Inspiration | March 2021

Q&A: From Sleep to Steep with Jared Vagy

Jared Vagy is a physical therapist and long-time climber who has spent years car camping at trailheads to prepare for his morning climbs. Since connecting with Luno, Jared has used the Luno Car Air Mattress on his adventures to get a great night’s sleep on the go. Luno talked to Jared about why car camping is better than tent camping, how campers and climbers can avoid injuries, and the biggest misconceptions about sleeping in your car.

What do you do for a living? How is car camping a part of your life/career?

I’m a Doctor of Physical Therapy and an Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California. I specialize in treating rock climbing injuries and I am the author of the book “Climb Injury-Free.”

I’ve spent over half of my life rock climbing. Now with my busy work schedule, I focus mostly on long alpine climbs where I can get out and back to the car within 24 hours. Getting a good night's sleep before and after the climb are essential. Now that I’m getting older, I’m favoring sleeping in the comfort of my car rather than bivvying at the trailhead or setting up a tent.

What’s your favorite part about your job?

My passions are physical therapy and rock climbing and I am very lucky to have the opportunity to combine the two. My favorite part about being a physical therapist is the problem solving component. Analyzing a climber’s movement, performing a clinical assessment and then aligning all of the findings to determine why someone is having pain.

Tell us about your most memorable climbing trip.

My most memorable climbing trip was the first route that I climbed on El Capitan in Yosemite. I remember as a little kid looking up at the 3000 foot granite face and thinking that it will be impossible to climb. Then in my 20’s, I got really hooked on climbing and eventually in my mid 20’s I set a goal to climb El Capitan. With my two closest climbing friends, we put together a plan, trained, and then climbed The Nose of El Capitan. We topped out on the summit in the middle of the night and had fruit cups to celebrate.

Fruit cups (Tara, Jeremy and Jared)

Jared Vagy (right), Jeremy Eng (left) below the great roof of El Capitan

Looking down at the valley below and my two climbing partners Jeremy Eng (left) Tara Misiewicz (right)

In your opinion, what are common misconceptions about sleeping in your car?

I feel that one misconception is that you aren’t connecting with nature compared to when you sleep in a tent. But honestly, if I am going on a 14 hour climb, I feel connected enough with nature during my outdoor activities that it is kind of nice to have a comfortable car set up to start off from and come back to. However, my one regret is that my car doesn't have a moonroof. That would have been a great addition to see the stars going to bed.

Another misconception is that you aren’t able to breath as well in a car versus a tent. I haven't found much difference between the two, but I have found that when I want to get airflow, putting a mesh liner over my window and rolling the window down a crack can help a lot to get more air circulating.

How can camping without a solid sleep setup impact your muscles and joints?

There was a period in my life when I was pursuing climbing full time and I spent more time sleeping in a tent in the mountains than in a bed at home. And at that stage of life, comfort and time was less of a priority. So I would use a rope for a pillow and a thin closed cell foam pad to sleep on. I was pretty bony back then (and I still am today) and I would wake up with my arm numb in the middle of the night from the pressure of my body, then shake it out and go back to sleep. I got used to that set up so much that I used it even when I was car camping. Knowing what I do now, I am glad that I eventually wisened up and started taking my sleep comfort more seriously and my body is thankful as well. 

How has the Luno Air Mattress changed your climbing trips? 

It has been a game changer. I spend a lot of time sleeping in my car at the trailhead in preparation for climbs but I never was able to find a sleep set up that is compact and comfortable. So I would either lug around a bulky foam pad (which would take up half of the space in my car and then get dirty when I would roll it up) or just bivy outside on my car on a sleeping pad (since setting up and taking down a tent for a day was always a hassle and I would often arrive at the trailhead late at night after work). So once I started using the Luno Mattress, my trips became a lot easier to plan. I love how I can fold it in half and sleep by my gear, or unfold it for a larger sleeping area. It is really quick to set up and is really comfortable.

How can using the Luno Air Mattress help campers and climbers avoid injuries?

Having a supportive and comfortable sleep surface is an important factor in decreasing the occurrence of neck and back pain when camping. Although sleeping pads and cots can give some support to the body, they often don’t give enough. Over time, cots can start sagging in the middle and it is all too common for people to slide off a foam pad or to wake up sleeping off center. Additionally, our bodies recover when we sleep and a good night sleep is an essential process to heal from or prevent injuries from occurring. So a mattress like the Luno Air Mattress can be supportive to the spine and help improve recovery with a good night sleep.

What’s your favorite feature of the Luno Air Mattress?

I really like the inflatable cubes that support the mattress in the gap between the seats. I was a bit skeptical that they would take up too much space in the car, but a roof box has solved that issue and they are so much more comfortable and consistent compared to stacking my gear and bags under the mattress to level it.

Luno is proud to work with people like Jared, who dedicate their time and expertise to helping fellow recreationalists be their best, healthiest selves. Interested in learning more about how Jared helps climbers through physical therapy? You can visit his website here.


Jared Vagy, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist


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