Camping can be a nightmare. Some tents have almost no isolation so you’re either really hot or really cold, your sleeping bag is on the rockiest piece of ground imaginable and there’s no light, so you have to huddle up and wait for the wolves to come and gobble you up, like in a fairy story.
Or, it could be a wonderful experience, full of adventure and bonding with delicious campfire food, cosy beds and deep sleep with no gadgets flashing away in the corner, counting down to infuriating alarms.
We prefer the second option. But, you’ve got to know how to do it right. We’ve compiled a how-to list and included fun products and frequently asked questions so you’re fully prepared and equipped on how to make tent camping comfortable. Figuring out the most comfortable way to sleep in a tent will largely come down to your personal preference and what items you’ll take with you. But it isn’t rocket science! Our useful tips down below will put you on the right track.
Top tip one: check the ground is smooth
You’ve arrived at your campsite and you’re ready to pitch the tent. Before you take it out of it’s bag (and immediately misplace the pegs: it happens every time) you need to make sure the ground is smooth and there aren’t any roots or stones that will disturb you in the night. You should also avoid holes, as these can fill up with water and flood tents. It’s also worth staying away from anywhere with a lot of ants, as they’re not the most fun crawling around whilst you sleep. To check if a place is nice and smooth, you can literally just lie down and roll around. If you can feel something uncomfortable at this stage, you may well feel it when you’re sleeping.
Frequently asked question: which way should I pitch my tent?
That really depends on you. If you’re on a slope, make sure that your head is highest up otherwise you’ll feel strange in the morning. If you’re with a lot of people in other tents, try arranging them in a circle, facing inwards. You’ll create a kind of shared garden, and you can even put some fold up chairs or a bonfire in the middle, if you’re careful. This is one of my top tips for how to make tent camping comfortable.
Top tip two: give everyone a wind up torch
You’re trying to put your tent up and roll around on the ground and your child is desperately trying to help. You’re worried that they’re going to accidentally hit themselves with a mallet, trip over a guy rope or lie down and cry because they’re so overexcited. Tell them you’ve got a very special job, and give them a wind up torch. They can play with it for hours (and in the evening you can even make shadow puppets together) and you’ll be able to use them for night-time trips to the loo. You can also find wind up lamps for children who aren’t fond of the dark
How to make tent camping more comfortable? Check out these torches
Frequently asked question: how can I make sure that I don’t trip over guide ropes?
Your tent can be as comfortable as you like, if you knock over a guide rope you’re likely to injure yourself and (depending on how hard you fall) completely pull your tent down. Make sure that you take a torch when it starts to get dark, opt for fluorescent guide ropes and just try to be careful. If in doubt, go a meter wide around your tent. It’s much less effort than the alternative.
Top tip three: invest in some fairy lights for your tent
It doesn’t matter if you’re camping in a field with thousands of other people at a festival or if you’re alone in the middle of nowhere- we’ve all lost our tent at some point. Jazz yours up and make it easy to spot with some fairy lights. They make everything seem cosy, they’ll help you spot your tent and they give a little bit of light, perfect for soothing children who might still be a tiny bit afraid of the dark. You can even find solar power (some even have fans to keep you cool in summer) ones that’ll charge in the day and light up when it’s dark.
How to make tent camping comfortable? check out these fairy lights
Frequently asked questions: how do I keep children calm and comfortable when we’re camping?
Try asking your children! Set clear expectations for what will happen so they don’t become too stressed, and pack a comforting item like a teddy or pillow if they’re younger. Allow older children to have their own tents so they can learn how to put them up but give them lots of support and reassurance in case it goes wrong. You can all pile in the same tent, but be aware that it can go from ‘cozy’ to ‘squished’ extremely fast.
Top tip four: stay dry!
It doesn’t really matter where in the world you camp, it’s guaranteed to rain at some point. If you’re unlucky that’ll be when you’re pitching or packing up your tent, so if you can wait for it to clear up that’s often a good idea. Plus, damp ground is easier to put pegs in! Bring an anorak or waterproof poncho (which can be layered with a jumper if you’re cold) and take off any wet clothes as soon as you can. You should also look into buying some waterproof gloves to keep your hands snug and dry. It might seem counter intuitive, but a thin pair of cotton shorts are often much warmer than damp jeans. Keep wet clothes in a waterproof bag and dry them out when it gets sunny. Bonus tip- you can use your guy ropes as washing lines!
Top tip five: keep the inside of your tent dry
Most tents have inner and outer layers. The outer layer will be waterproof (you could test this out with a quick water fight before you go camping, if you wanted) but when the outer layer and the inner layer touch some water can come in. Therefore, you’ll need to avoid putting any items close to the walls in case they push the layers together and your stuff gets wet. If you’re camping near your car you can use it to store any non-essential items (dirty clothes, valuables, food) to keep your tent as dry and clutter-free as possible. If you haven’t already, you should check out our best tents for heavy rain – these will keep you bone dry even in torrential rain!
Top tip six: have a set of clothes for just in your tent
They don’t have to be pyjamas, although you can sleep in them. They’re only to be worn when you’re in your tent and staying there, so you’ve always got something clean and dry. This also means that you’ll have something nice to wear on your last day. This should also include a pair of thick, dry socks that you can put on when you go to bed. Cold feet in sleeping bags are never fun.
It’s also a good idea to keep a pair of wellies between the inner and outer layer of your tent. If you wake up in the night and need to go to the toilet you can slip them on over your socks so they don’t get wet or dirty. Keep some toilet roll nearby too, so you don’t have to trudge back and forth in the dark. You can even take your wind-up torch!
