Look, we love camping. Most of the folks on our editorial staff have camped their whole lives and pretty much none of them would give it up for the world.
Here’s the problem: A few of us have sleeping issues. Lots of people do. One in particular suffers from both chronic neck pain and sleep apnea.
If you hadn’t noticed, sleeping in a sleeping bag isn’t exactly a bed at the Ritz Carlton. Nine times out of ten, you’re in a sleeping bag on the ground. The other 10% of the time, you’re in a hammock.
Plus, it can be a huge pain in the rear to lug pillows and blankets around, especially if you prefer to hike to more secluded camp grounds like I do.
So, over the years, we’ve spent quite a bit of time hacking the camping bed solutions.
We wanted to pass some of those tips along in hopes that we can help the countless folks out there that may struggle with sleeping out in the wild and end up staying home as a result.
- When possible, opt for a hammock instead of a sleeping bag.
This is mostly a shout-out to all my homies out there suffering from sleep apnea. I’ve had sleep apnea for a while, and it’s a pain.
If you’ve got it too, you probably know that one of the first things your doctor will tell you is to sleep on your side.
That’s awesome, but it’s incredibly hard (and even painful) to do in a sleeping bag on the ground.
Hammocks solve this problem. Not only do they make it easier to sleep on your side, they also naturally prop you up, which helps curb snoring and apneic episodes, too.
Plus, hammocks are just fun. And cool. And what real campers use. If you get one, just make sure to get an over-the-hammock tarp to stay dry and a mosquito net if you’re trekking in the summer.
- If you’re sleeping in a tent, bring some (ultra-light) padding.
If you can’t swing a hammock, it pays to make double-sure you have some extra cushion between you and the ground.
Here’s the trick, though: keep it light.
You obviously can’t lug around a memory foam mattress, and lots of supposed “camping mattresses” are still simply too heavy.
So, go for inflatables.
My advice is to stay away from inflatable mattresses (again, just too big) and instead shoot for inflatable sleeping pads.
These usually come in two varieties: air pads (basically a smaller version of an air mattress) and self-inflating foam pads.
Self-inflating foam pads are certainly the most comfortable, but they’re also slightly more expensive (usually) and a little bit heavier.
- Stick some hot rocks under your cot.
This is an oldie but a goodie. If you have a cot or a hammock, throw some large stones on your fire early in the evening.
It takes most large rocks about two hours to heat through, and they’ll stay warm for about five hours.
When you head to bed, (safely) move your hot rocks under your cot or hammock. Obviously, clear the area of any flammable material, and, even more importantly, don’t do this if your bedding is made of flammable material.
Those rocks should keep you toasty warm nearly all the way through a cold night.
**Pro Survival Tip: build a small fire wall around your rocks to keep the heat from escaping and channel it up towards your body.
- Likewise, go for inflatable pillows.
This may seem like common sense, but there’s still a little hack here.
Here it is: when camping, the most comfortable pillows are usually inflatable travel pillows.
Now, this may not be the case for everyone. If you sleep on your back in a flatter position, or if you sleep on your stomach, this might not be the best solution.
For everyone else, though, they’re amazing.
First, they’re built for neck support. Heck, they’re built to be comfortable in a stinkin’ airplane seat. So, even though they’re inflatable, they’re shaped to be comfortable, especially if you’re sleeping on your side.
Resources & Further Reading:
- Good info on inflatable pads.
- A few more solid sleeping tips from Active.com.
- Another great sleeping guide for hikers.