Sleeping Pads/GVP Divot
I routinely carry a sleeping pad, that doubles as the pack frame on my Murmur pack, that is 3/8” foam (or was when I cut it, might be closer to ¼” now), is 30” long, with a width of 16” at my shoulders and 12” at my waist. It weighs 2.1 oz. I have friends that carry no sleeping pad at all, but even if you’re not quite ready to go ‘commando’, you may be able to reduce your sleeping pad weight.
First, consider switching to foam. The evazote foam used in pads is incredibly light, and a great insulator. In the longer versions, it is bulkier than an air mattress, or a combo thermarest type pad. The foam provides great insulation also. So try out foam. On the convoluted pads, some people like the bumps up, some say it’s better bumps down, so try both ways.
Where possible, consider contouring your sleeping surface to create a GVP Divot. ONLY do this in a responsible Leave No Trace way, where you have sand that can be smoothed back over, or duff or pine needles that can be replaced. If you choose your sleeping area well, you can create a small crater shaped for your butt. This will spread pressure evenly, supporting the small of your back, and will let you sleep like a baby. The most comfortable night I ever had was when we camped in an area they had been chipping the lower tree limbs. There was a thick bed of wood chips, and I got the butt crater just right. I drifted off and didn’t wake up until the sun was streaming in my face!
Sometimes you’re not in an area where you can create a butt crater. In those cases, I like to wad up a small piece of unused clothing. A Driducks jacket works well. If you’re not in bear country, some food items or even trash in a double ziplock can work. You toss this into your sleeping bag, then when you’re lying down, position it in the small of your back. This serves the same purpose, supporting the small of your back and spreading out the pressure of contact with the ground. When you turn on your side, simply move the wad so it is against your side, at your waist, and it will take some pressure of the hip. If you get good at this, the results are amazing.
Since most of the pressure is concentrated on your tailbone (on your back, or hip if you’re on your side), you can cut a small foam circle, and toss it in your bag, to get a double thick pad at the pressure point, without having to carry the weight of a double thick pad for the entire pad. Just adjust it when you’re in your bag to the correct location, and you’re good to go. You can even get fancy and cut a hole out of the middle to make a ‘donut’ to better distribute weight off the pressure point.
Better Living through Chemicals
Okay, not everyone will agree with this, but a mild sleep aid can help take the edge off at night. It helps you drift to sleep, especially the first night or two when all the sounds are unfamiliar. And something like Tylenol PM or Ibuprofen PM can help the aches from a long hard day of hiking. Medicate responsibly.