Backpacking is not for the faint of heart; it requires a lot of preplanning and making your packing list as light as possible, something that many campers have problems with. You have to get by without some creature comforts, including a whole week of different outfits and luxury tents that weigh over 20 lbs. Most only have room for the bare essentials.
In addition to clothing, you need a shelter and a place to lay your head while you sleep that is not too bulky or heavy to carry around. You can’t have a successful backpacking trip if you don’t pack light!
So what do you sleep in when your packing space is so limited, and you have to rely on whatever you can carry to protect you from the elements? Let’s talk about that.
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Shelters to Sleep in While Backpacking
When trying to figure out what to sleep in while backpacking, you should not just focus on clothing. You need a place to actually shelter yourself while you dream, and that’s where the right sleeping bag can make all the difference. Here are a few types to consider bringing on your backpacking trip:
- Western Mountaineering UltraLite. If you need the lightest option available on the market, this sleeping bag is one of them. Weighing less than 2lbs., you will be able to easily carry it wherever you trek! Even though it is so light, you can rest assured that you will be perfectly warm and comfortable.
- Winner Outfitters Mummy Sleeping Bag. This bag is made for backpacking in all seasons! It is also lightweight (3 lbs.) and comes with its own carry bag for easy handling. Don’t worry about getting soaked while sleeping. This mummy bag is also water resistant. It is on the more affordable end of products at around anywhere from $30-$50 depending on sales.
- Coleman Mummy Sleeping Bag (Big and Tall.) If you struggle with finding a good sleeping bag for backpacking because you are too tall for most others, check out this model from Coleman. It accommodates most people up to 6 ft. 2 in. tall. It protects you through all kinds of weather; you can rely on this sleeping bag while backpacking anywhere and everywhere.
- ECOOPRO Warm Weather Sleeping Bag. For those backpackers who want to sleep in something other than a confined bag made of down, this warm weather sleeping bag is here to help. It is water and weather resistant, weighs under 2 lbs., and can be compressed more tightly than bags made with down can.
- Tough Outdoors All Season Sleeping Bag. Maybe you do not prefer feeling cramped in a mummy bag. If that’s the case, you should consider buying a wide bag like this to sleep in while backpacking! It can be used for any season; avid backpackers would be making a wise decision by investing in this bag. It is far more affordable than other options on the market, too, at less than $50! Some backpacking sleeping bags can cost upward of $500. For something with storage pockets, weather resistance, and height accommodations, you are getting a steal.
Going backpacking does not mean that you have to sleep out on the hard ground with nothing above you but the stars. If that’s what you like, go for it! If not, you need a tent that won’t slow you down or make your back ache.
- ALPS Mountaineering 1 Person Tent. Tents used for standard camping usually weigh around 10 lbs. Or more. This backpacking tent weighs less than 5! If you are going alone, this is the perfect option for you. It will be roomy without being too big. This tent is also freestanding and weather resistant. All you have to do is set it up (in less than 5 minutes) and enjoy your time in between stops.
- Featherstone 2 Person Backpacking Tent. If you are going backpacking with another person or you just need more space, take a look at this tent by Featherstone. It is durable, freestanding, easy to set up, and their ultralight setup weighs less than 4 lbs. This is the ideal shelter for people who really can’t add any more weight than necessary.
- Hyke and Byke Yosemite Backpacking Tent. If you prefer to take shelter when bedding down for the night while still enjoying a nice view, consider getting this tent from Yosemite. The walls are made of mesh instead of opaque fabric. You get all of the protection you would with other backpacking tents without feeling too confined. It is waterproof, easy to set up, and it compresses down into a carry bag perfect for this type of trip.
Some of the most hardcore backpackers prefer to sleep in a hammock. Why? They take up less room than tents, they are lightweight, and they’re still comfortable. Here are a few to look at before going backpacking so you can sleep under the stars like a true nature buff without the discomfort of sleeping on the ground.
- Winner Outfitters Double Camping Hammock. Backpacking with a loved one? This hammock makes it easy to snuggle the night away. It can support two adults and up to 500 lbs. without ripping. It is lightweight, and it comes with most of the gear you need for setting up. This hammock will cost you less than $40, making it much more affordable than some other options. Almost 3,000 reviewers on Amazon love it!
- Lost Valley Camping Hammock. This hammock has everything you need for a successful backpacking trip including gear for setting up, a rainfly, a mosquito net, a carry bag, weather resistant material, and storage pockets! If you are sleeping in a place with bugs, high humidity, and frequent rain, this is a great option for you. It also weighs around 4 lbs., so you will be getting something lighter than other hammocks usually offer.
- Hennessey Hammock Expedition Series. This backpacking hammock offers everything else that the model above does, but it takes your comfort in mind with small improvements. For instance, you get an asymmetrical design that helps make lying at a diagonal easier on your body. The best part of this hammock is that it is the lightest of all of the options at under 3 lbs.
Things to Consider Before Packing Clothing
Before you go on, there are some things you should consider before shopping around for sleepwear for your backpacking trip. If you are caught unprepared, you will be in for a bad time. It could potentially even become dangerous! What you will need depends on these factors:
- The weather in the environment you will be staying in plays the biggest part when deciding what clothing you should sleep in. If you are staying somewhere cold, you will need either more clothes or thicker clothes that insulate your body well.
- How big your pack is. You can only accommodate what will fit on yourself and in your chosen pack. You need room for all of your other necessities and anything extra that you need to bring, so remember that you will need sleepwear that can be used in multiple ways!
The first thing you need to know is that not all fabrics are created equal. Today, you are going to decide what you need to pack to sleep in based on the fabric that would be most suitable for your backpacking trips as well as the pros and cons of each.
