A multi day fishing or hiking trip usually means sleeping in a tent. Sometimes it’s easy to get some good rest. Other times it might be a struggle. Luckily we have been through all the tough experiences and finally came up with these tips that will help you get a good night’s sleep in a tent. Putting these into practice will make sleeping much easier and let you enjoy your time away in a tent.
We’ve spent a lot of nights in tents – so read this article in depth as we have some obvious tips, along with tips that you’d only get with experience. Reading fully may save you countless hours of sleep.
Before we get started, you are planning a backpacking trip, be sure to check out our complete guide to backpacking for tons of helpful tips, resources, and knowledge.
Pick the Right Spot
When setting up your tent, pick a spot that is free of rocks and tree roots. Flat ground will make a world of difference. Your sleep depends on where you’re sleeping. The right spot should be flat and free of anything poking up through the ground. Having a little shade over your tent will help protect it from sun and rain as well. Grassy areas will be more comfortable than on rock or hard dirt. Simply put, try to find a flat area, with softer ground in a large enough spot that you could lay their comfortably. Remember that you don’t necessarily need your whole tent to be perfect, just right where someone needs to sleep within the tent can work.
Consider Tree Limbs & Rock Fall
Another important consideration for picking the right spot is rock fall danger, branch/tree danger, and waterflow. Don’t set your tent under an area with rockfall danger, and avoid placing your tent under trees with large limbs above you. If wind, or a storm could knock down a branch big enough to injure or kill you, you should position the tent elsewhere. This will simply help you sleep better knowing you are in a safe spot as well.
Consider Water Drainage
Another consideration is waterflow. If your tent is set up in a gully, or in a clear water flow path, remember that rain coming in could result in a lot of water seeping in.
It can often be difficult to find a perfect spot, and sometimes you need to elect for a sub optimal tent location. In these scenarios, you want to get your sleeping position as close to flat as possible. When that isn’t possible, you want to elect for your sleeping position to put your feet slightly lower than your head. It is much more difficult to sleep with your head being at the lowest part of the tent.
In addition, you want to avoid any side angle for sleeping. You basically want to imagine that if you placed a ball where your head would be positioned, the ball would roll down directly between both of your legs. Not to the side, and certainly not above your head.
Sleeping Pad and Air Mattress
An air mattress or sleeping pad is essential. The benefit of either of these is two fold. Sleeping directly on the ground is rarely as comfortable as having something under you. Whether it is a self inflating air mattress or thin sleep pad it will keep the ground from pulling your body heat away from you as well. It also creates a layer that will mask out all the bumps of the ground, Stay comfortable and stay warm. Sleeping pads are rated with R values so you understand how warm they can keep you.
Sleeping bags have temperature ratings. A winter bag will be too hot in the summer and a summer bag will be too cold in the winter. Having the right sleeping bag for the time of year you are camping will change how you sleep. If you are up all night sweating or shivering you aren’t getting a good night’s sleep.
You can always add a sleeping bag liner to your kit. One of these is a good idea if you aren’t sure what the temperature will be or you are on the cusp of changing seasons when the temperature can drop at night. See our guide on choosing the best sleeping bags.
The Right Tent
Being comfortable and sleeping well depends heavily on the right equipment. Like sleeping bags there are different tents for different seasons. A summer tent with lots of ventilation is a good way to freeze at night. Think about when you do most of your camping, hiking or fishing trips and choose the tent that will be the most versatile for these trips. See our guide on the best budget backpacking tents.
Get Rid of Light and Noise
A lot of people sleep to nature sounds at home. These sounds are a lot louder out in the wild. If you have a hard time sleeping when there is noise, it might be a good idea to bring some ear plugs. They are light and easy to pack and could save you from a restless sleep.
A blackout tent is a great option to keep things dark as the sun rises. They keep the light out of the tent where many tents are made of thin nylon and get bright easily. Another option is an eye mask for sleeping. Even when roughing it these little luxuries shouldn’t be overlooked. The good thing about eye masks and ear plugs is that they almost have no weight or pack size, making it an easy addition to any trip.
