Sleeping Tips for Campers

Medically reviewed by
 Dr. Jennifer Miller, PT, DPT: Expert Physical Therapist and Pelvic Health Specialist

Dr. Jennifer Miller, PT, DPT: Expert Physical Therapist and Pelvic Health Specialist

Dr. Jennifer Miller is a compassionate and skilled outpatient physical therapist with nine years of experience in the field. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy from Elon University and…

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Last Updated On April 15th, 2024
Sleeping Tips for Campers

Key Takeaways

  • Challenges of Sleeping While Camping: Camping can present several challenges to getting a good night’s sleep, including unfamiliar surroundings, noises like rustling leaves and wildlife, uncomfortable bedding, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to the elements.
  • Tips for Better Sleep While Camping: Select a suitable campsite, protect against bugs, prioritize safety and security, prepare for temperature changes, stay active during the day, block light and noise, secure food and scented items, dress appropriately for sleep, choose a comfortable sleeping setup, and use sleep accessories. Prioritizing comfort and preparedness is crucial for an enjoyable and restful camping experience.
  • Prioritize Comfort and Preparation: The key to sleeping well while camping is to prioritize comfort, preparedness, and creating a sleep-conducive environment. With the right gear, knowledge, and practices, you can enjoy a restful night’s sleep and fully embrace the beauty of the outdoors.

In the great outdoors, camping lets us leave modern comforts behind and get closer to nature, enjoying fresh air and scenic sights. Setting up a tent in a scenic forest or by a calm lake brings beauty and peace. But don’t forget the importance of a good night’s sleep.

You can sleep well with the right gear and preparation, even with rustling leaves and night sounds. This blog shares helpful tips for campers, so you can fully enjoy camping and wake up refreshed to embrace nature’s wonders.

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Why Does Camping Make It Difficult to Sleep?

Camping can make it difficult to sleep for a few reasons. Unfamiliar surroundings and noises like rustling leaves or nocturnal animal sounds can disrupt our sleep. Additionally, the lack of comfortable bedding and support can make it challenging to find a cozy sleeping position.

Changes in temperature, humidity, and exposure to the elements can also affect our comfort and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep while on a camping adventure. To make sure you have the best time on your camping trips, we have collected a few tips and tricks for sleeping outdoors.

Tips for Better Sleep While Camping

While camping comes with its own sleep difficulties, there are steps you can take to ensure you sleep well.

Pitch Your Tent in the Right Spot

When setting up your tent, it’s important to choose the location carefully to ensure a good night’s sleep. Clear the ground from rocks and sticks to create a smooth and comfortable sleeping area. Lay down a tarp underneath your tent to protect it from moisture and avoid waking up in a wet tent.

Be mindful of nearby trees and brush that could rustle and cause disturbances during the night. Also, it’s best to avoid camping directly under a tree to prevent unexpected surprises. Lastly, consider your proximity to other campers, as it may result in hearing their footsteps or other disturbances during nighttime hours.

Protect Yourself Against Bugs

Bugs can be bothersome and keep you from falling asleep fast when camping. First, before your trip, thoroughly inspect your tent for any holes that may allow bugs to enter. Ensure that your tent is in good condition and free of any openings.

When camping in the summertime, it’s crucial to take precautions to prevent tick bites while asleep. One effective method is to apply bug spray, such as DEET, to your skin. Along with repellants, make sure to cover up with protective clothing such as a long-sleeve shirt and pants to minimize the exposed skin area.

Set up mosquito nets around your sleeping area, such as inside the car or attached to a tent. These bug nets create a protective barrier that keeps insects away while allowing air circulation. When you’re not actively entering or exiting your camping vehicle or tent, keep the doors and windows closed to prevent bugs from getting inside. This is particularly important during dusk and dawn when bugs are most active.

Take Measures for Safety & Security

Being in the wilderness usually means being away from a lot of services that could help you in an emergency, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared to address problems on your own as much as possible. Before you leave on your trip, do your homework on the wildlife you can expect to find in the area and note any phone numbers for ranger assistance.

When you’re bunking down for the night, keep a few essentials close to hand—shoes, flashlight, and an air horn. Your shoes in case you need to get up in the night, a flashlight for seeing, and an air horn to scare off any too-curious wildlife.

Make sure you’re also following fire safety tips while sleeping. For starters, set up your campsite in designated areas that are safe for fires and comply with any fire regulations or restrictions in the area. Avoid camping near flammable materials such as dry grass, leaves, or overhanging branches.

If you have a campfire, ensure that your sleeping area is a safe distance away from the fire. The general rule is to maintain at least 15 feet of distance, but this can vary depending on the size of your fire and local regulations. Keep flammable materials such as tents, sleeping bags, and clothing away from open flames and heat sources. Ensure that your camping gear is made of fire-resistant materials and follow manufacturer instructions for use.

