How to get a great night’s sleep when camping

There was a time when I slept great under canvas.

I actually preferred my camping mattress to my one at home.

The issue I’m now having is that I’m 10 years older, and my old mattress was rubbish. My new one is fabulous, and sadly I no longer find camping comfortable.

This is a shame, as I always put the great night’s sleep I experienced outdoors to the fresh air. Yet this no longer seems to be the case.

Since I was stuck, I reached out to our community for some advice

And as always, I was not disappointed:

Cut the light and noise

Daniel suggested using ear plug, and an eye mask to cut out any noise, and early sunlight. Those who subscribe to sticking with their circadian rhythm probably won’t appreciate this, but for light sleepers this method is essential. Ear plugs stop mid-night wake ups when the wind picks up, or the foxes start howling close to your tent, while the eye mask extends your sleep time.

Get a great sleeping bag

A few members recommended getting a great sleeping bag. Why? Because expensive sleeping bags can often be more comfortable to a) Carry (because they are lighter), and b) Have softer fabrics. A great quality sleeping bag, particularly a down filled bag will feel great to sleep in. It’s also likely to keep you at the right temperature throughout the night, which in turn will ensure you have a fabulous nights sleep.

Hammock Camping

I’ve had my best night’s sleep in a hammock. For the purpose of my good nights sleeping while camping i’ve recently got my hands on a new hammock, which I am due to try out soon.

Sleeping in a hammock puts your body in a very natural position, which is great for back pain. They are also fast to pitch, and relaxing. In addition, you get great protection from rainwater and insects, and no condensation due to the open nature of the setup.

The downside is the pitching possibilities. Obviously, hammock camping isn’t going to work so well on open moorland or mountain routes with limited tree cover.

Beer

Ok, so Beer/alchol isn’t actually proven to increase your sleep quality. Yes, it acts as a mild sedative so may help to kock you out, but your overall sleep quality will be reduced due to your body metabolising the alcohol. This can also lead to excessive daytime sleepyness and other issues.

Still, a beer or two before bed can’t hurt to much can it?

A good inflatable pillow

Pillows are not just there to make your bed look pretty

Pillows are a great tool to keep your head aligned with the neck and backbone during sleep, in which aids better sleep quality. SLeeping without a pillow leaves your head unsupported, and therefore leads to a bad night sleep.

Consider investing in a pillow for a better nights sleep

Read a good book

Reading a book before bed may be just what you need to drift off. The consistent movement of eye muscles while reading naturally makes you sleepy. However, avoid reading on your phone, as the blue light will have a counter effect and cause you to stay awake for longer.

An unconventional coastal existance

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with a few coast walkers in the past year of hosting the Distance Hiker Podcast. One question I always ask my guests, and especially those embarking on months, or years of walking is ‘how’?

How do you afford it?
How do you find the time?
How do you unwrap the complexities of life enough to afford the freedom to do this?

The answers have all been different.

Two fingers to the man, supported by a business, having a nice employer who supports a career break. Ultimately, they all need to be back home for dinner 6 months, or a year or two after departing.

The choice is never easy, but these individuals are bold enough to step into an unknown and take a leap to put one foot in front of the other. Taking each day as it comes.

I take my hat off to them.

My latest podcast guests Daniel and Charlotte are a little different.

Now, to set some context, Daniel and Charlotte are commitment-free. No kids, house, or careers on the line.

They have all the time in the world and they know it.

I asked them how long they were planning on walking for. In return I was told, three, perhaps 4 years, but they are not rushing.

Quite the opposite.

Charlotte and Daniel are living as self sufficiently as possible. They travel at a pace that suits them, living off the land where, and working for their keep or food when needed.

They have a limited, yet still untapped pot of savings. Impressive.

I spoke to them online, one evening as they were sat, huddled inside their tent on the Shetland Islands. Daniel was proud of his newfound, yet refined fishing skills, and the couple, seem undeterred by the possibility of carrying 20-30 kg on their back for the next years.

Prior to their walk, Daniel had finished in the armed forces, and again his story seemed familiar. He was angry, with difficult emotions. Losing his job was the spark that launched his new career as a full-time coast walker.

Charlotte’s entry into the story came from a different place. As an already seasoned solo traveler, this experience is nothing new. Yet Charlotte still sold all her belongings and handed in her notice for her waitressing job to join Daniel on the trip.

In November 2021, the couple were walking together and fully committed to this big adventure.

As two young people, who undoubtedly have been subjected to the normal ‘status quo enforcing beliefs throughout their lives, I’m impressed by their fortitude to remain firm in their beliefs.

Rather than following traditional career paths, buying into the 9-5, and purchasing a house together (which I must add is an entirely valid choice), they have opted to live the next 4 years on their terms.

They have no grand plan, no huge ambition, beyond perhaps raising some money for charities close to their hearts, and sharing their message with a growing base of supporters.

I only wish that more people would pursue this path in life – opting for experience, and a slow unconventional living over damaging behaviors such as hustle culture, and the ‘grind’.

Daniel and Charlotte filled me with hope.

Two charming, yet ordinary individuals, doing something extraordinary, yet managing to make it look totally normal.

These are ones to watch.

You can find the full episode with Daniel and Charlotte here.

Trail Snapshots – Yorkshire wold’s Way

Welcome to Distance Hiker Trail Snapshots, where members of our community share a Q&A snapshot of a trail they love!

The Yorkshire Wolds way travels through a stunning corner in England that has remained largely untouched for centuries.

