IHAVE FALLEN asleep at bars. Handlebars, that is. Yes, you read that right. While riding at 75 mph on an Interstate, I momentarily nodded off. You, too? What’s worse, I did it
more than once. You know the feeling; we’ve probably all done
it in class. Your eyelids slowly lower, as does your head. Then,
just when you’re at the edge of a dream, something causes you
to lift your head again and you get a zing of adrenaline, which
startles you but then makes you even more tired. This is actually
called microsleep. It’s inevitable that you will lose this battle,
and on a motorcycle, such a defeat could easily cost you your
life. Once I realized that I was effectively playing Russian Roulette, I remembered an Iron Butt rule: Stop. Now! Just take a
quick nap. Okay, let’s see a show of hands; how many of you
have nodded off while riding? I thought so. We’re not crazy,
just sleep deprived.
In the last issue, I discussed various shelters and some of the
physics and engineering behind them. In this article, we’ll uncover
some interesting facts about sleep, what your body needs, and
the various portable means to facilitate it in the great outdoors.
Sleep deprivation is a common mind-control and interrogation
technique. Without sufficient sleep, we can be made to do strange
things, like rob a bank (Patty Hearst) or ignore the fact that our
bodies are moving past stationary objects at unhealthy velocities. And such a state can be the result of not just one night’s
deprivation, but slowly accumulated over a few hours each night.
Humans need sleep for homeostasis, or the regulation of our metabolic functions. To get good
sleep, your body requires a specific temperature
range and proper support. At home, your expensive
bed and blankets work with your home’s HVAC
system to help with the former and your mattress
with box springs, provide the latter.
As an engineer, I like to define a problem
before I solve it (or critique other’s solutions
before I buy them), and this always starts with
the most holistic approach possible. Ask why and
you may not have to deal with a lot of hows. So,
when I evaluate a sleeping system for motorcycle
camping (and/or hiking), I want to make sure I’ll
get a good night’s sleep as well as being able to
pack and carry it efficiently.
A good night’s sleep, you say? A solid, contiguous eight hours? Says who? Before I go into the
details of how current sleeping systems help keep
you warm and cozy, you might be interested to
learn that before artificial light, most all humans
had broken-up sleep patterns, called segmented
sleep, which is exactly what you should expect
when you camp out. My ancestry being largely
agrarian, I happen to like it.
Scientists have discovered that uninsulated
humans wake up at ambient temperatures roughly
above 75° and below 54°. This is perhaps your body’s
safety mechanism telling your brain that it’s time to assume
manual control. There is also a certain rate of heat loss your
body prefers during sleep, and it’s not constant throughout the
night. Your body’s core temperature drops to its lowest about
four hours after you fall asleep, somewhere about 4:30 AM, when
the ambient temperature is approaching its nadir. The preferred
(ambient) room temperature varies for everyone, which explains
why your spouse may well be hogging the covers.
We’ll start with thermoregulation, a subroutine for homeostasis. For summertime, let’s say the mercury doesn’t drop below
75°; you likely won’t need more than a sheet to stay warm—if
that. You could throw in a fleece blanket that you’ll reach for at
zero-four hundred hours to warm up a bit. I’ve camped on the
Florida coastline in the summer, and won’t even reach for a sheet
until after midnight. As an aside, those waves can be deafening
in the wee hours of the morning.
Motorcycle Camping 202
Sleep & Sleeping
Favorite sleeping bags, left to right: REI Travel Sack, REI Polar Pod,
Mountain Hardware’s Lamina 35 (half the size), Western Mountaineering (cold weather).
Honda CT90 as
We did the best we
could with what
we had in the sev-enties…and had a
ball doing it.
by Vince Tidwell