The Best Backcountry Sleeping Techniques

sleep backcountryA good night’s sleep is essen­tial to a great day explor­ing the back­coun­try. How­ev­er, far too many peo­ple spend too much time plan­ning their day­time adven­tures and for­get about prep­ping for how and where they’ll sleep. Before your next hik­ing trip or adven­ture in the wild, be sure you’ve got your night­time rit­u­al mapped out with these help­ful tips and techniques.

The Gear
Putting plen­ty of space between you and the ground is one of the most impor­tant moves you can make when get­ting a good night’s sleep. Rocks, twigs, and cold ground can keep you awake for hours. Pur­chase a com­fort­able, thick pad to place on the ground under­neath your sleep­ing bag. It’ll pro­vide not only cush­ion­ing, but also added warmth through­out the night. You’ll also want to bring along a high-qual­i­ty sleep­ing bag that’s specif­i­cal­ly tai­lored for the weath­er. It’s rare you’ll find one that works per­fect­ly well in both sum­mer and win­ter. There’s also the option of using a ham­mock. This way, you won’t be any­where near the ground and can still get a great night’s rest in a com­fort­able position.

Main­tain Your Sleep Schedule
Unless you work an odd sched­ule, your body is prob­a­bly used to going to sleep at rough­ly the same time each night. If not, it should be. Don’t inter­rupt your body’s nor­mal sleep cycle when out in the back­coun­try. Head­ing to sleep just one or two hours lat­er than nor­mal can throw off your body’s rhythm and ruin a good night’s rest. Instead, head to your tent or ham­mock at the same time you’d nor­mal­ly be head­ing to bed back home.

Things to Avoid 
While cof­fee is great for keep­ing you going dur­ing a long work­day, it’s some­thing that should be left at home when you wan­der into the wild. Caf­feine can have a neg­a­tive impact on your sleep. Addi­tion­al­ly, avoid eat­ing any­thing with­in three hours of bed­time. Food can boost your ener­gy lev­el and make it more dif­fi­cult to fall asleep. The same goes for alcohol.

White Noise
Con­trary to what your bed­side clock might claim, the sounds of nature are not always an effec­tive form of white noise. In fact, a lot of those nat­ur­al sounds can be down­right creepy in the mid­dle of the night. Bring along a good pair of ear­phones that are designed to be slept in, or even a white noise machine. It might seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive to bring along elec­tron­ics on a back­coun­try trip, but it can help you sleep well in order to enjoy a dis­trac­tion and exhaus­tion-free day of hiking.

Your Sleep­ing Spot
Choos­ing the right place to lie down for the night is essen­tial to get­ting some good sleep. Avoid set­ting up camp on the side of a hill when­ev­er pos­si­ble. If that’s the only option, be sure to sleep with your head fac­ing uphill. Blood rush­ing down to your brain is bad for sleep, and your health in gen­er­al. Seek out a flat area free of hard rocks and debris. You’ll also want to avoid damp spaces. If you can’t find a good option on the ground, pull out a ham­mock and swing from the trees.

Uti­lize Sleep Aids
When all else fails, there’s no shame in using sleep aids. Sleep­ing pills are high­ly effec­tive, but require a doctor’s pre­scrip­tion and should only be tak­en in low dos­es. Mela­tonin, on the oth­er hand, is only effec­tive in about fifty per­cent of users and only when you’re head­ing out­side your nor­mal time zone. While alco­hol might seem like a good way to knock your­self out, it actu­al­ly wreaks hav­oc on your sleep pat­tern and will leave you drowsy the fol­low­ing morn­ing. Instead, opt for warm milk for a healthy dose of tryp­to­phan, an amino acid that aids your nat­ur­al sleep cycle.