On a short trip a traveler can sleep poorly and still enjoy the outing. On a long journey, if you don’t get good rest your health gets worse day by day. It can eventually endanger the entire project. It has been my good fortune that I can sleep soundly almost anywhere, on any surface, and I don’t require much. Still, I have equipped myself with the ingredients for a warm, dry, comfortable sleep in most conditions.
The left rear pannier contains my sleeping system. It consists of a tent, ground cloth, sleeping bag, mattress, and tarp. In the same pannier I carry a goose-down suit: a hooded top, pants, and booties. (Technically it should be in the clothing section) The suit extends the range of my sleeping bag significantly, and is good lounge wear in a chilly camp. It is made by Western Mountaineering, and is super-light, packing in the same bag with my sleeping bag. The booties have foam bottoms and make good cold-weather camp slippers. When I’m not wearing the suit it serves as my pillow.
For the tent I chose the Black Diamond First Light. Black Diamond designs and makes seriously strong minimalist climbing and skiing equipment. The First Light is a single-wall, 1-or-2 person, four-season mountaineering tent with waterproof/breathable walls, a silicone-nylon floor, two arched interior aluminum poles, a simple door and vent window. Two could fit with no gear; it is tall enough to kneel up in and feels roomy enough for me. It is easy to set up and will withstand high winds. I replaced the eight aluminum stakes with titanium ones. I don’t carry the optional vestibule which covers the door and provides shelter for gear. At just under three pounds it is the lightest serviceable shelter that I know of.
A waterproof nylon ground cloth the size of the tent footprint protects the tent floor, helps keep things dry, and serves as a picnic or nap surface.
I carry a five- by seven-foot silicone nylon tarp with lots of tie-down tabs, only three ounces. Silicone nylon is very light. The tarp is for extra rain protection or shade for the tent or by itself. I carry four titanium stakes and thin nylon cord for it, and haven’t used it much.
My sleeping bag is a North Face Chrysalis. Most outdoorsmen choose quick-drying, easy-care synthetic bags. I choose a high-loft goose-down bag, which requires more careful handling because it loses effectiveness when wet, and dries very slowly; I get a smaller, lighter bundle. It is “rated” at 25°F. (Temperature rating of sleeping bags is useful for comparison, but does not mean it will keep every person comfortable at that temperature—individuals and conditions vary). It is a semi-rectangular, 2-zipper bag with ultra-high-loft goose-down fill, one of the lightest bags available. I’ve been using the same model for thirty years. A unique feature of this bag allows for adjusting the insulation to suit the conditions. In most (all?) other down bags there is a baffle opposite the zipper to keep the feathers in the top from migrating to the bottom. This bag has no baffle. On warm nights I shake the insulation to the bottom and enjoy a light cover; on cold nights I flip the insulation to the top for more warmth. Colder still I employ the goose-down suit or part of it.
I sleep on a Therma-Rest Ultralight self-inflating mattress, the smallest and lightest I could find. It is three-quarters of an inch thick and reaches from my shoulders to my knees. It rolls up into a bundle the size of a liter water bottle.
About five minutes are required to remove this stuff from the bike and be ready for bed. Single wall tents cause more condensation build-up than conventional tents with a separate fly, so most mornings it takes some time to dry, during which I eat, clean up, pack, brush teeth, etc. If need be I pack it wet and dry it at lunchtime.