Sleeping on the trail…on the ground

As we progress down the trail, one of our most looked-forward-to points every day will finally being able to lie down and get some rest.  No cots.  No cabins.  No shelters except our own tent.  Yes, we sleep on the ground.  Our tent will give us some security from unwanted visitors: snakes, scorpions, spiders, mosquitoes, mice, raccoons, deer, bear, mountain lion, and the dreaded Northwest Banana Slug.  Among these, mice and mosquitoes will probably be our worst enemies; although those slugs can be quiet, sneaky devils.


Our whole sleeping arrangement consists of a down sleeping bag, an inflatable backpacking mattress, and a stuff sack filled with extra clothes for a pillow.

Down-filled sleeping bags are now fairly resistant to moisture absorption and have a water repellent outer finish.   Our bags are rated to 15° F.  This will be plenty of warmth even at the highest points in the Sierra Nevada.  We can also enhance the warmth factor wearing long underwear and socks at night; or even a warm jacket.

The mattresses we use roll out to almost the full length of our bodies.  They weigh from about 1 to 2 pounds.  We inflate them each night and let out the air and roll them up each morning.  Not only do the provide comfort but also insulation from the cold ground.  We take a repair kit to fix any tears or leaks but of many years of using them, we’ve never had a failure.  They are pretty tough.  They are made by Cascade Designs right in Seattle.

Our pillow is simple enough.  Just stuff whatever clothes we’re not wearing into the sack and put it into a zipped up jacket for a pillow case.

Oh, by the way, we actually look forward to seeing Banana Slugs.  They are one of our best Northwest forest floor scavengers, and are essential to the renewal of the forest environment.

Leave No Trace

As we travel, we adhere very carefully to “Leave No Trace” ethics.  You might have heard how light impact backcountry travelers “take only pictures, leave only footprints”.  We’re even careful to leave our footprints where they belong – in established camps and on the trails.

Another tenet of LNT (Leave No Trace) is “pack it in, pack it out”.  We will leave no trash or garbage behind and dispose of it only where appropriate.  That includes toilet paper.  We also have carefully observed rules for how to deal with solid human waste.  Essentially, it’s dig an 8-inch deep hole 200′ from water sources, trails, and camps, then cover afterwards.  We have a highly specialized tool just for that process.  We got it at the garden section of Wal-Mart, and you can see it below.

Interestingly, liquid human waste should be left on rocks, snow, and on the trail.  Deer and goats are drawn to urine and will approach humans to lick up the salt-laden liquid.  You just can’t stop them.  To prevent them from damaging plants or the soft forest soils, it is recommended to leave it on durable surfaces.


Finally, we will build no fires.  In some places they are banned or restricted, although we are required to carry a California State Parks Fire Permit.  It’s essentially the proof that we’ve completed their on-line fire prevention and awareness curriculum.  Glad to do that and do what we can to prevent any wildfires.  All our heat will come form our backpacking stove which is quite safe because of the design and our experience in using it over many years.

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