No stranger to an unplanned night on a route, Martin Feistl shares his tips on what sleeping mat to take, how to adapt your gear and sleeping style, and how to get the rest you need for an alpine start after even the most uncomfortable of bivvies.
There are 2 forms of bivouac: planned and unplanned. Depending on the physical exertion, these two forms are usually expressed by sleep or by sitting around in a trance and, in the best case, watching the stars shine. In the worst case, you have to replace the stars with snowflakes and spindrift.
Tip 1: If you really want to sleep comfortably in all bivouac situations: Be a back sleeper or become one!
Tip 2: If you - like me - can't sleep on your back despite years of practice, use an inflatable mat as often as possible instead of a thin foldable foam mat. Otherwise, after two nights at the latest, you won't be able to stand up straight because of shoulder pain.
Martin with Amelie Kühne on "Säkularis" (400m, M8, WI3, R), Großglockner. Photo by Silvan Metz.
Tip 3: There is only one thing that causes more pain and less sleep than a foam mat: an inflatable mat with a hole. So take a repair kit with you and do without the inflatable mat as soon as you are in granite or other sharp ground. Otherwise you won't be the first to wait out the night sitting on a completely flat air mat on the Peuterey Integral. This means: take an inflatable mat whenever you can on snow, ice or grass if you want a good night's sleep, but weigh up the risks of a hole.
Tip 4: What is more important to you? Weight or pack size? The inflatable mats, which are already relatively light, have a huge advantage over foam mats: they can be packed very small. So small, in fact, that even when we climb difficult and steep routes, we now often take an inflatable mat with us and climb with a slightly heavier rucksack, rather than having this lightweight but huge foam mat hanging from our rucksack, which is totally tattered after the next chimney.
Martin with Amelie Kühne on Ratti Vitali, Aiguille Noire De Peuterey. Photo by Silvan Metz.
For more information on what mat is right for you, check out our sleeping mat buying guide.
Tip 5: If you do have to use a foam mat, shorten it! Most of the time these mats are much longer than your body, you don't need this length, but it gets in the way of your backpack. You can put your feet on your ropes and your head on the backpack, for me half a mat is usually enough.
Martin on "Säkularis" (400m, M8, WI3, R), Großglockner. Photo by Silvan Metz.
Discover more tips for alpine nights on our blog.