Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Mobile Beds: The 6 Best Sleeping Pads
By M. W. Byrne,
Hi Consumption, 1 December 2014.

A night out under the prairie stars is the perfect way to reconnect with the roots of men of old. The truth about men of old, however, was that their joints ached, they had chronic knee problems, and would spend half of their nights digging rocks out of their back because the human body wasn’t meant to lie on the hard ground. To keep your body from becoming a prison of pain, if you’re planning an excursion into the wilderness, you need to get a decent camping pad or sleeping pad so you don’t suffer as your ancestors did.

Picking a good sleeping pad is primarily about how it is going to be used. If you’re going to be backpacking with it, it needs to be light enough that you can lug it up a mountain without going into traction but sufficiently supportive that it gives you a good night’s rest without every pebble becoming embedded in your spine. Campers can add a little more heft since they’re gear is going to be lugged around by their vehicle, and therefore get more comfort. You can go with a full-blown air mattress, but you’re often going to be just as comfortable with a foam camping mat or any of the other 6 best sleeping pads out there.

1. ALPS Mountaineering


Pro: Extremely lightweight
Con: Small sizes very diminutive

Cliffside: The Mountaineering line by ALPS wasn’t really made for camping, they were made when you plan on bivouacking halfway up a cliff on a ridge, your ice axes dangling over the precipice as you slumber. The self-inflating, ultra-light body works best for when it isn’t enough to keep weight down, you need to keep it as light as possible so as not to add any strain to your guidelines as you hunt for toeholds miles above the yawning chasm. The body is made of polyurethane in an open cell format with a comfortable ripstop top and polyester taffeta bottom that won’t rip or tear, and also will give you a good grip so you won’t have to worry about it sliding away. The valves are made of brass that won’t corrode even if you find yourself stuck in some harsh winter weather or covered in snow. You’ll likely want to buy the longer sizes, since the small ones are made mostly for children or leprechauns. [Purchase: US$14+]

2. Thermarest Z-Lite SOL Sleeping Pad


Pro: Thermal reflection improves heat
Con: Limited padding

True Minimalist: The Thermarest Z-Lite SOL is the backup sleeping pad for car campers, backpackers, mountaineers, and anyone who wants a simple, affordable, and reliable camping mat. These can be found in travel backpacks and motorcycle saddle bags alike. It folds up like a windshield reflector making it easy to carry and easy to store. The key to the SOL is the unique reflective silver barrier that bounces your body heat back to you for a warmer night’s sleep, even in harsh conditions. The closed cell design is durable and no inflation means there is no chance it will spring a leak. On the other hand, since it is so small, you can expect to feel a few more lumps and bumps underneath you during the night. You can try the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite for a thicker option that isn’t quite as portable. [Purchase: US$35+]

3. Klymit Inertia X Frame


Pro: Extremely lightweight
Con: Minimal padding

Light and Tactical: The Inertia X Frame is made for the ultra serious, ultralight backpacker or camper. There are no frills to be found on this battle-hardened beast. It is just over 11 ounces and when fully compacted, it smaller than a can of soda. The exterior is rugged polyester meant to take abuse. The glove design is meant to hit your body at multiple key points to give you only as much support as you need. The tiny size can be packed into the interior of a mummy bag so that it retains even more warmth if being used in the dead of winter. This has been tested by Delta team for use during field ops or recon missions. The gaps are made to cut down on weight and improve loft and insulation to create pockets of air, even outside of the actual tubing. These help with overall airflow so your body is evenly warmed. [Purchase: US$55]

4. Big Agnes Q-Core


Pro: Works in cold temperatures
Con: Too heavy for lightweight backpacking

Loadable Luxury: You’ve probably never wanted to sleep on something called “Big Agnes” but once you try it out, you’re not likely to want to sleep anywhere else. At 3.5 inches thick when inflated, the Q-Core will give you more than enough padding to keep the ground where it belongs: far away from you. With alternating I-Beams inside the mattress itself, this gives you great support that also won’t slide around. There are baffles laid out both horizontally and vertically so even restless sleepers will have a hard time sliding away while the evenly distributed air will work even for side sleepers who dig down into their mattress. It’s rated for as low as 15 degrees, which will give you plenty of camping even when the mercury hits bottom and your less rugged friends are hiding in their dens until hibernation season passes. Silver filaments woven into the fabric reflect heat and prevent warm air from escaping. [Purchase: US$90+]

5. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Dream Mattress


Pro: Extremely comfortable
Con: Expensive

Happy Camper: The NeoAir Dream certainly blurs the line between what is technically a sleeping pad and what is an air mattress. It’s better for the standard camper who can’t quite figure out how to fit a four poster bed into the car. The body holds a full inch of memory foam on the top and a standard NeoAir mattress inside that can be taken out when you want to keep bulk at a minimum or take this off the beaten path. The price might be a little daunting, but anyone who needs something with a little more plush that can give better orthopaedic support for longer days on the trail, on the road, or in the bush, this will provide it. Two of these can also be snapped together for those couples who just can’t spend the night apart, or pals who need to conserve warmth because they were caught in a blizzard. At nearly 4 pounds and offering 4 inches of cloud support, there’s little to complain about. [Purchase: US$150]

6. Sea to Summit Comfort Plus


Pro: Extremely supportive
Con: Narrow and slick

Everywhere, Man: The Sea to Summit is aptly named. The intent of these Comfort Plus pads are to be capable of going wherever you do and give you a supportive night sleep whether on the beach or buried up to the eyeballs in powder. They only inflate to about 2.5 inches, but the design makes the most of this space with 600 air sprung cells that work like a series of tiny springs to keep air where you need it and increase body contact with the sleeping pad so that when fully inflated, you can sleep on the hardest of surfaces without uneven buttressing. Can work below freezing, through a combination of Thermolite insulation and heat-reflective fabrics. The body runs a little narrow and the nylon shell can be slippery which might give tossers and turners pause, but paying for the wider models can usually alleviate this discomfort. [Purchase: US$239]

[Source: Hi Consumption. Edited. Some links added.]

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