Trees clunking together, random twig snaps and odd smells. I remember the first time I tried to sleep packed into the Montana wilderness solo. Although there was nothing that really worried me, my awareness of sounds and smells was heightened. Over time, though, my guard slowly lowered as I knew which sounds were normal; however, there was also some gear and techniques that I used to get quality sleep while away from home and the comfort of my mattress.
Here are some things I have adopted to get some quality ZZZZs.
This may seem like the simplest item to add to your sleep system and rightfully so. I started using a pillow about four years ago and haven't looked back. For less than 2 oz, my pillow aids in naps during the day when hunting is slow, truck camping and at night when it's time to rest for the next day while packed into hunting camp. While yes, it is a simple addition, I believe it may be the most important. It brings a sense of normality and a creature comfort wehave become used to. So, add one to your system if you haven't already and thank me later!
The second solution to getting better sleep for me was choosing the correct pad for the type of sleeper I am. I would like to be able to get away with a thin, light mummy pad (trust me I tried!), but, unfortunately, I wrestle imaginary demons in my sleeping bag at night and additionally sleep on my side so that wasn’t in the cards. In order for me to get quality sleep, I had to look at my pad as an area that I was willing to sacrifice carrying in a few more ounces. I chose to go with a long wide pad with a little over 3” of cushion, which gave me the ability to shuffle in my sleeping bag without falling off and allows me to sleep on my side without discomfort. While ounces do add to pounds in the long run, this is an area to me where people try to shave weight but consequently get burned in the end due to lack of sleep and discomfort. A couple of nights of bad sleep can lead to acute fatigue, which over the span of a few days of hunting, could be detrimental to energy levels and attention to detail. If you are a side sleeper, I would recommend a thicker pad, such as the Big Agnes Insulated AXL Sleeping Pad and Big Agnes Insulated Q Core SLX Sleeping Pad. If you are an ounce counter and don’t have issues with side sleeping then the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad and NeoAir Uberlite Sleeping Pad may be the choice for you. Either way, take the time to assess your sleeping style and pick the correct pad to get the maximum comfort in the field — even if that means adding a couple extra pounds.
This one took me a while to learn. I would lay on my pad and my brain would just think, think, think. Thinking about the next day, what I need to get done at home and a plethora of other things. So, in order to combat this issue, I started bringing a book to read, whether it was paperback or digital. I will also throw in some cheap gas station crossword puzzles. This distracts your brain and studies show that reading decreases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. A good buddy of mine on a bear hunt laid down in the tipi and broke out a leather-bound writing pad for a daily journal every evening, which I thought was pretty unique. That may be an option for you if you want to start a hunting log/journal to one day pass down to your kids.
Hopefully, if you are a person that has some issues getting quality sleep while afield these will help you out. Also feel free to drop some recommendations in the comment section for what you do when you lay your head down at night.