How to Make Tent Camping More Comfortable

With the right campsite, the right gear, and a few tips, you can be just as comfortable sleeping in a tent as you are in your own home!

A tent is illuminated by the sun on a ridge.

Photo by Nathan Moore

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While many people love getting outside and experiencing nature, not everyone finds comfort in sleeping on the hard ground and eating a mediocre meal. But tent camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable! There are many ways to elevate tent camping so that you can enjoy the great outdoors and be stress-free.

Choose a Good Campsite

This is perhaps the most important step, but it is often overlooked! You can have camping gear with the highest comfort ratings, but it won’t matter if you choose an uncomfortable campsite. Whether you are reserving a campsite or rolling up to a vacant dispersed campsite, there are a few things to look for that are certain to make your camping trip more comfortable.

Flat, Even Ground

While the entire campsite doesn’t necessarily have to be flat, having a small clearing of flat ground to pitch your tent on and a larger flat area for your campfire or camp kitchen is essential. Even the heaviest sleepers will not be comfortable sleeping on a slant or with a tree root digging into their back. And if you can’t balance your pots and pans on your cooking surface due to hills and mounds, cooking may become frustrating. Flat ground is a key component to ensuring a comfortable campsite!

Natural Protection from the Elements

While most tents come equipped with a full-coverage rain fly and ventilation, the right campsite can provide additional protection from the elements. Always check the weather forecast before you go camping and use that info to select the perfect campsite.

If it is forecasted to be hot and sunny…

  • Make sure your campsite has shade, as the interior of a tent will heat up quickly in direct sunlight.
  • Camping near a water source will generally be cooler.

If you are expecting colder temperatures…

  • Opt for a campsite farther away from a water source.

If there are rain and storms in the forecast…

  • Choose a campsite on higher ground to minimize risk of flooding and water pooling.
  • Set up camp farther away from a water source in case it overflows.
  • Avoid wide, open spaces.

If you are concerned about high winds…

  • Avoid setting up camp out in the open. Instead, opt for a campsite protected by a rock wall.
  • Be aware of unstable tree branches that could snap and fall with a strong wind gust.
  • Use extra stakes and guy-lines to secure your tent.

Space

A flat campsite with a tent pitched in one corner and a large campfire in the other. It seems to be located in a desert ecosystem.

Photo by Kat Smith

A large campsite may not be necessary if you are solo camping, but if you are camping with a group, it will be more comfortable if everyone and their gear can spread out! You would not rent a one-bedroom apartment for a group of 10 people, so don’t settle for a tiny campsite! Choose a campsite that is large enough to have separation between the tents and between the tents and the designated cook site or campfire. The more privacy you can have, the more comfortable you will be!

Campsite Neighbors

As my husband is constantly reminding me, everyone enjoys the outdoors differently! You may be camping to seek peace and quiet, but the group one campsite over may be there to party. To maximize comfort, avoid camping close to large groups, as they tend to be loud and take up more space. I always opt for a campsite where I can’t see or hear any other people, but sometimes that is impossible, so it is important to take note of who is nearby.

Pro tip: Pack earplugs, just in case!

Choose the Right Gear

Once you have the perfect campsite, you need to stock it with the right camping gear! There are many different gear options, so it can be challenging to know what the right gear is for you (that’s why you can get hooked up with a Curated camping expert to help you out!). Here are some helpful tips on features you should look for in order to get the most comfortable gear for tent camping.

Tent

First and foremost, you need a tent, which is your shelter from the elements and your little home! At the end of a day of hiking, climbing, swimming, or exploring, you should be excited to crawl into the comfort of your tent. Tents come in many sizes and offer tons of features.

The first step to getting the most comfort out of your tent is buying the correct size! A tent may be listed as a “two-person,” but you should always check the dimensions and square footage to make sure you will have the head space you need, especially if you are tall. If you are car camping and therefore not concerned with the weight of your tent, it is never a bad idea to size up. This ensures that you will have plenty of space while sleeping, and you’ll have extra space to store your clothing and some other gear right inside your tent.