Cotton makes up most of the clothing that we wear every day. That’s because for lounging around and doing most of our standard activities, it is the perfect fabric! Let’s talk about some of the reasons why cotton could be perfect for your backpacking adventure.
- This fabric is breathable and light. If you are someone who gets too hot easily, cotton can help keep you comfortable! You can say goodbye to sweat (for the most part, anyway. Cotton can’t fix everything.)
- You can get most clothing items made out of cotton. These include socks, shirts, underwear, and even some types of pants. It is affordable and sold at most major retail stores, including WalMart and Target.
- Cotton items are usually thin, so they will not take up too much room in your backpack. This means that you can pack other items that you want to bring, or you can choose to bring along more clothes for versatility!
Of course, this fabric has its downsides as well, depending on where you plan to go and what you want to do on your trip.
- Cotton does not insulate very well. On colder trips, you would still be freezing! Needless to say, on winter backpacking trips, you will not want to sleep in something this thin.
Wool used to be known for being scratchy and uncomfortable. It probably would not be your first choice when you think about backpacking, but clothing made from this fabric can be handier than you know!
- Newer manufacturing options that incorporate wool into clothes are soft and will not make you itch.
- This fabric is well insulated. You won’t find yourself shivering and turning into a block of ice when you go backpacking in chilly weather.
- Some wool blends are moisture wicking, meaning that you can stay warm without getting sticky from sweat. You will be dry and comfortable no matter where you go!
- Some wool clothing items are bulky, leaving less room in your pack for everything else you wanted to bring.
- The material can be heavy on your frame, which makes some people rather uncomfortable while sleeping. Unless you like weighted blankets, you need to find the thinnest wool possible.
Silk clothing has been popular for thousands of years, starting with the people of China. There are several reasons why this material has stayed in the spotlight and stood the test of time, especially when it comes to sleepwear! Bringing along some silk clothing to sleep in while backpacking could be the best decision you ever make.
- Silk is incredibly soft and comfy. This fabric is known for being the height of luxury when it comes to blankets, pillows, sheets, and clothes alike. That is because you will feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud!
- The material is usually pretty thin, so you can pack more clothes if you can get away with wearing silk to bed.
- It will keep you cool. Silk is not made for insulation, so summer weather backpackers should consider packing it in order to stay at an optimal temperature through the night.
- Silk is not moisture wicking unless it is treated. If you are prone to sweating or you are sleeping in hot weather, I would not recommend sleeping in silk.
- This material is also prone to taking on an unpleasant odor more quickly than other fabrics. If you do not have the facilities to wash your clothes every few days, you should skip out on taking pajamas made of silk.
These are the three fabrics that you should choose from when packing something to sleep in on your backpacking adventure. Now that you know the material that you should be looking for, let’s discuss what you should be sleeping in for each type of weather or climate.
What to Sleep in While Backpacking During Each Season
For each season, the clothing items that you wear to bed differ based on the climate you are staying in. You can use any combination that makes you feel the most comfortable.
During the summer, you probably will not need to wear much to bed. This is great because you save space and time washing clothes! Generally, this is what people wear to sleep in while backpacking in the summer:
- Tee shirts
- Tank tops
- Soft shorts
- Cotton underwear
- Cotton socks
Both spring and autumn have chillier weather without being too cold to bear. In that case, you need to wear just a little more in order to stay warm and cozy while drifting off to sleep.
- Thermal underwear
- Thicker socks
- Long sleeved shirt
- Long pants (sweatpants, for instance)
During the winter, backpackers know that you must always layer up to keep from being miserable all night. A system has been developed for the best backpacking experience when you go during those bitter, cold months. The layering system applies to both everyday backpacking and to sleeping on your trip.
There are three layers of clothes to wear, each consisting of different clothing items. You are about to learn what goes into each.
The inner layer of clothing has two main functions: to wick moisture away and to insulate your body against the cold. This is what you should wear to accomplish both of those purposes:
- Thermal underwear. This is usually made out of either wool or synthetic materials.
- Thick socks. Wool socks are the best choice for keeping your feet warm. Cotton is far too thin for this, so get yourself some high-quality wool if you can.
The middle layer of clothing that you wear will add to the warmth and protect your body from the elements. What you should wear for this purpose is:
- A regular tee or a long-sleeved shirt. Nothing too thick or warm should be worn unless you are backpacking in extreme temperatures.
- Leggings/tights. If you need to, leggings or tights will be an excellent barrier from the cold.
The outermost layer protects you from the elements. While sleeping, it provides a safety net; if you get too hot, you can peel off this layer and still be warm enough under the sleeping bag or blankets. These are:
- Sweatpants or other thick, soft pants. This can be a bit of overkill if the temperatures are mild, so be mindful of your own body.
- A hat. Something like a wool cap will trap the heat trying to escape from your scalp to keep you warm.
- Gloves. Again, this would only be for the more extreme cold you may experience. It may not be necessary to bring them. With so precious little space, do your research ahead of time.
Even with a sleeping bag, you may get cold. After all, your bag is probably lightweight and thin. Wear layers of clothing to stay warm. You can wear parts of these layers during the day as well, so you will not take up too much extra room in your backpack.
When you go backpacking, what you sleep in/on in terms of shelter and what you wear to bed is important. You have to find the perfect balance between everything that helps you travel light without suffering the consequences of poor planning. Take into account where you are going, what the weather is like, and how vital your comfort level is to you.
Take what you see here and put the advice into action! You will have the best backpacking trip ever, and the best sleep that one can get on an expedition like yours.