Going camping? These essentials—and a few luxuries—will help you sleep well without a real roof, so you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day’s adventures.
Pick a level spot.
It’s no fun to try to sleep on even a bit of a slope, so test your spot before setting up your tent by laying on it to confirm that it’s flat. Clear away rocks, sticks, and anything else you can that might make your “bed” uncomfortable. Pay attention to tree roots and other unmovable lumps.
Bring the right sleeping bag.
You’ll want a sleeping bag that keeps you warm but not hot. Check out Via’s gear guide for tips on how to choose the best bag for you. Match your pjs with the weather, how toasty your bag is, and your typical sleep style (hot or cold).
Choose a comfortable sleeping pad.
For comfort and insulation from the ground, place a sleeping pad under your sleeping bag. The most comfortable pads are inflatable; many have self-inflating valves, no pumping or blowing required. Campers who park a car at their campsite (often called “car camping”) can also bring along a full-size air mattress for added support.
Bring or make a pillow.
If you are car camping, you won’t regret bringing a full-size bed pillow. Don’t have the space? A small camping pillow is the next best thing. Or create a makeshift one by placing dry, cushy clothes in a stuff sack or zipping them into a jacket or packing cube.
Pack little luxuries.
Bring a beanie to keep your head warm while you sleep, earplugs in case your neighbors snore or get rowdy, and an eye mask to block early morning sun. “If you think you may be too cold,” advises Mero Geesey, who owns the adventure travel company Carpe Mundo, “you can boil water, pour it into a Nalgene water bottle, and place it at your feet as a small heater.”
One way to guarantee you’ll sleep soundly at night is to play hard during the day. Take a long hike or engage in some other physical activity to earn your snoozes. A few jumping jacks or a short bit of movement before bed can also help warm you and your sleeping bag up on cold nights. (Just don’t overdo it and get into your bag sweaty.)
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but for the camping uninitiated, we’ll spell it out: Use the bathroom before turning in. It’s no fun to have to drag yourself out of your tent at 3 a.m. for a trudge to the communal facilities.
“Lastly,” says Paul Ronto, a former rafting guide and chief marketing officer for RunRepeat, a site that reviews athletic footwear and hiking boots, “enjoy the experience and don’t fear what lurks in the woods. Almost always, animals will steer clear of humans, so lay back, close your eyes, and know that sleeping outside is something that our ancestors did, and that we can do too.”