Before going to sleep, make sure to fully extinguish the campfire. Pour water over the fire, stir the ashes, and pour more water until everything is cool to the touch. Never leave a fire unattended or smoldering while you sleep. You may also want to keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water nearby your sleeping area in case of emergencies. This will allow you to quickly respond to any potential fire incidents.

Prepare for Temperature Changes

When preparing for temperature changes while camping, it’s important to consider various factors to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep and protect your physical health. If you’re a cold sleeper or anticipate colder temperatures, take proactive steps to stay warm at night.

For example, you can choose a sleeping bag appropriate for the expected weather conditions and consider using a sleeping bag liner for added insulation and to retain precious body heat. This extra layer can make a significant difference, especially when sleeping on cold ground. Additionally, insulate yourself from the cold ground by using a sleeping pad, tarp or rolling mat, to minimize heat loss and provide a more comfortable surface to rest on.

Just make sure that before heading out on your car camping trip, make sure to check your sleeping bag for any damage or wear and tear. Repair or replace any broken zippers, torn fabric, or insulation issues to maintain the bag’s effectiveness and ensure your comfort throughout the trip.

If you are sleeping in your car or an RV and not using a sleeping bag, you may want to consider a fleece or wool blanket to stay warm on chilly nights. Look for fill powers that will insulate you well for undisturbed sleep.

In addition to your camping equipment, consider other strategies to stay warm. Dress in layers with warm clothing, such as thermal underwear and fleece jackets, and wear a hat to retain body heat. Bring your favorite pillow for added comfort, as it can contribute to a more restful sleep.

Stay Active During the Day

Staying active during the day is important while camping. Engaging in activities like hiking, swimming, or playing outdoor games keeps your body moving and helps you burn off energy. Not only does staying active enhance your overall camping experience and allow you to enjoy the fresh air and natural sunlight, but it can also tire you out, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

Remember to also stay hydrated while you’re participating in outdoor activities. Sometimes campers are tempted to decrease water intake in order to reduce the need to go to the bathroom at night. Staying hydrated allows your body to recover best and is a necessity for sleeping during a heatwave, so you can continue exploring the next day.

Block Light and Noise

Blocking noise involves choosing a quieter campsite location away from potential disturbances and unexpected or strange sounds. Alternatively, using earplugs can help mask external sounds and promote a restful night’s sleep amidst the serene ambiance of nature.

Meanwhile, an eye mask or shades for your car or tent windows can effectively block out unwanted light, allowing you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. By creating a darker sleeping environment, you can enjoy a good sleep in the natural beauty of the outdoors.

Store Food and Scented Items Securely

When tent camping or even car camping, it’s important to store food and scented items before bed. This helps prevent unwanted visits from animals attracted to the smell. Make sure to tightly seal any food containers and pack them away in a designated storage area.

Keep scented items like toiletries, cooking utensils, and miscellaneous items like candles safely stored to minimize their odor. Avoid the use of products like a scented pillow spray for sleep. By taking these precautions, you can enjoy sleep soundly without worrying about wildlife encounters.

Dress Appropriately for Sleep

To sleep comfortably, it’s important to dress appropriately for the night’s sleeping conditions, especially in cold weather. Opt for warm and insulating clothing to help in staying warm throughout the night. Layering is key, so consider wearing thermal or moisture-wicking base layers followed by cozy pajamas or sleepwear. Don’t forget to cover your feet with socks and wear a hat to retain body heat.

In the warmer summer months, choose sleepwear made from lightweight and breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen. These materials allow air to circulate and help wick away moisture from your body, keeping you cool and comfortable. Loose-fitting sleepwear also allows for better airflow and prevents constriction, allowing your body to naturally regulate its temperature during sleep.

Still, tempting as it is, you don’t want to stick your foot out from the covers to stay cool. If nothing else, it can be an attractive target for bug bites.

By dressing appropriately, you can create a cozy environment that promotes a comfortable and restorative night’s sleep.

Have a Comfy Bed

Naturally, the bed you have is a big part of how well you can expect to sleep at night. When camping, you have a few bed options to consider depending on your preferences and the camping setup.

Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads provide a cushioned surface between you and the ground. They come in various thicknesses and materials, such as foam or inflatable designs. Sleeping pads are lightweight, portable, and easy to set up, making them a popular choice for camping.

Sleeping Bags

Sleeping bags are designed to provide insulation and keep you warm during outdoor nights. They are typically filled with synthetic or down insulation. Sleeping bags also come with temperature ratings indicating the lowest temperature at which they can keep you comfortable. It’s important to choose a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating for the expected weather conditions during your camping trips.

