When on a camping trip, whether it lasts three days or three months, the quality of your sleep effects every aspect of your trip. The wrong temperature bag means you'll either be too hot, or freezing your ass off-- but there's more to it. Heed our words of wisdom to make your nights much better.
There are four factors to your sleep system: pad, bag, cocoon, and pillow.
Separating yourself from the hard earth not only brings comfort, but also regulates temperature. With an air mattress, you can prevent uneven surfaces from digging into your back. As long as you're not a moron, you won't pop the thing. Our NEMO Cosmo Airs have three inches of comfort, and have made for the best sleeping in camp ever. Another benefit of the air mattress is that you can change the pressure, allowing you to sleep on a harder or softer bed. Lastly, it rolls up nicely to fit in your pack and takes up about the size of a water bottle. Note: pressure changes do affect these pads. If you set up your pad hours before you go to bed, and it's much softer, it doesn't automatically mean you have a hole.
Having the right temperature bag is a must. Down is preferable for not only weight, but for easy packing. Store it in a dry bag to prevent any accidents, and make sure there is a two-way zipper so you can have airflow around your feet. A good estimate for what kind of bag you'll need is about 10 degrees warmer than the average nightly low. Having a mummy shape means you can bury your head inside when those unexpectedly cold nights hit.
Cocoons are our trade secret. People rarely have them, and why that is, I have no idea. A cocoon is essentially a sheet for your sleeping bag. Shaped the same way, and made out of a ton of different materials, they keep your bag clean, and prevent your skin from sticking to the nylon shell of your sleeping bag. It can add a few degrees of warmth, or if it's too warm, you can sleep comfortably on top of your bag inside your cocoon. Our material of choice is Coolmax -- it feels like cotton, but performs like polyester.
The pillow is something mostly jerry-rigged. A stuff sack with clothes, or something like that, is the norm. However, what we suggest is one of two things. One, is to get a sleeping pad with a larger bulge on the top where your head rests. Pair that up with putting your backpack under the top section, and you have a pillow that rivals the comforts of home.
This is how we do it every night, and this is why we sleep soundly and have enough energy the next day, after day, after day.
Oh and P.S.: if you're a light sleeper or nervous in the outdoors, don't hesitate to wear ear plugs! Between Andy grinding his teeth, and my being a city boy and not liking the sounds of sticks snapping while I'm trying to sleep -- I use them every night.