How to sleep comfortably on the ground?

Answered on December 17, 2014
Created October 23, 2012 at 2:08 PM

I would like to get out and camp more often when I travel, but when I sleep on the ground, my lower back becomes uncomfortable to the point that I toss and turn all night long, waking up exhausted. Sometimes, I can get a little bit of relief by stuffing soft items, such as laundry, under my lower back for support.

I normally bring a small pillow and a thin "Thermarest" matt to lie on.

I would certainly not think that modern mattresses are "paleo" so I thought this might be a good place to ask about sleeping on the ground.

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7 Answers


on October 23, 2012
at 07:01 PM

I served 23 years in the military and spent way too many nights on the ground. I don't think there is any way to be really comfortable without a thick sleeping pad or a cot. Now, when I get to sleep outside, I sleep in a hammock. Try a Hennessy or Clark. Best sleep ever!


on October 23, 2012
at 02:45 PM

Try out a hammock. I have a cheap, superlight nylon job that I hang under a cheap, light silnylon tarp (or skip the tarp if the weather is nice), and it's a more comfortable set-up than any tent I've ever been in, plus it allows you lots more options so you can make a sleeping decision based on the terrain. (I usually pack a piece of Tyvek, that way I can cowboy camp on the ground if I need to.) Also, I got a Thermarest neoair mattress, which I cannot recommend highly enough. It's superlight and seriously comfortable. I just put the mattress right in the hammock, crawl into my sleeping bag on top of the mattress, and bunch up a fleece jacket under my head, and I sleep like a baby. I do a lot of backpacking and I'm kind of obsessed with gear, so I'd be happy to answer any questions you've got. Oh, and, if you do have to sleep on the ground, pick your spot well- don't sleep on a tent site unless you have to (the ground will be really tamped down and hard as concrete). The other poster's advice about finding some natural cushioning is a good start, but don't go too crazy; remember to leave no trace. :)


on December 17, 2014
at 04:02 AM

I sleep better on the ground when camping than I do at home in bed (seriously). I am a side sleeper and as long as my head is sufficiently supported so that there is not much pressure on my shoulder I sleep like a baby. So I sleep on a Thermarest or blanket with large firm pillows under my head. The sounds of nature and lack of heating/cooling air noises help a lot too.

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on October 23, 2012
at 07:20 PM

If you are that hardcore pale, I would suggest you use grass and leaves as a cushion



on October 23, 2012
at 03:44 PM

I sleep on the floor every night on a high density memory foam mattress topper, and love it. When I camp, I use either an inflatable mattress or a piece of foam from a hardware store. I think sleeping on a harder surface all the time helps me when I camp, since it's not such a drastic change, which always hurts my back.



on October 23, 2012
at 02:16 PM

Maybe rake some pine needles or leaves into a pile so you have some cushioning to lay your thermarest pad on?


on October 23, 2012
at 02:14 PM

When I used to camp a lot I'd use a combination

Thermarest on bottom Inflatable mattress on top

You can get an inflatable that has a second air chamber that forms a pillow. You don't want one of the huge ones intend for use at home, you want a smaller one that is intended for camping, like this


The combination of the two packs pretty small.

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