When it comes to spending the night outdoors, there are many options to ensure a comfortable nights rest. While the image of curling up under the stars with nothing but a blanket is a nice one, there are more pleasant ways to sleep.
The Sleeping Bag
It’s hard to beat this tried and tested method of sleeping outside. The traditional sleeping bag has gone through many technological changes over the years. Stuffing inside has evolved from cotton to goose down to polyester fillings which all help keep you warm. Sleeping bags should be chosen based on the temperatures where you will be sleeping. Less expensive bags are made in a simple rectangle shape with a light filling. This bag is designed for sleeping outside in warm temperatures or a sleepover at a friend’s place. This style of bag is great for the summer months when the temperature at night is around 10°C (50°F) but not a good choice for the fall or winter.
Mummy-style sleeping bags are great for cooler temperatures. They resemble a sarcophagus and zip up snugly around your head to keep heat in. The tapered shape around the leg area maximizes warmth (and weight) by keeping the space that needs to be warmed by body heat to a minimum. A cold temperature sleeping bag is made from a breathable outer lining that is wind and waterproof. This lets moisture escape as you sleep preventing dampness from building up inside which can very quickly lead to the chills. Cold temperature sleeping bags are filled with goose down or polyester filling. These fillings add a significant degree of insulation and will keep you warm on the coldest of nights. A mummy style sleeping bag is used at temperatures below 0°C (32°F). There are also bags that can be used for all out winter camping or mountaineering that will keep you warm at temperatures below -20°C (-4°F) or colder.
The Sleeping Pad
A good sleeping bag alone is not enough to ensure a good night’s sleep outdoors. To wake up dry and without a stiff back, a foam sleeping pad or an air mattress is required. Airspace between you and the cooler ground is necessary to keep your sleeping bag from getting damp with condensation overnight. It also adds a level of cushioning to prevent stones or tree branches from poking you. A foam pad is good for hiking as it takes up little space on a backpack. An air mattress is much more comfortable but requires a pump to inflate and its heavier weight makes this mattress style more suitable for car camping trips where it doesn’t have to be transported very far. Another downside is that air mattresses are easily punctured by sharp objects.
Invented by natives of South America, the hammock is a popular and very comfortable way to sleep in a variety of conditions. The hammock is essentially a sheet or bed made from braided rope that is hung from a point at either end. A hammock keeps the sleeper off the ground which helps to keep them warm or cool depending on outside temperatures. Because a hammock is suspended, there are no worries of bugs or other creatures sneaking into or under your sleeping bag while you sleep. When sleeping in a hammock, a simple blanket is all that is required to cover you for warmth at night. The only problem is that since it must be hung between two trees, using a hammock in a tent is very difficult.
A cot is very similar to a hammock except it has feet to support it rather than being suspended. Usually made from canvas, they are sturdy and far enough off the ground to keep you warm. Fine netting can be attached to a cot like a canopy, in tropical climates to keep disease carrying insects off while you sleep. Cots are somewhat comfortable but long and difficult to carry. Their size and weight make them impractical for hiking trips. Like the air mattress, keep cots for car camping trips.
There are many ways to sleep comfortably under the stars. In most cases you won’t even miss your bed at home. Check out your local outdoors store for more information on the different products available to you to help spend a cozy night in the great outdoors.
Copyright 2016 Mike Wilson