5 Ways to Get Good Sleep Even When You’re Camping

Sleeping under the stars sounds appealing. It’s the sleeping on the ground part of camping that turns away many would-be campers. Of course, this isn’t something you have to worry about if you have an RV or other type of camper. But if tenting is your only (or preferred) option, it’s a challenge that must be faced.

Getting a good night’s sleep depends on many variables and is highly personal, yet there are two factors that can help pave the way for more zzz’s in the outdoors: a cushioned sleeping surface and a comfortable temperature. Besides the obvious stones-in-the-back, sleeping directly on the ground will often be cold, even in summer. The best sleeping solutions address both of these concerns. Here are 5 ways to avoid sleeping on the ground (and get good sleep) even when you’re camping.

1. Start with a sleeping pad.

A standard sleeping pad is one of the most popular and packable sleeping accessories for campers. They’re available in a variety of weights and thicknesses—from feather-light mini versions for backpackers to pads that provide up to 5 inches of cushion. Plus, many sleeping pads are either self-inflating or mostly self-inflating, meaning that you won’t need to pack an air pump.

2. Use an air mattress, but add insulation.

At first glance, an air mattress seems like one of the most comfortable camp beds around. They’re available in standard bed sizes, inflate quickly with a pump or hair dryer, and offer reasonable back support. But one word of caution: sleeping on an air mattress can be cold. It shouldn’t be a problem during summer, but if you’re using an air mattress on a spring or fall camping trip, here’s one word of advice: insulation. When you place an air mattress directly on the tent floor, the cold from the ground will eventually cool the air inside the air mattress. In short, it’ll be a chilly night. To guard against this, it helps to layer a few blankets on the tent floor before placing the inflated mattress on top. This extra layer will help prevent the air inside the mattress—and you!—from getting cold.

3. Try a cot.

Cots don’t have the most comfy reputation. (There’s a reason they’ve been used in the military for generations.) But with the right set-up, sleeping on a cot is a big improvement over sleeping on the ground. Plus, their height makes them easier to get in and out of. Keep in mind that like the air mattress, the air underneath your cot will have a cooling effect. This is a great advantage for hot summer nights but something to think about if you’re camping in cool weather. Either way, try topping the cot with a foam pad or sleeping pad, then use a sleeping bag that’s rated to the temp you need.

4. Or try a cot and air mattress combo.

Of course, if an air mattress is comfortable and a cot is comfortable, it only makes sense to put them together. Fortunately, Coleman did.

5. Skip the tent and sleep in a hammock.

These days, an increasing number of campers are skipping the tent altogether and sleeping in hammocks. It sounds like a simple concept, but there’s a considerable amount of gear that goes into making hammocks comfortable for an all-night nap. The hammocks below come with bug nets, but you also might want to add a rain-fly or insulated hammock cover.