Basics of Better Sleep in the Backcountry



It doesn't matter if this is your first or tenth western hunt. You'll be amazed by the sight of the stars in the big western sky. The lack of light pollution gives an uninterrupted view, making those skies unmatched. Wherever you are, there is just something fun about sleeping outside. But will this be a multi-day trip? After a few days, you'll realize sleeping outside will make you miss your bed at home.
Sleeping outdoors comes with a few tricks of the trade, and the faster you learn them, the better the benefits. On a backcountry hunt, any improvement you make will bring a higher chance of success, and why wouldn't you want that?
Check out some of these ideas to bring you better sleep on your next multi-day excursion!



If you plan to stay in a makeshift lodge or backcountry cabin, you won't have as much of a need to dig into better sleep. But the shelter you choose for a backcountry hunt will greatly impact the way you sleep.

Tents. They are probably the best option for better sleep. In foul weather, there is more protection. They will give you a barrier from bugs and critters you'd rather avoid. They are easily packable and come in all shapes and sizes. The sky is the limit from a one-person tent to a 10x16 wall tent.


Hammock. There are some great options in this category, but they are tougher to manage on long trips. Add-ons that you can purchase to help make hammock experience better. Those would include a rain fly for overhead shelter and an insulation blanket for the bottom of the hammock. The real trick to a sling bed is getting the right "lay." It's not easy to sleep when you feel bent in half all night long. Usually, the wider apart the ends of the sling, the more flat your bed will lay for better comfort.

Bivvy Sack. Sleeping under the stars is cool, but there's a good chance you'll run out of luck if this is your plan for a long hunt. Bivvy sacks are perfect for packing. You never know; there might be an opportunity to follow an elk herd. Bivvys would even work on an overnight stay in the whitetail woods. The downside to a bivvy? If this is your only shelter, you might find sleep hard to come by in grizzly country or foul weather.



With outdoor sleeping, matching your bedding to the conditions is important. Using a zero degree sleeping bag during an early fall hunt will be a restless night of sleep when night temps reach the 50s-60s. Match your sleep sack to the conditions!

Ground padding is also important not only for direct contact with the ground but for keeping you insulated in cold weather. If you're trekking to a set camp or using horses to pack into a camp, you might even have the luxury of a cot. Not quite the rough and tough, but better sleep means better focus and better focus means better hunting.


There are plenty of over the counter remedies to help you sleep. But use caution! Some interact with medicines you might be taking or even counteract each other. Magnesium citrate 200mg or melatonin 10 mg can help, but you should speak with your doctor if you have any health conditions.


Sleep habits start at home. You can't expect to hike into the woods and begin healthy habits right then and there. That would be like a toddler saying they can tie their shoes before they've ever tried. Take what you've learned from home on all your hunts for better success.

Stick to a bedtime. Your internal clock depends on it.
Avoid caffeine. 6 to 8 hours before sleep.
Excessive fluid intake. Finish hydrating 1 to 2 hours before bed.
Complex carbohydrate. Eat a small light snack.
Avoid alcohol. It is a sleep deterrent.

These five tips will help you get on the right track!


Some of us are the type that can live well on little sleep. But even if you live by a motto like, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," your performance in the woods will still benefit from sound sleep. Make it part of your grind.

Author: Exodus Black Hats Team Member, Aaron Hepler