For lovers of the great outdoors, there’s something magical about sleeping in a tent, of having just a few millimetres of material between you and nature. But if you’re cold, cramped or grumpy from carrying a heavy tent then that magical feeling can evaporate into thin air. Here are a few tips on how you can actually have a great night’s sleep in a tent.
If you’re a group of four people travelling together, it’s probably better to get two two-person tents to share the burden of carrying. However, if you’re two people travelling together it’s better to get one two-person tent and benefit from the extra space. The bigger the tent the heavier it is, so weigh up whether you want an easier hike but less space or vice versa.
Tunnel tents provide a lot of space in relation to their weight, but headroom is limited. Dome tents, on the other hand, are heavier but have more headroom.
Unless you’re planning on camping in cold climates during the wintertime, a three-season tent is more than adequate. If you’re planning on camping on exposed rock or you know it’s likely to be windy, then a dome tent is a better bet. It doesn’t need guylines or ground pegs and the sturdy construction is more resistant to wind that a tunnel tent.
On the other hand, if the weather is likely to be wet, a tunnel tent with a vestibule is a good idea. You can dry your gear and cook your dinner inside the tent when the weather isn’t cooperating.
You know those little vents at the back of the tent or the meshing that covers the door? Make use of them. They’re like thermostats that allow you to control the temperature inside the tent. Open them to let in a cool breeze, close them to keep in your body heat. Our tent material is designed to be breathable, but in very wet conditions it can be a good idea to open one of the small vents to aid airflow and help minimise condensation inside the tent.
The right sleeping bag and mat can either be the cherry on the cake or the final nail in the coffin of a good night’s sleep. Choose a sleeping bag that can comfortably handle the lowest temperature you expect. And note that women need warmer sleeping bags than men. Check the comfort temperatures. The extreme, or limit, temperatures are only for survival, not for sleeping comfortably.
Get a sleeping bag that has just enough room for you to comfortably move around in. Too tight and the insulation won’t work effectively and too loose and your body won’t sufficiently heat up the air inside. Think like this: there shouldn’t be enough space to add a down jacket, but there should be enough to add an extra base layer if necessary. If you’re tight on space, a lightweight sleeping bag liner is a great way of further fine-tuning the quality of your sleep.
Speaking of down, down is a great material when it’s cold and when weight and volume are the highest priorities. Down packs small; it’s light and it’s really warm. Synthetic on the other hand is ideal if it’s damp, but it takes up a little more space.
The sleeping mat is equally important. Again you have to compromise between space and comfort. Inflatable styles are great options as they’re light and comfortable. Then there are styles that are more like thick yoga mats and others that are semi inflatable. The main difference is the price and this, in turn, is based on weight and volume.
Don’t go to bed cold. Eat or drink something warm before you crawl into your sleeping bag. And go to the toilet too. No one likes getting up in the middle of the night to go creeping around in the dark.
If it’s cold, wear a hat. You lose a lot of heat from your head. And put a closed bottle of warm water inside your sleeping bag to warm it up. It also means you won’t have to venture into the outdoors first thing in the morning to get water for your coffee.
And one final tip: air your sleeping bag every morning before you start walking. It will get rid of any remnant moisture left inside the sleeping bag.