Sleeping Under The Stars


For most people, a tent is the first thing in the car when planning a camping trip. They are the preferred accommodation of the Australian camper. But they are also heavy, and bulky and weigh you down when walking long distances. Can you camp without a tent and still have a decent night of sleep? Turns out the answer is yes.

I was the only one mad enough not to bring a tent, but 4 years ago, me and some mates took on the Cape to Cape from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. With 20-25 km to cover every day, I wanted to keep the weight on my back to a minimum. I thought what better time to try no-tent camping than here. I really didn’t feel like I had sacrificed much comfort either.


For most of the trail, I was just sleeping rough. If you can be certain that rain won’t be a problem, sleeping rough is actually no less comfortable than a tent. Sleeping under the stars with just your sleeping bag and roll mat gives a special connection to nature. The critters I encountered during the night only enhanced that connection. You need to bring a warm sleeping bag to ensure you stay warm at night, without the protection from the wind that a tent gives, it can be a little chilly.


Another alternative to using a tent is a hammock. They are usually smaller to carry and it is warmer than sleeping rough as you are off the ground. Critters are not an issue and I have had some great night’s sleep in a suspended hammock. You have to be careful with hammocks though, as some national parks don’t allow them. They can damage the trees they hand between.


A bivvy bag is a waterproof bag which you put your sleeping bag inside at night. It protects you from the elements while being exceptionally light and compact, making bivvy bags excellent for long distance hiking. Bivvy bags are astonishingly good in bad weather and because of the lightweight design, they are great for a backup option if the weather turns and you are sleeping rough. The only downside is that you have no privacy for changing.


Throwing a tarpaulin over you and getting some kip used to be the preferred sleeping method for a backpacker on a budget. Nowadays you can get your hands on tarps with fancy designs, modern features, made from materials from NASA’s space station and they can cost an arm and a leg. They don’t need to be expensive, just a good plastic sheet used to do for us. They might not offer as much protection from the elements as a tent, but they are definitely better than nothing.


A swag is as Australian as anything can come and a swag only needs an introduction if you’re not Australian. They’re so entrenched in Australian culture, they’re subliminally known by just about everyone. A swag is normally made of durable canvas, a bedroll with a mattress and tent-type cover in one. They’re the perfect one-person sleeping option for campers and fishos on the go, although, they are available in 2-person versions today.


If you fancy yourself as a real outback adventurer, why not have a go at building your own? It might take a little creativity and a couple of tools, but make-shift shelters can be thrown together in a rush and get the job done.


Is there anything you would like to add to this article? Share your thoughts through the comments section.

Jackson Williams
Jackson Williams

Jackson Williams has been fishing around Australia for 20 years and loves his home region of far north Queensland.