The Art of Sleeping in the Outdoors

Friday July 18th, 2014

When the hiking trail takes you beyond the reaches of home — and isn't that the whole point? — you’ll need a little comfort stored in your pack. We’re not talking food, clothing, chairs or any of the other nifty backpacking tools here, we’re talking sleeping.

Edge runs down some of the year's best new gear for sleeping on the outdoor trails.

The North Face
The North Face Tadpole FL

At just 3 pounds, 15 ounces, this two-man tent helps backpackers fit into tight spaces without having to carry all kinds of superfluous weight. Super simple to set up — believe us, we know — with a color-coded pitch system, the aluminum DAC Featherlite NSL tentpoles show that The North Face has improved on its Tadpole line ever since it was introduced in the 1980s. The three-season tent is bigger than the original, but its manageable and lightweight nature makes it an easy packing choice.

Kelty TN 2 and TN 3

Coming with a 4-pound two-man version or nearly 5-pound three-man version, the Kelty TraiLogic line packs up in multiple containers, allowing you to distribute weight over various hikers. The TraiLogic collection features shorter pole sections for easy packing and a Stargazing Fly for unobstructed views of the nighttime sky. The fly can be fully deployed without ever leaving your sleeping bag, a nice feature that fits well with the oversized dual doors and matching vestibules.

REI Half Dome 2

At roughly 5 pounds, but with nearly 32 square feet of floor space, the Half Dome 2 makes for a roomy backpacking option. Two side doors and vestibules on the minimalist tent get covered with a rainfly, if needed, and ceiling vents and a waterproof floor help with protect from condensation. The three color-coded pole clips make set-up a snap.

And if your trail is short …

The North Face
The North Face Kaiju

The North Face Kaiju, available in four-man and six-man versions, comes in at over 10 pounds and offers up a great option for the car camping set. The double vestibule layout includes a front section tall enough for most adults to fully stand up in. With six pockets, hanger loops, a convertible sunshade, entertainment pocket for nighttime tablet movie watching and more, this tent has the fun features — and durable full-length waterproof rainfly and polyester floor with PU coating — for any easily accessible campsite. If your trail runs from your car directly to the site and has kids, this provides a quality option.

Kelty Granby 4

Expect front and back doors, an oversized vestibule and mesh for ventilation aplenty. Capped pole sleeve construction makes setting up the Granby a simple procedure and an integrated mud matt helps keep your tent nice and clean, even with kids scooting in and out. A back porch storage area and closable mesh panels add nice extra touches.

Sierra Designs
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed

No zippers, its own built-in blanket and at less than 3 pounds, this uniquely crafted bag insulated with DriDown, a hydrophobic down insulation available in 800-fill or 600-fill, offers a new approach to bags. The zipperless system offers access through a large oval opening and an integrated comforter replaces the zip closures in the mummy-style bag. The comforter can be tucked in on cold nights or untucked in warmth. Designed to allow you to sleep in any position, the new style also has an integrated sleeping pad sleeve to keep the bag flat. The lack of zippers and pulls make this a great option for those bothered by the extra pieces.

Kelty SB 20 and SB 35

With 800-fill DriDown that has waterproof treatments at the (hooded) head and foot, these bags shield you from tent condensation. The full-length dual-slider zipper with vents — for the warm nights — allow the bag to act like a quilt and the ripstop shell increases durability. A Nylon taffeta liner provides a smooth feel to the skin. This stripped down bag goes for pure comfort, durability and warmth and hits the mark.

REI Flash

REI uses a double-protection design to combine water-repellent fills with waterproof and breathable fabric at the hood, sides and foot, the areas most likely to touch that damp tent wall. Fill with water-repellent 700-fill duck down at the top and Primaloft insulation on the bottom that performs well in compression, the nylon shell repels water while the bag keeps you warm. The REI design uses vertical baffles in the sidewalls to ensure the warmth stays near you and a contoured hood and insulated face muffler helps keep you wrapped up. Plus, any REI bag can zip into another REI bag to create a larger, roomier or multi-person option.

Sierra Designs
Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy 800

Those cold mornings make it tough to climb out of your sleeping bag. Sierra Designs has a solution with zipperless armports that allow you to use your hands outside the bag while your body stays fully warm. Cook, read or move around while in the mummy-style bag. Hey, a stowable footbox even allows you to walk around. A jacket-style hood and garment-style shoulders give this 800-fill DriDown bag at 2 pounds, 4 ounces (three season) all kinds of reasons to never take it off. And believe us, you won’t want to on those chilly mornings.

Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear Heratio

At an easy to manage 1 pound, 13 ounces, the 650-fill Q Shield down has a treatment that resists moisture to maintain maximum loft of the down. For the down lovers, the construction includes small chambers for less “down migration” that retains even loft height. Insulated tubes prevent cold spots along the zipper. A full-length, double-slider zipper increases ventilation options and the mummy-cut maximizes warmth.

And if your trail is short …

Slumberjack Country Squire

Think of this as more a giant, heavy-duty blanket than a sleeping bag. If you have the space — this one takes up a ton — the oversized luxury of a 12-ounce cotton duck shell for durability and removable liner for washability fits the bill. The thickness offers warmth and padding. Just don’t try to move it around much.

Cascade Designs
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture and NeoAir Trekker

The Trekker ups warmth by 50 percent over other pads using reflective radiant heat technology, and all still in a 1 pound, 1 ounce packable pad. Over 100 insulating cells equalize air distribution and fiberless insulation ensures compactness. The Venture WV weighs an additional 5 ounces, but offers up to 2 inches of loft and more support with horizontal baffles.

Kelty PDsi and PDa

Self-inflating, the Kelty pads use body shapes to define where the padding and insulation get placed to support high-pressure areas. Less insulation on the sides saves weight while allowing the 1-inch thick PDsi pad to weigh 1 pounds, 7.5 ounces. The PDa goes even lighter, at 14.5 ounces, but is 2 inches thick and ideal for warm weather use.

REI Flash Insulated Air Pad

Insulated with PrimaLoft Infinity fill, the air-tube construction—larger on the outside to keep you from rolling off (it works!)—helps keep you warm. And all for just 1 pound even. The tapered mummy shape reduces packing weight and size and the ripstop polyester offers added durability.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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