How To Make Tent Camping Comfortable

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According to our 2020 Camping Survey, 52% of the people who camp, sleep in tents. This is not surprising because tents are more affordable than RVs and allow you to enjoy a much closer relationship with nature. Heck, for many campers, if you’re not sleeping in a tent then you might as well just be sleeping in a hotel. Tent campers enjoy “roughing it” while relishing their time with Mother Nature. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t want to sleep comfortably in their tents. There are three ways to do this. First, invest in the best sleeping pad or air mattress that you can get. Second, make sure to bring along the warmest sleeping bag that you can augment with sheets, blankets, and pillows. Third, invest in tent heaters for cool weather and swamp coolers for warm weather camping.

We will now dive into each of these options in more detail.

Infographic on how to make tent camping comfortable

Quality Sleeping Pads And Air Mattresses Are The Foundation Of Comfortable Tent Sleeping

What you sleep on while camping will have the most impact on how comfortable you sleep in your tent. This shouldn’t be surprising because how good your bed is at home determines how well you sleep at night.

If you are not sleeping with your spouse or partner, you can use a quality sleeping pad. I was surprised in the differences in comfort between my Ecotek and my Big Agnes pads. The Ecotek did a good job in keeping me warm, which is the most important job of a sleeping pad, but it wasn’t very comfortable. Meanwhile, the first time I inflated my Big Agnes at home, I fell asleep just testing it out.

If you wish to sleep in the same bed as your partner or spouse, then you should invest in an air mattress. I have a Coleman Queen and it is very nice to sleep on. My only complaint with it is that it does take up my entire 4-person tent. It doesn’t leave me any room for my pack in my tent.

Finally, if you are camping in cold weather and you’re not sure of the warmth of your sleeping pad, you can double them up. For example, place your inflatable pad, which is more comfortable to sleep on top of a foam sleeping-pad. Or you can use a survival blanket with the reflective side pointing up at you. Make sure to put the survival blanket between you and your sleeping pad to maximize the effectiveness.

Sleeping Bags And Blankets Keep You Snuggly Warm

While most tent campers don’t camp in the winter, in particular in snowy climates, this doesn’t mean they completely avoid camping in cold weather.

Heck, even in Texas, I have camped a couple of times in the 20s and woke up in the morning with a tent covered in ice from the frost.

You can start by bringing along a properly rated sleeping bag. It is important to pay attention to the ratings on your bag.

Your sleeping bag (or quilt) will have a comfort rating and a survival rating. The comfort rating is the lowest temperature that the sleeping bag is designed to let you feel comfortable. The survival rating is the lowest temperature that the sleeping bag is designed to keep you alive.

If you are car camping, I would bring along extra blankets to help keep me warm. This is the simplest solution and will make your night in your tent much more comfortable. You can even bring sheets and a proper pillow to further increase the comfort of sleeping in your tent.

Dress Properly

It’s important to dress properly when we’re camping. During the day, we want to dress in layers to keep us warm. Or during the warmer months, dressing properly will help protect us from the sun and bugs.

When we sleep, you have a decision to make. You can decide to sleep in the same clothes you wore during the day. This is what I typically do. But I am a dude who acts like a perpetual 12-year old while I’m camping.

If you are car camping and you wish to sleep in pajamas as you do at home, you can do that while camping. However, you should make sure to be able to have long underwear and extra socks when camping during colder weather.

Tent Heaters And Swamp Coolers Will Manage Your Temperature

During colder weather, many people like to bring tent heaters. These come in both propane and electric versions. My friend Scott has an electric heater that he uses when we go camping at state parks where we can get an electric hookup. But modern propane tent heaters work well and have many safety features. These safety features include tip-over and low oxygen sensors. You can also bring along a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector. Plus you can use a double-walled tent which adds additional ventilation.

During the warm weather months, you can bring along fans, swamp coolers, and even portable air conditioners.

A swamp cooler is a type of simple air conditioner. It’s just a fan with a bucket of ice water placed in front of it. As the water evaporates, the fan blows the water on to you. The water itself feels cool. And then as the water evaporates from your own skin, you will further cool off.

Swamp coolers work well in low humidity environments. But if you’re in a high humidity area, they can make you feel worse.

There are portable air conditioners you can bring along as well. Though, if you require an air conditioner to go camping in warm weather, I would recommend that you simply don’t go tent camping in hot weather.

I personally don’t go camping in August in Texas. It’s not just uncomfortably hot, it’s a dangerous heat. If you are not careful, you can find yourself facing heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Plus I burn easily.

Get Off The Ground With Cots

When I was younger, I could Cowboy camp without a problem. Cowboy camping is where you sleep directly under the stars without even a tent.

Now that I’m older and heavier, it is harder to sleep close to the ground. Even with a great feeling sleeping pad like my Big Agnes, my hips can get sore and I need to make way to my camping chair to get my shoes on.

Heck, one time I pitched the backpacking tent that I was testing at a state park so that I could basically crawl to the picnic table to make it easier to get my shoes on.

And I don’t even have any back problems. Many people have back issues that can even stop them from tent camping.

I know many people who have back problems that have switched to hammocks. I am not a fan of hammocks because I’m so tall, it’s hard to find a hammock to fit me properly. Plus I am not graceful and getting out of a hammock becomes a comedic adventure with a chance of getting hurt.

But another option, in particular, for car camping, is a cot. A camping cot gets you off the ground and gives you more storage space in your tent. You should still bring a sleeping pad to help keep your backside warm from the cold air that’s flowing under the cot.

Get A Bigger And Taller Tent

Everyone gets surprised when they go camping with a 2-person tent that they’re sharing and realize the tent doesn’t have any room for their gear. This is because tents are sized for 2 adults sleeping side by side and don’t account for their gear.

Thus it’s important to get a tent that’s sized for at least one more person than will be sleeping in the tent. And frankly, I’d get a 6-person tent even if I was only sharing it with 1 more person. But I’m 6’4” and I take up a lot of room with just my body.

You should also get as tall of a tent as you can.

Having more space to store gear, move around and even stand-up will make it more comfortable to sleep in a tent because it will make it easier for you to change clothes for sleeping.

And of course, the more room you have, the easier time you will have in helping your children get dressed and undressed.

Use Your Camping Chairs To Make It Easier To Get Ready For Bed

A tip I learned from a buddy is to bring a camping chair into your tent. You will want to make sure that the chair has rubber tips to avoid ripping your tent floor. Though as we will discuss in the next section, you can also cover your floor with rugs which would protect it too.

Having a chair in your tent provides a nice place to hang out if it’s raining during the day. But more importantly, it makes it much easier to get dressed and undressed for sleeping if you’re sleeping on the ground.

Foam Puzzle Pieces And Rugs Make For Softer Tent Floors

Tents are not designed to be cozy. This is why we have an entire article about how to make them cozier. And one of the simple things you can do is to add rugs or foam puzzle pieces to cover your tent floor.

This makes it more comfortable to sleep in your tent by providing a softer floor for your bare feet. They also add an extra layer of insulation which will make your tent feel warmer when camping in cold night temperatures.

If you read all of these tips, it’s tempting to think that if you need all of this that you should just stay home. Because there’s a perception among some campers (often young males) that camping should be about “roughing it”.

This is a false premise. The purpose of camping is to allow you to enjoy the great outdoors. And camping is often a more affordable way to go on vacation instead of staying at expensive hotels.

Thus if your family needs to implement one or more of these tips to enjoy camping, then you should do it. Because the more comfortable your family sleeps while camping, the more camping trips they will want to go on.