Some other features and tent accessories that will maximize tent comfort include:

  • Two doors: This makes for easy exit and entry, so you don’t have to crawl over anybody in the middle of the night!
  • Waterproofing: While most tents include a full-coverage rain fly, you should check the tent’s features and note if it has taped seams or any added waterproofing.
  • Ventilation: On hot summer days and nights, it can get steamy inside your tent. Having good airflow will help you avoid sleeping in a sweat puddle. Look for a tent made of breathable material with vents and no-see-um mesh.
  • Vestibules: A tent vestibule is a great, dry space for gear storage and kicking off your muddy shoes.
  • Footprint: A tent footprint’s primary role is to extend the life of your tent floor, but it also protects the floor from water. A tarp can be used instead and will work just as well.
  • Internal pockets and gear lofts: Keep all your small items organized and easily accessible!
  • Awnings or canopies: While this is less common, some tents have a rain fly that converts to an awning, creating a space to hang out with protection from the sun or a light drizzle.
  • Lighting: Hang a small camping lantern, such as the Black Diamond Moji Lantern, inside your tent so you aren’t fumbling around in the dark in the middle of the night.

Most tents nowadays are durable and boast an easy setup — and with color-coded poles, buckles, and clips, they truly are! Check out this article for more info on selecting the right tent for you and read The Most Comfortable Way to Sleep in a Tent for more tent sleeping tricks!

Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Pad

Your sleeping bag and sleeping pad will make up your bed and will therefore play a huge role in your comfort. With so many options to choose from, it is hard to know which bag and pad will be the most comfortable for you. The primary feature that will determine how comfortable you find a sleeping bag is the temperature rating, but other features such as the sleeping bag’s shape and zipper placement contribute to comfort as well. For sleeping pads, I always look at the R-value and their dimensions.

A sleeping bag’s temperature rating is a great guideline to determine how warm it is, but due to variables such as hot versus cold sleepers, sleeping inside versus outside a tent, and amount of clothing, the temperature rating system is not perfect. A good rule of thumb is to add about 15 degrees to the temperature rating in order to know what temperature you will truly be comfortable in.

For example, my sleeping bag is rated at 20 degrees, so I know that I will be comfortable when the temperature drops into the mid-30s but may start to feel cold around the freezing point. Having a sleeping bag with an appropriate temperature rating will ensure that you sleep comfortably. Features such as a 3D hood and mummy shape will add to the warmth of your bag, and if the weather forecast is calling for a cold front, plan ahead and load the car up with extra blankets! Nothing takes the comfort out of camping like shivering all night long.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be sweating in your sleeping bag! Many sleeping bags have ventilation features, such as full-length zippers or zippered vents at the foot box. When purchasing a sleeping bag, look for one that has the right temperature rating for the conditions you plan to camp in but also has good ventilation for warmer nights. Sleeping bag shape, length, and material will also play into your comfort. Check out this article for more info on finding the most comfortable sleeping bag for you!

An image of the author, her husband, and their dog all smiling towards the entrance of their tent. They're snuggled up and cozy!

Photo by Jos Smith

Many people ask me: is a sleeping pad really necessary? The answer is YES! Yes, yes, yes! It may seem like an added expense, but you will notice a huge increase in your camping comfort if you use a sleeping pad instead of trying to cushion the bottom of your tent with blankets. Not only does a sleeping pad provide comfort in the form of cushioning, but it also provides insulation from the cold ground.

A sleeping pad’s R-value will tell you how much insulation it has. This number typically ranges between two and ten, with a higher number indicating more insulation (which also means maximum comfort if the ground is cold!). If you know you will be camping only during the summer months in a warm climate, then you may be perfectly comfortable with a lower R-value. It is important to take into consideration your specific needs, although extra insulation never hurts!

While it’s relatively straightforward to find a sleeping pad with the correct length for your body, the width and depth are extremely important to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep. Sleeping pad widths vary and some are very narrow, making it difficult to stay centered or on it at all! Choosing a sleeping pad that is extra wide will be more comfortable, and you won’t have to worry about rolling off the side during the night. You may even want to consider getting a double sleeping pad. Some double sleeping pads will take up the full interior of a tent, giving the entire tent floor a super comfy surface!

Sleeping pads typically range in thickness between one and four inches, with some being even thicker. Choosing a sleeping pad that has a thickness of more than two inches will ensure comfort from the hard, uneven ground, especially for side sleepers!

Another feature to consider when buying a sleeping pad is the material, which will also play into its durability and reliability. Read through this article for more tips on choosing the right sleeping pad.

While the right tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad will help make your tent camping experience more comfortable, you can make it even better by loading your tent up with luxury items. When you are car camping and you don’t have to worry about space and weight, load up the car with blankets, pillows, more pillows, and extra layers to keep you warm and cozy!

Eat Well

While roasting hotdogs on a stick over the open fire may be nostalgic, it is not your only camping food option! Why should you eat a mediocre meal and go to bed hungry just because you are camping? There are plenty of easy methods to cook a gourmet meal outdoors, and even with very limited equipment, you can still whip up something delicious.

