"Huh? What?" I awake with a start in the dark and cold. There is a lump of ice under my sleeping pad the size of a football, it's 10ºF, and something is jabbing me in the ribs.
"You're snoring," my wife says grumpily, reholstering her elbows.
"Nah, how can I be, I'm not asleep. Must be a bear," I tell her.
"It's the middle of winter," she points out, "all the bears are asleep."
"Well, at least someone is getting some sleep," I complain.
Okay, I admit it. I snore. Hiking partners wait to see where I'll pitch my tent, then set theirs up as far away as possible. Then, in the morning, I'm the one they joke about around the campfire. And I'm the one at BACKPACKER who gets to test new snore-relief products. Stop laughing--it isn't funny. According to The Snore M.D. Web site, snorers run a higher risk of developing strokes and sleep apnea, not to mention the very real risk of elbow-induced rib injuries.
There are many gadgets and techniques that purport to stop snoring-an electric prod, a tennis ball sewn into your pajamas to keep you from sleeping on your back, plus an odd collection of chin straps, neck collars, breathing tubes, and nose strips. Most of these devices seem to operate on the principle that if you aren't sleeping, you aren't snoring.
Then there's Dr. Dennis Harris's Snore M.D. It claims to be a "100 percent natural" concoction of "digestive enzymes and natural herbs" that "metabolizes excess drainage and shrinks nasal and respiratory membranes." Take one to three little pills (depending on your weight) and "Say goodnight to annoying snoring." Oh, I wish it were that easy.
I brought a fistful of Snore M.D. pills on a winter camping trip in Wisconsin's Chequamegon National Forest for a test. I brought a tape recorder and I brought my wife with her chisel-sharp elbows. I followed the directions, taking three pills 3 hours after dinner and half an hour before bedtime. With calcium, elderberry, clover, and something called fenugreek (which sounds like one of the noises I've been accused of making when I snore), the pills are about the size of vitamins and make your breath smell faintly of tree bark. As the moon cleared the trees, we crawled into the tent, flicked on the tape recorder, and got comfortable.
The results were conclusive and indisputable: a tape recorder freezes quickly at 10ºF. The snoring results were less conclusive. It is impossible to stay up and listen for your own snoring. I will say that my wife didn't hear any bears. I didn't have any sudden, unexplainable jolts of pain in my ribs, and when I rolled over to kiss my wife good morning, she smiled and whispered something sweet about the seductive scent of tree bark. And with that, who cares if you snore?
Price: $29.95 for 60 caplets
Contact: Snore M.D., (800) 560-4889; www.snoremd.com.