How To Build Your Camping Sleep System?

How To Build Your Camping Sleep System?

When you consider camping, there are many belongings that are essential to daily life that you may never think about otherwise. Things such as first aid, water access, fuel, etc.

Yet, the one centrally important aspect, whether you are hiking deep into the wilderness or laboring away in the middle of the workweek, includes proper sleep. This is the reason that your camping sleep system is a cornerstone of the experience.

Fundamentals of Sleep Systems

A sleep system can be defined as the collective steps you take to achieve sufficient sleep outdoors.

Sleep is a deeply personal act, with no two individuals the same. On a general level, some would rather sleep warmed up, while others would rather sleep cool. Furthermore, some enjoy sleeping curled up on their sides, and others flat on their back.

You can divide the art of sleep systems into three primary categories, including:

  • Sleeping Bags
  • Sleeping Pads
  • Pillows

While there is an abundance of information exploring these categories, the next main step is to ask yourself what kind of sleeper you are. Questions of consideration include:

  • What characterizes your sleep?
  • What stops you from sleeping well?
  • What items do you need to remain comfortable?
  • What is your ideal room temperature?

Thermal Efficiency

The right camping sleep system has quality temperature regulation and maintains thermal efficiency for the conditions of the area you are in. If you go backpacking, this efficiency extends further to include weight. How light of a pack can you carry to balance temperature and comfort?

Constructing a camp sleeping system that is lightweight means finding a medium between comfort and weight. Although it is essential to remain light, as it is more efficient to hike this way, you won't sleep well if comfort is less than ideal.

Sleeping Bags

A key variable in successful camp sleeping systems includes fit. You need to consider this, especially when searching for sleeping bags, as they come into play for pillows and pads in a similar fashion.

Sleeping bags have three key profiles of fit, including performance, ultralight, and spacing.

  • Greater internal width allows you more room to adjust your body in the bag without feeling suffocated. These bags are sufficient for sleepers that need a feeling of space but also want a compact, light carry for those long hike trails.
  • Performance bags strike a balance between ultralight weight and comfort. This includes being easy to pack.
  • Ultralight works best for individuals who prioritize the ability to pack and low weight over features related to comfort. One particular manner in which this is achieved is through the reduction of internal space. What you lack in the ability to move around is compensated by a smaller, lightweight pack.

Quilts or sleeping bags that are appropriately warm for the current weather conditions and your body's personal preferences are critical to thermal efficiency as well. Sleepers that require extra heat benefit the most from sleep systems that have effective ventilation to maintain coolness. Most bags can achieve this through the basic adjustment of a zipper. Yet, if ventilation is an important criterion for comfort, you should consider a quilt.

Sleeping Pads

The fit of a sleeping pad is determined by the shape, length, and width. Generally speaking, most brands will create pads in up to two different sizes, including standard and large. Small variations, also known as 3/4 pads, exist too and are used to save weight.

The R-value of a sleeping pad measures the level of insulation from the cold. The greater the number, the more warmth it is capable of delivering. If you sleep in cooler temperature climates when camping, you should invest in a sleeping pad with a maximum R-value for your best camping sleep system.

Sleeping pad thickness is a key indicator of comfort for the majority of sleepers, particularly those who like to sleep on their side. Many people can be comfortable on a pad that is only 1-inch thick. Yet, if you are, in fact, a side sleeper, there is a high probability that a 1-inch will not be enough to protect your hips.


There are mainly two types of pillows designed for camp sleeping systems, air pillows as well as foam pillows. In general, air pillows are designed to be more compact and light in comparison to foam pillows. However, the latter tends to be far cozier.


Most people picture massive webbed rope hung between two trees in a backyard when picturing hammocks. Yet, the hammocks specifically designed for camping utilize a thin material commonly observed in parachutes to provide the needed strength that holds your body sturdy off the ground while remaining lightweight and packable.

You will be very happy to know that hammocks require the least bit of effort to set up, with nothing more than a pair of trees and a nylon cord. Unfortunately, they fail to offer quality insulation, so they are ideal for hot weather or with some sort of sleeping bag tucked in between yourself and the fabric.

Due to the fact that it is basically impossible to set up your hammock within the confines of a tent, you will need some kind of sheltering system like a tarp to protect you from rain. Many hammocks even include accessories for integrated shelter.

Regardless, hammocks have a learning curve and take time to get used to as you aren't sleeping on a flat surface. They can be difficult to get into and move out of since the weight of your body forms a deep pocket.

Placing more than one individual inside of a hammock inhibits your ability to rest against gravity as both persons are naturally pulled to the bottom, where they will basically squish one another.


Unlike hammocks, a cot is very simple to maneuver thanks to having a height comparable to a bed, and they provide storage underneath, so it is incredibly simple to organize gear. Still, they fail to provide sufficient insulation between yourself and the cold air that circulates.


An efficient sleeping system while camping can be achieved with the correct sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows. Pay attention to the quality of material as well as the temperature regulation to maintain thermal efficiency. Consider comfort especially if you tend to sleep on your sides.

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