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You gotta love kids: They fall asleep everywhere. In the car. On our shoulders. And there’s no such thing as an uncomfortable place to lay a head, even if it happens to be a deflated air mattress within the confines of a tent. But you’re an adult. And you’re not shy about admitting that you’ve grown accustomed to creature comforts—-even when you leave civilization and go about “roughing it.”
Besides, it’s important to camp comfortably so you avoid returning to civilization as cranky as a bear awakened from hibernation or so physically debilitated by the experience, you head to your chiropractor’s office directly from your campsite. Follow our advice and the only wild aspect of your outdoor escape will be of your own making.
7 Tips for Comfy Tent Camping
You’ve seen photos of the rich and famous camping in jungles and woods with so many comforts of home, all that’s missing is a butler. Do you have to go to extremes to live the luxe life al fresco? Not necessarily. All you need are a great imagination, our tips and the desire to make your experience the stuff of which memories are made.
Tip #1: Stand your ground—-better yet, lie down on it
Tent pitching is an art; one best begun by making sure you’ve picked a space that won’t turn your dreams into nightmares because you failed to check the wind direction, position of the sun, slope of the land and the soil.
How to: Devote at least 15 minutes to lie on the ground before you drive stakes to pitch your tent. Surprises like ant hills and water seepage can become painfully apparent after your eyes have done their best to scope out the area.
What’s the benefit? You get to sleep the entire night without pain and discomfort.
Advice from pros: Camping next to water sounds romantic but it’s not always safe. A flash flood at 2 a.m. is no picnic. Pitch your tent at least 100 feet away from bodies of water just in case.
Tip #2: Make housekeeping—minus the house—your pre-pitch priority
Cushioning provided by your air mattress might not be enough to keep your butt aloft and off the ground. Thoroughly tidy the area under the tent that’s destined for your sleeping bag by clearing away branches, rocks, and debris to remove anything that has the potential to puncture your air mattress.
How to: You can bolster your comfort by placing a thick bed of soft leaves (no crunchy fall foliage) on the ground before you position your mattress. We recommend replacing an air mattress with a leafy bed? Only if you’re a bear.
What’s the benefit? This extra layer of comfort also acts as an insulator if temperatures drop at night.
Advice from pros: Gather additional leaves and place them strategically around the external area where the tent meets the ground to add more insulation to your setup.
Tip #3: Keep your body parts dry by adding tarp-to-tent coverage
All of the leaves in the forest won’t save you should an all-night downpour occur. In fact, if a leaf bed gets soaked, it can morph from insulation to a soggy mess–which is why you need insurance in the form of a tarp.
How to: Place a tarp on the ground as soon as the tent is pitched. Top it with that leaf mound and then add your sleeping mattress. Even if it rains, you will sleep like a baby thanks to that tarp.
What’s the benefit? Tarps not only keep out the rain but they act as an extra insulating layer should temperatures plummet during the night.
Advice from pros: You don’t have to invest in a tarp when an old shower curtain or painter’s drop cloth can achieve the same purpose—even if it’s old and not attractive. Your only goal should be a bone dry tent floor.
Tip #4: Just because you’re pitching one, you needn’t be a tent martyr
Leave it to the Brits to profile “quick pitch” tents that save time and eliminate the cursing, cuts and blood pressure spikes triggered by an arduous tent set-up experience.
How to: Have a look at our Best Instant Tents buying guide check out clever quick-pitch tents on today’s market that can cut set-up time dramatically. Once you’ve isolated a style, search the Internet for these products. Ditto the latest and greatest mattress pumping devices. You may wish to bring one along even if your air mattress has a built-in pump feature.
What’s the benefit? Quick-pitch tents are so efficient, it’s almost impossible to hammer your hand while driving a spike, you’ll save time and you are also more likely to retain your sense of humor, too.
Advice from pros: Before you hand over your credit card, read quick-pitch tent reviews. As you know, dissatisfied consumers aren’t reluctant to air grievances if they buy a product that disappoints.
Tip #5: Choose the wrong sleeping bag and we can’t be held responsible
Image by NPS Photo / Kent Miller
Sleeping bags and under-bag pads have the power to turn a camping trip into a nightmare if you’re foolish enough to buy something cheap. You can’t run to the store for a replacement once you’re out in the wilderness.
How to: When you shop, keep these 4 criteria in mind:
- Opt for the best temperature rating. Estimate the lowest temp you’ll encounter and subtract 10 degrees.
- Choose between synthetic and down fill. The first is cheap, hypoallergenic and bulky; the second is pricier and lighter but won’t keep you dry. Committed to animal welfare issues? We won’t reveal PETA’s live-feather plucking claims.
- Pick a mummy shape over a rectangular one. It’s streamlined and you’ll stay warmer, but if you have romance on the brain, you need all the room you can get. In either case, try before you buy, but no store sex, please.
- Snag as many extras as you can when buying your sleeping bag, from lock-in-place zippers to luxe linings and hoods.
What’s the benefit? Ask yourself that question on night one of your outdoor adventure. We rest our case.
Advice from pros: Read Michelle Waitzman’s book “Sex in a Tent: A Wild Couple’s Guide to Getting Naughty in Nature” or “Men’s Health” magazine’s advice on sex in a tent before you venture forth.
Tip #6: It’s a pleasure trip, Tent Pitchers; bring creature comforts
If you’re going to spend time packing the car for time in the tent that’s both relaxing and luxurious, don’t leave behind your guilty pleasures or you may as well stay home.
How to: Bring everything you require for a hedonistic adventure: a car-operated blender for cocktails, lots of pillows, lanterns and candles and an ice chest filled with finger foods like cooked shrimp marinated in lime, cheeses, grapes, veggies with dipping sauce and sweets plus wine and beer. Coffee and pastries for the morning should suffice unless you insist upon cooking eggs over a fire.
What’s the benefit? You’ve escaped to unwind, not turn into a short-order cook.
Advice from pros: If you insist on prepping meals rather than nibbling and grazing, try these Reserve America recipes.
Tip #7: Practice safe seclusion so Mother Nature invites you back
You’re getting away from people, things, and distractions but not the environment. By practicing safe seclusion, not only will you have fun but you’ll show that you’re a steward of the earth—-perhaps leaving the area in better shape than you found it.
How to: Pack unlikely helpers to turn an ordinary camping trip into a pleasure:
- Bring parachute cord to fashion a clothesline. Use clips to elevate bags of food so they stay out of the reach of paws and claws.
- A lightweight LED lantern keeps things aglow even if rain puts out your campfire.
- Recyclable plastic baggies are easier to transport than food storage containers.
- Use small logs to build fires to control their size.
- Inspect the area as you break camp so you don’t overlook anything.
What’s the benefit? You collect awesome memories, experience no regrets and learn a lot about yourself in the bargain.
Advice from pros: Double check the entire campsite after you’ve packed your vehicle. You won’t be the first campers to stumble upon something you didn’t notice the first time around.
Ready for your next tent adventure?
Okay—so maybe you’re not ready for your next tent encounter of the close kind quite yet, but pat yourself on the back (or have someone with longer arms do it for you) because you’ve learned a lot and lived to tell about it. Maybe you’ll even decide to author your own article about your experience—or not so much.
Look at your time spent in your tent as a once-in-a-lifetime experiment in roughing it. And if you’re fortunate enough to return home without rashes, regrets and recriminations, boast about it. If this turned out to be one of the most erotic experiences you’ve ever had, we recommend keeping it to yourself or you could find an entire village of tents awaiting you in the woods next time you visit!