Becoming a Morning Person to Conquer Those Early Morn’ Hikes

Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. overviews the gear she uses to sleep better and thrive as an early morning riser.

Silhouette of a man standing on a mountain with the sun rising in the background

Photo by Artem Peretiatko

Published on

I typically wake up between 5am and 6am on a daily basis. I don’t even set an alarm, I just naturally wake up that early—which works in my favor when I want to get an early start to the trailhead. For those who aren’t naturally morning people, waking up that early—even for a hike—probably doesn’t sound fun. So here are some tips, tricks, and products I use to sleep better to rise before the sun and thrive—and really enjoy being a morning person.

A sunrise over grassy rolling hills

Photo by Jasper Boer

Products

I’m a tent camper. Normally my dog and I sleep in bed together, and she's terrified of hammocks, so tent it is. To get better sleep the night before, I use a quite luxurious sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and yes, a camp pillow.

I’m a big fan of the Sea to Summit Women’s Either Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad. It’s four inches thick of pure heaven. I’m a cold sleeper and a side sleeper, so this sleeping pad is a dream come true for me when heading to bed at camp. It’s lightweight and super packable. I also love this sleeping pad because of its PillowLock System.

I use the Exped UL Pillow. It weighs under two ounces, packs down small, and takes about 2.5 breaths to inflate. I’ve taken this on backpacking trips, car camping trips, and road trips. Some say bringing a pillow along is unnecessary, and for some that may be true. But if you’re looking for a nice deep sleep the night before an early start, an actual pillow will always do the trick.

Now let’s talk about sleeping bags. I’m a toss-and-turner in my sleep. I like to move around and not get tangled up in fabric. I recently made the switch from a traditional mummy sleeping bag to a quilt. I love the quilt because it attaches to my sleeping pad so it doesn’t slip off despite my movement, and my feet don’t get twisted in the fabric.

If you prefer a sleeping bag, the Mountain Hardwear Lamina Eco 30 is the one I truly love. It is lightweight at just under two pounds for the regular size and the temperature rating was great for the type of trips I go on. It is super durable and I love that the fabrics were sustainably sourced.

The view from within a tent looking out through the open front flap at the mountains beyond

Photo by Dominik Jirovsky

Like I said, I recently made the switch to this Therm-a-Rest Corus Quilt. It is lightweight, warm enough for the weather I typically live in, and keeps my comfy all night. The first morning I woke up under the quilt I felt like a newborn baby. I was so ready to be on my merry way and crush the hike ahead of me.

Now my dog will tend to wake me up and try to snuggle right next to me. However, once I found the products she liked, she sleeps in her own space all night. I tried a few different options but she particularly loved the Mountainsmith K-9 Bed. It weighs just over a pound, and on backpacking trips it compacts down small enough to fit in her pack. She doesn’t like to sleep with blankets, but on particularly cold nights, I’ll bring along the Ruffwear Clear Lake Blanket. I did try a sleeping bag for her, but she did not enjoy that and wouldn’t even look at it. The blanket she tolerates when she gets cold though.

So important note: if you are bringing along a dog, make sure they are comfy so they don’t wake you up.

Tips and Tricks

What else do I do to make sure I get a really good night's rest so I feel snazzy the next (early) morning? I turn off my screens! We’ve heard it so many times, but once I committed to avoiding screens for at least thirty minutes before bed, my mind was calmer and I felt more relaxed. But if you must, snag a pair of blue-light glasses to keep those harsh lights off your face.

I opted to read instead. Reading always tires me out. I just make sure that I don’t read something that I don’t want to put down! Check out this list for some book recommendations, as well as podcasts and documentaries that I found educational and entertaining—always a solid combination.

The last thing I do before bed, regardless of if I’m on the trail or in my bed at home, I always have a large glass of hot water or sleepy tea. And I drink said hot beverage out of my handy dandy camp mug. I got the Hydro Flask Mug as a gift and let me tell you, I’m obsessed. Make sure to eat enough as well, since going to sleep hungry is never a fun time.

Now, another great way to sleep super well to become and enjoy being a morning person, is to exhaust yourself. When I was training my dog, I was constantly reminded that a tired puppy is a happy puppy. And honestly the same can apply to us. If you are backpacking, then it’s likely you will be tired before you even hit camp. But if you are just starting a hike or doing a day hike but starting in the wee hours of the morn’, then make sure you do as much as you can throughout the day to be tired before bed. Being tired is one of the best ways to fall and stay asleep.

I’m also a huge fan of melatonin every once in a while. I do have some weird dreams and tend to wake up groggier, but I always sleep extra deep.

Another great way to wake up early and love it is to wake up to the natural sunlight. At 3 or 4am that is probably not going to happen, but there are now alarm clocks that wake you up with a sun-like light. Himalayan salt lamps also create a good energy to start the day off right and get you amped to crush your hike.

Silhouette of a man with arms outstretched looking out at a sunrise

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz

This one might sound a bit cheesy, but I’m going to throw it out there anyways. I haven’t been great at this but when waking up at 3am, everything helps. Think about what you are grateful for at that moment. Maybe it's that you are in a beautiful place, or that you have the opportunity to hike that peak, or a memory that makes you happy. Starting off the day happy with gratitude will only make you smile.

Becoming a morning person isn’t for everyone. I personally love waking up before everyone else, getting a good run or hike in when it’s quiet out, and feeling productive before the sun has even risen. I hope these tips and products help you love those early mornings. Whatever the reason may be to get on the trail early—whether you are beating the weather or the crowds or want to be at the peak by a certain time—don’t let a little sleepiness stop you from enjoying the magical world of hiking.

And as always, hit me up with tips and tricks you use to enjoy the early mornings. If you need the perfect gear to get you going, reach out to a Camping & Hiking expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations. Don’t forget, stay hardcore. 

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Written By
Hannah K
Hannah K
Camping & Hiking Expert
Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...
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