Worried about being comfortable while out camping?

tent and gear set up for a comfortable camping trip

I’m about to take my wife camping for the first time and need some ideas on how to make it comfortable. She is game for it but really enjoys her comforts so I am hoping for a little less roughing it and a little more cozy nesting. We will be in a tent so sleeping on the ground and we will have to use the bathhouse. Help? Kevin J.

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Hi Kevin! How sweet you are to consider that a newcomer to camping might not want to just throw a sleeping bag on the ground and call it a day. I too came to camping later in life and while I’m still looking for ways to ensure my own camping experience is comfortable, here are some things we have tried over the years which definitely help.

Tent Placement:

First, if you are an experienced camper you will already know this but make sure to look over the ground before you lay your tent down. Remove any large rocks or debris from the area and aim for level ground. If there is a slight slope to the spot, put wherever your heads will be at the top. We recommend laying a tarp down under your tent as well. There are quite a few reasons for this but, in this case, the most important reason would be to help keep the inside of the tent clean and comfortable. There is nothing that frustrates me more than finding dirt or sand inside my sleeping area.

Sleeping Comfort:

Next, I’m not sure if you are planning on sleeping bags or bedding. Either way, if you can add some sort of padding on the ground before laying down your sleeping gear, your wife will appreciate it. We have used children’s foam tiles, air mattresses, and even camping cots depending on the situation. Camping cots are the most comfortable for me, but not necessarily the most practical. I try to always bring along our sleeping pads. We have these which do not require any pump so are usable no matter where we are camping.

Too Hot? Too Cold?

Let’s talk about temperature and air flow. I don’t like to be too hot and I don’t like to be too cold. In fact, as a child my father joked about me having a half degree temperature tolerance. As an adult, I like to say that it is at least a degree and a half. However you and I both know that tents don’t come with HVAC systems and we can’t control the weather. What we can do is control our attitude towards the temperature and bring along appropriate clothing.

Additionally there are a few things we can to help regulate the extremes. If camping when heat is a concern we can encourage air flow by placing the tent to face any sort of available breezes. There are also reflective materials that can be placed on the tent to keep the sun from baking the air inside. And if your site has electricity, using a fan will not lose you all of your camping credentials. Tent air conditioners also exist if needed for comfort.

Sleeping Warm:

Now if it is going to be cold out you are going to want to pack layers, lots of layers. Having warm feet at night does wonders for my attitude so I always want an extra pair of clean socks. And I’m not going to make fun of anyone who indulges in the old fashioned habit of placing a hot water bottle (bonus points if they are cute like our little monkey one) in their bed prior to going to bed. Or you can invest in a tent safe heater unit. These are all things that help make camping more comfortable for me.

Stay Organized:

Don’t underestimate how much an organized area will help towards making that cozy nest. When you can find what you are looking for, when you are looking for it, well that just helps make the experience more comforting. We subscribe to the tote system of packing which helps us keep track of our essentials. Our categories include Living, Sleeping, Kitchen, Safety & Set Up, Play, and Last Minute Grabs. I have packing lists for each of these totes because that makes me happy. Even if you prefer to be less anal about your packing, you should probably still have some sort of list to make sure you don’t forget something important. Additional items we like to bring along for comfort would be our canopy shelter to set up over our food area and a broom/dust pan to help keep our tent clean.

Decorating:

Decorating your site is always fun. There are so many good ideas out there and every time we go camping I see items that tickle my fancy. However starting out it is best to keep it simple. Items you might already own could include a welcome mat, fancy lights, or a sign stating your attitude (along the lines of “what happens at the campsite gets laughed about all year long”).

Our favorite decoration came about the summer after those outdoor holiday projection lights became so popular. A neighbor at the campground had set one of these up behind them and it looked like fairy lights all through the trees. We couldn’t figure out how they had achieved this look so as they were leaving they took pity on us and told us their secret.

Food:

We absolutely are about good food at all times and even more so while camping. In fact planning the menu is my favorite part of getting ready for camping and I’m always ready to talk about our next camping meal. Pretty much anything tastes better when cooked over a fire and I don’t even need to go camping to enjoy eating smoky food. We enjoy pie iron meals, foil packet meals, and cast iron meals. What does she enjoy eating? And can you recreate it, or make it even tastier, by cooking it over a fire? Or is this an area where she wants to shine? Or maybe food is not as important to you two and hot dogs with chips it is. That is completely okay as long as it makes both of you happy.

Alcohol:

Now, not all locations allow alcohol but if they do and she enjoys it, a enjoyable end to the evening can be had with a delicious dinner and tasty beverage. We can actually support our state parks by purchasing a local brew so we tend to do that while camping in them. Other campgrounds might have a good craft brewery nearby and we will purchase some of that to sip on before bed. Again, I’m sure you know this but it is never nice to get drunk while out camping. No neighbors want to hear or see that and we always want to be a good neighbor.

Keeping Clean:

You mentioned using the bathhouse for any restroom needs. I like to keep all of my bathroom essentials tidily contained. I also do not like to touch anything unnecessary in the bathroom. My shower items are kept on a lanyard which keeps them neat and clean. The rest of my supplies are kept in a bag which is easily washed. I also use a large sized towel and water appropriate shoes. If she hasn’t thought about these things, it is worth mentioning.

Bathroom Visits:

I am not a fan of getting up in the middle of the night, in the pitch black, to find my way to a bathroom. One way to limit the need to get up in the night is to force myself to use the restroom twice before going to bed. I think of my own response to my son when I tell him to go to the bathroom and he says he doesn’t need to go: “Even if you only pee a few drops, that means more space in your bladder to wait longer until you need to go again!” However, sometimes my body doesn’t cooperate. When this happens, having a red light to help see is definitely a plus. I also appreciate other campers using red lights on their walks around at night. We enjoy looking at the stars so the less light pollution the better.

Keeping it Personal:

Now, this last thought should maybe have gone first but my question to you is what items are most important to her? Does she sleep with a mask or blackout curtains? Find a way to make the tent really dark. On vacation does she require her own pillow? Bring it! Is her first coherent thought in the morning a need for coffee or tea? Make sure you have it available. Does she want a bite of good quality chocolate every evening? Pack some along for a treat. Think about what makes her happy at home and if you can replicate those at the campsite you will earn some serious points.

We hope that you will find at least some of these ideas to be useful and that your wife will enjoy her first camping trip in comfort. In fact, my fingers are crossed that she will become a camping convert and you will have many more trips over the years. Please let us know how it goes.

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