How to Sleep Better When Backpacking

You’d think a hard day of hiking would be enough for you to fall asleep quickly and easily. But for some, especially those new to the world of backpacking and backcountry sleeping, getting a good night’s sleep is harder to come by. 

Before you give up on backpacking and say that sleeping in the wild isn’t for you, you should know that a variety of outside factors can be to blame. Light from a not fully set sun, a bright moon, and wilderness noises (they’re not always relaxing!), can all disrupt your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep when backpacking. Let’s look at some common sleeping difficulties and ways to remedy them.

Senses Overload Is Preventing Good Sleep

Sun shining into tent near mountains

A too bright or too loud environment can keep you awake. If you’re bothered by sounds in the backcountry, try using a pair of earplugs to silence your surroundings. To block out unwanted light, you can bring a sleep mask or tie a bandana over your eyes. 

You’re not comfortable

Try a pillow. With pillows as light as 2 ounces, there’s no reason not to try one out if you’re struggling to get comfortable at night. Sometimes a stuff sack of clothing just doesn’t cut it. 

You Hike Too Close to Bedtime

Don’t hike all the way up until you go to bed. Exercise gives you energy by releasing cortisol. Too much exercise too close to bedtime can do more harm than good in your quest for better backpacking sleep. Try stopping a few hours before you want to go to bed.

Changes in Sleep Schedule

Man reading at camp with sun setting in background. Light can interrupt your normal sleep cycle and prevent you from sleeping well when backpacking or camping

It’s hard to adjust your body to a different sleep schedule. While it’s not always possible to use your exact bedtime every time, the closer you are to your normal bedtime, the easier it may be to fall asleep. Try going to sleep as close to your normal bedtime as possible.

Full Stomach

Person preparing a hot camp meal, which can help warm your core and help you sleep better when camping or backpacking.

A snack before bed can help you sleep warmer, but a full stomach can disrupt your sleep. Try eating dinner right before you’re done hiking for the day, assuming you’ll be done hiking a few hours before bedtime that is. 

You’re cold

Woman in tent camping on the snow

There are a lot of things that can be affecting this. To learn what you can do to sleep warmer while backpacking, read my article How to Sleep Warm When Backpacking and Camping.

It’s Too Hot to Sleep

Ice cream cone melting in the heat

I sleep with a fan on at home. It’s so hard to fall asleep when it’s warm. There’s a number of ways you can help lower the temperature and sleep better in hot weather. Check out Cooling Tips for Backpacking and Camping  in Hot Weather.

Maybe a Tent is Not For You

Woman hammock camping. Hammocks can help you sleep better when camping and backpacking.

Last but not least, if you absolutely can not get comfortable in a tent, give hammock camping a try! The feeling is unlike any other. Plus- there’s no sleeping on the ground or accidently pitching your tent on a rock or acorn.

I have an in depth article about getting started with hammock camping, find it here

Getting a good night’s sleep is important to your backpacking trip. It can take some time to adjust to being in the wild. Try some of these tips and see if you’re more comfortable out there. 

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