Sleeping pads for lightweight camping serve two
main functions. They keep you warm when temperatures drop by insulating
you from the cold ground and help you sleep better because you are comfortable
while sleeping on the hard ground. There are basically two types of
sleeping pads, ones that inflate and ones that are a dense foam rubber pad.
have owned and used both types depending on the continent.
that I look for when buying Sleeping Pads
- Non-sliding surface There
is a real problem when sleeping on any type of sleeping pad with sliding
off and becoming separated during the night. When this happens you
wake up cold or stiff from sleeping on the cold hard ground. Some
trekking camping pad makers claim to have solved this problem by
including a slightly tacky surface. This is something the cheap
pads often omit.
- 3/4 or full length This
is a big decision when you buy a foam rubber pad or air mattress.
This question is really about what you will put under your feet.
If you have something like a jacket to put under your feet then you may
want to go with the shorter sleeping pad. A jacket may work for
short trips in warm weather but for extended outings and cold weather
you will want the longer pad so there is room for your feet.
Self inflating sleeping pads
- all sizes and shapes
This type of camping mattress is probably the most popular for
bike tourist. They pack small, blow up fast and are moderately light.
Self inflating pads are very comfortable, especially considering how thin they
are and keep you warm at night. The self inflating part only gets you
about half way then you have to blow up the rest with your mouth. I have
owned and used several difference models of self inflating pads including
Therm-a-Rest, Big Agnes, and REI and had about equal performance from them all.
After about a year of continuous use my self inflating pads all got leaks I
could not patch or unfixable valve trouble but many long term bicycle travelers
and backpackers swear that
theirs have lasted many years. This kind of pad is still my first pick as
long as my near future did not have me camping in the desert a lot.
By far the most comfortable pad but also the most fragile.
If you have back trouble, have trouble sleeping or are going in very cold
temperatures this is a great choice. I have personally used a few
different kinds of these but have had bad luck with getting holes and winding up
on the cold ground in the middle of the night. Others will tell you
about their flawless experience but not me. They are lighter and pack
up even smaller than the self inflating pads above but more air means more
blowing and pushing the air out in the morning to roll it up. Multiply
that extra work everyday on a long trip and it starts to add up.
This is the new high tec version of an old and simple idea.
Dense lightweight foam padding keeps you off the ground and insulates from
the cold. They are not the padded air cushion of the pads above but
they will never spring a leak or have valve trouble. Not to mention
there is no need for a valve repair kit or patches to deal with those forgotten thorns
under your tent. If you are a durable sleeper and will be traveling
through thorny areas like a desert or just plan to stealth / free camp a lot
without the trusted surface of a camp ground than this may be what you need.
I really like that there is no fear in sitting on it around the camp fire or
laying on it at the beach. I often folded mine in thirds and had a
padded seat at a camp ground picnic table or ground while free camping.
They are still pretty light but bulky and take up as much room as your tent
on your rear rack.
The sleeping pad stuff sacks often don't last as long as the pad does so a
replacement is needed. Also, I really like the chair kits, especially
if you are free camping and sitting on the ground a lot. Anytime I
think a piece of gear can be used for more than one purpose I like it.
Just be careful what you are sitting on because a puncture can lead to many
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