We’ve all been there – a perfect day’s hiking, biking, climbing or canoeing is ruined by a terrible night’s sleep. And nothing spoils the following day’s fun like bags under your eyes bigger than your sleeping bag.
Not only will a restless night put you in a bad mood and make your fellow campers secretly hope you get lost in the woods, it may even be dangerous for the day’s activities ahead.
Sleepy people make more mistakes and the last thing you want to be doing when you’re clinging by your fingertips – Alex Honnold-style – to a rock face is holding back a yawn.
So, here are five top tips to help you get some better shut-eye when you’re out there in the wilderness. Some are obvious but bear repeating, others you won’t necessarily find in the Boy Scout handbook…
Get Your Sleeping Bag Right
Seems like an obvious one but it’s surprising how many campers head out unprepared for the night ahead. While the days in the hills can be warm and full of activity, when you’re bedding on the cold ground, the nights can be dark and full of shivers.
So how to keep your toes toasty in the hills? Easy, get yourself a good multi-season sleeping bag. Even if it weighs a little more, a bag equipped for the cold is better than one that’s not.
If the night is warm enough, well you can always leave your heavier sleeping bag unzipped or even just sleep on top of it. Either option is better than losing a toe or two to frostbite. And also ensure to place the sleeping mattresses, if you’ve brought any, away from moist areas, for mold on the mattress creeps up very quickly.
Dress for Sleep Success
Next up, get your bedwear right. Be sure to change out of the day’s gear. Even if it feels warm it could be carrying moisture, which will cool throughout the night and cause your body to lose heat.
It’s best to wear base layers to bed – but not too many, now! Too much material will make you sweat; sweat evaporates and cools you down. Like everything in life, moderation is key.
Get a Good Mattress
I’m sure you’ve heard the tale of the Princess and the Pea; how one little pea under a mound of mattresses managed to keep a sleepy rich girl up all night. Well, camping is often like that – just swap out ‘little pea’ for a pile of jagged rocks and you’ll get the idea!
Just because we are hardy outdoors types who are out jumping off cliffs all day doesn’t mean we have to deprive ourselves of some of the simple pleasures in life – like something comfortable to lie on.
Sleeping bareback on the floor is impressing nobody. And it certainly isn’t impressing your body. Solution: invest in a good camping mattress.
Obviously, buy something that fits your style of camping, be it lightweight or glamping. But whether it’s a slimline roll mat or something that’s a little more luxurious, do your research and get one that gives your back a bit of sweet relief from Mother Nature’s hard embrace.
Bring Along Some Sleep Aids
Camping is all about travelling light but a few sleep aids in your pack aren’t going to break your back.
Sunrise isn’t polite, it doesn’t care if you’re trying to sleep or not. An eye-mask – or even just a buff pulled over your eyes – will block out those antisocial dawn rays streaming through the thin fabric walls of your tent and help you get a few hours more before the day really begins.
Early-bird neighbours can be noisy, too – be it humans packing up their tents, or well, early birds singing their merry songs. Whatever the source, the woods aren’t always the quietest place to be. So, pack the earplugs or the iPod full of whale songs. Or even bring along a nifty mobile white noise generator. Get you.
Don’t Watch Any Horror Movies Before Your Trip
“If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise”…That song used to refer to a simple teddy bears’ picnic.
Now, thanks to the the twisted imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters, a trip to the woods is less likely to make people think of cuddly bears and tea sets. It’s more likely to conjure up fears of chainsaw massacres, trixy Blair Witches or banjo-wielding, hill-billy maniacs.
The imagination is a wicked thing, especially at night alone in your tent. So don’t let the sound of a twig breaking outside keep you awake with worry. The chance that it’s an axe-wielding murderer and not a raccoon is pretty slim.
Do yourself a favour – skip the slasher flicks in the days or weeks leading up to a camping trip and your mind will be far less likely to leap to any dark conclusions.
That’s all for now folks, five top tips to sleeping al fresco. Follow them and your camping nightmares will become a thing of the past.