Camping trips are an awesome way to spend some time in the great outdoors, but let’s be honest, they’re not always the most comfortable experience. Between bad weather, a subpar campsite, and poor preparation, it’s easy to have a tough time.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to add a lot of comfort to your tent camping experience. If you’re wondering how to make tent camping comfortable on your next trip, this is the article you’ve been looking for.
Read below for 12 tips that will help you crush your next camping trip.
1. Pick a Good Campsite
Making tent camping comfortable starts with choosing the right campsite. This is the first thing you’ll do when making your trip, so it’s important to do it right. Here are a couple of things you should look for.
It’s no fun to sleep on a steep angle or with lots of debris making lumps in your tent. Make sure to choose a campsite with lots of flat ground, or if it is more hilly, at least pitch your tent in a clear and level spot.
Unless you’re a fan of camping out in the wild, you should research the amenities your campsite offers before going there. Many campsites will have a nearby fire pit and picnic table, while more luxurious ones might have showers as well.
Protection From The Weather
Before you pitch your tent anywhere, you should do some research on what the weather is going to look like during your camping trip. We discuss what to do if it’s hot or cold later, but here are a couple of tips for other situations.
Avoid staying near a water source where there might be flooding.
Try to choose a spot on higher ground so water won’t pool near your tent.
Camp under some trees or rocks for protection from the rain.
Align the tent so the door faces away from the wind. This will help you feel the gusts less.
Pitch your tent near some large trees or boulders to protect it from the wind.
Be extra diligent about securing the tent properly so it doesn’t blow away.
The Right Amount of Space
This depends on the camper, but if you enjoy the quiet, you might try to pitch your tent further away from large crowds to be more comfortable. Alternatively, some people might enjoy having others nearby whom they can see and speak with.
2. Choose a Good Tent
The first step in choosing a comfortable tent is picking the right size. Make sure that your tent is rated for at least as many people as you plan on bringing for your camping trip. If you want it to be nice and roomy, you can size it up even more.
Besides that, it mainly comes down to tent features. Seasonality is most important, and you’re going to want a 4 season tent if you want to stay warm camping in the winter. If not, a 3 season tent will do.
This doesn’t cover every detail but a few other features to look for include good ventilation, waterproofing, a tent footprint, and internal storage.
3. Prepare for the Cold (or Heat)
Nothing will ruin your comfort faster than being completely unprepared for the temperature conditions you’re in. Depending on if the weather is going to be hot or cold, there are different things you can do to prepare.
In Hot Weather
Pitch your tent in a shaded area with plenty of breezes, and preferably near a water source too. A lake or river will help keep the surrounding area cooler.
Pack properly for the environment. Wear light-colored and lightweight clothing so that you don’t sweat too much. Bring a cooler with plenty of cold food and water, and make sure to keep yourself hydrated.
If you still think it’s going to be too hot, you could also bring a tent fan, or ditch the sleeping bag altogether for a hammock.
In Cold Weather
Pitch your tent in an elevated area that ideally has minimal wind exposure. You’ll also want it to be further away from any lakes or streams.
As with hot weather, you’ll need to pack properly for the environment. Bring plenty of warm layers, jackets, and blankets with you for added comfort. A battery-powered tent heater and hand/foot warmers could also be good ideas.
4. Bring a Comfortable Sleeping Bag
The right sleeping bag will play a big role in whether you have a good night’s sleep or not, so it’s important to choose the right one.
The most important fact to think about is the temperature rating. A common camping rule is to add 15 degrees to whatever you expect the nighttime temperature to be during your camping trip and choose a sleeping bag based on that. So, for example, choose a 30-degree rated bag if you expect the nighttime temperature to be 15 degrees. This is because while it’s always easy to unzip a sleeping bag if you’re hot, being cold is a much tougher problem to fix.
Another factor to consider is shape. If you’re camping in the winter, a mummy-shaped sleeping bag will be a good choice as retains more heat. Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off going for the more roomy and well-ventilated rectangular bag.
Lastly, make sure your sleeping bag fits you in size. Pick the one that is correct for your height, and feel free to go for a double bag if you’d like some extra room.
5. Sleep With a Camping Pillow
Not all camping pillows are comfortable, but they sure beat sleeping with your head on a blanket or even the ground.
If you’re driving to your campsite and have the space, you can also just bring a pillow from home to sleep on. But camping pillows are a great option if you are just bringing a backpack and need to fit something in a tight space.
6. Optimize Your Sleep Support
While you could just put your sleeping bag directly on the ground, adding a bit of support underneath will give you a much more comfortable night’s sleep. Depending on how far you want to go, there are a couple of options here.