Maintaining a comfortable temperature in your tent isn’t always easy. On hot summer days they have a tendency to get humid, even with ventilation. When you climb into bed at night to get some rest you can always leave your sleeping bag open, or even sleep on top of it in desperate times. Wearing the pajamas you normally wear at home could make you uncomfortable and hot.
In cooler weather you might have the instinct to wear more clothes to bed. This isn’t always a good idea. Your body heat will warm up your sleeping bag to a comfortable temperature, as long as you are using the right equipment. You also sweat in your sleep which could make you even colder in the morning.
It is a good idea to use an insulated tent in cold weather, it often consists of thick fabric that keeps the inner space warm. And when it comes to summer days, a big tent with many mesh windows will always give good ventilation.
In cold weather, having a hat can be a great way to regulate temperature as well. Simply keep in mind that socks, pants, shirts, and hats can be removed or added easily to control your temperature, so keep them in your sleeping bag.
Go To Bed Tired
After a day of hiking or fishing this might not be a problem. When we are tired we sleep better. Seems pretty simple. Wearing yourself out throughout the day will make your time in your tent so much better. When your legs are tired and you ache all over from a hard day’s walking up hills or paddling a river, nothing feels as good as getting into your sleeping bag. Exhausting your body should help make it a breeze to slip off into dreamland.
Reduce Your Worry With Animals
Don’t eat in your tent, and don’t store any objects with scent in your tent. Having food in your tent, even if you clean it out, will attract bugs, bears, and other animals. Make sure you follow best practices when camping in bear country. You want to know you are doing everything right, because simply worrying about bears or other animals will keep you up at night.
Extra Tent Sleeping Tips
Bring Your Bag And Clothes In The Tent For Extra Comfort
Of course, don’t bring in scented objects if you are in bear country, but having clothes accessible can help you regulate temperature, are create makeshift pillows out of a puffy or extra gear. Using a sweatshirt or puffy between the legs can help with side sleeping, placing a bag under your knees can help with lower back discomfort, and having a shirt or hat within arms reach can save you from having to get up in the middle of the night.
Bring A Heated Water Bottle or Rock Into Your Tent On Cold Nights
On cold nights, it can be a game changer to heat up water in your water bottle and keep it in your sleeping bag for added warmth. You can do this same thing with rocks, just be sure to not burn yourself or your gear. Rocks and water bottles can retain heat for a significant amount of time, keeping you warm all night. Hand warmers can also be a great tactic.
Sleep With Your Clothes In Your Sleeping Bag
We always bring extra clothes into the sleeping bag. They can make for great pillows, or to make it easy for you to regulate temperatures in the middle of the night. In cold weather, this will also make it a lot easier to put your clothes on in the morning. Instead of slipping on super cold socks, they have already been warmed to the temperature inside your sleeping bag.
Use The Bathroom Right Before You Go To Bed
It is just so sad when you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Do your best to try and go right before you lay down to sleep to avoid waking up having to scurry out of your tent.
Keep The Gear You May Want To Grab Within Reach
Again, if you need a sip of water, a hat, or something else, you want it within reach. This will prevent you from fully getting up in the middle of the night, which can make falling back to sleep much easier.
Lower Back Pain Tips
If you often have lower back pain or discomfort when sleeping, one of the best things you can do in a tent is place either clothes, a backpacking pillow, a backpack, or extra gear under your knees. This elevates your knees a bit and may help relieve some discomfort of laying perfectly flat.
Car Camping Tip
If you are camping in or next to your car, simply bring all your comfort items. Bring an extra thick comforter, bring pillows, and bring as much sleeping items as you want. Make sure you take advantage of the fact that you don’t need to carry your gear up a mountain or miles through the woods.
If you’ve ever struggled with getting a good night’s sleep in a tent, these tips should help. We’re all different but basic concepts are universal. You may have your own ideas of how you block out light and sound or stay warm or cool down. Use them when you’re camping. Sleeping in a tent doesn’t mean you have to forget everything you do to be comfortable. Keep these rules in mind and use what works for you.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about