How to Beat the Walking Dead
written by: Odette Nassar
So here’s the scenario. Months ago, you chose the date and diligently booked your camp site. Or else, you offered to join your troop or Webelos den on a camping trip. You planned some cool Dutch oven desserts to try out. You packed up all your gear, your Scout, and maybe parts of the kitchen sink and are now at your beautiful campsite.
After setting up the tent, cooking your first meal over the fire, and settling into your sleeping bag, you are now staring sleeplessly up at the inside seams of your tent, listening to the rest of the people in the campground snore, moan, and talk in their sleep. With each passing hour, you wonder bleakly why you cannot manage to get to sleep when you are camping and hope that you will be able to survive the next day on six…no, five…make that, four…hours of sleep.
Well, you are not alone. Here are three tips to help you get a good night’s sleep while you are out in the wilds…of your nearest national park or Boy Scout camp.
First, Stay Warm or Be Cool.
Temperature makes a big difference in how quickly you fall asleep and how long you stay asleep. According to H. Craig Heller, PhD, a professor of biology at Stanford University, your body reaches a slightly lower body temperature when you are getting to sleep. If you get too cold or too hot, your body’s thermostat has to work harder to maintain that temperature and you end up waking up.
If it’s going to be cool at night, as it sometimes is in coastal camping, you want a sleeping bag that is rated for cooler temperatures. If you already have a sleeping bag and the idea of having multiple sleeping bags for different temperatures doesn’t fit into your storage or budget plans, you can get a backpack liner that costs must less then a whole sleeping bag and works very well.
On the other hand, if you are camping in a warmer climate, which is what you find in the inland areas, the last thing you want is to be smothering in an extra warm sleeping bag. That is where you want to be wearing layers of clothing so that you can unzip the bag or sleep on top of it in comfort. And if worse comes to worse, you can start shedding layers if you get too hot.
Second, Be as Comfortable as Home Away From Home
Yes, its true that you are camping. You’re in tent, not a house. You are cooking over fire rather than in your kitchen. So how on earth can you get comfortable enough in a tent to sleep soundly?
There are a few products that you can use and a few items that you should have either way.
A. A pillow.
Yes, die hard backpackers and campers from days of yore will mock you. But then again, there’s a reason they all tilt their heads to the side and are so cranky.
A simple inflatable pillow tucks easily into your rolled sleeping bag and there are many, many on the market. You can also take a pillow from home if you don’t mind it getting dusty or sandy or muddy (for car camping situations). And if you forget, you always have the option of stuffing your extra clothes into your sleeping bag stuff bag. You just might have to fluff it up during the night.
B. A sleeping pad.
Sleeping pads come in all different varieties and all different thicknesses. You can go check out the different types and brands at any sporting goods store. And if you want to experiment, try camping without a pad and then take a pad the next time you are out. You’ll never go back.
C. Ear plugs.
When you are camping, you will encounter two types of noise. People noise, for example, the people two camp sites down who don’t know that its time to shut it down or poor slobs, like myself, who snore so loudly pine needles rain down from nearby trees, and the sounds of nature, such as, the scrabbling of tiny raccoon feet as they try and get into your cooler or the squawking of the blue jays in the morning as they search for the food that the raccoons left from the night before.
Both sounds can easily wake you up or keep you awake. Both sounds can be decreased, if not eliminated entirely, with the use of cheap, disposable ear plugs. A simple solution and yet one that can make a huge difference in your comfort level.
Third, Tire Yourself Out.
It may seem completely obvious that you should be tired so that you can sleep. But for the first few times that I went camping, I realized that for some reason, I was able to sleep much more peacefully on the second night then when we arrived on the first.
I finally figured out that on the first night I was really tired from preparing the house and the car for camping. It was mental strain but not really physical stress. And on the second day, we would have hiked or walked on the beach or sat in the sun or played games or dozens of other activities that pretty much ensured that by that evening, I was physically tired and mentally relaxed enough to sleep soundly.
All in all, camping is fun no matter how you experience it. But when you are rested and relaxed, you can do more, experience more, and remember things in a more positive light. A good night’s sleep makes all the difference between a happy camper and the living dead.