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Growing up, my family always tent camped. Even after all our family friends got campers, we still rocked it out in a huge canvas tent.
I loved the experience of tent camping as a kid. I was young and flexible back then. Now I’m not! So, I moved on to camping in a travel trailer long ago.
BUT…even though I’m a former tent camper doesn’t mean that I don’t know a few things about how to make tent camping more comfortable. Here are some of my top tips.
Prioritize the Sleeping Situation
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When you’re ten years old, you can sleep anywhere. When you’re 40, it’s a different story.
If you want to make the most of tent camping, spend some time (and money) on the sleeping situation in the tent.
A good sleeping pad or air mattress will be one of your best friends on a tent camping trip. Not only do they help insulate you from the cold ground, but they also give you a soft surface to cozy up to at night.
But don’t think that all sleeping pads and air mattresses are cushy. Some offer an incredibly firm – yet comfortable – sleeping experience for people like me that prefer a firm mattress.
Many sleeping pads are closed-cell, meaning they don’t require inflation. Many others are inflatable, whether it’s a self-inflating design like the one shown above or one you have to inflate yourself.
Air mattresses aren’t as portable as sleeping pads, but they tend to offer a far better sleeping experience. They can be any size you want (even up to king!), so if you and your significant other want to cuddle up in the cold of the night, you can. Just don’t forget to bring along an air pump to inflate the thing. These mattresses usually can’t be aired up by mouth like many sleeping pads.
Pro Tip to Make Tent Camping More Comfortable: You can also try a cot for sleeping. Cots get you up off the ground and offer the advantage of allowing you to sit down on them like a normal bed (although much lower than a normal bed). You can also store things under the cot if space is tight. However, avoid cots if you’re camping in cold climates. The flow of cold air underneath you can chill you to the bone.
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In addition to the sleeping surface, you also need to think about the kind of sleeping bag you want. Your bag is one of the most important factors to make tent camping more comfortable.
There’s the obvious choice of insulation value that needs to be made – do you need a negative-15-degree sleeping bag or will a 20-degree bag suffice? A good rule of thumb when selecting the insulation value is to go one step beyond the coldest temperature you expect on your trip. So, if temperatures are expected to dip down to 20 degrees, opt for a 10-degree bag.
You also need to consider the shape of the sleeping bag you buy. Mummy bags, like the one shown above, are narrow which helps retain heat, making them a good choice for cold-weather camping.
Rectangle sleeping bags are more roomy and are more typical of warmer weather camping. You can even connect two of them (a right-hand zip and a left-hand zip) to make a big bag for two.
The size of the bag is yet another consideration. While most sleeping bags are a standard size, you can find plenty of options for men and women that are for taller and shorter folks.
Remember that you can easily spend hundreds of dollars between your sleeping bag and sleeping surface, but it is definitely money well spent! Don’t skimp here. If you do, you run the risk of having terrible sleeping experiences while tent camping.
How to Make Tent Camping More Comfortable: Size Your Tent Appropriately
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This might seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how many people have the wrong sized tent for their needs.
It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep (even with the right sleeping gear) if your tent is far too small or way too big for your needs.
Don’t just size your tent based on activity, like backpacking, which necessitates a small, lightweight tent, and car camping, where you can roll out a giant cabin tent if you want.
Additionally, think about how many people the tent needs to accommodate and how much stuff you need to have in the tent.
The aforementioned backpacking tent typically has room for 1-2 people. Dome tents are larger and usually sleep 3-4 people. Pop-up tents are often the same size as dome tents, but offer the advantage of setting up more quickly. At the top of the heap are cabin-style tents like the one shown below, which can sleep upwards of 10 people.
Obviously, if you’re usually camping with just one other person, you don’t need a cabin tent. But if you entertain the whole family and need space for everyone in a single tent, the cabin tent is the best option.
Tents come with all sorts of functional and luxury options like vestibules for taking off dirty shoes before entering the tent, room dividers for privacy, skylights for taking in the view of the night sky, and waterproof rain flies that may or may not come off the tent. There’s also the option of hot tenting, which involves highly insulated tents with a heat source for camping in the bitter cold.
Again, you don’t want to skimp here. The tent you purchase should be a long-term investment, so spend some money to get a better tent that suits your needs well and that will give you reliable performance for years to come.
How to Make Tent Camping More Comfortable: Other Recommended Gear
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When you’re tent camping, you want to bring along items that can help you deal with common tent camping problems.
For example, bring an outdoor rug to put outside the tent door so you can remove your shoes before entering the tent. Speaking of shoes, have a pair of slip-on shoes available in case you need to get up and go to the restroom in the middle of the night.
Have a flashlight or a headlamp handy for those late-night trips to the outhouse, and have a small bag of toiletry items ready to go as well.
If you’re sleeping during warm weather, consider a battery-powered fan to cool you down and to provide some white noise that will drown out the sounds of other campers around you. A white noise machine might be a good investment if you tend to tent camp in established campgrounds, too.
These are just a few ideas to make tent camping more comfortable. As you get more experienced in camping, you’ll learn what works for you and you’ll likely also develop some of your own tricks to make it a better experience.
Time to hit the road and go camping, and do so more comfortably!