Sleeping, beds and tents

One of the things people worry about when camping, especially for the first time, is sleeping. The beds and the comfort are high on people's priority list. When you are a kid you'll sleep anywhere, like a cat. Gravel, grass, sand, the floor of the lounge, you get tired, you sleep and wake fairly refreshed (or get carried to bed by a caring parent and wake all warm and snuggled) but as an adult you are more likely to ache.

I'm 48 and I have a neurological condition that makes me feel pain differently. I can't tell you which sleeping method will work best for you but I can tell you what I've tried and how I found it. DD is 14 and she has tested the options too.

First off there is the bulkiness and weight to consider. When we camp and can park the car near our pitch then weight is not an issue but the bed still needs to fit into the car. I know of people with vans and bell tents that take whole futons. We are not those people.

The first festival we went to we were very new to camping. We had a free tent and not much kit. We travelled light and cheap. We used some very thin, very cheap roll mats from Argos. There were actually not bad. I did wake in the night if I rolled onto my side as they made my hips hurt a lot due to the lack of depth or 'give'. But as a light option to smooth the bumps on stony ground for a few nights they were OK.

Next we tried some inflatable beds. We opted for one double and when this sprung a slow leak we realised our mistake, I ended up on the ground while (lighter) DD was still on an inflated bit! But each time I moved she was jolted all over the place. Eventually the mattress went down altogether and we bought some basic camp beds.

The camp beds looked great, but being very thin (just a hammock of canvas) they were very cold to sleep on unless we added the roll up mattress to them! Also, being canvas they too had no 'give' in them, and I had the same trouble with my hips as I'd had when sleeping on the floor! To top it all the legs were extremely wobbly and often fell out of the holes they were set in when we moved the beds. They were heavy and I got rid of them.

We now have gone back to the comfiest option, the inflatable bed. We have a mattress each (they all seem similar quality and have cheap ones from a supermarket ) - pick up a bargain at the end of the season!.

Our top tips, don't over inflate. A squishy mattress is more comfy - rock hard and you may as well be on the floor. They will expand or contact with the heat/cold. Don't assume you have a puncture if the bed feels flatter at night when the air cools. Add a blanket (or thin roll mat) under your sleeping bag to stop the cold of the ground leeching into your bones. If you have space, take a spare, just in case. We once had a vole chew a hole in the ground sheet...anything can happen when you are camping.

Sleep well.
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