‘I Go Camping Every Month, and This Is What You Need To Sleep Well Under the Stars’

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Photo: Stocksy/Mihajlo Ckovric
If you think you sleep well in your bed, just wait until you're out in the wilderness beneath the stars, with blinding street lights and honking horns miles away. That's exactly what Houston Taylor, who worked as an outdoor programs coordinator for years, experiences throughout the year. He sleeps in his tent for at least a few nights each month on average, having taken trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the Boundary Waters, and various sections of the Appalachian Trail.

While exploring so many different areas is an amazing experience in itself, so is sleeping in the great outdoors. In fact, a study published in the journal Current Biology found camping can reset your biological clock, helping you sleep more soundly. "I love sleeping on camping trips. Because I'm much more on nature's time outdoors, I inevitably go to bed much earlier and wake up much earlier than I do at home," says Taylor. "By going to bed not long after sundown, I end up getting much more sleep than I do when I'm home and surrounded by distractions."

Experts In This Article
  • Houston Taylor, Houston Taylor is a camping expert and former outdoor programs coordinator in Wisconsin.

While being out in nature can do wonders for your sleep schedule in general, having the right gear helps, too. Having been on a countless number of camping trips over the years, Taylor has learned the ins and outs about what to bring—and what not to bring—in order to have the best possible experience. "In general, when you're looking into getting your own camping gear, I would recommend avoiding the cheapest items. They're often heavier and more likely to break while you're on a trip," he says. "And when driving to your campsite isn't enough of an adventure for you—or you might want to get to a campsite you can only backpack, canoe, or bike to—having high-quality gear is crucial."

When you're ready for an adventure—and quite possibly the best sleep of your life!—stock up on this camping gear for sleeping.

The best camping gear for sleeping in the great outdoors

1. Big Agnes AXL Ultralight Backpacking Pillow, $40

This small blow-up pillow is key in getting a good night's sleep. "I used to swear by throwing spare clothes into a stuff sack for a pillow. But last year I decided to test out a teeny blowup option, and it's improved my nights in nature dramatically," says Taylor. "It's definitely a non-essential, but I won't camp without it."

Shop now: Big Agnes AXL Ultralight Backpacking Pillow, $40

2. Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad, $60

You might think you can get away with not using a sleeping pad, but you won't get nearly as good of sleep without one. "When working at a rental center, I heard from folks all the time that they don't need a sleeping pad, but I'm here to tell you differently," says Taylor. "Whether you're using a foam or blowup pad, it's going to protect you from the ground leeching your heat and greatly improve your comfort level." A blowup pad saves space and cushions you better from things like rocks and roots. "You just have to be careful with it to avoid punctures," he says.

Shop now: Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad, $60

3. Big Agnes Lost Dog FireLine Eco Sleeping Bag, $190

A quality sleeping bag is one of the priciest items on this pro camper's must-have list. With that being said, it's also one of the most important things to have when you're spending the night in the great outdoors. "I swear this isn't an ad for Big Agnes—I just love their sleep system," says Taylor. "Sleeping bags are much more effective at reflecting and storing your body heat than a few blankets. A well-made one will also pack down into an impressively tiny stuff sack. It's definitely an essential security item."

Shop now: Big Agnes Lost Dog FireLine Eco Sleeping Bag, $190

4. Marmot Limelight 2 Person Camping Tent, $249

camping gear for sleeping

Over the years, Taylor has used a number of different tents. When choosing one yourself, he recommends focusing on the size, height, and weight, and this one is a great pick on all fronts. "I would try to stay in the one- to four-person range to ensure your tent's footprint can fit in most campsites. The taller the tent, the easier it is to change clothes, but the more likely you are to have it break or blow away in strong inclement weather. I've had both happen to me," he says. "And don't forget to look at the weight—your back will thank you!"

Shop now: Marmot Limelight 2 Person Camping Tent, $249

5. Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp, $65

camping gear for sleeping

Since the only light you'll get out in the wilderness is from the stars and campfire, this headlamp is super helpful—especially when you're in your tent getting ready for bed. "Once you have a headlamp, navigating your tent and campsite becomes much easier. It'll also make staying up after dark to read and relax more convenient," says Taylor. "I have an older model of this same headlamp and I can't recommend it enough."

Shop now: Black Diamond Revolt 350 Headlamp, $65

6. Osprey Mira 22 Women's Hiking Hydration Backpack, $160

camping gear for sleeping

You've gotta have something to carry all your must-haves, right? "You're going to want a little bag with good shoulder straps and maybe even a small hip belt so that when you get bored with your campsite and want to explore, you have a way to bring some things with you like snacks, lunch, water, an extra layer, and a rain jacket," says Taylor. This high-quality backpack will be your go-to for years to come.

Shop now: Osprey Mira 22 Women's Hiking Hydration Backpack, $160

7. Official Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon, $12

camping gear for sleeping

A trusty paperback is another must for Taylor. "I love picking up a book about the area I'm visiting to learn more about the history, environment, biology, and/or famous visitors," he says. Plus, when you're lying under the stars and not quite ready to shut your eyes, you can read page by page with your trusty headlamp. That's living, folks.

Shop now: Official Guide to Hiking the Grand Canyon, $12

How to fall back asleep if you wake up in the middle of the night:

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