Something I always seem to forget when I haven’t been backpacking in a while is just how badly I sleep. At first, I thought it was about equipment. I gave up on the ultra-light sleeping pad and invested in a Big Agnes inflatable mat. That was a nice upgrade. A big, thick, insulated, cushy air mattress that really didn’t weigh a whole lot more. I still didn’t sleep well. There are several factors involved:
- Noises. These range from bears to my husband snoring (he claims it’s me), but there always seem to be noises I can’t ignore.
- Fluids. I drink a lot of water when we’re hiking. Unfortunately, particularly in cold weather, this leads to having to get up many times in the middle of the night. The whole process of managing getting out of the tent and then wandering out into the cold and/or rain has a pretty significant impact on sleep.
- Discomfort. Backpacking uses muscles that don’t get used while sitting at a desk all day. They don’t even get used in yoga class, rowing, biking, or the gym. These muscles start screaming as I struggle to find a good position for my head. At home, I sleep with two pillows to keep my neck and lower back comfortable. Perhaps I need to find light-weight pillows for backpacking.
- Time Shift. When one backpacks, there is little to do at the campsite after dinner if there’s no fire. We rarely have a fire. In many places, it’s not allowed. In places where it is allowed, it’s often a lot of work. Sometimes, it’s just impossible. For example, when it’s pouring down rain. So, once dinner is over, the dishes are washed, teeth are brushed, the supplies are appropriately stowed, and fatigue from the many miles of hiking sets in, it’s bedtime. When bedtime is very early, this contributes to waking up throughout the night.
Rain suddenly pounding on the metal roof above our tent caused noise issues. No pillow and sharing a tent with both a man and a dog created discomfort issues. Going to bed at 7:30PM contributed to time shift issues. The only thing I did well was taper off on water consumption. None-the-less, I felt like I’d gotten no more than 15 consecutive minutes of sleep all night.
I think Tisen felt the same way–he wouldn’t get out of the tent in the morning.
But, we made it back on the trail eventually. On the way back, we discovered Tommy Overlook, a highlight of the trail we’d missed in the heavy rain the day before. We were making good time on the trail–all of us walking double-time in some unspoken agreement that we wanted to get home as fast as possible. We stopped for a good 15 minutes to enjoy the view of the 3 gulches converging. I couldn’t help but imagine what it would look like in a few weeks when the trees are in color.