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Camping Beds - How to get a good night's sleep at camp

Updated on November 5, 2010

When it comes time to step into your tent after a long day you want to make sure that you are going to be both comfortable and well rested. The right camping bed is going to go a long way to seeing that you have a good night’s rest and ensure you have enough energy for tomorrow’s activities. This article will cover some of your sleeping options when you are out camping and help you find something suitable for your requirements.

Roughing It

If you think camping beds are for wimps then you may want to consider throwing out your bed at home. If on the other hand, you don’t mind a small amount of luxury when you go camping then even the simplest bedding choices can transform your camping experience for the better. Where you sleep is considerably important not only because you want to get quality sleep but you also want to be protected from the elements and wildlife your campsite may attract.

The most important function the bed serves is to get your body off the ground and keep out the cold and damp. Sleeping on bare ground draws your body heat into the ground and can bring on hypothermia. So let’s take a look at some of the options

Sleeping Pad
Sleeping Pad

Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pads are the most compact option for a camping bed. They can be made from materials ranging from simple foams through to self inflating sleeping pads. Sleeping pads are a very popular choice amongst not only campers but backpackers as they are incredible light and can be folded to fit inside a conventional backpack.  Sleeping pads are around 1-5cm thick. Basic versions will be similar to a yoga mat while the self inflating versions come with a valve where you can adjust the level of cushioning to suit your own personal preference.

The pads come in a variety of shapes including wider versions for couples and three quarter versions that don’t go all the way down to your feet but make up for it by taking up very little space in your pack when rolled up. More expensive versions will have a rip stop lining for durability and will also prevent your sleeping bag from sliding off easily.  You should expect to pay anywhere from $10 for a basic foam version and around $100-$150 for something good enough to insulate you if you are camping in the snow.

Aluminum Frame Camp Bed
Aluminum Frame Camp Bed

Cots or Camp Beds

Moving up quite literally from sleeping pads are camp beds. These beds are made up of a frame and a fabric upper to get you higher off the ground. They are similar in appearance to a stretcher used to carry injured athletes off the field but with legs. Cots and camp beds are generally preferred if you are staying at a campsite for a longer period of time because they come with a frame which is some extra bulk that you have to carry around even though set up is comparatively fast. Frames are commonly made from aluminum with some models offering extra steel tube inserts allowing the bed to support more “larger framed” campers weighing up to approximately 250kgs or 500lbs.

Well made beds use a heavy duty nylon fabric which resists stretching and is hard wearing. The bed frame allows campers to customize their sleeping quarters by giving them a place to hang things off. Accessories like pockets and makeshift bed poles can be added to store your personal items and toiletries etc or hang a mosquito net from. A camping bed can retail for as little as $50 for basic versions with a solid frame while higher end camp beds nearing $300 for essentially a small tent on legs similar to a small fishing bivvy. These top end camp beds will have more than enough room for you to sleep however your backpack, camping cooking supplies, and other gear will have to stay outside.

Air Bed
Air Bed

Air Beds

The mainstay of family reunion’s nationwide is another camping favourite. The airbed is normally considered to be very luxurious as it comes in the biggest sizes and many say provides the most comfortable sleep when you are out of house or have been kicked off your bed. As for the campers and air bed may not always be the best as you need to have a working pump either attached to your car’s lighter socket for power or charged in advance. The downside is that if neither of these options work or don’t provide enough air, you are almost certain to go blue in the face and pass out from trying to inflate it yourself.

Camping Air beds will pack well though it’s often difficult to get all of the air out making it bigger in your car or backpack then it should be. The beds are made from durable materials often with bonded seams to resist bursting and punctures. The beds are quickly deflated though time and energy consuming to inflate hence not often seen at remote campsites but more often at RV parks and sites with a power supply.  Expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $160 for luxury versions with several inflatable chambers and inflatable bed heads.

The three main options here are all suitable for a range of specific purposes. Where you are going to go camping and for how long will be the deciding factor in which type of camp bed that you choose. Consider how much space you have in your backpack, car or caravan and the other essentials that you will bring. If there isn't much room then loot at where you can save space or bring more adaptable camping accessories like a sleeping bag liner. Where you sleep will be an important part of your camping trip, regardless of which type of camp bed you buy, all of them will come in hand should any unexpected guests come knocking at your door. Of course it goes without saying that some have a better night’s sleep than others.


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    • writerlee profile image

      writerlee 6 years ago

      Love the article! My husband and I are Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, and I can tell you that we met very few people out on the trail who did not carry some form of camping pad. The Z-rest pads were popular, which are like your first picture of the general sleeping pad. We used the therma-rest prolite series, which inflate and deflate everyday to about a half inch thick. I woke up every morning, and had a split second where I was unsure as to where I was. That can only be a testament to the sleeping pad!!!