The Sleep System

System Overview
Your sleeping gear (shelter, quilt, pad) and your clothing should complement each other. This requires thinking about how items are typically used both together and separately. For example, during the summer, if it's only going to be chilly at night when you're sleeping, why would you need to bring an additional bulky fleece jacket? You're already carrying that weight and bulk with the sleeping quilt. However, some quilts have less insulation/bulk and actually will require a supplemental jacket to be worn at night.

The Shelter & Ground Pad
To put it simply, tents are heavy, bulky, and often much more than what's needed. Tent's often don't allow for proper ventilation, and can cause issues with condensation. Additionally, this condensation makes the tents even heavier on your pack, as they can absorb much more water than it may seem. Our sleep systems are slightly different in design than what might be expected. Instead of an enclosed tent, we use a lightweight tarp as a sleep shelter. The GoLite Cave II (no longer made), constructed of silicon-impregnated lightweight nylon, is our choice. It is lightweight and roomy, sleeping 3 comfortably. Despite its thin look, this shelter can withstand rain and wind when pitched correctly. Since there are openings on either end, condensation is minimal. Also, wet clothes can be hung on the inside to dry well overnight. There's no floor built-in to this shelter, which allows it to be set up during a storm without getting the floor--a thin piece of plastic--wet. In strong wing, the tarp is pitched lower to the ground. The ends are open on both sides, although one end could be pitched all the way to the ground in certain situations. The simple A-frame design is perfect for protecting from wind, which flows right over it. Bugs
are usually not a concern if you've selected a remote campsite and are using the proper clothing at night. The worst we've ever experienced is the slight annoyance of larger ants, but otherwise sleeping under a tarp is a great outdoor experience.

The Quilt

Instead of traditional sleeping bags, we use sleeping quilts. Quilts are essentially the top section of a traditional sleeping bag.  The logic is that the sleeping bag beneath you doesn't insulate much better than the ground does. Except for providing additional cushion, the bottom part of the sleeping bag doesn't servemuch use. Jared uses the GoLite Ultra 20 quilt (pictured to the right) which weighs only 21.5 ounces! Dave uses the original GoLite Fur 1, weighing a much heftier 35.3 ounces. Many backpacking mummy bags weigh 5-7 pounds or more, so this is quite the savings in weight. There is no "mummy top" on quilts because the quilts are intended to be used as a part of the sleep system. A lightweight fleece beanie is worn to retain heat. Additionally, extra clothing is worn to sleep as needed to provide added insulation.

The Sleep Pad
Selecting the correct site to pitch the tarp is key. Packed-down dirt is less comfortable and actually provides less insulation than do more lightly-packed surfaces, or those with organic "duff" added to suit. After choosing the correct site, and using natural duff cushion, the sleeping pad does not need to be very thick. There are two different lightweight options we use. One is 1/2" thick, closed-cell foam pad, which can actually be cut in half (since your lower body doesn't need the padding). These pads should be replaced after a couple of years since they loose their cushion. The other option is the newer, lightweight air mattresses (e.g. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite, size small), which are highly effective, albeit much more expensive.

Lightweight Hiking Concepts