The Importance Of Sleep on the Trail

Sleep is the easiest way to prevent injury on the trail. Whether you are hiking, biking, or paddling, giving your muscles and bones time to rest will help you stay healthy as you log those miles. The best part? Sleep is recovery you don’t need to work for—you just need to show up for it.

Regardless of how tired you might be, it can sometimes be hard to catch those zzz’s in the woods or on the trail. So here are some tips for sleeping well outside, with love from the customer support team at EE.

  1. Spend more nights outside. I didn’t do much camping as a kid, so when I started camping as an adult, I wasn’t necessarily used to it. I’ve come to realize that there are always going to be strange sounds, sticks crunching under something’s foot, rodents scratching, erratic winds, and no matter what, my backcountry pillow is never going to be as good as my pillow at home. But the more nights I spend outside, the more comfortable I feel.
  2. Get used to your gear. Anytime you get new gear, whether it’s a quilt or a pair of sleeping socks, give yourself some nights to get used to your setup and feel comfortable in it. Experiment with different features, such as quilt pad strap placement, and see what feels best for you.

  3. Take care of your gear. When you’re setting up camp for the night, before you feel so tired you can barely keep your eyes open, take your quilt or sleeping bag out of its stuff sack. Spread it out, and give it time to fluff back up. Run your hands over it to see if there might be any spots where down has shifted, and gently push the down back into those areas so it’s evenly distributed. You also want to make sure your quilt is dry, since moisture inhibits down’s ability to trap the air pockets that keep you warm. So if you know you packed your quilt away with a lot of morning dew on it, make sure you give it enough time to air out before you settle in for the night.
  4. Prepare for bed. You know those things you do every night before you go to bed? Maybe it’s a cup of tea, some reading, a little meditation or prayer, or simply going through the house turning off the lights and locking the doors. Then you brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, and hop in bed. I’ve found it helpful to keep some of these habits going even when I’m out on the trail. It helps my tired brain get the memo that it’s time to sleep, not think of all the things I did wrong that day.
  5. Be comfy. If there’s one thing I’ll add weight to my pack for, it’s sleeping. Being ultralight doesn’t have to be synonymous with being miserable. As you drop excess weight from other parts of your pack, you may find a few extra ounces to work with—enough to justify a pillow, a warmer sleeping pad, or something else that will help you sleep better.
  6. Lights out. Blue light, like the kind your cell phone lets off, can mess with the way your body prepares for sleep. Do yourself a favor and put your phone away at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep. Use your headlamp sparingly, and if it’s a bright night, see if you can get by without using it at all.
  7. Play the long game. The first night out on the trail is always a wash for me. I’m usually thinking way too much about whether I forgot to put something in my bear bag, and every little rustle outside sounds like something that wants to get inside my tent. So don’t sweat it if you don’t sleep well the first night. By the next night, miles later, your body will know what to do.