Remember to properly store and maintain your sleeping bag when not in use. Store it in a cool, dry place to prevent mildew or moisture damage. Additionally, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and care to prolong the lifespan of your sleeping bag.

Air Mattress

An air mattress offers more comfort and support compared to sleeping pads. They are typically larger in size and can be inflated with an air pump. Air mattresses provide a more bed-like feel and are suitable for sleeping in your car or when you have access to a power source for inflation.

You can even dress up an air mattress’s feel with a mattress topper for extra cushion, though some air mattresses also allow you to adjust their firmness through added inflation. We also recommend bringing along a repair kit in case you need to patch an air mattress.

“I used to camp with just a sleeping bag but now I always use an air mattress to ensure a good night sleep,” says Dr. Jennifer Miller. “I wake up feeling refreshed with little to no soreness!”

Foam Mattress

Foam beds are a great choice for a camp mattress due to their excellent insulation and cushioning properties, providing a comfortable sleep surface even on hard ground. They ensure you can rest well during your outdoor adventures, combating the discomfort of uneven surfaces. These mattresses are also known for their durability, making them perfect for frequent camping trips where they can withstand rough use and last for a long time.

“I typically recommend a foam mattress for my patients who are avid campers but their current ailments slow them down,” says Dr. Jennifer Miller. “Having an actual mattress allows them to get a supportive, great night’s sleep.”

Additionally, foam mattresses are lightweight and easy to carry, making them a popular option among backpackers and hikers who prioritize portability and convenience, or campers in an RV who need to keep their load light to minimize vehicle drag.

See also air mattresses vs memory foam mattresses.

Camping Cots

A camping cot is a portable bed frame with fabric stretched across it. It elevates you off the ground, providing additional comfort and insulation. Camp cots are sturdier than sleeping pads and air mattresses and are a good option if you prefer a raised sleeping surface.

Camping Hammocks

Hammocks are an alternative option for camping, particularly in areas with trees or suitable anchor points. They offer a unique, elevated sleeping experience and can be lightweight and compact, though it’s best to save it for warmer months. Otherwise, it’s important to choose a camping hammock with proper insulation and accessories for camping in cooler temperatures.

If you’re camping in an area without trees, a portable hammock stand allows you to set up and sleep in a hammock, letting you enjoy comfort anywhere.

Pack the Right Gear for Sleeping Outdoors

Having high-quality gear is equally important for making your camping experience more enjoyable. With the right sleeping setup, that not only includes a good bed, a cozy camping pillow, and a warm and breathable bedding, but also other needed sleep accessories, you can sleep peacefully and wake up refreshed, ready to fully embrace your outdoor adventure.

Camping Pillows

​​Camping pillows are a must-have for a comfortable outdoor sleep experience. You can bring one from home or choose a small foam or inflatable camp pillow specifically designed for camping. These pillows are lightweight and easy to pack, making them convenient for camping trips. Camping pillows are especially important for people who have neck pain.

You can find a variety of camping pillows available that cater to different preferences and needs. They provide extra support and cushioning, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep even when you’re away from home. So, don’t forget to add a camping pillow to your camping gear checklist for a restful night under the stars. Pair it with a camping pillowcase or cover for added hygiene.

Camping Mattress Topper

A mattress topper for camping is a valuable accessory for outdoor sleeping. It is designed to provide additional comfort and insulation when placed on top of a sleeping pad or camping mattress. Made from materials like foam or air-filled chambers, the topper adds a layer of cushioning to help alleviate pressure points and enhance overall comfort. It also helps to insulate against cold surfaces, providing warmth during chilly nights.

Eye Masks and Earplugs

Eye masks and earplugs are essential for camping to improve sleep. An eye mask blocks light for better rest, while earplugs block out noise disturbances, ensuring a peaceful slumber amidst nature. They provide a quieter and darker environment, ensuring you can sleep peacefully and wake up refreshed. Adding these sleep accessories to your camping gear will help create a more serene and comfortable sleeping environment amidst the great outdoors.

Portable CPAP Machine

Not everyone needs a CPAP machine to sleep well, but if you have sleep apnea it’s important to bring along a model suitable for camping. It ensures that you can maintain continuous positive airway pressure therapy even while sleeping outdoors, helping you breathe properly and get a restful sleep.

Stick to Your Bedtime Routine

To ensure the best night’s sleep and support your mental health, it’s important to stick to your bedtime routine. Establishing a consistent routine signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Start by setting a regular bedtime and waking up time that allows for sufficient rest.

Prioritize activities that promote relaxation and calmness, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Avoid using electronic devices or engaging in stimulating activities close to bedtime, as they can disrupt your sleep patterns and interfere with melatonin levels. By sticking to your bedtime routine, you can create a conducive environment for quality sleep, which can positively impact your mental well-being.

