Camping & the art of getting a good night's sleep

Most overland companies use heavy canvas dome tents, designed for three people.  That’s three very slender people, with no luggage! Two people share a tent. If you’re travelling solo, chances are you’ll need to pair up with someone of the same gender.

It goes without saying that getting a good night’s sleep is essential to having a good day the following day.  Sleep is important to me, I don’t skimp on the quality and type of camping gear I use.  You’ll never wish your sleeping mat is slightly less comfortable, but you may wish it was more. If budget is an issue, I’d recommend buying used items and getting better quality, than buying cheap and risk buying twice.


Come Prepared

Study the pre-trip information carefully and take into account what % of your trip is camping vs hotels.  If you’re travelling through Africa and/or staying in dedicated campsites, there is often the opportunity to ‘upgrade’ to a room/lodge on site.  Bush camping however, there’s little option.

Read the suggested sleeping information about your trip carefully. If it says you need equipment of a specific warmth, take heed.  I’m glad I invested in a good quality down sleeping bag and a quality mat.  Some people on my trip had to purchase additional sleeping bags, mats or blankets en route.  Which is fine, and can be fun to try and find, but it probably means you’ve experienced an uncomfortable night or two before you make this decision.  You may also be several days away from a place you can purchase additional kit.


The tents are fairly easy to put up and down.  They can be a little tricky in colder weather due to numb fingers. I strongly suggest that in the mornings you get  your tent down and everything ready to go on the truck as soon as possible.  Time can fly and you don’t want to miss breakfast because you’e dithering with your tent.

Sleeping Mat

I had a Thermarest Luxury Map Large, and my tent-mate had something very similar.  A pair of these fitted in fine.  We both adopted the ‘decant a few days items into a smaller bag and leave your big bag to wallow in the truck’ routine and this worked really well for us.  We had enough space and after all, you don’t really hang out in your tent.  You mainly just sleep in it.

If you know you sleep on your side, it might be worth looking at mats specifically designed for side sleepers.  They have a bit of extra padding in the hip area.

Oh…and get a Repair Kit!

Sleeping Bag

If the packing list recommends a 4 season sleeping bag, get one! Even if you think you wont need it.  
I used a Rab Ascent 700 and I loved it!  I think they’re quite popular as three people on my trip had one.  I got the male one, purely because I can’t abide a pink sleeping bag just because I’m female, even though the men’s one was blue!

Sleeping Bag Liner

I always travel with a silk sleeping bag liner and find it invaluable.  Silk is light, comfortable and dries quickly. As well as helping to keep your sleeping bag clean, it provides an extra layer of warmth.

They are also good:

  • when you’re staying in budget places and you’re not too confident of the cleanliness of the bedding
  • when it’s hot and even a cotton sheet feels too much but you need some protection from whirring fans, a blasting air conditioner or buzzing mosquitos
  • as a towel or sarong


I have a small Tempur travel pillow. One of the saddest days of my last overland trip was when I realised I’d left it in a hotel.  It is almost the perfect travel pillow.  The only downsides are: weight, they are fairly heavy and they need warmth to get soft, I found this out when camping in the cold!  Bit of a hard night, but I would still take one again. Oh, it’s also a bit pricey.  It was great for use on the truck too when you fancy a bit of a nap, but space is limited for a big pillow.  You can get the rectangle shape and the ‘original’ shaped pillow which is raised at one end.  It’s called the Tempur Original Travel Pillow and come with a carry case so you can roll it.


A fellow traveller brought her memory foam pillow from home and had the ingenious idea of cutting it in half, she said it worked fine.  So if you’re looking for a cheaper option then perhaps a standard memory foam pillow, chopped up is a good solution for you too.



Much of the information and advice expressed on this website is the personal opinion of the writer. If you choose to follow any advice you do so at your own risk with no recourse to the writer or Adventures in Overland.