Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Than a Tent

On a girls-only camping trip, my friend Renee Stewart and I challenged ourselves to make our camping experience as luxurious as possible. Both seasoned campers, we asked ourselves what, beyond the basics, would be needed to turn my four-person dome tent into something more spa-like. We sat down together and wrote out a list of what we thought would accomplish that.

The bed must be comfortable and able to double as seating. This is where having a slightly larger tent than you really need comes in handy. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different means of making myself comfortable to sleep. No matter where you camp, one thing that will always cause discomfort is ground chill. Even in Florida, a certain amount of cold will seep up from the ground into your bedroll. This can make for a very uncomfortable night’s sleep. Some people swear by air mattresses, but I find them difficult to sleep on for several reasons.

  1. They’re noisy. I’m an active sleeper and every time I change position in the night, they squeak and thump, waking me.
  2. They’re cold. While camping in Maine once, a bone-chilling cold seeped up through the ground, turning my air mattress into a veritable dry ice pack.
  3. They’re hard to share. If you’re bunking with someone who weighs more than you, you’re going to end up on a very hard hill filled with air. Your bed partner will likely find a soft comfy nest, but you will be launched out of the tent if they change position quickly.

Air mattresses are not the only choices out there that offer a more comfortable night’s sleep. There are thin pads that many hikers use to cushion their sleeping bags from the ground. Sleeping pads come in various thicknesses and firmnesses. Thinner ones can be rolled like a sleeping bag and thicker pads are usually folded in thirds. The thicker sleeping pads require much more room to store, but are surprisingly comfortable.

Coleman Trailhead II Folding CotMost seasoned tent campers eventually turn to a cot of some form. Why? Because they really are the most comfortable option out there. There are countless varieties of cots and camp beds. The most important consideration for any cot or camp bed is stability. Most of the convertible cots really aren’t worth the money. Like I said, I’m an active sleeper. I know this because I’ve gone tail over teakettle in the middle of the night on less than stable cots more than once. What I look for, stability wise, is a cot with leg supports at each end and in the middle.

HEAVY DUTY COLEMAN Ridgeline Folding Cot-3 YEARS WARRANTY-HIGH QUALITY PRODUCT-STORAGE SIDE BAG INCLUDED-A FREE $19.99 VALUE POCKET UMBRELLA INCLUDED WITH YOUR PURCHASE OF ONE COT...I prefer the basic rectangular shaped cot. Basic canvas folding cots are adequate, but I’ve found the Coleman Ridgeline Camp Bed to be downright homey as far as comfort is concerned. I like having a decent thick foam mattress on top of the standard cot. But really, I don’t stop there. In a quest for the spa-like camping experience, I added a zipped, cold weather, fiber-filled sleeping bag on top of the mattress then topped both with a twin-sized egg-crate mattress pad. To cover the whole thing, I brought a 250 thread count fitted sheet. While I was at it, I added the rest of that sheet set, a cotton thermal blanket, and a twin-sized comforter. Hey – it’s all about the most comfortable possible tent camping experience, right?

What made our tent so popular a hangout was the fact that we had two cots made up in similar fashion, one on each side of the tent. We topped them both with throw pillows and a cotton throw blanket for good measure. We covered the floor of the tent with thick Indian blankets and set up the tent on an indoor/outdoor rug. The plastic camp box doubled as a coffee table and the set of plastic storage drawers made a suitable night stand and place to set the battery powered lamp.

The space underneath the cots was perfect for storing personal items and extras. As far as the blankets and padding went, we simply used items that we each had on hand. Our experiment in extreme comfort didn’t cost us anything out of pocket.

Now I don’t recommend the indoor/outdoor carpeting if there is any hint of inclement weather. You’re still much better off setting up your tent on a tarp, tent pad, or floor saver as they’re sometimes called.

The type of tent to choose depends on many different variables. For example, two adults intending to camp with two or three small children might prefer a two-room family tent or a six-person dome tent. If you’re going to be camping anywhere near mangroves or marsh land, no-see-um mesh is a must-have. Some tents have screen rooms attached. The best thing to do is to shop around, compare tent features, and go with the tent with the most features that satisfy your needs for the best price to suit your budget.

One final thing, don’t forget to apply the seam sealer and the water repellant spray. After all, wet bedding is most definitely not comfortable.






1 comment:

  1. Cali,
    After my most recent camping trip with the kids and hubby in Estes Park, CO I've decided I'm camping with you the next time out!! Although, our 6 man tent worked well and the air mattress was reasonably comportable, your way of camping is more my style. Thanks for sharing these great tips for spa like camping. Be prepared for an extra camping companion on your next trip!