Gas camping stoves, like the Coleman Classic Propane Stove, come in all shapes and sizes and are light and portable. They can be used for the basics, like boiling water for pasta, rice, oatmeal, and coffee, or to sauté veggies, sear meat, or make a pot of chili! Just hook up your camp stove to a fuel canister and your meal options are endless!

Cast iron pans are heavy and bulky, but they are safe to cook directly on coals and heat very evenly, making them ideal for car camping. I use my cast iron regularly to cook bacon and eggs in the morning, but I’ve also experimented with campfire pizzas, nachos, and veggie skillets!

A grill grate, such as the Rome Pioneer Camp Grill, is a great, inexpensive item that opens the door to many meal options! Just place the grill grate over your campfire and you can grill up anything from marinated chicken to veggie kabobs to steaks! One of my go-to camping meals is burgers cooked on the grill grate over the open fire — nothing beats the flavor that the campfire adds!

If you don’t have any of the cooking equipment listed above, you don’t have to settle for a bad meal. Using foil packets is an easy cooking method that produces delicious camping meals, and all you need is aluminum foil and a campfire! While foil packets do take a little bit of prep work at home, you can cook just about anything in them, from cheesy potatoes to sausage and peppers or surf and turf!

A red folding chair and a blue folding chair sitting around a campfire.

Photo by Kat Smith

Even with the above equipment and techniques, cooking outside can be challenging and uncomfortable if you are unfamiliar with it. Here are a few tips to make cooking outdoors as easy and stress-free as possible!

  • Bring a portable table, such as the Travel Chair Grand Canyon Table, to set your food and cooking tools on. This will give you a flat, clean surface to easily conquer prep work and lay your finished spread out on.
  • Bring lawn chairs! Trust me, stumps and rocks do not make for comfortable seats. There are many camping chair options out there. Even the most basic lawn chair will make sitting around the campfire more comfortable.
  • Invest in a good cooler, such as the Yeti Tundra Cooler. Your camping trip will be far less stressful if you don’t have to worry about your ice melting and your raw meat going bad!
    • Pro tip: Freeze a gallon jug of water and put that in your cooler instead of loose ice. It will keep the cooler just as cold but won’t get your food wet!
  • Bring the cooking tools you need. If you would use a spatula and tongs at home to cook a meal, then bring it with you to your campsite. Trying to flip burgers with a couple of sticks you’ve found typically ends in disaster!
  • Meal prep is key. The more you can prep and pack at home, the easier cooking at your campsite will be. Cut your veggies, assemble your kabobs, and marinate your meat before you get to your campsite.

Enjoying a great meal around the campfire with family and friends, or solo, will make camping more comfortable and enjoyable, so don’t skimp on your camping meals! The options are endless and they may be so good that you find you are looking forward to your camping trips just for the meals!

Pack Appropriately

You can’t expect to be comfortable if you don’t bring the correct clothing and toiletries. Just like you wouldn’t go on a trip to Vermont in the dead of winter and only bring shorts and sandals, you shouldn’t plan a camping trip to the Pacific Northwest and not bring rain gear. Review the weather forecast and pack the clothing you will need to stay warm, dry, and protected from the sun. In addition to the essential toiletries, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant, items that will further maximize comfort include bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and baby wipes.

Stay Clean (If You’re Into That Sort of Thing)

For many people, being comfortable and being clean go hand in hand. Hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and a clean change of clothes are the basics to feeling clean while outdoors, but there are many other products available. Bathing and doing laundry in a nearby lake or stream with outdoor soap such as the Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash, which is biodegradable and can be used on skin, clothing, and dishes, will keep you feeling clean and comfortable, even on longer camping trips! If you want the ultimate guide to staying clean while camping, check out this article.

A tent lies on a green meadow. Something is hanging from a tree next to the tent. On the edge of the meadow is a black Jeep.

Photo by Kat Smith

Everyone has different levels of comfort in the outdoors, but most can agree that being cold, wet, and hungry and sleeping on the ground is not comfortable. But with the right campsite, the right gear, and a few tips, you can be just as comfortable sleeping in a tent as you are in your own home! If you have any questions or want to find the best gear for you, reach out to a Camping & Hiking expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations.

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Growing up in a suburb of New York City, most of my outdoor adventures were in the Northeast. Hiking, skiing, horseback riding, or just exploring the woods, when I was outside, I was in my element. Now, I am lucky to call Salt Lake City my home, where the world’s greatest outdoor playground is my ba...

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