There’s a romantic depiction of spending the night out in the wilderness: the glow of a full moon reflecting off the rippling waters of a babbling brook, the gentle chirping of nearby crickets, and the soft hoot of an owl perched on a branch. Maybe there’s a lone howl from a far-off wolf. Thinking up the romance is easy, but actually going out and turning in under a starry night takes some preparation, and acclimation. If you haven’t gone camping before, you’ll want to consider the following tips for sleeping outdoors.
Practice at Home
Sleeping in a tent is a whole different animal compared to passing out on a mattress in your bedroom. To get used to the environment, start by setting up your tent at home and spending a night or two in it. The living room is fine, but the backyard is better, so you can get the outside temperatures and noises. If you have kids, you’ll definitely want to do this with them, so they don’t get as spooked when you’re out in the woods. This also gives you a chance to make sure you’ve got all the tent parts and learn how to set it up. So, look up the weather and pick out a clear, balmy night to pitch your tent.
Make Sure You Have a Cozy Nest
You’ll need the basics: a sleeping bag appropriate for the temperature, and a comfortable sleeping pad. The best idea is to set up early and save yourself from the anguish of stumbling in the dark to assemble your sleeping area. Check the R-value of the sleeping bag. If it’s the middle of summer, you probably don’t need to worry about conserving heat. This means you can use a bag with a lower R-value. Or, you could even get away with some sheets or a light blanket from home. If it’s colder at night, get a bag with a higher R-value and make sure your sleeping pad is well-insulated. Other things you can do to prepare for a cold night are long thermal underwear and a knit cap. Putting a closed-cell foam pad under your regular sleeping pad provides extra insulation. For a warm bag, the hot water bottle method is great for when you initially get in.
Hot Water Bottle Method: Boil water and then take it off the heat and let it cool for a while. Pour it into a heat-resistant bottle with a tight seal and put it in your sleeping bag about thirty minutes before you go to bed. That way, instead of climbing into an icy bag and shivering for a few minutes, it’ll be toasty warm.
Smells Stay Outside of the Tent
Food and trash should be stored outside and away from your tent. You might need a bear canister at some places, so do your research before going. Keep any scented toiletries out of the tent, as well. You don’t want to attract insects and animals to the inside. That includes changing out of any clothes that might smell like the dinner you cooked and ate earlier that evening. A bear might pick up on it, find you wrapped up in your sleeping bag, and think he’s found a bearrito.
Your hygiene is another source of smell, so try to stay as clean as you can before you hit the sack. Some campgrounds have showers available, or you can find a creek or jug of water to manage a clean body. Baby wipes are a simple and fast, albeit temporary solution if you’re in a pinch.
Keep Up the Nightly Rituals
To start, avoid caffeine before you go to bed. It might keep you up and make you have to pee during the night. Instead, try an herbal tea. It’s more relaxing and a better beverage with which to wind down before bed. Chamomile is an ideal option for getting in a sleepy mood. Also, if you have nightly rituals at home, such as brushing your teeth, keep it up while you’re camping. Preserving your familiar habits at the campsite helps it to feel normal, and thus, helps you get to sleep easier.
A good rule of thumb is to void your bladder twice before bed. First do it about thirty minutes before, and then pee again just before getting into your sleeping bag. This can greatly reduce the chance of having to get up and do it in the middle of the night. However, if you find yourself in need of relief, be sure to keep your boots and a flashlight in easy reach. If you’re a frequent bathroom visitor, it might be a good idea to get a campsite by the facilities.
Hopefully it won’t take much effort for you to get a good night’s sleep out in the wilderness. If nighttime noises are going to keep you up, you might want to buy some earplugs. They’re tiny, cheap, and you can just throw them away when you’re done with them. If you’re worried about the deafening silence that can happen in late night nature, then you could get a sound app for your phone, or other devices. It would be nice to get a campsite with the soothing rush of a nearby creek. But, there’s no guarantee of that.
You should enjoy yourself when camping, and that includes getting your rest so you can fully enjoy outdoors while you’re up. But don’t fret too much about it. With a little preparation, you can saw logs through the night and wake up ready for a morning hike.