How to sleep in a tent under the Midnight Sun

I camped my way around Iceland last summer, just me, a tent and a bus pass and it was so great I thought I’d give it another go this year, only with a car instead. It didn’t work out so well.

Alright, so Iceland’s a little too far south for true Midnight Sun. The sun does set but it doesn’t get truly dark. Go outside at about 9pm tonight (those of you at approximately the UK’s latitude), that’s about as dark as Iceland gets this time of year. If you’re fool enough to own a yellow tent (the tent came in yellow or dark green; why didn’t I think ahead and get the darker tent?!), it will be blindingly bright all night. Even the dullest, most overcast evening will be transformed into tropical sunlight through yellow nylon. If, like me, you can only sleep when it’s dark, then sleep is going to be difficult.

The other trouble is, Iceland is surprisingly warm. You can try to block out the perpetual daylight by putting the sleeping bag over your head but you’re then either going to suffocate or overheat. I’m not convinced about sleeping masks either – I tend to fidget a lot and I imagine it would either fall off within minutes or get tangled in my hair to the point that I panic. Other than sticky eyepatches like my grandad had after his cataract op, I don’t know what other options there are for blocking out light.

The third trouble is that there’s no way of judging the time. If you wake up – if you sleep at all – then you need to keep checking your watch to see if it’s lunchtime or still only 4am because that golden light is giving nothing away. Wear your watch at night, it’ll save you a lot of scrabbling around, although there’s a good chance you’ll clonk yourself on the head with it. Don’t wear a big heavy steel watch.

I don’t remember having any of these problems last year. I remember being irate with some Germans using their car roof as a table and making a racket at midnight one night, when it didn’t look anything like midnight, but I don’t remember the light keeping me awake.

Of course, my camping exploits got cut short this year when I woke up on morning four to find the tent spinning around me. I’ve come up with a dozen possible explanations for sudden dizziness, which is still to be diagnosed (I’m going to see the doctor next Wednesday), but in the meantime, it’s much easier to cope with ridiculous dizziness in a hotel than in a tent.