Camping gear – Sleeping bags and camping lanterns

How to get through the night while camping. It will also be colder than you expect.
sleeping bag and air bed for babies and thermals

Thermals and a baby sleeping bag

Thermal underwear
Wear long-legged and long-armed thermals under your jeans and jumper for sitting out in the evening, and under your pyjamas when you go to bed.
Bed and bedding
The minimum is a decent sleeping bag and self-inflating mattress per person. You can use a thick jumper as a pillow. For family campers, the only chance you have of a decent nights’ sleep is if the kids are warm and comfortable, so an extra blanket and a snuggly toy are essential for them. Augment the powers of an ordinary sleeping bag with a silk liner. When packed, a silk lining takes up about the same amount of space as a pack of cards and the warmth they retain is really worth it. Also if gets really cold you can pull the silk lining over your face and breathe through it. Silk liners are easier to wash, too, as the insulating properties of a sleeping bag are diminished by each pass through the washing machine.
If we camp out of season, in early March or October, then I pack the various sheepskin rugs around the house and put them on top of the mattresses to provide an extra level of insulation. Inflating an air mattress is a tedious job, and I think children can make do with thin self-inflating mattress or a bed roll. Out of season, a big air bed fills up with cold air that leaches heat out of your body, and I am on the verge of abandoning it altogether and returning to the thin, self-inflating Thermarest.
A torch is necessary for adults, but a torch for each of the kids adds to the sense of night time adventure. We used to keep a small lantern on at night but it quickly burnt through batteries. Instead, pack a handful of fluorescent snappy lights to allay any night-time fears, and a small cheap battery-powered lantern. Math has a hefty Maglite torch, a hangover from his days as a security guard on Liverpool docks, and I have a pencil-thin one that fits in my purse. Avoid the large lanterns, some of which burn so brightly as to extinguish all atmosphere. Candles in fireproof paper lanterns, weighed down with pebbles, make a pleasant alternative when you sit outside chatting of an evening. Naked flames and tents do not mix. The one time I saw a tent engulfed by flame, the whole structure went up in a single ‘poof’.

Cath’s camping gear checklist:
Camping Gear – Tent and the basics

Camping Gear – Camping cookware

Camping Gear – Food and drink

Camping Gear – Hygiene

Camping Gear – Sleeping bags and camping lanterns

  5 comments for “Camping gear – Sleeping bags and camping lanterns

  1. June 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. I totally agree with all of this. We ditched our airbed a couple of years ago, and have slept MUCH better without it. We have good quality self inflating mats from Blacks instead, and I usually put a folded fleece blanket on top of them and then the sleeping bag on top of that, for added padding and insulation.

    You don’t mention wind-up torches. We have one each and have saved a fortune on batteries over the past couple of years. Particularly for the youngest child who hates the dark. If she now wakes up in the night she gives her torch a couple of squeezes to get a reassuring glow out of it, and goes straight back to sleep, rather than freaking us all out with her screams because her torch batteries have died. We also festoon the inside of her tent with glowsticks.

  2. June 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Glow sticks are brilliant.

    We’ve just got a gas lantern and the light is so much nicer than the harsh light from battery powered lanterns, but it’s more fragile – swings and roundabouts I guess.

  3. Nina
    May 31, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I also agree with your comments re. airbeds – and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to convert. I must have gone through 8 airbeds in the last 10 years – cheap ones, expensive ones, traditional ones, double-chambered fancy ones …. they all fail, they give you hip ache, they’re cold, on a double one you can’t move without bouncing your sleeping partner around, they’re bulky, heavy, need pumping equipment and almost always deflate in the night.
    I’ve recently invested in two Vaude Air Dream sleeping mats, which are a sort of hybrid combination or air mattress and self-inflating ISO pad. It gives you the benefits of both systems – cushioning and levelling from the air mattress underneath, and warmth from the top foam pad- there are also two side air tubes to stop you rolling off! It’s genius, and extremely comfy – both sections can be inflated by mouth, so no more bulky or noisy pumps required. They roll down small and are light too. Highly recommended.

  4. Dannie Chavayda
    July 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    A sleeping bag’s temperature rating identifies the lowest temperature at which a bag is intended to keep the average sleeper warm. When a bag is described as a “20 degree bag,” it means that most users should remain comfortable if the air temperature drops no lower than 20°F. These ratings assume that the sleeper is wearing a layer of long underwear and using a sleeping pad under the bag..`:’

    Catch you later <

  5. lou
    June 25, 2015 at 7:08 am

    I loved your ideas, especially the glow sticks – genius! We’re new campers and really loving embracing the whole thing, your ideas have been invaluable! Thanks

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