This landscape is alive with butterflies, birds, and villages nestled into woodland dells. Between England’s most popular deserted medieval village at Wharram Percy, views across the Humbug Bridge to the towers of Lincolns Cathedral, and the quaint coastal resort of Filey, this trail offers plenty to keep you interested.

You can find Matthew, who contributed this trail snapshot on YouTube, Instagram and on his personal website.

What made you choose the Glyndŵr’s Way?

I’m walking all of the National Trails, with an immediate focus on those over Chalk landscapes – a project I’m calling “Walk the Chalk”

What were the highlights of the trail for you?

The central section between South Cave and Wharram Percy – I lost count of the secluded deep dry valleys I passed through.

Can you tell us about some great overnight spots you found, whether it’s a wild camp, B&B, or campsite.

I wild camped the whole trail, with 5 camps across 2 trips. My first two camps were nasty stealthy affairs on rubbish brambly ground, but after that I camped high overlooking dry valleys each night, totally undisturbed. I’m not telling you exact spots, but anywhere not close to a village, not in a field of crops is probably going to be ok.

Were there any parts of the trail you didn’t enjoy?

Very little. As is often to be expected, with the need to put the trailhead somewhere accessible, the start wasn’t as good as the rest, but even that was pleasant with a walk along the Humber. The penultimate day along the northern edge of the escarpment didn’t have the drama of the central bit, but for a North Downs boy like me was like being at home.

What would you do differently if you were to walk it again, and what advice would you have for anyone else looking to walk the trail?

Very little. I originally intended to thru hike it in one go, but had to return home urgently on day 2, so I had to come back to finish it off.

So I’d certainly aim to do it in one next time. For a repeat though, I would deviate from the trail to include some of the other dales to the east of the trail, linking up with other long distance trails in the area.

It’s that good, I’m actively planning to go back as soon as I can and do some more of the area.

My main advice for anyone walking it is to think about your accommodation strategy – campsites aren’t spread very well, there’s no hostels really, but there are a number of B&B’s if you’re prepared to go a mile or so off path.

The trail is in practice pretty easy to wild camp though. The biggest challenge with doing that is water though. I found one tap near Settringham Beacon, there are very few rivers to take water from (and questionable whether you’d want to anyway).

Some people take water from animal troughs (usually filtering it as well), but it was pretty nasty when I looked. I resorted to buying bottled water each day.

Where is your next long-distance hike?

I am re-walking the North Downs Way (in chunks), then off to hopefully finish the Cambrian Way (got to Mallwyd so far). In October I’m finally off to do the West Highland Way.

You can learn more about Matthew on Instagram @backpackartist

Trail Map

Would you like to be featured?

Here at Distance Hiker we are always on the lookout for great new long distance hiking content. Our Trail Snapshots are a great place to start. If you have a long distance trail you would like to share simply fill in the form linked here and email some photos to matthew@distancehiker.com.

Trail Snapshots – East Highland Way

Cover photo credit – Neil Williamson

Welcome to Distance Hiker Trail Snapshots, where members of our community share a Q&A snapshot of a trail they love!

In this article Aaron shares a snapshot of his hike along the East Highland Way which stretches from Fort William to Aviemore over 82 miles of countryside.

You can find Aarons website here and his YouTube channel here.

What made you choose the st cuthbert’s Way?

It was a long-postponed trail and also filled in a gap between the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way. A good distance (around 80 miles) for a week of Hiking.

What were the highlights of the trail for you?

Not on the trail itself, but we had a short day which gave us time to walk up to the Pictish Hill Fort at Dun-da-lamh which is in a remarkable state of preservation, and give some quite incredible views over the area.

The route from Laggan through to Newtonmore via Glen Banchor gives a real sense of being in the wild, and the route from Newtonmore to Kingussie is very special (if you are walking the new Speyside Way extension, I’d thoroughly recommend avoiding that and walking the EHW route here instead).

The route also follows the short Badenoch Way from Kingussie, which again is a delightful route.

Can you tell us about some great overnight spots you found, whether it’s a wild camp, B&B, or campsite?

A huge mention ot the Laggan Hotel, which was superb. We stayed there several nights as accommodation is sparse, and managed to arrange transfers each day.

There were a few lovely wild camp spots, but the one that sticks in my mind was at An Dubh Lochan on the Tulloch to Feagor road. It was stunning.

Not too much else to add as we stayed in B&B’s/hotels for most of it. I would recommend avoiding the Spean Bridge Hotel, however. It was overpriced and being polite, rather dilapidated.

We stayed there two nights, returning by train from Tulloch station, and getting the first train out the next morning

The beach at the western end of loch laggan. Another stunning place to wild camp

Were there any parts of the trail you didn’t enjoy?

The walk alongside Loch Laggan. Right through thick conifer plantation, which I detest with a passion.

What would you do differently if you were to walk it again, and what advice would you have for anyone else looking to walk the trail?

Don’t walk along Loch Laggan. There is a fabulous alternative (which I was persuaded to not use, against my better judgment) which is a very similar distance through the glen to the south of the loch on the other side of the hill.

It follows a shooting track next to two lochans and is a fairly obvious and easy alternative if you have a map. Don’t argue, just go that way! I wish we had!

Where is your next long-distance hike?

The Cumbria Way

You can learn more about Alex and see some of her previous hiking, travel and long distance hiking photos on her Instagram @alibongo_

Trail Map

Would you like to be featured?

Here at Distance Hiker we are always on the lookout for great new long distance hiking content. Our Trail Snapshots are a great place to start. If you have a long distance trail you would like to share simply fill in the form linked here and email some photos to matthew@distancehiker.com.