Cowboy Camping | Tips And Tricks

Wondering what “cowboy camping” even means? It’s sleeping outside, without a tent or shelter! For many, the term evokes romantic images of curling up under a full moon and listening to coyotes yip far off in the distance. Avid outdoors people and specifically long-distance backpackers cowboy camp frequently. 

cowboy camping

How To Cowboy Camp

Cowboy camping can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want. However, to ensure the best night’s sleep and the most enjoyable experience possible, the Wild West Trail has compiled step-by-step instructions letting you know how to cowboy camp. 

Step 1. Finding The Perfect Spot 

If you want to throw down your sleeping bag without looking and pass out – that’s some hardcore cowboy camping. But if you prefer a well-rested sleep, we recommend finding the perfect spot to sleep in. Being without a tent and maybe even without a sleeping pad, your cowboy camp needs to be chosen wisely.

  • If the ground is too hard, find a softer spot
  • Stay away from wet spots
  • Make sure the ground is flat to prevent sliding down hill all night. 
  • Do not sleep on an ant-hill, you will get bit!
  • NEVER sleep in a cave. Every cave is infested with rats, mice, and other vermin. Unless you want them crawling on you and eating your gear, we recommend steering clear of caves. 

Step 2. Choosing The Right Ground Cover 

It’s best practice to sleep on a tarp and even a camping pad. When we go cowboy camping, we always use a camping pad, they help insulate against the cold ground and provide cushion. 

  • Self-inflatable sleeping pads are the most comfortable and robust ground cover option. They are hard to pop and will keep your back warm all night.
  • Another option is to sleep on a tarp and “bathtub” the edges to keep out insects and critters. The bathtub method consists of folding the outer edge of your tarp upwards, creating a small hill of fabric to discourage midnight visitors. 
  • Your final option is to ditch a sleeping pad and find a soft patch of grass to sleep in. 

Step 3. Appropriate Sleeping Bag

Without the added protection of a tent, your sleeping bag better be up to the challenge of cowboy camping. Don’t forget that the wind chill is real! The right sleeping bag will let you sleep comfortably throughout the night.

  • Use a sleeping bag rated to the night-time low temperature of the area you are camping in.
  • Sleeping bags don’t insulate when flattened against the ground, choose the right ground cover. 

5 Reasons Why You Should Cowboy Camp

Birds Of Prey Area

Now that you know how to cowboy camp, it’s time to get out there and try it out. We compiled a list of the top 5 reasons for cowboy camping! 

1. Exhaustion

Setting up camp after a hard day’s hike is not fun. Slogging endless miles under the sun is enough to make a grown man cry. When the sun is going down and it’s time to sleep, setting up a tent is the last thing you will want to do. Fuck it, cowboy camp instead! 

2. Stars

Ever watch the stars for an entire night? It’s a magical experience and you need to see it for yourself. Cowboy camping gives you the best view. 

3. Freedom

Do you even know what freedom is unless you sleep under the night sky? Hell no. Cowboy camping is the ultimate free expression of sleep. 

4. Brave The Unknown

Stop limiting your life experiences with walls, roofs, and tents. Embrace the fear, embrace the unknown, and go cowboy camping. 

5. Because you Can

It’s not easy to have this much fun with your clothes on! What else are you going to do this weekend? Get the hell outside! 

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