For other essentials to take with you on your trip, check out our camping checklist!
Frequently asked questions: what clothes should I wear whilst camping?
Anything practical. If it’s summer and you’re likely to encounter nettles, find something light that will cover and protect your legs whilst keeping you cool. If you’re prone to sunburn and don’t want to be slapping on sticky sun cream at regular intervals a light, long sleeved shirt is also a good idea. Clothing with pockets is also a good idea, so you can stick a snack, torch and anything else you need handy. If you’re a woman who doesn’t care about gendered clothing, consider getting men’s trousers as they’re often more durable and have bigger pockets. Sturdy shoes are also a must, and it should all be comfortable. Finally, if you’re staying in a campsite with a shower block flip flops are essential.
Top tip seven: get a really good sleeping bag
So, you’ve pitched your tent, lit a campfire, put your children to bed and had a few drinks. It’s time to sleep. But climbing into a thick sleeping bag in the summer- or worse, a cold one when the weather isn’t great- can ruin the whole trip as you’re ill, tired and miserable. Check weather forecasts and average night time temperatures before you go so you can adjust as you need. If you’re unsure, take a warmer sleeping bag and unzip your tent a little. Wash it between trips and you could even put a little lavender oil in it so it smells lovely, too.
Frequently asked questions about how to make tent camping comfortable: should I use a pillow with my sleeping bag?
Yes! If you’ve got room to pack a pillow, it’ll make your tent nicer and more comfortable. If you don’t have the space, you can improvise with a pile of clothes. Some sleeping bags and mats have a built up area where your head goes, to support it. You can also find inflatable pillows that pack down fairly easily.
Top tip eight: bring a hat
If you’re worried about being cold in the night and you don’t have room for an extra blanket, a hat can be a great way to warm up, fast. We lose a lot of heat from our heads and you can tuck dirty hair into it the next day if you don’t have access to a shower. Plus, everyone looks good in a beanie.
Frequently asked questions: what’s a good way to quickly warm up?
You need to be careful. If you’re camping over autumn, winter or early spring there is a risk of illness from exposure to the cold, including hypothermia. Take some time to research symptoms and the best way to avoid it. If you’re just feeling a little chilly, see if your campsite has a shower block. There may be warm showers that you can spend some time in, then thoroughly dry off and put on new clothes. You’ll never feel more snuggly! It’s also worth having some food, preferably hot, or a warm drink. If you’ve got a cold child you can put them in your sleeping bag with you, so your body heat gets them toasty faster.
Top tip nine: find the right sleeping mat
You can get thin pieces of foam to sleep on. They look a bit like yoga mats, and if they can be really good for bad backs, especially if you’re hiking with a rucksack. They’re also extremely light and can be strapped onto the outside of your bag if you’re trying to conserve space. Alternatively, you can look for an inflatable mat. These will need blowing or pumping up and deflating, so they’re not as good for hiking trips where you need to set them up and take them down each day. They’ll also take up more room in your bag, and will definitely randomly deflate one night leaving you confused and six inches closer to the ground. Having said that, they’re much more comfortable.
If you’re really committed, have the right kind of tent and don’t mind bringing a lot of equipment with you, you could even bring a hammock to sleep in. They’re not ideal for anyone prone to back problems, but they are a lot of fun and free up space underneath for storage. You’ll need to bring the stand, too. Alternatively, just bring a hammock and some rope to your campsite and tie it in some trees for when you’re (literally) hanging out.
Frequently asked questions about how to make tent camping comfortable: can you get a double sleeping mat?
Yes! Camping can be so romantic and a really amazing way to get away from the world with your partner. When you’re done looking at the stars or playing cheesy songs by a campfire and looking in each other’s eyes, hop into your tents and try a sleeping bag spoon. This sleep mat is big enough for two people, and it’s self inflating so you don’t need to spend ages blowing it up. Plus, you’ll be warmer when you’re close to another person.
Top tip ten: get an eye mask
Tents aren’t good at keeping light out and if you’re camping in the summer (which is likely) you’ll be woken up extremely early. If you’re the kind of person who won’t go back to sleep this can throw off your circadian rhythm and you’ll feel odd and tired for the rest of the day. To avoid this, get an eye mask that’ll stop any light and allow you to sleep naturally for longer. Eye masks can feel a bit strange at first, but persevere and you’ll get used to them.
Frequently asked questions: are earplugs a good idea?
It’s up to you! If you’re naturally quite a heavy sleeper, you’ll probably be fine. If you aren’t, and don’t fancy birds waking you up at dawn then they’re a good idea. If you’re camping with other people make sure they know that you’re wearing them, in case of emergency. Earplugs are also strange initially, but you’ll get used to them after a bit. Also, if you’re camping because you’re at a festival you’ll definitely need earplugs.
Bonus top tip : take something nice
You can’t bring a case of champagne and a hot tub with you- if you’re looking for that, I’d suggest glamping instead- but it’s always fun to have one thing that isn’t essential but will make you a bit happier. Grab the book you’ve been meaning to read, a scented candle (do NOT light it in the tent) or, if you’re a child, your smallest teddy or a really fun whistle copter. Camping is a big, amazing adventure and it can be exhausting. Having a little treat will just put the cherry on top.
Frequently asked questions: can I bring alcohol when I’m camping?
As long as you are of legal age, then yes. Check the campsite regulations as they may be cautious of glass bottles, and remember to be considerate of your neighbours. Having said that, investing in an ice box, bringing a few beers and relaxing with them is very nice. There are few things more satisfying than having a drink in your newly erected tent. Just remember you’ll be making more trips to the toilet!