Camping can be a rewarding and relaxing pastime, and there is no better way to experience a local area and all it has to offer by overnighting in the outdoors.  There is, however, one aspect of camping that you must get right – sleeping.  Not matter the weather, the location, or the company; if you are not comfortable at night then the trip is not going to live up to its full potential.

Beach Camping(51252)Credit: Steven Pike

There are varying forms of camp bedding ranging from the hikers favourite, a roll of insulated foam, right up to portable beds and stretchers.  Caravan and high-end caper trailer owners have the luxury of beds and should have no problems keeping warm and comfortable.

The simple roll of insulated foam is and option if, as mentioned above, you are a hiker and need to travel light, with one night stops the norm.  The most important thing then becomes your sleeping bag and tent.  Select a dry and preferably grassy or sandy site to pitch the tent.  This ground will be far more comfortable than hard packed earth or rocky ground.  Your sleeping bag should be rated correctly to suit the conditions.  Here it pays to take a slightly warmer sleeping bag than expected conditions dictate.  The foam, together with the soft ground and padded sleeping bag, should be quite comfortable for a night’s stay.  Be certain to keep warm and dry.

If you are camping in a tent and are planning an extended stay, then other bedding options are a wiser choice.  One of the most popular is the inexpensive air mattress.  They come in different sizes, i.e. single, double, queen and king, and are quite comfortable.  Kids love them and sleep very well if kept warm enough.   Air mattresses fold up quite well too, so storage is rarely a problem.  Most are quite strong too and punctures are never really a problem if a little care is taken.  The main issue with air mattresses is their lack of insulation.  In cold weather, especially cold, clear nights, their lack of insulation can prove problematic.  They can become cold and condensation can sometimes make the bedding wet.  In fine, warm weather though, they are quite good.

Camp stretchers have become very popular over the last few years.  They are very portable and store quite well and they keep the camper well off of the tent floor.  Most are quite comfortable and the expensive models are just like sleeping in a bed.  They also come in the varying sizes mentioned above.  They only downfall with stretchers is they too are affected by condensation and the cold air can make the underside of them very cold which can creep through to the camper, despite the sleeping bag.  In warm weather though, stretchers work very well, the air being able to circulate underneath the bed. 

The self-inflating mattress is a good alternative to the air mattress and camp stretcher.  Also available in single, double, queen or king sizes, these mattresses have valves that, when opened allow air to penetrate, doing away with the need to pump them up.  However, they don’t inflate to any great degree and appear to provide very little padding.  However, they are quite comfortable and, most being insulated, they don’t suffer from the condensation issue. 

Once you have your bedding sorted, the correct type of sleeping bag is essential.  The down filled bags are more expensive, but they are very warm and comfortable.  It really is important to select the correct temperature rating too.  Ideally, if you are a regular camper, you are going to need two sleeping bags, one for the warm weather and one for the cold weather.  Here in South Australia, the temperature at night can vary between the mid- twenties (Celsius) in the summer months, down to below freezing (0 degrees Celsius) in winter.  I have a light bag for the summer months (when, at times, not even a sleeping bag is required) and two bags for the winter months; a -10C and a -5C.  If the temperature is forecast for anywhere near zero Celsius, then I will take the -10C bag, just to ensure I am never cold.  Keeping warm is the most important consideration. 

In our old camper trailer, we have a nice thick foam mattress for the double bed.  It is sufficient padding, but, when the weather is particularly cold, you can feel the cold coming up through the mattress, especially where your shoulders and hips apply more downward pressure.   We have solved this little problem by placing a self-inflating mattress underneath the foam one.  The insulation properties of the self-inflating have kept the cold out.

Although not as important as bedding, campsite selection should be a consideration.  Here in Australia, there are certain types of gum trees that you would never consider camping under.  Although they provide plenty of shade, they have a habit of dropping their limbs, and not just small branches.  Massive limbs can fall without warning, especially in very hot or very windy weather.

Consider a site with shade or some sort of protection from the wind and rain.  At times it may be necessary to use your vehicle as a wind break.   The ground should be firm enough to hold pegs and relatively flat.  A nice grassy site is ideal.  Most times though, it will be firm packed dirt you’ll be camping on.  You will then need to consider what the ground will be like if it does rain and will it run into or flood the tent.  Make sure your tent is well pegged and set up correctly.  Having to get up in the early hours of the morning to re-peg your tent or sweep water out of it is not conducive to a good nights sleep.

Camping is a great way to recharge your batteries and provides the opportunity to visit areas you never normally would.  To enjoy the experience fully, ensuring you have a warm and comfortable night’s sleep is essential.   That way you will be at your best, enthusiasm restored.