Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Gear Talk: Sleeping Pads & Mattresses

Sleeping pads and mattresses seem to be treated a bit like the step children when it comes to the sleep system - much more time and thoughts are spent on the sleeping and bivy bag, but the pad? Well, I had some trouble with a cold back during some trips in the autumn, as my NeoAir just wasn't enough. Also a comment from Martin Rye made me think - do we really need the "comfort" of a NeoAir when there are lighter options available, are we that spoilt?

Well, I like a certain degree of comfort at night, so I am undeniably a bit spoilt. A good night's sleep is important for me, and for that I like to carry slightly more weight with me for what would be possible. What follows is the evolution of my sleeping pads, and my thoughts on them.

Therm-A-Rest ProLite 4

From my traditional approach of backpacking, I still own my TAR ProLite 4, the older version in orange, as you can see. Its a good pad, but heavy for me at 726 g. Packsize is OK, I carried it in my Ohm as a backpad and it was very comfy, though did use quite a bit of space.

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir

Going lightweight meant looking for options to stay comfy but decreasing weight. The TAR NeoAir in S which I bought used from a guy on BPL.com was my next step in the evolution. It is a good pad, yes, I love the packsize and it also works fine as backpad in the Ohm, and 254 g are a splendid weight. However, I get seriously cold when temperatures go under 5°C on it, and I also don't really enjoy the dropping off of the pad of arms and legs, it gives me backaches and that's thus a no-go.

Therm-A-Rest Z Lite

Enter the Therm-A-Rest Z Lite. At 405 g in full length (I didn't yet get around in cutting it into sections) its a bit more heavy than the NeoAir, the packsize is slightly more but boy is it comfortable. It also acts very well as a frame for the Ohm and my coming Laufbursche pack, and most importantly it keeps me nice warm till 0°C. I also like the colour heaps, so a real winner.

Therm-A-Rest Ridge Rest

And then there is autumn and winter (and the latter one holds its grip for a good six months on this country) and temperatures go below 0°C and I am freezing again on my Z Lite, bugger. Well, Therm-A-Rest makes the Ridge Rest and I decided to get one for winter backpacking. My L version weights in at a mighty 498 g before cutting it (I plan to cut it anatomically to shave some grams of it). It's so comfy that I sometimes take a nap on it at home. Packsize is not very nice, however, its huge and must be affixed on the outside of the pack. However, I like that it is wide, and I can comfortably have my arms next to my body without them laying on the ground.

Multimat Adventure

Now I actually could have been happy and stop worrying, if there wouldn't have been the packsize and weight concerns of the Ridge Rest. Carrying a pad on the outside is not very practical, it gets into the trees, collects snow and brings the load distribution a bit out of balance. My search continued, and through Phil Turner I found what I was looking for at Multimat in Wales. The Adventure mat is 136 g, is beautifully small, and can be used as a frame. It has a Tog Rating of 2.3 and is listed as a 3/4 season mat, and will be perfect for the warmer months as a solo mat. Its also very comfortable, even if it has no egg carton holes or ridges. Look for the right spot to put it down and you're in heaven.

Multimat Summit Compact 38

The Adventure mat won't be enough at the moment (-13°C as I am writing this, snowing), so I combine it with a Multimat Summit Compact 38. This is a self inflating mat and I really love it. It packs very small, comes with a fleece lined packsack which can be turned inside out and act as a pillow cover, and also has a repair kit with it - that's something Therm-A-Rest still can learn, as they often make you buy the repair kits separately. Anyhow. The mat has a super impressive Tog Value of 7.8 and together with the Adventure should keep me warm in the extremest of conditions. Its 579 g but packs very small, and also can be used as a frame. All in all I am very impressed and happy with the Multimats, on my last trip those two ensured me a warm back and comfy sleep.

Size comparison of TAR Ridge Rest - TAR Z Lite - Multimat Adventure.

Size comparison of all the mats.

Packsize of all the mats, from left to right: TAR NeoAir, Multimat Summit Compact 38, TAR ProLite 4, Multimat Adventure, TAR Z Lite and TAR Ridge Rest.

Regarding comfyness of the CCF pads, I usually look for a more soft spot. Its also a good option to take some fir (or similar Pinaceae tree) branches (don't cut them from living trees!) if you find some, they are very comfortable and the smell is just splendid! Also moss covered spots are very comfortable places to lay down, its nature's bed.

Well, that's the evolution of my sleeping mats. Now in the winter I will be using the Ridge Rest on warmer days or when sleeping at a lean-to shelter, and the two Multimats when the thermometer would suggest that slightly more sane people would stay at home and not go sleeping on snow. I will give the NeoAir another try in the summer of 2010, and the Multimat Adventure and TAR Z Lite will be there as a back-up; while my girlfriend will be happy about the comfort of the ProLite 4 on the occasional trip she does with me =) And as evolution never stops, I'll come back to this topic in the summer and report on experiences with the mats and how I fared.

Now that you know what I use, I'd like to know which pads you use in which season!

Sleep tight & sweet dreams!