The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably

Posted by: chaosmagnet

The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 01:04 AM

Iíve been slowly working through the gear I own and carry, thinking about how well I might sleep if I had to spend the night outdoors. Depending on the kit and what Iím doing, I already had very good gear for things like disinfecting water, starting a fire, signaling for help, defense, and so on. Hereís where Iíve been making adjustments.

I have no affiliation with any products or manufacturers mentioned.

  • A tarp ó Iíve added a compact, lightweight silnylon tarp along with stakes and line. Iíve studied up on tarp shelters and set up a few in my back yard, under admittedly ideal conditions. I found what I was looking for in terms of weight, ruggedness and pricing at (https://www.shop.backpackingadventuregear.com/). I also splurged for a dedicated ridgeline from (https://dutchwaregear.com/) ó in my mind I was building this shelter in the dark and with cold fingers, and thought about how much time and effort I could save with something easier to set up. I thought long and hard about a tent, but I couldnít justify the pack space for an inexpensive tent or the cost for one more suited to backpacking. Iím not sure I could afford the pack space for this even if money were no object, for a day hike.
  • A better bivvy sack ó the bivvy sack I had in my kits had the advantages of being inexpensive, compact, but prone to tearing and very susceptible to condensation and the accompanying discomfort. I would have loved to buy a couple of very nice ones, but given the cost I ended up with something a lot less expensive than those used by dedicated backpackers in the SOL Escape Bivvy.
  • My biggest lack was something to keep me off the ground, both for comfort and insulation in the cold. I settled on the Klymit Insulated Static V. For car camping, Iím sure Iíd want something more comfortable, but I tried it out (in my house, not overnight) and it was pretty good for me, especially given the minimal pack space.
  • I donít sleep well without a pillow (or better, two) and bought a Thermarest travel pillow. Itís much larger than an inflatable pillow but itís so comfortable it might end up in my regular overnight bag instead of my day hiking pack.


Iím still thinking about the best way to stay warm through the night. I have a military surplus sleep system (goretex bivvy and two sleeping bags that can be used independently or nested for extreme cold) and it sure as heck is warm, but itís also super bulky. Iím reluctant to carry it in my car for winter road trips, it takes up so much space. I have some other options on hand that Iíve been experimenting with. Iím confident that thereís no one-size-fits-all solution for this, which of course makes it harder to figure out what to change.
Posted by: Phaedrus

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 02:29 AM

Good stuff!
Posted by: Burncycle

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 07:11 AM

Sounds like a good setup, I'm also a fan of having the basics for an unplanned overnighter with me even if it's a dayhike.
Posted by: Ren

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 09:37 AM

There are bothy bags, which are a half way between a tarp and a tent.
The smallest is a two person, largest I've seen is a 20 person.

They became more popular in the 70s over here due to the Cairngorm Plateau disaster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWC-xn08jYU
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 12:33 PM

Good share Ren. Looks like a useful piece of kit.

For my purposes, a tarp shelter is a lot more effort to deploy, but has much more flexibility. I think a bothy bag would work for quick deployment and do a good job of getting me out of the wind and rain, but would not make for enough space for me to sleep in. If it were a big longer and free-standing at that weight and price, that would be pretty amazing.
Posted by: LesSnyder

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/10/21 07:58 PM

I may have posted this before.... I have a light weight utility trailer with expanded metal flooring and ramp/tailgate... with the ramp vertical, a pair of 2"x2" ridge poles to the front railing can support a plain "blue tarp" held in place with 8 bungee cords... a folding chaise lounge in the bed, mosquito netting, optional poncho liner and I'm in pretty good shape... for extended use a couple of 4'x8' sheets of plywood "C" clamped to the sides for a little more privacy
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/11/21 01:18 AM

Mrs. Magnet and I want to get an actual RV trailer, but itís not in the cards for 2021.
Posted by: LesSnyder

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/11/21 02:44 PM

Chaos... an RV trailer or self contained is pretty popular down here in Florida... both for recreation, power outages, and didi mao in case of a tropical event... regards
Posted by: amper

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/13/21 06:27 PM

These days, I prefer down quilts to sleeping bags. Bags really don't provide any warmth underneath, in any case. A few years ago, I got a Paria Outdoors Thermodown 15 deg quilt, and while it's not the lightest in the category, its an excellent value. I'd like to get their 35 deg version, as well.

If I have to sleep on the ground, then my trusty Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Deluxe (the old discontinued purple and green version, which is thicker than the one they sell now) is my first line of defense, to which I add a Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp when car camping, and I want to add a lighter weight self-inflater, probably the Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus.

But honestly, sleeping in a hammock is my preference now, and the advantage of having a quilt instead of a bag is that you can always rig it as an underquilt. Of course, that doesn't make much sense unless you also have another quilt over you.

Still, in warmer weather, I can use the closed cell pad in the hammock with the quilt over me, and that's enough.

I actually sleep on the BaseCamp at home, with a Z-Rest under it, but I put a doubled-over heavy wool blanket on top of that for additional insulation, moisture management, and cushioning. It's surprisingly comfortable, and in Winter, I add a second doubled-over heavy wool blanket.

As far as tarps as concerned, I'd like to get a nylon tarp, just because they pack up much smaller, but for years, I've used woven poly tarps. They are cheap and ubiquitous, and they work.

I have a couple of Quixote down travel pillows that I bought forever ago at REI.
Posted by: chaosmagnet

Re: The Unplanned Night Out: Sleeping comfortably - 09/16/21 04:02 PM

Thank you amper!

Iím choosing synthetic over down for contingency gear. Down has its advantages to be sure, but I want to carry gear that doesnít need to be stored uncompressed, and that doesnít degrade in performance so much when wet. Were I backpacking regularly, I might choose differently.

After my first post I bought a Recon 3 sleeping bag rated down to 23deg F. I havenít tried it out yet; itís a heck of a lot smaller than the milsurp sleep system. Itís the smallest-packed-size synthetic bag I could find with that kind of rating. As far as I can tell thatís the ďyou wonít dieĒ rather than the ďcomfortĒ rating. With an already-owned synthetic camping blanket, a watch cap and good base layer Iím optimistic that I could get down somewhat lower than that at need.

For a sleeping pad, I wanted the best balance I could find between insulation, comfort, bulk, and cost. For bulk I really wanted to stay with an inflatable; thatís how I ended up where I did.

I thought long and hard about a hammock setup. In the end I chose not to carry one, as Iím not confident that Iíd always be in a place where I could find a place to hang it. For planned backpacking, I could really see where Iíd want to have one.

We use poly tarps for car camping and have been super happy with how they perform.