A sleeping bag and tent are considered essential for backcountry camping. But they are not the only — or even the best — pieces of gear for sleeping outside. As we learned during a week of remote camping on the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where it's hot and dry enough to forgo a tent, sleeping pad, and even a sleeping bag, there are some great alternatives out there.
The outfitter we used for the Grand, Western River Expeditions, uses cots. We were skeptical, until we spent our first night comfortably off the ground, beneath the stars. Now we may never go back. Here are five sleeping alternatives to try on your next trip.
The Blue Ridge Camping Hammock
Best for camping in places where tents can't go — like on a mountainside or a riverbed — or for otherwise upping your cool factor, the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock is as functional as it is fun. It's a three-season tent, tarp, and hammock all rolled into one 4.25-pound package. Without the rip-stop nylon rainfly, the hammock is ideal for relaxing and taking in the scenery — the sides and roof are made of see-through netting to let the views in while keeping the bugs out. And it doubles as a ground tent — just stake out the sides instead of hanging it.
Pro tip: You'll need to supply your own straps or rope. Save the hassle and pay $25 for Tree Hugggers, heavy-duty polypropylene webbing support straps with S hooks that make hanging a no-brainer. Plus, protect the tree from damage. [$170; lawsonhammock.com]