Dear Ore-Landers: Sleeping method debate

rnArmy

Adventurer
Dear Ore-Landers,

My wife and I are planning a trip to Glacier National Park in June (to do research on a book she's writing). We are in our 50's. She's agreed to go camping for the trip; about 5 nights camping total. I am an experienced camper/overlander, she is not. I've got all the camping gear and then some (and always willing to buy more if I need it).

My wife seems to think she'll be warmest sleeping on the floor of the tent. I think sleeping on the floor is uncomfortable, dirty (especially if it has been raining), and not any warmer than sleeping on a tall queen-sized inflatable mattress (when doing my usual solo camping I sleep on a cot). She has slept on an air mattress camping before and complained of being cold. I don't want this camping experience to suck for her so she won't want to go camping/overlanding anymore.

So... is sleeping on the ground better than sleeping on an air mattress warmth-wise? Is there a way to keep warm(er) on a tall air mattress? Something to put between the mattress and the bed linen to keep us warm (space blanket?)? Or should I just buy us matching therma-rests and hope I can find a level spot on the ground (and hope she stays warm)?

Signed - "Want a happy camper"
 
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Ryanmb21

Expedition Leader
Inflatable mattresses are the coldest worst.
the closed cell foam ones that inflate are the way to go, they have a R rating (I believe that is what it’s called). The short to a crap camping experience is sleeping on a traditional air mattres.
 

nwoods

Expedition Leader
Yes, when we started out we bought these super deluxe air mattresses with pumps built in, just plug them into a cig lighter and good to go. Almost cost me my marriage.

Well, no, but they were awful in the high alpine air of the Eastern Sierras. We quickly learned to crave our insulated 3.5” thick REI matts. Sort of a PIA to manually inflate, but warm, soft, and generously proportioned. Money well spent.

Sadly, they don't make them anymore, but the megamat by exped is also quite good, assuming you have the room for them. They are not very compact when stowed:

 

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shade

Well-known member
I'm assuming you're car camping, and sleeping in a tent that allows standing up.

If so, cots make car camping a more enjoyable experience, especially if you aren't moving the tent often. Sleeping on a cot will elevate the sleeper off the cold floor, and an insulated sleeping mat can be used on the cot to provide even more warmth. A cot provides a nice seating area, and storage underneath cuts down on tent clutter. Use a few pieces of carpet under the cot feet to protect the tent's floor.

Use a doormat outside the tent, and enforce a no-shoes rule inside to keep the floor clean & dry; put a chair by the shoe removal area. Wearing slip-on sandals that can easily be put on over socks will also help keep feet warm while inside.

If you decide you need heat, a Mr. Buddy propane heater works well & packs small, but I don't recommend leaving it on while sleeping.
 

BigAl

Expedition Leader
What temperature range are you expecting in June at GNP? A cot with a pad is most comfortable but if it's really cold, I'd be on the ground on a pad, wool blanket on the floor and a high quality mummy.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
Normally when it is just me I've got my little trailer with a tent-cot bolted to the lid acting as a RTT (first picture). But if taking my wife, it is a tent you can stand up in along with a 10' square canopy (second picture from 2019 NW Overlanding Rally). In the tent, I can put either a queen-sized inflatable mattress, or two large cots (I've done both ways over the years - mostly with cots). And I have an even larger tent I could use. I just don't like sleeping on the floor/ground (or just inches above the floor/ground). I'd be ok with cots/pads/warm sleeping bags.

So yes, we will be car camping. We'll be setting up a home-base for the few days we'll be at GNP.

I also have a propane buddy heater I could prewarm the tent in the evening, and warm it up in the morning before we venture outside.

I don't know what the weather will be in June at GNP (haven't researched it yet). Should be a warmer time of year (compared to say... October).
 

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shade

Well-known member
I'd be ok with cots/pads/warm sleeping bags.
I think that has the advantage of being as similar as a bed as you're likely to get, which should make for a happier experience. I also think you can use that logic to sway your wife to your side of the debate.

My main objection to cots has nothing to do with sleeping on them; it's having to set them up, break them down, and haul them around. That's not usually a big deal if you base camp, though.
 
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AbleGuy

TeamSuicideChipmunks
GNP Campgrounds Are Occasionally Closed to Non-Hard Sided Campers

FWIW, Just something to check on, at the last minute, before you actually head out to go to GNP on your trip.

In 2018 and 2019 (and other years) the NPS at times has had to temporarily close some of the Glacier Park campgrounds to soft sided camping.

“ 2019 West Glacier, MT – Effective immediately, camping at the Many Glacier Campground will be limited temporarily to hard-sided camping. This means that tents, sleeping hammocks, and soft-sided campers will not be permitted until further notice. Camper vehicles such as VW buses and pickup trucks with small canvas pop-ups are allowed as long as the canvas is not exposed.“ Black Bear Problems

“2018 Many Glacier Campground, A grizzly bear that entered the Many Glacier Campground at Glacier National Park and snatched some trout away from campers has prompted a temporary ban on tents and soft-sided campers in the campground.“

Grizzly bear on picnic table in Many Glacier Campground, Glacier National Park
DC546A2C-E3D6-4BA4-B49D-5C80A46AA394.jpeg
 

shade

Well-known member
GNP Campgrounds Are Occasionally Closed to Non-Hard Sided Campers

FWIW, Just something to check on, at the last minute, before you actually head out to go to GNP on your trip.

In 2018 and 2019 (and other years) the NPS at times has had to temporarily close some of the Glacier Park campgrounds to soft sided camping.

“ 2019 West Glacier, MT – Effective immediately, camping at the Many Glacier Campground will be limited temporarily to hard-sided camping. This means that tents, sleeping hammocks, and soft-sided campers will not be permitted until further notice. Camper vehicles such as VW buses and pickup trucks with small canvas pop-ups are allowed as long as the canvas is not exposed.“ Black Bear Problems

“2018 Many Glacier Campground, A grizzly bear that entered the Many Glacier Campground at Glacier National Park and snatched some trout away from campers has prompted a temporary ban on tents and soft-sided campers in the campground.“

Grizzly bear on picnic table in Many Glacier Campground, Glacier National Park
View attachment 562629
Note the backpack buffet and assorted other treats on display.
 

rnArmy

Adventurer
This is good-to-know information! I hadn't thought of bear issues. That would suck if we got there and couldn't camp like we planned.

I had suggested to the Mrs. possibly borrowing or renting a trailer for the trip. We won't be off-roading, and I've got a full-sized half-ton truck to pull one with.
 

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85_Ranger4x4

Well-known member
In Boy Scouts we used self inflating air mattresses (only inflate to like 2" thick) on the ground. With a mummy bag 0* was no biggy.
 
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