I like to
Inspired by Squatting in the Bush
I’m a Type 2 fun-lover and I’ve been modifying gear for as long as I can remember: altering, experimenting, and sometimes ditching. Several results have become my cherished trail companions. But sleeping solutions have never been dealt with completely. For example, there’s that annoying 3am wakeup call to squat in the bush. No amount of modifications could solve that one. I had to start from scratch. Subsequently, the fusion of my passion, skill, training, and experience has resulted in a sleeping garment that you are going to love!
Jackie Bourgaize, B.Des.
Listen to breakfast conversations: ‘How’d you sleep?’ ‘Did you have a good night?’ Toughing it out when you turn your ankle is one thing, but an uncomfortable sleep is a whole different ball game. Lack of sleep effects your entire body including your mind and your mood. The breakfast conversation usually sets the order for the day. The sleepless ones are at the back reminding you all day what a crappy night they had.
If practicable, when you travel, you may pack your pillow from home. It is such a luxury to take along something that you know works for you. You almost forget where you are when your head hits that pillow. My son and his girlfriend take huge pillows. A goodnight’s sleep is that important to them. On backcountry trips, I started taking a little flannelette pillow case and stuffing it with clothing to my preferred density.
THE FIRST UNIGHTIE
Besides my pillow, I experimented with sleeping in long underwear, keeping on my day clothes, and slipping into various bag liners! There’s a misnomer ‘slipping’ into a bag liner ha ha. You don’t ‘slip’ as much as work your way in, fighting against the tooth of your garments (a couple of my buddies sleep nude but that has some of its own issues). And heaven help you if you have to get out at night. Perhaps you’ll discover that your sleeping bag zipper or quilt opening is misaligned with the opening of the liner. By this time, you are wide awake. So out you go, and if you are of a certain anatomical design, you pull your pants down exposing a lot of yourself to the flora, the fauna, and the elements. There’s got to be a better way!
With the decision to start from scratch came the freedom to have everything I always wanted. Immediately I switched from set-in sleeves to raglan. That would avoid chafing and accommodate different anatomies. To minimize bulk and ridges, I vowed to construct as many seams as possible using the flat lock method.
The zipper would have to tuck under the pocket to prevent the base ripping out (a common weak point in zipTs). The zipper head would be reversible so I could access it when my arms were pulled inside it to dress or undress. If you have ever removed your bra or jockstrap while driving, you know what I mean!
16th CENTURY TECHNOLOGY
This doesn’t sound very technical, but at first I wore what I wear at home: a full-length, white cotton Victorian nightgown compete with ruffles, embroidery, and shell buttons. It kinda acted like a bag liner except it went where I went!
If I had to tramp through wet brush to the biffy I twisted the hem up into a knot — a tactic that kept my hands free to deal with toilet paper or a rodent-proof door latch.
On a hut trip with strangers, I realized my modest nightie could function as a portable cabana! I pulled it over my head and undressed beneath it. In the heat of the night, I tossed my sleeping bag aside, confident I had a barrier between me and everything (and everyone) else. In the morning I snuck off to the creek, tied the hem in a knot again, and gave myself a thorough washing below. At lodges, I simply wore my Unightie down to the sauna and back. Infinitely better than underdressing piece by piece and re-dressing a damp body.
The stride was a big deal for me. I wanted to be able to make short work of nature breaks, handle uneven terrain, negotiate steps, but also keep fabric to a minimum.
I had already positioned minimal thumb loops in case you need to pull on a rain jacket when nature calls. And the day we wore our Unightie prototypes down to the sauna at Carlyle Lodge, I realized a hanging loop was also necessary — previously I had only worn my prototype in my tiny tent where hanging was not possible!
As the old saying goes, “If your feet are cold, wear a hat!” So a hood was imperative. At the other end, I constructed a footbox. With toes in the footbox, you could draw the fabric to the foot of the sleeping bag, aligning the sleep system. Letting toes remain in the box, is optional!
When engaging in a little intimacy, I could keep the mountain chill off my shoulders!
I soon realized that that big wide opening at the bottom was the key to dealing with basic body needs. I got out my Sharpie and started marking up my Victorian nightgown with additions, deletions, and alterations to the fit, fabric, and features.
HITCHING IT UP
With a full-length garment, a hitchup feature was critical. I experimented with Velcro, hooks, and buttons. All were too fiddly. Magnets did the trick. I positioned them at the narrowing of the waist to avoid rolling on one with a hip bone. I found that you don’t have to be very accurate bringing them together. And they release quite easily. [My prototype testers found it amusing to hear the click of their magnets as they adhered to the fridge, stove, and dishwasher! I reminded them that the Unightie is for the backcountry. All love their Unighties so much they were wearing them around the house.]
I began to see the Unightie as a sleep base layer. Most of the time I wear mine alone. But when the temperature dips below freezing, you might keep a tank or t-shirt on. You can overlayer the Unightie with fleece, toque, neck gaiter, and mittens. You can tug on your big socks or even sock-shoes like Skinners (Skinners were my camp shoes on the Great Divide to save weight). In extreme cold, I may even compromise the open system with tights or ultralight long underwear. There are no rules!