Should You Wear Clothes In A Sleeping Bag?

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Do you struggle to fall asleep in a sleeping bag? Lack of sleep is one of the many reasons some people avoid camping, but it shouldn’t put you off. There are plenty of things you can do to improve the quality of sleep – and you’re going to need it to boost your energy the next morning.   

Putting on clothes does keep you warm when using a sleeping bag. Of course, this is because the added layers of fabric provide an additional layer of protection for the heat produced in your body, preventing it from escaping. 

There are instances when wearing extra clothes will inhibit your ability to sleep through the night, but keep in mind that clothing is just one of many variables that affect sleep outdoors. 

2 adults sleeping in a tent

How Do I Pick Which Clothes To Wear?  

  • If you have on several layers of thick clothes, it could compress the sleeping bag’s space as insulation, which can be a problem because then there wouldn’t be any space left to trap warm air. It can leave you vulnerable to the cold. 
  • Tight clothing interferes with blood circulation to the legs and feet, making them feel colder. It is far more challenging to fall asleep when the feet are cold. 
  • Moisture also reduces the insulation inside a sleeping bag, so avoid sleeping in wet clothes, even in warm weather. 
  • Again, wearing thick layers of clothing causes excess sweat, making all your clothes wet and reducing sleep quality. Wear clothes that fit, and avoid piling on layers of clothing unless completely necessary. Also, using the right size sleeping bag can reduce some of these challenges.
  • Keep a balance between wearing well-fitting clothes and leaving space for your body’s circulation. If the clothes are only slightly loose-fitting, that shouldn’t pose a problem when sleeping.   

How Do I Sleep More Peacefully?

stacked stones

The first night is usually the hardest to sleep. If you’re too alert or wired to relax, try some simple meditation you ease yourself into relaxation. Here are a few ways you can improve sleep when camping:

Try To Relax

The actual packing and traveling process can create some stress that becomes hard to get rid of when you lay down to sleep. Perhaps you rushed through the packing and worried you forgot some things. Or you drove fast to beat traffic, and the weather suddenly shifted as you approached your destination, and that caused you to freak out a little bit. 

Whatever the situation, allow yourself to relax when you reach the camp. Find a nice quiet spot and drop all the stress you carried with you – take as much time as you need. 

Get In Some Exercise 

Another way you can burn through tension and relax is with exercise. A little workout will help eliminate any nagging anxiety and get you oriented with your new surroundings. But there is a catch- this only works if you already work out regularly. 

If you haven’t jogged in years, then hiking up a hill in the evening won’t make you sleep well the first time. But if you do it every day for a while, sleep will gradually improve because of the exhaustion. Whatever you do, don’t put pressure on yourself. Take things slowly to give your body time to adjust.   

When working out, remember to wear breathable clothing so you don’t go to bed over heated and start to sweat in your sleeping bag. If it’s warm enough out, you can even take a dip in a lake.

girl and guy walking on a trail

Remember to wait a few hours after exercise before going to sleep, and if you’re not in good shape, hiking for hours will cause severe strain in your joints and muscles, which means pain. Some Aspirin will do the trick. 

Watch Where You Sleep

You won’t get any sleep at all if you pick the wrong site. Most people have some things that help them sleep at night, and it’s mostly the same whether at home or out camping. So watch out for the sounds, smells, and light. So, for instance, if you only sleep in complete darkness, make sure to position your tent under some trees to shield from moonlight; and if there’s a waterfall nearby or just water babbling on a nearby creek, prepare to manage the situation as needed.  

Sleep On A Regular Schedule

Don’t mess up your circadian rhythm. The best way to fall asleep quickly is to do it around the same time you sleep at home. The best time is between 10 p.m. and midnight, although many of the time backpackers sleep earlier than this. 

Again, following your regular sleep pattern can help here, so if you usually listen to music before hitting the sack, then take your playlist with you when going camping. The same applies if you’re a reader. Just follow your usual pattern. 

Be Very Picky About People You Share Tents With

If you’re a light sleeper, it’s going to be a nightmare trying to sleep inches next to someone if you haven’t shared a tent with before. If you don’t know this person well, your whole body will be on constant alert; and it gets even worse if they’re always turning and making weird sounds. 

Remember, if you don’t sleep well, it’ll ruin your whole experience. Carry your tent and pitch it far from your noisy friends if that’s what you need to do to sleep through the night. 

man sleeping outside in an orange sleeping bag

Facing Your Fears

  For many people going backcountry camping, one of the biggest causes of insomnia is the nagging fear of grizzlies. The sound of a broken twig can send shivers down the spine if that’s your major worry – but the best way to counter this type of fear is with a rational understanding of animal behavior. So do all the research and check the statistics. 

Try to have a realistic view of the dangers you may face, and do everything sensible to keep safe. For instance, keep food adequately stored in bear country and cook further away from your tent. Hang the rest of your food, and don’t go sleeping next to a significant water source. 

Proper Sleeping Bag Packing And Care

So you have your sleeping bag out in front of you and a much smaller sack to fit it into. How do you get it to fit inside?

There are different ways to fold the bag, and we’re going to show you how to do this the right way.

Do I Fold Or Just Stuff The Bag Inside? 

It’s a little strange, but you’re not supposed to fold a sleeping bag. Just stuff it in the little sack, and you’re good to go. Some delicate isolation fibers can break if you fold them tightly. So to keep it usable for longer, get used to stuffing it haphazardly into a sack and toss it in the car; but don’t put anything heavy on top. 

Hang The Sleeping Bag When You Get Home 

Again, this is something people often forget or ignore. You should not store the sleeping bag for long periods in the sack. Take it out as soon as you get home and hang it in the garage. Alternatively, just lay it out flat on a surface at room temperature. 

Take Good Care Of Your Sleeping Bag 

When out camping, remember to air out your sleeping bag when you get up in the mornings. Hang it or spread it out on a clean surface to dry, and whenever you can, leave it unzipped to air out. Some delicate insulation fibers can break if you fold them tightly (so be sure to check the tag for care instructions).

Clean Out Your Sleeping Bag

If you sweat a lot at night, then you will need to wash your sleeping bag, or else it’ll start to smell. It is particularly relevant if you sleep wearing extra layers of clothing. 

Confirm that you can wash the bag, and then fasten the velcro or zipper to prevent damage to the fabric. Unzip everywhere and wash carefully to remote internal and external dirt. Lay it out to dry.

In Closing

Your entire experience with your sleeping bag will be affected by preparations you made (or forgot to make) before you set out to camp. Always have a proper plan to make your experience at camp fun and stress-free. Wear the right clothes, and pack for the weather. This should help make things easier. Synthetic sleeping bags are pretty good at insulating from the cold, and they hardly absorb moisture. So if you’ve had trouble sleeping before, perhaps it’s time to try a different type of sleeping bag.     


How Should I Sleep In A Sleeping Bag?

Make every effort to sleep in a comfortable position, to reduce muscle tension or back pain. Remain contained to stay warm at night, especially at dawn when it’s coldest. 

Should I Roll Or Stuff A Sleeping Bag?

Ideally, you should stuff it into a sack. Rolling is also a common way to store a sleeping bag temporarily during transport.

lady rolling up a sleeping back next to a green tent.
Getting ready to leave for the day.

Can I Put A Sleeping Bag In A Washing Machine?

Yes, most sleeping bags can be machine washed. Use the front-loading washer or top-loading machine that doesn’t use an agitator. Wash in a warm or cold cycle.