For some people, sleep is just something you do to recharge and keep life on an even keel. For others, sleep is divine, one of the creature evolutions that bring sheer pleasure. I belong to the latter category. For me, a good, well-crafted mattress and a night of extended REM sleep is a special gift.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

But I have never had one good night’s sleep during more than 25 years of elk hunting in the Colorado Rockies.

This fall was no different. Bedded down among the aspens in my one-man pup tent and snuggled in my expensive L.L. Bean zero degree down mummy bag atop my high-end Therm-a Rest NeoAir Xlite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress, sleep would just not come.

Toss and turn. Sigh … Toss and turn. Sigh. Oh, maybe a few winks were caught during the long, cold night, but nothing that would really recharge a tired, old hunter.

So, what’s going on here? Why would I, a person who revels in sleep and is very good at it at home, go six nights sleepless in the Rockies?

In an effort to solve this sleep issue over the years, I confess to having pursued the popular solution: I threw money at it. Lots of money. In my plastic storage tubs in the garage, there are enough different brands of backpacker air mattresses to open up my own sporting goods store. Ditto, one-man mountain tents, the purchases of which followed the march of backpacking technology as manufacturers over the years make one-man tents that are lighter and lighter. (There actually is a one-man tent that is lighter than a six-pack of Bud Light.)


Advice-givers suggest that it is either my age or the altitude, or maybe both. This past trip, which is probably my last time sleeping on the ground, I gave this stubborn problem some careful thought and self-examination. Getting down into the weeds, a conclusion surfaced — an inescapable inductively-reasoned explanation for my years of Colorado sleeplessness.

A ha! The ground just isn’t a comfortable place to sleep.

A number of years ago, one of our newbie elk-hunting partners arose from his pup tent on opening day after a restless night. “Where’s the coffee pot?” he queried, with a furrowed brow.

“Ain’t no community coffee pot. Every man for himself, lad,” we insisted. “Don’t you remember? We told you that last month at the hunt briefing.”

He scuffed the ground.

By lunch time, the newbie was gone, lock, stock and barrel. He picked up his gear and walked 10 miles down the mountain to his Denver rental car, leaving behind a $400 bull elk permit and some hunt buddies with fallen jaws.

Wouldn’t you think that one of these high-tech, space-age, outdoor gear-makers could come up with an air mattress that really works? Somebody get the word to Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at [email protected]

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