How To Sleep Outside Without A Tent

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

How To Sleep Outside Without A Tent

Can You Sleep Outside Without A Tent?

You can definitely sleep outside without a tent. This is sometimes called cowboy camping and it means to sleep without a tent or shelter.

This camping style suits those who like to rough it up and like to travel light. As with all things, there are a few things to consider before sleeping outside without a tent.

Pros Of Sleeping Outside Without A Tent

Sleeping outside without a tent has many benefits not just for your health but for your enjoyment:

Exposure to natural light

In this modern world, people are always exposed to artificial light, especially at night.

It messes with our body’s internal clock and is of the main causes why people sleep late. Sleeping outside increases our exposure to the sun and decreases our exposure to electrical lighting.

Improved melatonin levels

A study published in the journal of Current Biology found that the modern environment causes a two-hour delay in our circadian clocks. This causes fluctuations in melatonin levels.

Melatonin is the chemical produced by our body that affects our sleep. A week-long camping trip solved this, by the end, the participants were sleeping two hours earlier and waking up early.

Reduced anxiety and stress

Unplugging from the hustle and bustle of today’s modern world is one of the great benefits of sleeping outside. Taking a break from your schedule in nature helps you relax and reset.

Great view of the stars

Light pollution in urban areas has made it difficult to see the stars at night. When camping without a tent, you can view the stars in all their glory and be able to do stargazing while lying down on your sleeping pad.

Experience nature

Sleeping outside without a tent gives you the opportunity to experience nature’s close-ups. You can fall asleep to the rhythm of cicadas, the night sounds of a forest, the crash of waves along the shore, or wherever your campsite might be. 

Cons Of Sleeping Outside Without A Tent

Any type of moisture spoils the experience

When sleeping outside without a tent there is always a chance of rain or heavy dew in the morning. 

It’s hard to stay warm

A tent offers protection from the night air, which even in summer can get chilly. When sleeping without a tent, staying warm is a challenge because you’re outside and exposed to the elements as opposed to being in a tent.

If you decide to go without a tent, make sure to bring extra sheets or sleeping bags in case it gets chilly.

Bigger chance of insects jumping on you

Mosquitos, bugs, beetles, all these can be on you at any time without a tent, so pack some insect repellent and be sure to reapply every few hours.

Nighttime animals wandering around

Without a tent, there is no protection from animals that are active at night. However, these tend not to go near humans unless there is food left outside. Do not sleep where you eat and make sure to clean up after meals.

What Gear You Will Need to Sleep Outside Without a Tent

Now that you know the pros and cons of sleeping outside without a tent, here is the gear that you need to make this activity safe and enjoyable:

  • A sleeping pad or air mattress – any barrier between you and the ground prevents your sleeping bag from getting wet from the moisture. It also provides extra comfort for you as you sleep.
  • Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner – this provides warmth from the chilly night air. 
  • Bivouac bags or shelters – these are basically an outer layer for a sleeping bag. Bivouac bags or shelters are easy to set up and take down. They offer another layer of protection from the elements, especially if it starts to rain.
  • Tarpaulin – this material is another option for sleeping outside. You can use this by stringing it up on the trees or with poles as a shelter.It can also serve as another layer between you and the ground. A plus is that they are lightweight and easy to clean.
  • Hammocks – You can easily set up a hammock in the trees and keep your body off the cold ground. Some hammocks also have a waterproof cover that you can zip up and a mesh cover for protection against insects.
  • Thermal clothing – bring this especially when camping in cold weather to avoid hypothermia.
  • Mini first aid kit – pack a small kit for your trip in case you hurt yourself.

What to Do When Sleeping Outside Without a Tent

When sleeping outside without a tent, there are a few things to do to make your experience safe:

Check the weather forecast

The conditions must be ideal for sleeping outside without a tent. Check temperatures, weather, humidity levels, etc.

Select your campsite carefully

Make sure that your campsite location is not far from a water source, is not in a low area that can potentially flood if it rains, and that it is in a place that can provide a windbreak if it is windy, such as camping next to a hill. Clear the ground of any sharp sticks or rocks before laying out your sleeping pad or tarp.

Start a campfire

Campfires are known to scare away animals that might come wandering near your sleeping area. This also provides warmth on a cold night. Just remember to check with your campsite guidelines before building campfires.

Always make sure your area is clean away trash.

Animals can smell the food just lying around and maybe hungry or curious enough to go near the campsite. Never leave food lying around, even in the daytime.

Do not sleep where you eat

This prevents nighttime animals from smelling leftover food and coming near your campsite. 

Do your business before going to sleep

Fumbling about in the dark because you’re answering nature’s call can cause accidents. Make sure to bring a flashlight for instance when you have to get up and go to the toilet.