There are some people that are able to get an incredibly refreshing night of sleep in the bush.
But Unsealed 4X4’s Matt Scott is usually the crotchety, irritated person chugging coffee after getting about two hours of sleep,
giving that well-rested, seemingly peppy and happy person an evil stare. It seems you either sleep well in the outdoors or you don’t,
and Matt’s on a mission to erase morning grumpiness from 4X4 trips with some simple tips and a few great products.
Tips for Cold Weather
Wear a beanie and warm socks to bed. Your sleeping bag is typically insulated worst at the ends, and a huge amount of body heat is lost through your head and feet. When camping in winter, I’ll always throw on a hat and a set of warm socks to help my body stay warm.
Icebreaker Hike Heavy Crew – They’re not cheap, but you’ll be amazed at how comfortable and durable these socks can be. Made from merino wool, they’ll keep you warm while being breathable at the same time.
Sleep on an insulated camping mattress. The ground is cold and any attempts to warm it with your body heat are futile. Most air mattresses and camping pads offer almost zero insulation from the cold ground. Luckily, specialty insulated camping pads of varying levels of warmth exist and are an essential part of keeping warm at night.
NEMO Astro Insulated Mattress – At over 6cm thick, the NEMO Astro is the most comfortable insulated air mattress I’ve ever slept on, and it’s also the most durable. It has the comfort and warmth of a bulkier mattress without the weight or size. It’s also great in summer.
Price is $169.95 and it’s available from most outdoor retailers. nemoequipment.com
Go to sleep warm. If you fall asleep cold, you’ll wake up cold. A little bit of exercise before you crawl into your sleeping bag will get the blood flowing and allow you to warm up your sleeping bag faster. A warm beverage or bite to eat before you fall asleep doesn’t hurt either, because they provide fuel for your body’s heating.
Tips for Warm Weather
Sleep high in the air. When it’s warm out, you want as much ventilation as you can possibly get. Sleeping in a hammock or on a cot is a great idea as it allows air to circulate all the way around you, keeping you as cool as can be.
Helinox Cot One – Weighing in at under 2kg, this is the lightest, most comfortable cot you’ll find on the market. It’s well ventilated and takes up minimal space inside your 4X4.
Drop the sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm, not cool. But understandably it’s hard to get to bed without some kind of cover. When it’s hot out I usually sleep in a sleeping bag liner. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and give you enough warmth in case the temperature drops overnight. They also play double-duty in winter when you need to add insulation to your bag.
Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Liner – There’s a reason that Sea to Summit is the choice of top mountaineers and expedition leaders. Their quality products are high-tech, yet tough and comfortable. The Thermolite Liner is perfect as a standalone sleeping bag in warm weather, and it will also add 8 degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag when it’s cold.
Stay hydrated. Your body needs water for all essential functions, without it you’re a broken machine. If you’re dehydrated your body can’t sweat to keep itself cool while you’re trying to sleep. A glass or two of cold water before bed will also help lower your body temperature before you hit the sack.
For some reason, people push aside all aspects of being comfortable whilst camping in an attempt to be tough. This is dumb. If you’re more comfortable sleeping with your pillow from home or you require your childhood stuffed animal to fall asleep, then bring it. However, there are a few more outdoor-centric options these days that rival the comfort you get at home.
Rest your head
on something comfortable.
It folds up to the size of a beer can, yet the NEMO Fillo is one of the most comfortable camp pillows I’ve tested to date. The secret lies with the 2.5cm thick memory foam layer that’s paired with an 8cm inflatable air chamber. There’s even an elastic cord that allows you to stuff a jacket onto the back of the Fillo If you want a little bit more elevation.
Priced at $49.99 and available from most outdoor retailers. nemoequipment.com
A bed that rivals
home in the bush.
If sacrificing comfort isn’t an option and you have the room to bring it with you, Oztrail’s Anywhere Bed promises to bring you a comfortable queen-sized bed anywhere you can set it up. That’s right, an actual queen-sized bed with a platform in your campsite. The Anywhere Bed consists of a heavy duty PVC air mattress with a compact steel frame for durability, and even includes a wheeled storage bag. This might seem a bit excessive to some people, but you’re sure to be the most well-rested person in the morning.
Priced at $279, oztrail.com.au
means easy to set up.
Setting up camp each night can be a pain, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes the easiest way to get comfortable and have a relaxing night’s sleep is to have a place to sleep with minimal setup. Oztrail’s Easy Fold Stretcher Tent sets up in less than 30 seconds and gives comfortable shelter and a cot. I used one for three weeks in Cape York and can say that it holds up to abuse quite well, and it does a pretty good job keeping you dry. It’s a perfect alternative to a rooftop tent for one person.
EN Rating for Sleeping Bags:
“It’s five degrees and I’m freezing in my five degree sleeping bag—what gives?”
The EN 13537 test (known as the “EN rating) is a European standard designed to provide a scientific test that measures the true performance of a sleeping bag. The test is designed to give consumers more insight into how their prospective purchase will perform based on the four temperature ratings:
Upper Limit – Any warmer than this temperature and you’ll be uncomfortable inside the bag.
Comfort – The most comfortable range of outdoor sleeping temperatures for this bag.
Lower Limit – This is as cold as you’d want to go with this product, and usually where it is rated. You won’t be warm.
Extreme – This bag will keep you alive at this temperature, however it will not be a fun time.
The EN rating is not compulsory on sleeping bags, however most high-end brands use it as it is viewed as the most reliable way to rate your sleeping bag. If your sleeping bag has an EN rating, it means it was actually tested to perform at the temperatures stated. Personally, it is the number one thing I look for when purchasing a sleeping bag. If it isn’t EN rated, that means the official testing is up to them, which has proven questionable to say the least.
REI, a prominent outdoor retailer in the United States, has a fantastic resource article on the subject.
What Unsealed 4×4’s Sam Purcell uses on the road
Put simply, Saul swags are one of the best traditional swags out there. They are beautifully made by Hal Saul in Tawonga, Victoria, using the best quality canvas made to his specification (Dynaproofed canvas from Wax Converter Textiles, Hunter Valley). Less is more, and this swag does it wonderfully. There isn’t a zip or pole in sight, just a swag with some brass buckles and a nice big flap to keep the weather off. It doesn’t get any simpler, or any better, in my opinion.
Unsealed 4X4 editor Dan Lewis’s top sleeping tip
When you’re not on the road, give your sleeping bags some space to stretch out. If you store them tightly packed inside their stuff sacks, the insulating material inside the sleeping bags will get compacted and no longer keep you as warm. Try hanging them up somewhere instead, or store them inside big old pillow cases where there’s plenty of sleeping bag elbow room. Your camping mattresses will also love you more if you let them stretch out when they’re in storage at home.