While the type you choose might depend on whether you’re car camping or backpacking, every camper should at least bring a sleeping pad to level up their comfort. Sleeping pads provide a nice, foam cushion between you and the ground and also act as an added layer of insulation if it’s cold.
When choosing a sleeping pad, the most important things to look out for are size, material, and the R-value. The R-value is a measure of how much insulation the sleeping pad has and usually ranges between 2 and 10. If you’re expecting to camp on lots of cold nights, we suggest opting for the higher end of that range and going lower if you’re tent camping in warm weather.
As far as size goes, choosing one that’s right for your height is relatively easy, but width and thickness are also important. If you like sleeping on a harder bed, you can opt for a sleeping pad with only an inch or two of thickness, but softer sleepers can get one 4 or more inches thick. Narrow sleeping pads that you roll off of in the middle of the night are no fun either, so if you can fit it, we’d suggest opting for a wide pad instead.
Lastly is material. For backpackers, a lightweight sleeping pad made of closed-cell foam is a great option. While on the thinner side, it can be easily carried and has great insulation.
Inflatable sleeping pads are also a good choice. They pack nice and tight into a backpack and can be quite comfortable when inflated, although they’re not quite as warm as the foam.
If you’re going car camping, a self-inflating sleeping pad will probably give you the most comfortable sleeping experience. While they’re a bit heavier than the other options, it will feel the most like a bed of any of these.
Air Mattress or Camping Cot
If you have plenty of space, bringing an air mattress or camping cot will make your tent camping experience extremely comfortable.
A good camping cot will fold up nicely in your car and keep you off the cold ground at night, which is a huge plus. You can also easily layer a sleeping pad on top of the cot for added comfort.
If you’re looking for the most comfortable tent camping experience and don’t care about spending a little extra money, we’d recommend choosing an air mattress. While you may already have one at home, air mattresses specifically designed for camping are a better choice. They’ll hold air much better and be less at risk of popping if there’s a stray stick or rock under your tent.
If you do camp with an air mattress or cot, you can feel free to bring sheets, pillows, and even a duvet from home. They’ll stay perfectly clean off the ground, and you’ll feel like you’re sleeping in your bed.
7. Light Up Your Camping Tent
Tent camping out in nature can get super dark at night, so you’ll want to bring some light sources to comfortably move around even after the sun has set.
One of our favorite ways to set a nice tent ambiance is to hang string lights along the inside of it, or around your campsite on some tree branches. You can easily find some white Christmas lights that are cheap, durable, and power up on their own.
Another option is a camping lantern. This is essentially a bright, battery-powered nightlight that you can use to brighten up your camping tent.
You can choose either (or both) but make sure to bring some light source unless you’re looking to fall asleep right after sunset.
8. Set Up a Camp Rug
No one likes a dirty tent, but it’s not always easy to avoid tracking in stuff from outside. Using a camping rug can help with this. Set one down right outside your tent and use it as a spot to take off and keep your shoes.
If you don’t like the material of the typical tent floor, you can also lay one down inside of your tent for a more comfortable surface.
9. Bring a Generator
If you want to go camping but can’t bear to disconnect from modern technology, then bringing a small solar or gas powered generator will make your next camping trip much more comfortable. You’ll be able to use your phone, computer, and other devices with an unlimited power source right next to you.
10. Pack Chairs and a Table
Odds are you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting around your campsite, which makes bringing your own chairs a must. When you’re hanging out by the campfire at night, you probably don’t want to be sitting on a stump or the ground.
While we mentioned that many campsites have a picnic table, it is still a nice plus to have a portable table too. It can be used as a place to put food and other items that you don’t want sitting on the ground and can be helpful when you’re cooking something as well. Look for something light and foldable that’s easy to bring around.
11. Keep Yourself Clean
This might vary from person to person, but I personally feel much less comfortable when I’m sweaty or dirty. If you are the same way, pack multiple changes of clothes, some wipes, and soap if there’s a shower you can use. If there’s no shower, bathing in a nearby lake or river is another solid option.
12. Eat Good Food
One of the most fun parts of camping is cooking up some food around the fire with friends, so why settle for a mediocre meal? It’s easier than you think to make a good camping meal if you bring the right gear.
Get yourself a standard camp stove, a high-quality cooler to keep your food, and a couple of tools from your kitchen, and you’ll be well on your way to making some delicious camping meals.
If cooking over a campfire is more your style, a grill grate is another great option. Put it over your campfire, throw on some burgers and hot dogs, and cook them as you would on a regular grill.
While it might take some planning, it’s not too hard to make tent camping comfortable if you follow some of the tips above. If you have any other tips or find this article helpful for your next camping trip, please let us know. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.