Good night, sleep tight… Enjoy a deep and relaxing sleep anywhere
Katja and most worldwide travelers I know have one thing in common — a deep and undisturbed sleep. This makes me very envious because I’m the exact opposite — I turn into a zombie whenever daylight or a bit of noise reach my eyes or years. Especially repeating noises, no matter how soft, drive me crazy.
But with the help of the following simple items I cured my insomnia and gained the freedom to travel and sleep comfortably anywhere:
Ear plugs are the one item which I absolutely need when traveling. After some experimentation with various brands, types and sizes, I settled on Ohropax Soft. Since I need ear plugs also for loud bus rides and on airplanes, I carry the small Ohropax box in my camera bag, which is with me at all times.
I love countries where animals run around freely, but barking dogs and roosting chickens can be very disturbing, so I usually place a pair of ear plugs close to my head when I go to bed. Then, when the animals get loud early in the morning, I quickly stick the ear plugs in my ears and sleep for another hour or two.
Even though Katja has a deep sleep, she also occasionally needs ear plugs, but she prefers Ohropax Classic.
You can buy ear plugs at the drug store, pharmacy or even Amazon.
Eye mask / Blindfold
Ten years ago you were handed a blindfold on most overnight flights, and I kept some of those for Katja and me to use on our current trips. These blindfolds are very light and simple but nonetheless effective in blocking out light, so your sleep is automatically much deeper. I carry an eye mask in my camera bag (next to the ear plugs) whenever I travel.Amazon sells numerous different eye masks, some for as much as 15 – 20 USD. However from their looks I imagine that the ones for 1-2 USD are just as effective. If you sleep on your chest or on your side, avoid firm or “3D” eye masks.
A small rubber pillow which you can blow up to your preferred height and firmness and afterwards flatten out and fold away is the third and last item which directly contributes to your sleeping comfort.
Use this pillow to replace hotel pillows which are too hard, too soft, too high or too low. Also whenever you need to curl up and take a nap and there is no bed around: in a bus, on a train, on a park bench, at an airport…
You can also buy self-inflating pillows (with foam inside), but those are heavier and bulkier, so we (again) recommend the simple ones.
We bought our pillows from Globetrotter just one day before leaving on our world trip and Katja unpacked hers on the bus, about an hour after leaving home. Already while blowing it up, she noticed that the pillow had a whole in it. We then unpacked mine, which was OK. Fortunately for us, that night we slept on the floor of a friend of a friend’s apartment who was a mountain biker, so I asked him if we can borrow a tube patch. Five minutes later Katja’s pillow was air-tight, and it has been ever since (mine also).
Travel sheet / Sleeping bag liner / Inlet
This super-thin “bag” has four different uses:
- as your personal “disgust barrier” whenever the bedsheets in a hostel are not clean enough for your taste,
- as a very thin blanket,
- to protect your sleeping bag from sweat and other body odors. Travel sheets are much easier to wash than sleeping bags (and cheaper if you have to replace them after a while) – especially if your are on the road for a long time! Your sleeping bag will automatically last longer. Just crawl inside the travel sheet first and then into your sleeping bag.
- to add a bit more warmth. The difference is only about a few degrees, but in really cold nights (in high altitude and / or in winter) the additional thermal layer will make a lot of difference.
There are two different inlet shapes:
- Katja’s has a mummy shape (wider at the shoulders, tapers off towards her feet),
- I like to spread my legs a bit while asleep, so I chose a rectangular one (I also have a sleeping bag with an extra-wide foot area)
And there are three common materials for travel sheets:
- silk: luxurious natural material, lowest weight, highest price, very cozy and comfortable, cool in summer, slightly warming in winter
- cotton: inexpensive natural material, heavier than the others, highest warming factor (which you may not want if you are heading for the tropics)
- polyester or microfiber: inexpensive manmade material which charges with static electricity under some circumstances, medium weight and medium warmth.
If you need to wake up at a certain time to start a tour, catch a bus, or drive to the airport, you probably cannot relax and fall into a deep sleep unless you have a reliable alarm.
