We've all been there before, the camping trip where you didn't bring something comfortable to sleep on. At first lying on the ground doesn't seem so bad, but throughout the night you intimately get to know all of the rocks, bumps, dips, and humps that are directly beneath your back. The next day can be brutally painful both physically and to your ego. Have you ever gotten out of your tent and started your day, just to realize you've been walking hunched over like you aged forty years overnight? It only takes one hard night in a tent lying on the ground to realize that you need some extra comfort when you go camping. There are a lot of options when it comes to sleeping well in the outdoors so let's go over a few:
Cots are great for sleeping in tents. They are lightweight and set up very easily. A cot will keep you up and off the cold, hard ground but they also allow a lot of air to flow underneath you, which means you won’t have as much insulation and will be more susceptible to the cold. If you're looking for an extra boost of comfort, then throw a pad on top to add more insulation. If you don't want to feel like you and your spouse are sleeping in separate beds, double cots are also available. Cots really help new campers feel more at home by lifting them further off of the ground while they sleep. However, cots can be bulky, heavy, and take up a lot of space in your tent. Try using the area beneath your cot to store some extra gear, this will help get your stuff out of the way and will maximize the space you have available in your tent.
Sleeping pads come in three forms: foam, air, and self-inflating. Foam will give you a good cushion that will last a long time. If you're using a foam pad, you don't have to worry about your mattress deflating or not being insulated enough during the night. However, foam can be rigid and bulky. Air pads are generally lightweight and provide adequate cushioning, but chances are you’ll have to work a little bit to inflate them. Air pads are great for backpacking because they are lightweight and comfortable. Since air pads don't have great insulation, you'll want to only use these during warmer weather. It's also a good idea to have a patch kit handy just in case a puncture happens. Self-inflating pads are generally on the thinner side but they are very comfortable and compact. You'll pay more for a good self-inflating pad, but they are very easy to use and allow you to adjust the firmness of the pad. Since this is also filled with air you’ll want to have some patch kits ready in case you rip or puncture the pad.
The air mattress or air bed is a lot like the mattress you're used to sleeping on at home. They're fun and bouncy, but if you're trying to blow them up with your lungs you're in for a lot of work. Don't try it, trust us. Be sure you have a pump to blow them up; it's a lot easier and will save you a lot of time. These can also be rather bulky and sometimes heavy but they give you good support and are very easy to set up. Air mattresses do have the tendency to spring a leak and leave you back on the ground. All it takes is one little hole and you could be lying on the ground wondering why you left that patch kit at home. Also watch out for sagging during the middle of the night because you'll be dipping along with the temperatures. Air mattresses are economical and easy, but might not last as long as cots or foam pads.
Hammocks aren't for everyone, but some campers love the ease and convenience of being able to set up their bed in between two trees and hang out for the night. Hammocks can be very comfortable and allow you to add extra padding. If you're new to hammocks, you'll learn quickly that getting up to relieve yourself in the middle of the night isn't a quick or easy process, and face planting at 2 A.M. when you have to go is a whole new level of fail. You might have a hard time finding the right place to set up shop too, so don't bring a hammock to any place that doesn't have a good amount of trees you can tie it to. If you're interested in trying something different you might consider just hanging around the woods for the night.
PILLOWS AND OTHER COMFORTS
If you don't want a sore neck the next morning, then having a pillow or neck roll is very handy. It also gives you a little extra luxury while you're "roughing it". Ear plugs are also a good thing to have close at hand; tents don't keep out sound, so you'll know if one of your neighbors snores like a buzzsaw, or if their kids are away, or their baby is crying, or any other noises they happen to make during the night. Eye masks are also great to have if you're sleeping in a tent. The sun is no respecter of your sleep schedule and will light up your tent at dawn, so keep that eye mask on and get a little more rest.
A good night's sleep can make a world of difference when you're out camping. By making sure that you have something to insulate you and keep you off the ground, you'll be able to enjoy your night’s rest and won't be mistaken for someone forty years your senior the next morning.