Best sleeping system for camping?
I've already eluded to this in my previous post. Why Hammock? About why. I feel that now would be a good time to consider the pros & cons of different camping sleeping systems and which is best.
Many people don't like these because they think that they'll deflate overnight. However, it has to be said the quality of these have improved dramatically. Some have air chambers to support you better. Some are twin sided so that if you move in the night, it'll have less effect on your companion next to you. Some come with inbuilt electric or manual inflators, therefore saving you the cost or an air pump. However these can feel cold to sleep on because of it being on the ground, despite the flock effect on the top of the mattress. I would recommend placing an insulator beneath the mattress in order to reduce that cold feeling. Something like this. Also on the down side, these are bulky and heavy; so best suited to family camping and car camping. Also they can be a little difficult to get into backpacking tents. So not ideal for those.
Folding Camp Beds.
Generally metal framed with a canvas 'mattress'. This style of camp bed gets you off the ground. Which is a good idea, because the ground gets cold and maybe damp at night. They're easier to get in and out of, and you can store your personal bags underneath them. However, they are generally narrow, and if you're a side sleeper, can be uncomfortable as your knees will often be on top of the metal frame. (I speak from personal experience of this). The only sleeping position that really works with this type of camp bed is if you sleep on your back. You may also find it more comfortable and warmer if you place a foam mat or self inflating mat on top, as this type of camp bed can feel cold due to the cold air underneath the canvas. You should also put a carpet or picnic blanket underneath to protect the groundsheet from being punctured by the legs.
Foam Sleeping Mat.
The basic foam sleeping mat is great for youngsters or for those backpacking. They're light and provide great insulation from the ground, especially if they are foil backed, and generally are the cheapest solution. However, due to their thickness or rather lack of it, don't provide the most comfortable of nights sleep. This type in the picture helps get around this by having an egg box type construction. Take a look here.
Self Inflating Mat.
Self inflating mats come in varying thicknesses. From thin 2cm suitable for backpacking, to 10cm ones for family camping. These combine the comfort of an air mattress, depending on thickness chosen, and the insulating properties of a foam mat. However the thicker they get, the bulkier and heavier they get. So be careful if choosing for a backpacking trip.
Lightweight Backpacking Inflatable Mat.
Unlike the self inflating mattress above, these generally don't have much in the way of insulation, this helps it fold into a compact size. However, the increased comfort offered by the deeper thickness once blown up is a huge bonus. This lightweight and compacket size make it ideal for backpackers and those that use smaller tents.
Okay. So I might be just a little biased. But I have tried all of the above. You can't really hang a hammock in a tent, so not really considered by most. But I have to say that I've had many a good nights sleep in mine. The downside is that you may need some overhead protection by way of a tarp, and you may need to place a sleeping mat inside it, or use an underquilt to provide extra insulation, as your sleeping bag insulation will be compressed underneath you. But that goes for every system in this article.
There is no one that is best overall, as the circumstances that you need a bedding system will determine that.
Though for family camping, the best choices are an air mattress, camp bed, and self inflating mat (one of the thicker ones).
For backpacking, the foam mat, self inflating mat (one of the thinner ones), and the lightweight backpacking inflatable mat are best suited due to their lighter weight.
Hammocks can be used for either, and many of the foam, self inflating and lightweight inflatable mats can be used with your hammock for extra insulation.
Many thanks. I hope that you've found this article useful. If you have anything that you'd like to add, please submit a comment below.