How important is it to think in terms of a complete sleeping system (as opposed to just a sleeping bag and pad) for wilderness adventures? Quite important in my view. There is nothing more important than a good night’s sleep in the wilderness and a well thought out sleeping system will go a long way in achieving this goal.

At this time, my sleep systems consists of 10 gear components and varies a lot from season-to-season and type of trip taken. You can go directly to my current chart of options (a spreadsheet in PDF format) by clicking on this link: Don's Wilderness Sleeping Systems Matrix. In my sample chart, the individual components of my sleeping systems are listed across the top and the types of trips I commonly take during the year are listed down the left side.

I am sharing my own chart to provide one model of how such a chart could be constructed (other models are possible) and to encourage readers to develop their own shelter-sleeping system chart incorporating:

  • current or planned gear closet options
  • types of hiking and backpacking trips you take, at least occasionally
  • your own desired comfort level for the listed types of trips
  • lowest temperatures likely to be encountered during the trip.

Additional assumptions built into my sleeping system:

  1. Even though one could make do with one-kit-fits-all, there is no one ideal sleeping kit for all hiking trips.
  2. Carry only the lightest weight kit possible (weights indicated in tenths of ounces), subject only to the kit being safe and functional for the indicated conditions and offering the degree of comfort desired.
  3. The types of trips incorporated into my sleeping systems go from one extreme (unplanned emergency bivouacs) to another extreme (multi-day base camping with day trips ranging out from a base camp).
  4. Always include at least a minimal waterproof ground sheet (unless using a hammock). The ground sheet could be a full-length insulating pad, a bivy sack or a thin piece of plastic.
  5. All carried and worn clothes (including storm gear) will be integrated into the my sleeping system as needed to sleep warmly.
  6. If still not sleeping warmly when wearing everything carried in your pack, start using supplemental heat sources (e.g., hot drinks, hot water bottle, chemical heat, warming fire).
  7. Extra socks, hats, mitts, scarves, etc., become part my sleeping system, even though not given their own column in my sample chart.
  8. An "Other Accessories" column could be added to include such things as hammock, mosquito netting, protective bag liners, pillows, cots, etc.
  9. Listed gear weights take into account anticipated sharing of gear.

If you were to construct your own chart of sleeping systems, what would it look like?  What assumptions would underlie it? Which of the above listed assumptions would be rejected? What other gear areas are most important to you? What other gear systems might benefit from constructing a similar chart (Navigation? Kitchen and cooking? Storm protection? Foot wear?)



Download my current sleeping systems chart (in PDF format) by clicking on this link: Don's Wilderness Sleeping Systems Matrix.

Download my current sleeping systems chart in MS Word format by clicking on this link: Don's Wilderness Sleeping Systems Matrix.

Don's Wilderness Sleeping Systems Charted