Creating Your Backpacking Sleep System
Creating Your Backpacking Sleep System
We know how important getting a good night’s sleep is when out on the trails is, but that it doesn't always happen. We’ve all been there after an exhausting day but restless nights, tossing and turning within your sleeping bag, only to realise the sun is coming up. Although windy nights or pesky critters can interfere with your sleep, having your sleep system dialed in is something you can control to hopefully help with a better night’s sleep.
In terms of shelter, the most common option is a tent. Walkers on the ultralight scale often opt for a bivy to help minimise their pack weight. When deciding on your shelter, consider the environment you’ll be in. Single wall tents perform best in dry alpine conditions, where as double walled tents (ones that have an inner material and a fly) can withstand varying environments.
Your sleeping bag can make or break your overnight trip. Most sleeping bags will have a comfort, lower level, and extreme temperature rating to help you in determining the conditions it can be used in. Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Services recommends a bag with a comfort rating of at least 0°C for coastal areas and -10°C for alpine areas. Depending on the length of your overnight trips, warmth, packability, and weight will likely become more important as the gear you need to take increases.
When considering getting a sleeping bag, there are a few different shapes ranging from rectangular, semi-rectangular, or mummy. Mummy bags are more fitted, but for some people this may feel too restrictive and they may appreciate the extra fabric (and weight) that accompanies more of a rectangular shaped bag. Quilts are another alternative to sleeping bags, without zippers and used for warmer summer nights and ultralight trips.
When comparing what sleeping bag you want to add to your kit, fill type is important to consider. There are two options for fill type: down or synthetic fibres. Down has a greater warmth to weight ratio, meaning it is very packable and it often the more popular option. Down sleeping bags and quilts are often created with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating so as to help prevent the down from becoming ineffective if it gains some moisture. Synthetic is a bulkier insulation alternative, but it retains its loft to keep you warm in damp conditions where down products will become cold and ineffective.
When choosing a sleeping mat there are a few variables to consider. You want your sleeping mat to provide cushioning and insulation. Options for mats include air-cell insulation and self-inflating sleeping mats. Self-inflating sleeping mats use a combination of air pressure and foam to create a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface.
Air sprung mats have cells that mold to your body to equally balance the pressure of your body weight. You won’t wobble when you roll over in the night, and the hundreds of points of suspension guarantee a comfortable sleep regardless of which position you sleep in.
R values measure the warmth of a sleeping mat and can range from 0-10 with the higher numbers used for performing in cold weather/ alpine conditions. If you sleep cold, having a highly rated R value may make all of the difference for your overnight trip comfort even if it is a little heavier.
Sleeping Bag Liners
If you are finding that you are still having a hard time staying warm, adding a sleeping bag liner to your setup can help to add a few degrees of warmth. These also help to keep your sleeping bag clean after a day out on the trails, keeping dirt and sweat contained within the liner rather than being absorbed by your bag.
In addition to your sleeping bag, mat, and optional liner, what you wear to bed will help regulate your body heat as well. Wearing dry base layers and fresh socks that you can layer on a beanie or down jacket to help keep you warm can make all of the difference when sleeping outside.