It’s better than my bed!
I have always slept cold and usually wake at 3 or 4 am with cold feet and even colder inner thighs. I’m sure it’s my age but I seem to need to pee about this time of day too. So I needed to solve both problems. In this post I’m going to focus on sleeping warm and comfortable, peeing is for another post.
I left home with a 3cm thick DD Self Inflating mat which was full length by the time I had arrived in Verona it went in the bin. It was uncomfortable, I woke up cold and the seam had split open. I did attempt the obligatory cloth tape repair but it went down throughout the night. Don’t get me wrong the product was actually good, it lasted 1500 km and 6 weeks of camping every night. I put the blame on myself for buying the wrong product for my needs.
I picked up a cheap 3cm Decathlon ¾ lengthy mat for the rest of the journey and still have it. The decathlon mat has been with me for almost 2 years and I used it when I backpacked Malaysia. Airport floors are very uncomfortable but the mat kept me warm by insulating me from the cold tiled floor. So I started to experiment with different mats until I came up with a system which provided me with comfort and good insulation.
The funny thing was I didn’t buy lots of mats to do my research. I spent 2 hours in the Gran Canarian branch of Decathlon, 1 of those hours was asleep in a display tent. Luckily I knew one of the sales staff. I took a selection of mats from the display area and went inside a large family tent which was on display. I then spent my time trying each mat but discovered a combination of mats would produce a very good part of my overall sleep system.
Sleep, well comfortable sleep is more important when on a cycle tour than almost anywhere else. In the past I’ve had sleepless nights followed by a miserable day because I was achy and tired. In one cycle tour I slept in woodlands, on traffic islands, a roundabout, a car wash, on top of a bus shelter, behind a substation, a canal bridge and underneath a road bridge. Every night I would toss and turn waking constantly to get comfy. When I was finally comfy I would wake up cold.
Wild camping is becoming second nature but there are times when the thought of getting caught keeps you awake. Luckily I’ve only been moved on once and that was before I had even got into my bivi I bag. The forest can be a noisy place at night and traffic islands and roundabouts are subject to late night traffic noise. It’s important to checkout what’s around you before you bed down for the night
Whilst close to Antwerp I came across a wonderful piece of common land where I camped for a night. However on one side was a busy road with trucks passing all night and on another was a railway track. I was so close to the railway track that my campsite shaked every time a train went past and in Antwerp freight runs hourly through the night.
The solution to my warmth and comfort came in the form of 3 items. Depending on the ambient temperature I would use 2 or 3 of the items. I’m also now an advocate of having a tent footprint as not only does it protect the tent floor it protects my sleeping mat system.
On the base and sometimes in between the tent footprint and the tent floor is my aluminium survival blanket. As my tent is a one person tent this is a perfect fit under the floor and helps reflect heat back in. I mainly use this layer under my closed cell foam mat but have found between the footprint and tent it doesn’t move around.
I mentioned a closed cell foam mat which I would have loved the Thermorest Z Lite but again my budget doesn’t stretch to that. I ordered a closed cell foam mat from China and wow is it comfy but that isn’t the complete system.
To top it all off I have an Adtrek ¾ 7.5cm thick self inflating mat with integral pillow
This system isn’t the lightest but it’s certainly the warmest and comfiest. I no longer wake through the night and In the morning I wake up warm. The whole system fits neatly into my rackpack and could fit in one of my rear panniers. The rackpack has become my sleep system, carrying my mats, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and bivi I bag. I still have room for my wet gear on top so I can retrieve it quickly if required. I do admit that I sometimes still need to get up to pee.
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