Thankfully, summertime is almost here again and everyone will be able to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. With the rising cost of gasoline and the recession still in full swing, many families are choosing vacations closer to home. For many, myself included, I’ll take a camping trip over Disney World anyday. There is nothing like getting out of the city and getting in the woods, viewing wildlife, and visiting a lake for some much needed rest, relaxation, and recreation. Grab your trusty sleeping bag, and whether you choose to rough it, and sleep under the stars, or go the “deluxe” route and set up a tent, here are a few key tips to make sure your sleep is as beautiful and peaceful as your surroundings.
Use a mat under your sleeping bag.
Even though it is may be warm and sunny during the day, most areas of the country still get cold at night, especially on those clear starry night. Sleeping mats are available in many styles, from simple foam pads to self inflating foam pads to full-blown air mattresses. All provide an extra cushion of insulating protection from the cold ground, which if slept directly on can lead to a really chilly night of sleep and a day of stiff, achy bones. Choose the best mat based on what kind of camping you plan on doing. If you’ll be hiking to a remote area, choose the lightest mat possible, Blow-up air pads are ideal for this application. If you simply have to drive in to set up camp, sturdy cots may be more to your liking. Be sure to place your mat on level ground, free of potential stumbling blocks, and also so you don’t roll off in the middle of the night and get a rude awakening!
Wear summer weight long underwear and socks on your feet.
Camping isn’t the time for cute nighties or boxer shorts. Light weight fabrics that wick moisture away from the body keep a body amazingly warm. These products can be pricey, but they are worth the investment. If you are on a budget, good old-fashioned layering with light flannels, cottons, and wool work just as well. Socks play an important part in preventing heat loss. Once the feet get cold, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the body to follow suit.
Put a cap on it.
The old adage about losing some ridiculously high percentage of heat through your head is exactly true, but a comfy knit cap will prevent some heat loss and provide an additional buffer against the cold.
Cinch the sleeping bag tight around your face.
Cocoon yourself in your sleeping bag and create a sort of air lock. The heat of your body will generate substantial additional warmth.
Bring along a fleece jacket.
A fleece jacket can do double duty. It is useful for cool mornings while you stoke the fire for morning coffee and breakfast, but it can also be great for slipping your feet into the sleeves before hopping into your sleeping bags. Then you will really be as snug as a bug in a rug! If you are still cold, place the outside of your sleeping bag into an empty backpack to create an extra layer of protection.
Take along an old quilt.
An old quilt from home can have a reassuring effect, especially for children. Once everyone is bundled up, simply spread it out over the sleeping bags to create another insulating layer. The same quilt can be used the next day as a picnic blanket.
While we normally try to stay clear of eating too late, a light snack before bed can be useful. The digestion process, and the energy it requires, produces additional body heat and will warm you from the inside out.
Always be prepared.
It is imperative to have a flashlight close at hand. Right by your pillow is best, so even half asleep it can be easily located. Ideally no one will need late night potty breaks, but in the event it is required, the last thing anyone wants it to have to stumble in the dark looking for a way out, and potentially waking the whole gang in the process.
Air out your sleeping bag.
In the morning, be sure to hang out your sleeping bag. Let the sun dry up any moisture or condensation that may have formed overnight so that when the evening comes along, you don’t have to crawl into a cold wet bag.