In my many years of hunting and spending countless nights in some of the most rugged terrain imaginable, it's become clear that the consequences of sleep deprivation in the mountains can significantly impact your ability to stay sharp and focused. While a brief weekend outing might tolerate a night or two of poor sleep, the stakes escalate drastically during extended hunts, potentially leading to an unfortunate outcome — a big ol’ bowl of tag soup. Quality sleep emerges as a decisive factor in determining your ability to go the extra mile for a successful hunt.
Acknowledging the importance of quality sleep, I've refined a set of strategies and essential gear for backcountry hunting. Prioritizing top-tier equipment, including a quality down sleeping bag and an insulated sleeping pad, ensures crucial warmth and comfort. Adding a thick ground cloth provides a defense against potential air mattress punctures, which is a crucial consideration in cold environments where a punctured pad can lead to a restless, chilly night. Bring the means necessary to fix a punctured air pad, such as Gear Aid patches or Tenacious Tape. You will be required to fix flats on the mountain if you spend a decent amount of time in the backcountry.
For the weight-conscious backpack hunter, a pillow might be a luxury that doesn't make the cut. However, my perspective has evolved, recognizing that quality sleep often demands a touch of comfort. Embracing a makeshift pillow using a down jacket and a fleece-lined stuff sack — with Hyperlite Mountain Gear offering a great lightweight option — has become a favorite comfort addition.
Crafting the perfect sleep environment is essential for a truly restful night. Smoothing out a flat spot or taking the time to construct one using sticks, rocks, and dirt can significantly enhance overall comfort. Consider opting for a spacious tent like the PEAX Solitude 4-Person Tipi, which has a cut-out to use a titanium lightweight stove to elevate your comfort further. A hot fire and a roomy tent setup make falling asleep much easier.
To address sleep challenges associated with factors like elevation or the all too common “Thinking of Big Bucks Syndrome” relaxation aids like CBD sleep gummies infused with calming herbs can be beneficial. While melatonin is a widely used sleep aid, its effects vary person to person. Personally, it induces a deep sleep for me, but reactions differ among individuals, and some may experience the opposite effects. You should experiment with sleep aids at home before using one on your hunt.
Two final strategies for optimal backcountry sleep, in my opinion, include indulging in a substantial meal before bedtime to generate internal warmth, which is especially crucial during colder winter nights. Additionally, having earplugs on hand can be a huge asset, particularly if your hunting partner's snoring has become unbearable. Everyone needs sleep the most, especially after a physically exhausting day.
Prioritizing top-tier equipment, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and addressing sleep challenges with thoughtful solutions contribute to a restful night in rugged terrains. From quality sleeping gear to makeshift pillows and relaxation aids, every detail plays a role in ensuring you wake up sharp, focused, and ready to conquer the next day’s challenges. As hunters, recognizing the profound impact of quality sleep on our performance is key to turning those challenging nights into a well-rested foundation for success.