What Clothes Should You Sleep in When Camping?

Choosing sleeping clothes for camping featured image.

What should you actually wear to bed on a camping trip? Pajamas might be a great idea in your RV, but they don’t work quite as well for backpackers. When you have to deal with weight and space limitations what sleepwear should you choose?

What clothes should you sleep in on a camping trip? Sleep in comfortable clothing that serves multiple purposes. You can cut your pack weight by wearing the following days hiking clothes to bed. I stick to boxer briefs and a T-Shirt in the summer and long johns in colder months.

It’s all about avoiding sweat in the summer and wearing extra layers on cold nights. You can always throw on extra layers or use a sleeping bag liner if you’re cold.

What Should You Wear to Bed on a Backpacking or Camping Trip?

Picture the perfect camping trip in your mind! Your ideal trip is going to look much different than mine. We all have different plans in mind, but they all have one thing in common. You want to be comfortable when heading to bed!

What you wear to bed will largely depend on when, where and how you’re camping. Is weight a serious concern? What’s the weather like? How hot is it going to be? You need to take all of these into consideration before packing your sleeping gear.

Pajamas For Camping

Sleep in the same clothes that you would wear at home. Consider wearing lightweight pjs, underwear, gym shorts or sweatpants. It’s all about staying comfortable.

Backpackers will need to work on keeping weight down while remaining comfortable(versatility is key). I like to wear gym shorts or boxers in the summer and long johns in the winter.

Try to wear comfortable clothes that you can hike in the following day. Sleep clean and hike dirty. This mindset will help minimize the amount of weight in your pack.

Car Camping Gives You More Options

Car campers really don’t have to worry about weight so they have lots of options. If you’re going car camping you can wear whatever you typically wear to bed.

Personally, I typically just throw on a pair of sweatpants or pjs that I’m comfortable wearing around camp. Just try not to get them dirty before climbing into bed.

Use a Sleeping Bag Liner

New campers just don’t realize how convenient sleeping bag liners actually are. They both protect your bag and add another layer of versatility to your sleeping bag. You don’t even need to spend a ton of cash, check out the Coleman Fleece Sleeping Bag Liner.

On cold nights the bag liner will add 10-20 degrees to your sleeping bag. Hot nights you can ditch your sleeping bag altogether in favor of the liner. At a little over 1lb a sleeping bag liner adds a layer of versatility without weighing you down.

Sleeping Clothes For Backpacking

We all have to make sacrifices when going camping, but you should never sacrifice a comfortable nights sleep. Throwing a pair of 4oz sweatpants into your pack isn’t going to break your back.

As a general rule I tend to sleep in the same clothes that I would sleep in at home. On hot days I’ll typically sleep in my underwear or gym shorts. Cold days I’ll throw on a pair of sweats or long johns depending on how much weight I’m willing to carry.

Sleep in Versatile Clothing

You don’t want to be weighed down by dedicated pajamas on a backpacking trip. When weights an issue I will either wear a pair of long johns, gym shorts or my underwear to bed (Hane’s Long Legs are where it’s at).

Wear the same thing to bed that you plan on wearing the following day to hike. This tactic will keep your weight down while keeping sweat and grime out of your bag.

Sleep in Layers on Cold Nights

On cold nights you want a few layers of clothing between you and the cold nights air. For more info check out my post on layering clothing for bed.

Most sleeping bags, liners and pads will get you through a moderately chilly night. Remember that even if it’s 70 degrees during the day it can drop into the low 40’s at night.

Wearing the right clothing to bed is going to help keep you comfortable throughout the night. Unless you have winter camping gear you’ll probably want to dress in layers.

On even the coldest nights, most people will be fairly comfortable sleeping in a pair of long johns and a T-Shirt (these are my favorite long johns). Especially, cold nights you might want to throw on a light jacket and long pants.

Should You Sleep in The Nude?

Call me a prude, but I’m not a big fan of sleeping in the nude (Unless I’m Sharing the tent). You don’t want to be buck naked when a raccoon, bear or even worse a drunk wanders into your campsite.

That being said there are times when sleeping naked makes sense. Check out my post describing when you should sleep naked in your sleeping bag.

Camping Sleepwear Tips

Choosing your camping sleepwear really isn’t all that difficult. It all boils down to planning for the weather and trying to stay comfortable. That being said there are a few more things you should keep in mind when planning your trip.

  1. Separate Cooking Clothes: Store all your food and anything you cook in away from your campsite. Bears, raccoons and rodents will all be going after your food throughout the night. Don’t wear something to bed that’s covered in bacon grease. You should definitely buy a bear bag or canister and learn how to use it. (Bear Vault Canister)
  2. Strip Out of Wet Clothes: Moisture will quickly wreak havoc on your sleeping bag. Moisture compresses the down/synthetic fibers and reduces its insulation layer. Strip out of your sweaty clothes and sleep in clean underwear/shirts. A bag liner (like this one) will help extend the life of your sleeping bag. Check out my post on drying camping clothes.
  3. Know When to Layer: You have no excuse for being cold throughout the night. Cold nights just mean you aren’t wearing enough layers. I always throw one of those fleece columbia jackets into my bag because they’re lightweight and soft/fluffy to sleep in.
  4. Keep Extra Layers Closeby: If you’re camping in cold weather keep your following days clothing nearby. Get cold throughout the night and you can quickly toss them on. You can even toss them into the bottom of your bag to get warmed up if you’re on the short side.
  5. Avoid Overdressing: Remember that sleeping bags are designed to trap in body heat. If you wear to many layers to bed you’ll end up sweaty and miserable. I like to use my sleeping bags zipper to regulate the temperature throughout the night, unzipping whenever I get too warm.

Other Sleeping Tips

  • Use a Sleeping Pad/Pillow: Sleeping pads and pillows aren’t just about cushioning the ground. A good sleeping pad like this Therm-a-Rest pad will get you up off the ground and insulate your body from the cold ground. You’ll end up 5-10 degrees warmer throughout the night.
  • Consider Earplugs/Masks: There’s a reason why backpackers wake up so early. The sounds of nature are loud and tents let in a lot of sunlight. If you don’t want to wake up at 6am consider bringing along a eye mask.
  • Smells Attract Wildlife: Remember that any type of strong smell is going to attract wildlife. Try not to wash your camping clothes in fruity smelling detergents or wear smelly deodorant or perfume/cologne. Store anything that has a strong scent outside of your campsite so you don’t attract wildlife.
  • Pee Before Bed: For some reason peeing before bed makes you warmer throughout the night. I’m not a doctor so I have no idea why.
  • Prepare For Restroom Breaks: If you pee a lot during the night you want to figure out a game plan. Get your shoes and a flashlight ready for when nature calls.

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