Recipe for Comfortable Camping


Do you camp or glamp? Personally, I don’t care for the word “glamping” because the word is formed by combining glamorous and camping, which is not how I camp. However, I do believe in being comfortable. I want to sleep warm. I don’t want to sleep on rocks, twigs or lumpy ground. I want to eat good food. I don’t want to subsist on pop tarts and hotdogs. I don’t want to be soggy and cold. Above all, I want to be outdoors and I want to have fun!

So, how do you make your camping experience more comfortable? First rule of survival is shelter. Let’s talk good shelter.

Invest in a Good Tent

Before you buy a tent, determine what your needs are. Does it need to be wide enough to accommodate your cot? Do you want to be able to stand up in it? Is it for car camping or backpacking? Will you need a 4-season tent for year-round camping or will a 3-season (spring/summer/fall) meet your needs? Will you be tenting alone or with a buddy or with your family? Does it have adequate space for you and all your gear? However many the tent manufacturer says the tent sleeps, I always divide that by 1.5 or 2 because they’re counting only bodies, which have been crammed in like sardines. Whether it’s your backpack or your duffle bag, you’ve probably got about a body’s worth of gear.

When you’re ready to buy, don’t settle for a cheap, no-name tent at one of those bargain warehouses. Get a quality tent from a reputable manufacturer. Read the reviews. Was it field tested? My very first tent was an REI tent that was tested on Mt. Everest and that tent was solid and served me well for many years. Does the tent have a rain fly that covers the entire tent all the way to the ground? Are the zippers exposed or do they have protective flaps to prevent rain from coming through the zipper? Does it have good venting to minimize condensation? All these things are important to keep you warm and dry and comfortable so you can have a good night’s rest.

Build a Good Bed

A cot or portable bed (an air mattress on a fold-up frame) is going to get you up off the cold, hard ground. It will feel more like a real at-home bed. There is space underneath for gear. I love my cot. It is so comfortable and I sleep much better than I would with a pad on the ground. I can sit on my cot to take my boots off. If a cot is a little too firm for you, you could add a small air mattress or a cot pad for a little more cushion.

What you sleep in is just as important as what you sleep on, so let’s talk sleeping bags. Buy a bag that is rated down to the coldest overnight temperature you will experience. Do you prefer a mummy bag or something a little more roomy? I tend to get claustrophobic in a mummy bag, so I use a full-size rectangle-shaped bag, which is not as warm as a mummy bag. For added insulation, I fold a wool blanket in half and place it under my sleeping bag, and I use a fleece blanket on top of my bag. If it’s a really cold night, I’ll fill a hot water bottle and put that in the foot of my bag for all night toasty toes.

Always bring comfortable pillows. It’s no fun to go camping and wake up with a cramped, kinked neck from sleeping on flat pillows that you don’t normally sleep on. When I was in college, I was in a car accident that seriously messed up my neck, so sleeping comfortable and taking care of my neck are critical for me. I use the same pillow I sleep on when I’m home.

Other Creature Comforts

Adding a rug beside the bed is so much more comfortable on the tootsies than a bare tent floor. It just adds that extra level of comfort to a tent that makes it feel warm and cozy. I also put down a small rug right inside my tent door so that I can step in onto the rug and remove my wet, dirty boots. Not only does it keep my tent much cleaner, but I’m not stepping in wet spots as I move about my tent.

If you have room in your tent, bring a small portable table to use beside the bed. It’s great for holding lanterns, radios, flashlights, water, eye glasses, alarm clock and any other thing you like to have at arm’s reach at night.

Lanterns are nice, but I like having an overhead light. I use a small battery-powered light that I clip to the center loop on the inside of the tent with a carabiner. It illuminates the whole tent. If I need brighter or more focused light, then I use a lantern or a flashlight.

Your shelter is important. It’s your refuge in a storm. It’s a warm, dry place to relax and rest so you’re at your best for all those exciting, outdoor activities. Are any of these glamorous? Nope. All these make for a comfortable camping experience so we can relax, which is why most of us go camping—to relax and get away. Have you planned your next great outdoor getaway?


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