Using the right sleeping pad is vital if you want to have a successful tenting trip.
Snuggling in your sleeping bag, listening to the night sounds around you, waking up to birdsong ... these are some of the best things about camping.
You won't be comfortable without an appropriate sleeping surface and accessories.
Fortunately, there are many options.
Choosing the right quality sleeping system will ensure that you get a good night's sleep in your tent.
Many campground tent pads are surfaced with gravel.
I don't need to tell you that gravel is not a comfortable sleeping surface!
Even ground covered with soft grass is not as comfortable as you might think!
A camping mattress or other sleeping surface will cushion you from the bumps.
No matter how thick and cushy your sleeping bag, the weight of your body will compress it and leave you lying on the ground.
Except in the very hottest climates, the ground will be cool enough to chill you and spoil your sleep.
You need something to insulate you from the cold ground.
This is the most economical choice. Foam pads are useful on a camping trip - and not just for sleeping! Be sure to choose closed cell foam - never the squishy open cell foam that you find inside sofa cushions.
Most of these pads have a vinyl and nylon shell, with soft open-cell foam on the inside. They are easy to pack, and very comfortable.
The most well-known brand is Thermarest. A Thermarest air mattress is my sleeping surface of choice. Thermarests are
All self-inflating sleeping pads, no matter the brand, are fairly similar. Here's what you should know before you make a purchase.
If you want all of the comfort of your own bed at camp, an air bed might be for you.
You'll have to pump it up, and you'll need to be careful not to puncture it. Read this page to learn more about using a full size air mattress while camping.
If you have an air mattress left over from last summer's trip to the beach, you may be tempted to sleep on it.
That's probably not the best idea. Air mattresses are not designed for sleeping, and they won't give you a comfortable night. Here's why I don't recommend sleeping on a regular twin air mattress.
New or reluctant campers - or those sleeping in a tent for months at a time - may prefer to sleep on a camp cot.
If the thought of sleeping on the ground doesn't excite you, a camping cot may be for you.
No matter which sleeping system you use, a camping pillow can take your night's sleep from good to sublime.
Do your research and choose the sleeping system that works for you. This is an important decision!
The right protection between you and the ground can make the difference between a good night's sleep and no sleep at all.