitting by the campfire, or to provide an extra layer of padding if the ground is especially hard or rocky. Consider the weather before packing your favorite PJs; it may be smarter to wear long underwear and a beanie if the temperatures drop. You can also bring along your favorite pillow from home, or simply fill a stuff sack with clothes to save space. If you’re a light sleeper, you may consider bringing earplugs or a sleep mask as well. While many campers love listening to the sound of bugs chirping and coyotes howling, others prefer peace and quiet. Bring whatever else you might need to have sweet dreams!