The Art of Sleeping Outside

We humans have slept outside without tents for millennium.  While sometimes this can be dangerous, there are a few things that you can do to make your stay without a tent more comfortable.  Before I get to that, let me tell you a cautionary tell.

When my son was a Cub Scout, he was invited to go camping with a troop of Boy Scouts.  While this may not sound like a big deal, it really is for a young scouter and his pack.  As luck would have it and as southern Indiana seems to plan, the weather that first night turned.  When we woke up the next morning, we had 6 inches of snow on the ground in April.  The weather had been so nice earlier the previous day that several Cub and Boy Scouts decided to camp outside their tent.  Boy, were they surprised when they woke up the next morning covered in snow.  The parents of these boys were also surprised with a doctor’s visit the next week.  It seemed that all the boys that slept outside developed pneumonia. 

Well, the lessons from this experience are many and start with knowing your environment.  Yes, I have been on many camping trips outside my regional comfort zone but if you plan to truly camp outdoors, this information is very important.  What information do you need?  There are two critical forms of information that you need, which are equally important.  Since both are equally important I will just list them in no certain order.  They are weather and dangers. 

Weather is pretty much self explanatory.  You will need to know the projected highs and lows along with any unseasonal issues that the area has experienced.  In the story above, the snow was an unseasonal occurrence and was projected in the weather forecast.

The second thing you will need to know about is the natural dangers.  Since you will be camping on the ground this should include insects, mammals, reptiles, and etc.  Why do you need to know this?  Well, knowing what is going to be share your bed is very important and should be considered before you decide to camp without a tent.  While we would like to believe what goes “bump in the night” will not kill you, this is not true when you are talking about spiders, scorpions and such.

Now, if you feel it is safe to go camping, do not just roll out your sleeping bag.  Yes, this will work but you will wake up with a sore back and neck.  The best approach is to first make a bed that will get you up off the ground somewhat.  This can be done by cutting some branches from an evergreen tree.  Once that is done, lay the branches down so that the curve of the branch forms a lower case “n” on the ground.  This will keep the needles from poking you and slightly elevate you off the ground.  Continue to build your bed until you have a nice, thick layer of evergreen branches.  Next, roll out your sleeping bag on the branches and crawl in.  Following these steps will help you have the best night’s sleep possible and wake up warm and refreshed.