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Sleep Better Now: Improve Your Backcountry ZZZ’s

Our restless guinea pig snooze-tested the latest science and gear to bring you a simple plan that's guaranteed to improve your backcountry ZZZ's.
Sleep BetterCourtesy Jeff Beal

Put it All Together

My investigation yielded expert tips. My driveway test produced the ultimate sleeping system: bag, pad, and camp pillow. Added to that core package were earplugs, a soft cotton T-shirt and boxers, a flannel pillowcase from my bed at home, a dose of Advil, and a pair of socks. (I stumbled across a Dutch study that found socks make it easier for the body to control core temperature, thus improving sleep. It worked for me.)

The time had come for the final field test. So I loaded my new sleep gear–it consumed half of my pack’s 5,000 cubic inches–and struck out for the foothills around Pikes Peak, bound for a knobby ridge with sprawling views of the prairie below. The sun was already setting by the time I reached the perfect campsite, a grassy spot set among pines and scrub oak. Still, I spent a good 20 minutes scouting and preparing a flat, rock-free spot to pitch my tent, just as my experts had instructed me. Mind and body exhausted from the long day and the hike in, I savored a bowl of chili by headlamp and watched the moon rise.

I cleaned up, did some jumping jacks to warm my body, and crawled into my tent. It was still early, so I didn’t try to force myself to sleep. Instead, I caught up on my reading. I listened to the wind rustle through the trees, and I thought about the world spinning silently under the stars. At 10 p.m., I popped an Advil and washed it down with 20 ounces of water, inserted my earplugs, and slid into my roomy new bag. And then, faster than you could say “moment of truth,” I fell asleep. For the first time in my life, I actually dreamed. In a tent. On the ground. Until sunrise.

Grant Davis’s next challenge? Carrying his new sleep gear and a week’s worth of food on a John Muir Trail dream trip.

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