Sleeping warm and comfortably is very important while camping. Getting a good night’s rest sets you up for a happy day, no matter what the camping challenges. A bad night’s rest will probably leave you grumpy only seeing the negative side of the camping experience.
Do you really need to go out and buy that expensive sleeping bag to get a good night’s sleep, or can you make do with household items you already own? Unless you are planning on a hiking expedition where specialist, lightweight gear is required, chances are you can get a great night’s rest camping using many things that you already own.
Assuming that you are car camping (size and weight are not a consideration) and will be in a tent (protected from rain and wind), the considerations are:
- insulating yourself from the cold below
- cushioning between you and the ground
- insulating yourself from the air above
- a pillow.
Insulation from below and cushioning is generally going to be the same item — a mattress. There are many options available.
Air mattresses, while cheap, tend to be very cold to sleep on because they absorb the cold from the ground. Stretchers can also be very cold because of the air circulating under the bed. If using one of these options in winter, try using an underlay such as a thin high-density closed-cell foam mat or even a thick blanket. We have also used woollen underlays.
Self-inflating mattresses or high density foam are much better options because the foam has insulation properties. Both can be bulky. Note that 4WD mattresses are designed for car camping. They are thicker and more comfortable than hiking mattresses, which are designed for light weight and small size for easy carrying. If on a budget, check out the foam mattress options from places like Super AMart or Clark Rubber. They can generally be rolled up for transportation.
If you are a couple, seriously consider whether you really need a queen sized mattress. They can be very difficult to roll up and bulky to transport. Often two single mattresses with a fitted sheet to hold them together is quite sufficient. They do not tend to move apart because they are so low.
I have seen it written that you only need a 5 cm mattress to get a good night’s sleep. While somewhat of an acquired taste, I am very comfortable on 5 cm foam mattresses, but I prefer my 7 cm swag mattress or 10 cm DMH self-inflating 4WD mattress for a little luxury.
When we first started camping, we went out and bought four sleeping bags for our family. What a waste of money! They are difficult to clean, narrow and restrictive, and expensive. I like to stick my feet out the bottom while sleeping, and you can not do this in a sleeping bag either!
These days I much prefer camping in comfort on cotton sheets with a doona from our bed at home! The doona and cotton sheets can be easily machine washed after the camping trip. We also take the pillows off our bed. Why make do with some tiny, uncomfortable camping pillow when you can enjoy the comfort of a full sized pillow?
The above photos are from our latest camping trip at Noosa River Caravan Park. This was the middle of winter, so we had a few extra layers. The mattresses and underlays were single bed size; everything else was queen bed size. From the top of the photo, our bedding layers were:
- DMH 4WD mattress
- lambswool underlay
- fitted cotton sheet
- plain cotton sheet
- 4-blanket woollen doona with cotton cover
- canvas tarp.
I slept in a cotton T-shirt and boxer shorts and was toasty warm and very comfortable.
Who ever said that you had to rough it while camping!?!