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13 Tips to Help You Sleep Well on the Trail


You’re trying to sleep, but there’s a baseball-size rock poking you in the back. You keep sliding downhill in your sleeping bag. Just as you drift off to sleep, you’re jolted awake by the sound of your Scoutmaster snoring like a gorilla with a head cold.

While we can’t help you with your snoring Scoutmaster, Gear Guy is here to save you with some handy sleep tips and gear that will help you get a better night’s rest on the trail.

1. EAT: Don’t go to bed hungry if you can help it. Your body generates more heat when it has calories to burn, so you stay warmer and sleep better.


2. GET LEVEL: Pick a spot that’s as flat and level as possible so you’re not sliding downhill all night. Flat ground can be tough to find, so if sleeping on a slight incline is unavoidable, always have your head on the uphill part so all the blood doesn’t rush to your noggin.

3. CLEAR THE WAY: Before you go to bed, do a quick sweep of the spot you’ll be sleeping on to remove sticks, stones and other things. But leave the pine needles and leaves right where they are. They’ll give you a little extra padding, and leaving them will make less of an impact on the environment.


4. LOOK ABOVE: Check for dead trees, limbs, pine cones and other stuff that could fall on you in the night. Avoid those spots.

5. DO A STAKEOUT: Take the extra time to stake out the body of your tent and the guy lines on your rainfly. That way, if the wind whips up, you won’t be kept awake by the annoying flapping of the fly. Also, this will improve airflow and ventilation within your tent and will help you avoid your tent wetting through with morning dew and condensation.

6. KEEP IT ROLLED UP: If you’re going to sleep out under the stars (good for you! It’s one of Gear Guy’s favorite things to do), keep your sleeping bag rolled up in its stuffsack until it’s time to hit the hay. That way you’ll prevent your bag from getting wet from dew or humidity, and it’ll give the creepy crawlies less opportunity to get inside before you do.

7. BRING PJs: I’m not saying you ought to pack those Spider-Man pajamas, unless that’s how you roll. Just make sure you always have clean clothes to wear to bed. Maybe it’s simply a T-shirt and boxers, but having something that doesn’t smell like campfire, dinner or your own B.O. will help you sleep better. Bonus: It’ll keep your sleeping bag cleaner, too.

8. THROW IT AT YOUR FEET: Cold-weather tip: Whatever clothes you’re planning to wear in the morning, toss those in the bottom of your sleeping bag. They’ll keep your feet warmer, and the clothes will be cozy and warm when you get dressed in the morning. Sure they’ll be wrinkled, but get over it. You’re camping!

9. SLEEP IN YOUR CLOTHES: If it’s particularly cold, wear layers to bed. Long underwear (tops and bottoms), warm (clean) socks and a fleece jacket are a good start for frigid nights.


10. D-I-Y PILLOW: Don’t bring that huge, bulky pillow from your bed at home. Instead, make a do-it-yourself pillow. Use a stuffsack (or a fleece jacket) and fill it with your other clothing layers to make a soft mini pillow.


11. WEAR A HAT: We lose most of our body heat through our heads, so keep a stocking cap or balaclava close at hand. Then if you get chilly in the night, you can just slip it on and warm up.

12. SLEEP LIGHT: Keep a headlamp or flashlight at your side when you sleep; doing so is key to being able to find your way in the middle of the night—whether it’s an emergency or you’re just heading out to relieve yourself. Bonus: If it’s cold, keeping your headlamp inside your sleeping bag prevents the batteries from getting cold and losing their power.


13. PEE IN A BOTTLE: Maybe you’re camping somewhere cold or where getting out of your sleeping bag to relieve yourself could be uncomfortable or dangerous. If so, stash an empty quart-size plastic bottle in your tent. The wide-mouth ones, like a Gatorade bottle, are best. When nature calls, simply kneel in your sleeping bag, position the bottle just so, and VERY CAREFULLY pee into it. When you’re finished, screw the top on tightly and set it outside the tent door.

13 Comments on 13 Tips to Help You Sleep Well on the Trail

  1. Why is everyone talking about peeing, there were 12 other things in this list

  2. I don’t know why the bottle would smell any more than say your dirty clothes or unwashed body as long as you’re careful. I had heard this old timer’s advice which also included sealing the bottle TIGHT and throwing it in the bottom of your bag. it’s like a hot water bottle to heat the bag. I’d guess that only works if you’re not getting out of the bag. If you’re going to the trouble to get up, out of the bag, and etc, you’re losing all the body heat anyway and all the bottle trick does is make it so you don’t have to walk far …

  3. Peeing in a bottle really isn’t that discusting. And yes the bottle will attract animals but that’s why u put it outside of the tent. If its inside the anomalies will try to get in. If they are out side of your tent, who cares they can play with the bottle all night long and they won’t bother u because they’re not trying to get in

  4. throw a hand warmer in the foot box of your sleeping bag

  5. Peeing in a bottle then placing it outside your tent will attract animals

    • I agree

    • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // November 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm // Reply

      unless your in a very popular camp-ground, no it will not attract animals. Deer can be attracted and will even lick it up sometimes because the like the salty taste(personal experance). other wise no it will not attract animals. In fact it might even scare them away. (Most animals do not like the smell of humans and human urine has a very potent smell to it)

  6. peeing in a bottle is kool but i pee like right out the tent

  7. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // February 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm // Reply

    I had to pee in a bottle and lest just say the bottle was’nt big enough!

  8. Scouter Ninja // October 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm // Reply

    Pee is actually quite clean as your bladder keeps it hot enough to kill any germs. For the same reason you will sleep better in winter with an empty bladder as your body can heat your core instead.

    To clarify on the sleep in your clothing bit. Make sure that it is clean and dry clothing. If it is not it will actually make you colder.

  9. Cool Tips
    (Not the bottle)

  10. Mr. Campsalot // September 7, 2011 at 9:01 pm // Reply

    Adult Diapers are not the best solution and peeing in a bottle might get lots of funny looks if you get equipment inspections in camp.
    If your like me and have bladder issues then a diaper is the best option. If your not sure I’d try them anyway as its easier to stash these then a loaded bottle.

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