10 tips for getting your best night’s sleep in a tent

If not for your own sanity, for you camping buddies'. Because everyone prefers a happy camper.

If you’ve ever wondered why your outdoorsy friends go on about the joys of camping then this is for you. If you’ve come close to hiking back to the carpark in the middle of the night because sleep was eluding you, then read on. We truly believe that sleeping in a tent, with just a few millimetres of material between you and nature, is for everyone. But you should probably read – and put into practice – these 10 tips first.

1. Invest in good gear

This sounds obvious, but if you scrimp on your kit you’ll pay for it later. You should invest in your camping gear as you would hotel rooms. Your tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat – the bare essentials for getting a good night’s sleep outdoors – should be carefully considered.

We have buying guides to help you choose, but to sum it up: go for the best gear you can afford. Inflatable sleeping mats offer the best combination of low weight and sleeping comfort. Down sleeping bags offer the best warmth to weight ratio, but in damp conditions synthetic is better. A three-season tent is usually more than adequate. Dome tents are ideal if you’re camping on exposed precipices or hard ground. Tunnel tents are better when it’s raining because the vestibule is bigger, giving you more space to dry your gear and cook inside when the weather isn’t cooperating.

2. Don’t sleep too tight

When it’s cold it’s easy to just layer up with every item of clothing you can lay your hands on. But if your sleeping bag becomes too tight as a result of all those extra layers it’s insulating power is affected. Instead, place those extra layers on top of the sleeping bag.

3. Don’t go to bed cold

Your sleeping bag is an insulator; it’s not a heat creator. So don’t creep into your sleeping bag cold. Instead, warm up with some jumping jacks or go for an evening stroll to warm your body up for bed.

4. Repurpose your water bottle

When choosing a water bottle make sure it’s one that can hold hot water too. Come bed time you can fill it with hot water, stick in your sleeping bag (remember to make sure it doesn’t leak) and voila you have a hot water bottle. And you’ve even got water close at hand for making tomorrow’s first cup of coffee.

5. Locate your toilet

Before go to bed locate your nearest toilet or the area you designate for going to the toilet. It’s no fun looking for it in the dark, the cold, the rain or worse still when bears could be around. On that note, keep a head torch handy so you don’t have to search for that in the dark either. Oh, and it’s a good idea to go to the toilet before you go to sleep.

6. Stay up late

Or as late as possible. Hopefully, you’re pleasantly exhausted after the day’s activities, but if not don’t force yourself into going to sleep when the sun disappears behind the horizon. If you go to bed too early, when you’re not really that tired, you’ll end up just lying there; your mind will start thinking about something, your thoughts will race and before you know it, it’ll be way passed bed time and you’re a million miles from sleep.

7. Podcast your way to sleep (just make sure you take a portable power bank).

To calm you mind and not disturb your tent buddies with blinding head torch light, drift in to sleep with the help of a podcast. This is particularly handy if you’re nervous about what all those sounds could be outside the tent. By listening to a podcast you can walk into the land of nod with peace of mind.

8. Don’t ever forget ear plugs

There’s always one – the snores, tosses and turns or gets up at the crack of dawn. Be the master of your own sleep with the help of ear plugs.

9. Beat the midnight munchies

Because you’re active all day your metabolism is likely going to be in overdrive. And that could mean you wake up in the middle of the night desperate for a midnight snack. Keep some trail mix or a power bar close by. Note: check the local rules on where to store food if you’re camping in areas with bears or other large wildlife present.

10. Open those vents

No, you won’t get cold with a little breeze. Those vents in your tent are there to help air circulate and can minimise the chance of condensation building up – which can actually make you cold. So open them up a little.

More guides

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