“I find a shower before bed really helps me sleep well,” says Dr. Jennifer Miller. “Your body temperature warms while in the shower and automatically cools once you step out, which is necessary to fall asleep.”

Use the Restroom Before Bed

Stick to a normal step in your bedtime routine and make sure you relieve your bladder before bed. If you have a water bottle nearby, try not to drink large amounts of liquids within a few hours of bedtime to minimize the need to use the restroom in the night.

By taking this simple step, you can eliminate interrupted sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning. Remember, a trip to the restroom before bed can contribute to a more peaceful and undisturbed night’s rest.

Consider a Sleep Aid if Necessary

If you’re a light sleeper or find it challenging to sleep during a camping trip, consider using a sleep aid. Sleep aids can provide assistance in falling asleep and staying asleep, ensuring a more restful experience. They can be especially helpful if you’re in a new or unfamiliar environment. Potential sleep aids include:

Though they may be a great sleep aid at home, we can’t recommend essential oils for sleep when you’re camping. While their pleasant scents can be appealing to humans, there is a possibility that certain essential oils might attract wildlife. Particularly animals with a keen sense of smell. Additionally, it’s important to be respectful of others in the camping area who may have sensitivities regarding scents.

“I typically recommend a foam mattress for my patients who are avid campers but their current ailments slow them down. Having an actual mattress allows them to get a supportive, great night’s sleep.”

Dr. Jennifer Miller, PT, DPT: Expert Physical Therapist and Pelvic Health Specialist

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you keep bedding dry when camping?

To keep your bedding dry when camping, it is essential to use waterproof mattress covers or mattress protectors. These will create a barrier between your bedding and any moisture that may seep into your tent. Additionally, make sure to choose a campsite with good drainage and set up your tent on a tarp or elevated surface to prevent water from entering.

To limit night sweats, you may also want to sleep with a fan on. A battery-powered fan or one connected to a portable generator shouldn’t take up much space.

How can I sleep comfortably in my RV?

To rest well in your RV, start by investing in a high-quality RV mattress that provides adequate support and comfort while minimizing drag on the vehicle. Consider also adding a mattress topper for extra cushioning.

Then, use moisture-wicking and breathable bedding materials to regulate temperature and keep you comfortable throughout the night. Lastly, ensure proper ventilation in your RV to maintain a fresh and comfortable sleep environment while making sure your camper’s interior isn’t too drafty.

Why is it so hard to sleep when camping?

Sleeping difficulties while camping can be attributed to various factors such as unfamiliar surroundings, changes in sleeping temperature, noise from nature or other campers, and the lack of a familiar bedtime routine. To improve sleep when camping, create a sleep-friendly environment by setting up a comfortable sleeping area, using earplugs to minimize noise disturbances, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

Additionally, bring along items that provide comfort and familiarity, such as your own pillow or a favorite blanket.

What is the best way to sleep comfortably in a tent?

To sleep in a tent comfortably, start by selecting a suitable sleeping pad or mattress that provides insulation and cushioning from the ground. Layer it with a warm sleeping bag or blankets appropriate for the temperature. Consider using a camping pillow for added comfort and support.

Additionally, choose a flat and level campsite, use ear plugs to drown out outdoor sounds, and block out excess light with an eye mask or by positioning the tent away from direct sunlight.

How can I sleep comfortably in my truck bed?

To get cozy in your truck bed, invest in a truck bed mattress or a high-quality camping mattress that fits the dimensions of your truck bed. Make sure you look for one that is a mold-resistant mattress, due to the potential for open air exposure. If you’re sleeping in a covered truck bed, maintain proper ventilation for a comfortable sleep environment by cracking windows or using a small fan.

Bring along bedding appropriate for the weather conditions, such as warm sleeping bags or blankets. Use pillows or cushions to provide adequate support for your head and neck. Consider using window covers or curtains to block out light and ensure privacy.


Incorporating these sleeping tips for camping can greatly enhance your outdoor sleeping experience and expected sleep quality. By taking measures such as protecting yourself from bugs, storing food and scented items before bed, and preparing for temperature changes, you can ensure a comfortable and restful night’s sleep.

Dressing appropriately, using quality sleeping gear, and considering the use of sleep aids if necessary can also contribute to a more enjoyable camping trip. Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for your physical and mental well-being, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and adventures of the great outdoors.

About the author

Mitchell Tollsen is a graduate student and a freelance writer who’s contributed to the Early Bird blog for three years. Mitchell’s always been fascinated by the science of sleep and the restorative processes our bodies undergo when at rest. The self-titled “Sleep Expert” is always looking for ways to improve his shut-eye, and throughout the years has implemented numerous lifestyle changes and tried dozens of sleep-promoting gadgets to determine the best ways to truly get better rest.

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