Article – Secrets for a Good Nights Sleep

The following article is from The Mountain Training School (email: [email protected]).  In the good faith department, I have known Ben, the founder and director of The Mountain Training School, for a few years and was a client of his on a trip in Alaska. I asked him if I could repost this article, and am receiving nothing in return except to be in his good graces.

Sleeping Warm, Keeping Warm

Ok, so your day has been long, epic, disappointing, filled with torrential rain or stinging snow. You are beat. Now as long as you can climb into your sleeping bag and have a good night’s sleep all is well. Everything else then becomes  ‘tomorrows problem’, you can rest, recover and, then do it all again the next day with style.

Getting a good nights sleep is invaluable. Your body needs time to recuperate from the demands of the day, you need time to relax and luxuriate in comfort and warmth.

How do you ensure that you are able to get that critical rest?

The right gear 

  • A good solid tent suited to conditions. Don’t for example bring a floorless 2-season tent to Patagonia…
  • A good sleeping bag, right for the conditions. Patagonia = synthetic. Yep it’s a big heavier and bulkier, but get a sleeping bag that comes through with the goods. Wet down=abject misery.
  • Sleeping mats: Foam is great simple cheaper and light, really good for insulation.  A Thermarest or similar will adds insulation,  and more importantly adds comfort. If you think you don’t need the extra comfort you are probably 22, enjoy it while you can. Think about a Neo air, light small and very comfy (only hurts when you buy it).

The right food 

Eat well, eat enough…
The colder the conditions the more important food is. If it’s really cold much of your food is put to work just keeping your warm. In these conditions you should be eating around 4,000 + calories a day.
Specifically at night warmth is all about fat…. Make sure you eat a good dinner, with a good mix of slow burning carbs, protein and yes a good amount of fat. Fat is the slow burn and so will keep you warm through the night. Hot chocolate with peanut butter, maybe sounds bad when you are in town, but in the hills it’s just the trick. P.S. Winter camping is the ideal excuse to eat bacon….

The Right Systems 

You won’t be warm by accident; you will be warm because you make it so.

  • Warm dry clothes. Don’t wear you wet clothes to bed to dry them out. All you do is rob your body of precious heat, and bring moisture into your sleeping bag, which will lessen its ability to keep you warm. Wet clothes can go into a plastic bag in your sleeping bag, remember, tomorrows problem….
  • Ventilate, ventilate. Unless you have spindrift driving under the vestibule have all the vents open. A closed tent will trap condensation from your breath, which will freeze on the inner tent, which will later melt onto your sleeping bag, and you will get snowed on in the morning when you are trying to get up.
  • Bedtime routines. Have a system for your sleeping bag, clean dry socks in the bottom, warm hat, and dry gloves. Have another layer handy in case you need it. Being cold makes you lazy so have it all ready so you can pop on an extra layer and don’t have to dig around for it.
  • Hot water bottle. The ubiquitous Nalgene, fill it with hot water and you have a source of heat for several hours.
  • Peeing systems. In a strange and unfortunate coincidence you will want to pee more in cold conditions… Your body doesn’t want to waste energy keeping all that liquid warm. Have a pee bottle and use it. In the time you take to debate with yourself if you really need to pee you could have solved the problem and be back to sleep… Suck it up and get it done. (You can also then sleep with your nice warm pee bottle and steal back a bit of your own body warmth)
  • Go to bed warm. Your sleeping bag doesn’t produce heat it only traps it. While your tent mates are faffing around getting into their sleeping bags use the time to re tighten the tent, do jumping jacks, burpees (yes we all hate them, but they work!)
  • Make heat. If you are cold once you are in your sleeping bag, get your tent mates to do sleeping bag races to produce heat. The great thing about sleeping bag races is that the race can end whenever you like, Go hard and then declare yourself the winner.

Good planning and deliberate effort is the key to keeping warm and having a great night’s sleep.
Sweet dreams!

Benjamin Gorelick
Expedition Director
The Mountain Training School
[email protected]
+1-763-219-1833 (USA)
+44-(0)20-8144-4017 (UK)
+1-763-374-4641 (Fax)

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