If you have miles to go before you sleep, you must live in northern BC

👤Joanne Campbell 🕔Aug 01, 2013

Here, we don’t sleep in one room, in one house, in one town. We sleep right across the region. We usually lay our heads down in our own beds, but it’s just home base. Camping, family reunions, school field trips, competitions: on any given night we could be bunking down anywhere from Port Clements to Valemount.

My son, Teo, who has slept on his fair share of art gallery floors on high school trips, has recently been bitten by the backcountry hiking bug and he’s started to collect the gear he needs to head out into the hills for some overnight adventures. I gave him my two-person tent, he bought a hiking backpack and now he’s considering which sleeping gear to buy.

When I first tented on the side of a mountain, I slept on the tent floor, in my Kmart sleeping bag, curled around a large rock. Oh, did I say “slept”? I meant to say “shivered.” The ground sucked away my body heat quicker than I could generate it. As a heat sink, the rock failed miserably. I promised myself I would never again set up camp in the dark and to never, ever again “sleep” on the ground with just a millimetre of plastic between me and the heat-sucking earth.  

To a sleep addict like me, self-inflating, thermal shield mats that fit neatly into most backpacks are the best camping invention ever. But they’re not just for backpackers.

As northerners*, we often find ourselves facing a variety of floors right before bedtime—tent floors, as mentioned, but also basements, gymnasiums, living rooms, campers, even SUVs. Sometimes, a motel just isn’t in the plan or the budget. But, have mat, will travel—it makes the gym floor so much comfier and puts a welcome layer between you and the sneezy old carpet or cold concrete.

I bought three of the largest two-inch-thick mats for the kids to take on school trips and a couple of the thinner, slimmer kind for backpacking. The big ones come in especially handy for family camping trips. They roll up tightly for stashing and, unrolled, butted up against each other, make a super-mattress so no one has to roll off onto the floor.

In the good old days, when we camped with kids, we would take two or three three-inch-thick foamies. While they are very cushy to sleep on, they don’t fold well. The camping gear took up the back left corner of the mini-van and we occupied our seats; the rest of the space was floor-to-ceiling foamies. On most trips, the children couldn’t sit up straight: not because they were children but because their heads were pushed forward by the foamies unfolding out from where they were stuffed behind the seats. Good thing some of the kids were short.

After the foamy era, I thought I’d be smart and buy a couple queen-sized heavy-duty air mattresses, guaranteed not to leak, ever. They’d roll up tight, be easy to inflate, and keep us off the ground at night. I’d had bad experiences with air mattresses before—inevitably, they’d leak, leaving us to heave up and down every time someone rolled over, ultimately depositing us on the cold, cold ground (or basement floor) by morning. Not wanting to revisit the cold-sucking-ground theme, I thought a lifetime warranty against leaks would promise a good night’s sleep but—like that rock on my hiking trip—it was too hard to keep. The lifetime guarantee was attractive—not because I was worried about getting my money back, but because I thought it was indicative of quality. Like the sleeping experience it provided, all the mattress guarantee delivered was a pain in the butt. (Just out of curiosity, I wonder what an air mattress—non-leaking!!—would be like if you added a touch of helium to the mix?)

Now, I should clarify: when I refer to a “self-inflatable,” I don’t mean the type of mattress you inflate yourself, such as the afore mentioned and much hated air mattress. A self-inflatable mat is the kind that inflates itself—all you have to do is unroll it and watch it puff up like magic. Its natural state is open, that’s how you store it. You only roll it up to pack it when it’s time to go. They are much different than air mattresses in construction. And vastly better in performance.

So if you have many miles before you sleep, you must be out exploring our wonderful backyard. If a regular mattress isn’t in your dreams, just roll out a self-inflatable. It makes getting your ZZZs easy.

*Many Northword readers who came (or returned) here from Vancouver or the Lower Mainland refer to the region between Haida Gwaii and Jasper as “northern BC.” The reference is cultural, not geographical. Most of us came here from “down south”; therefore, we consider ourselves “northerners.”