Won’t I need a bed and an arctic sleeping bag to be comfortable I hear you say… Er no lets start with what to sleep on.
Sleeping options range from the cheap to the expensive, from sleeping on the ground to elaborate combinations of camp beds and SIMs.
What does all of this mean ? At the cheaper end of the spectrum you have foam mats and air beds, Foam mats are something I had as a kid and remember being very uncomfortable so we’ll be skipping over these as for the space they take up there are better options. Air beds are a step up in comfort because they raise you off the ground and all its lumps and bumps, that said they have their draw backs firstly you have to inflate them and secondly they can puncture, leaving you to repair or sleep on the ground, the other issue is that the air inside is in contact with the ground and as a result is cooled by the ground, with you laying on top draining heat away from you (This can be overcome by placing space blankets or picnic rugs under the airbed to provide a layer of insulations between the ground and airbed). SIMs are part air bed part foam mat, the foam inside wants to expand back to its natural size and as a result draws air into the bed a couple of puffs and you have a fully inflated mattress with the added benefit of the foam in the middle providing insulation, these are popular with hikers and more hardy campers as they pack down small and provide good insulation against the cold, all be it at a price. Finally you get camp beds, which are as they suggest beds.. they come in many forms from clip together to fancy folding ones, they all raise you from and ground meaning you have comfort and no contact with the ground to draw heat away, that said they are often heavy by comparison and big to transport and big in your tent.
As new campers with a keen eye on your budget, but no desire to sleep directly on the ground air beds offer the best compromise between cost and comfort and if you don’t enjoy the experience you can use it as a guest bed or a lilo for your next trip to a place with a pool. Just don’t forget you’ll need a pump to inflate them as no amount of lung power is going to do the job. (it should also be noted that “topping up” the air is not uncommon if you pump warm air in during the day as it cools at night time and subsequently compresses, it will feel like its deflating when it’s not)