Nature at night takes us back to when our ancestors slept in caves, meadows, and forests. Wherever you decide to hunker down, bring along the gear best suited for your overnight adventure. --Rachel Odell Walker
Confront your bear-anoia with the Great Sleeping Bear, an ursine sleeping bag designed (but not yet being sold) by artist Eiko Ishizawa. For updates on availability, check Ishizawa's Web site, which offers this tantalizing description: "In the same time, this bear sleeping bag is the metaphor of the changing the positions between being eaten by the bear, being a bear, who killed a bear and wearing a bear skin, or who see it and wants to hunt the bear." Got it? eikoishizawa.com
For years we just shoved our fleece in a stuff sack and rested our heads on that. Then we discovered Cocoon's Ultralight AirCore Pillow, an inflatable pad that's virtually indestructible. Made with featherweight synthetic fabrics and a urethane bladder, this dream catcher easily fits into your pack. 3.7 oz.; $25; cocoonusa.com
In some equatorial cultures, hammocks are the sleeping vehicle of choice, while the U.S. experience tends to be the occasional nap in a sling strapped between two trees. You can have it either way by bringing the lightweight, polyester Exped Scout Hammock along.
11.6 oz.; $55; exped.com
The minimalist Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pad can be squeezed into a one-liter water bottle. A reflective barrier reduces heat loss to the ground, and air cells minimize drafts and cooling. Bottom line: It's the outdoor equivalent of a feather bed. 9 oz.; $120 to $170; thermarest.com
Part of Marmot's Ultralight series, the synthetic EcoPro sleeping bag features recycled fabric (mainly factory scraps) and insulation (made from plastic bottles). Overlapping shingles hug the torso, eliminating cold pockets without adding bulk. The result: a warm, roomy, no-frills sleeper rated for about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. 3 lb. 4 oz.; $150 to $170; marmot.com
The number of people who must create their own ledge while suspended hundreds of feet aboveground is decidedly small. Most of us prefer terra firma. But when your overnight climb calls for a high-tech, lightweight contraption, use the Metolius Bomb Shelter Portaledge. Its strong frame makes a sturdy platform, and its intuitive setup comes in handy when you're that high up.
11 lb. 7 oz.; $650; metoliusclimbing.com
Photos, from top: Eiko Ishizawa, Exped AG, Lori Eanes, Brooke Sandahl/Metolius Climbing, Marmot Mountain LLC, Lori Eanes; used with permission.