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Improving your backcountry sleeping game—Part 1

Sleeping pads are great for glassing

Photo credit: Steve Opat

I’ve come to believe that too many hunters spent too much time researching gadgets, gear, and camo. They feel that finding a superior product will increase the odds of harvesting their desired game. I’m not a contrarian, but I don’t follow that logic. I’m more of a believer that we can give ourselves the advantage by spending more time researching proper nutrition and preparing our food. Also, we can increase success by learning more about staying dry, staying warm and getting rest while away from our cozy homes.

This is part one of a two-part series (for now) where I am attempting to give you some tools to both improve your sleep and stretch the value of your dollar. Here are my five essential tools for obtaining essential rest and staying in the game. In part two, you’ll learn more about how I utilize these items to stay warm throughout the wide range of temperatures we can experience on a backcountry endeavor.

Lightweight is imperative, but lightest is not always best because sometimes the only way to reduce weight is to eliminate features (i.e: make it worse). A vertical baffle paralleling the zipper is an excellent example of weight worth carrying. These extra ounces help retain immeasurable amounts of heat by preventing a draft through the zipper.

The KUIU Super Down sleeping bag

My favorite, the KUIU Super Down sleeping bag

To get a bag you can trust, buy one from a manufacturer that is passionate about your passions; from somebody who completely understands your needs. I recommend the KUIU Super Down bags. My bag has served me well through four full seasons. The bighorn sheep hunting nut-job friend I have—the one who’s been a part of 40+ Dall ram harvests—is a believer in them too.

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  • Sleep in merino wool.

It is loose, light and cozy, aids your thermoregulation and helps keep your bag from stinking like feet and fart.

These lightweight adjuncts now accompany me on every hunt. The different options have specific functions. I choose one that is antimicrobial to help keep my bag clean so it retains its performance throughout a long hunting season. All of the options add at least 5 degrees of range to both ends of your bag’s temperature rating.

These can be used all throughout the day while napping, glassing, shooting, etc. Experience has taught me not to depend solely on an air mattress. If anything, a lightweight z-lite foam pad can be that extra barrier protecting your air mattress from sharp rocks or thorns.

Improving your backcountry sleeping game

Being comfortably cool/warm at night is an essential key to obtaining necessary rest. It requires practice to hone your system and your skills. It requires diligence to execute and it takes discipline to maintain. This series is not the last time we’ll talk about rest and recovery. There are still things like tents and advanced-level rest tactics to be covered in subsequent articles. Stay tuned for part two where I divulge how I use these tools.

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