For this you have three main choices:
- Your mobile: you have it with you anyway, so you might as well use it. But put it in airplane mode to save battery and to prevent calls at odd times, especially if you are in a different time zone from home. On the other hand, if you’ll be sleeping with ear plugs and an eye mask in a shared dorm room, your mobile might be too valuable to use as an alarm clock.
- Wristwatch: Strapped to your arm and thus difficult to lose or steal, the perfect traveler wrist-watch would be shock-resistant, waterproof, easy to read in bright sunlight and at night, light and inexpensive and with a loud alarm. This pretty much requires that the watch is digital (no moving parts) with a plastic housing and a rubber band, with a high-contrast display illuminated evenly by a strong light at night and an alarm that can wake you up from your deepest dreams. Oh, and make it max 5 cm in diameter, max 10 mm thick and no more than 50 EUR. We’ve never seen such a watch, but if it exists, please tell us about it!
- Portable alarm clock: If your sleep is very deep, you might need something with a bigger battery and an even louder alarm. Once again, go for a digital one (so it doesn’t make ticking noises) and avoid the radio-controlled ones if you plan to visit third-world countries.
The following items are not directly related to sleeping, but they belong to our standard travel equipment and we think that you will find them useful.
Flip-flops are useful not only for going to the beach. They are also great to wear in your hotel room, especially for taking a shower or going to the bathroom. Not walking on constantly wet surfaces with your bear feet will go a long way to protect your feet from catching various wart viruses, which can be quite painful and difficult to treat.
The perfect travel flip-flops are very lightweight (Katja’s weigh only 125 grams together and cost 3 EUR in the Philippines) and are entirely made out of rubber (so they dry very quickly).
Quickly drying towel
In most hotels and hostels you get sheets and towels free of charge. However sometimes you might need to ask for them explicitly, and other times you might need to pay a bit extra for them. For those cases, but also for camping and for village home-stays Katja and I each carry a lightweight and quick drying microfiber towel. Depending on their size, such towels cost between 12 and 25 EUR, but they are easily worth their price.
A headlamp is a traveler’s best friend, so we always leave our trusty liteXpress Liberty 111 headlamps (full review) close to our heads when we go to bed. They help us when we are looking for the light switch on the wall, for an extra blanket during the night, and of course for going to the bathroom or if the electricity goes out when you least expect it.
Soap and toilet paper
Also these are usually provided free of charge, but in many cases on our world trip we had to ask for them explicitly. And in several cases one of the other was not available. So we always carry a small soap in our toilet bag and a roll of toilet paper in our backpacks or daypack.
We don’t own a mosquito net (yet). We are simply not willing to pay 45-50 EUR for a net at home and we haven’t found a good one while traveling. But in virtually all locations where we thought that it would be a good idea to sleep under a net, there was one already hanging over the bed.
Still, if we ever find a light net with a reasonable weight for a reasonable price, we’ll buy one.
Steel cable and a lock for your luggage
You might be a bit puzzled that a cable and a lock might help you sleep better, but indeed they can.
This is mostly for the times when you are traveling on a bus or train and you feel the need to keep an eye on your luggage. If you were to lock your luggage to a metal bar you could fall asleep without any worries. Of course this trick will only prevent thieves from simply grabbing your backpack and running away with it, but that’s all you care about if you are simply trying to doze off on a bus or a train. The same trick also works well for shared dorm rooms.
We also use our steel cables when we travel alone and want to go to the bathroom or buy something to eat or drink. For example in a bus terminal or a train station.
The cable above and the padlock weigh 75 grams together, and I built the cable by myself. At the hardware store I paid 4 EUR for the steel cable and the aluminium braces. The padlocks are made out of titalium (not titanium, but they feel nonetheless very hard and quite light). I bought two twin Abus Titalium 64TI/30 padlocks, meaning that they can be opened with the same key, so Katja and I don’t have to pay attention to which lock is hers and which one is mine.
We hope this article helps you to sleep tightly anywhere and at any time.
Do you have any additional item(s) you use to enjoy a good night sleep? If yes let us and our readers know.