Loc: Portland, OR
All I can tell you is what I do with my Thermarest. I fold it in half, lengthwise, then I roll it, secure it so it won't unroll, and put it inside my pack. This approach causes me no problems, so I continue to do it this way.
Whenever I make a fairly significant change to my gear setup, there follows a period of experimenting with how best to pack my pack. It usually settles in to a routine rather quiickly, but the best test of a packing solution is experiencing it on the trail for a few days.
I poked a big hole in my sleeping pad the one and only time I carried it outside my pack! If you do this, be sure to put it in a very sturdy stuff sack. I deflate my pad, then fold it to fit the length and width of my pack. If I need more padding I put it inside next to my back. The disadvantage of this is that it may push the heavier items away from your back, creatimg a "lever arm" on the weight (pack will feel heavier). Most of the time, I put it away from my back. The pad is light - this actually pushes the heavier items closer to my back (feels lighter when carrying). It all depends on what space is available. Sometimes I roll it up and carry it on the side (inside the pack). If you do this, be sure it is equally balanced by something light on the other side. By the way, do not put the pad inside a bear cannister when it becomes nearly empty. It will pick up food smells and you do not want to smell like a tastey meal when you are inside your tent.
The pad should not be that bulky - are you sure you are adequeately sqeezing out the air and then tightening the valve so air cannot re-enter?
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
When I had one (I had one of the really early Thermarests, then later went to a 2" thick Thermarest LE), I squeezed out all the air, folded it into thirds, put it in the pad pocket in the back of my Six Moon Designs Comet Pack, and then opened the valve for a few seconds to let a tiny bit of air back in. This made the pad a trifle more supportive. (One thing I really like about the sadly discontinued Comet is the internal pad pocket, which means no stuff sack for my pad is needed.)
One thing I've found: the older I get, the more sensitive my hips and shoulders get and the thicker the pad I need. I'm now up to a 2.5 inch insulated air pad, and I'm sure that in a year or two more I'll be looking at a 3 inch pad (maybe a custom down insulated mat from Kooka Bay)!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
I'd agree with the other posters: if you're going to store it outside (either rolled without folding, or folded and rolled), be sure to use a sturdy stuff sack - and realize you may still poke a hole in it if you're bushwhacking. I also agree with the others who say store it inside; I haven't carried a pad outside since the closed-cell pads I used before they invented self-inflaters.
As far as your observation about whether your tent, sleeping bag, and pad should use about half the space, I can't comment authoritatively without knowing specifically what those are. However, I've used the Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone and Escape AC 60 packs, and the Deuter ACT Zero 60+10 - all have about 60L capacities (give or take a few liters), and I find that my tent, sleeping bag, and pad do use somewhere between a third and a half of the pack, mostly depending on how compactly I compress the sleeping bag. (For reference, I use an MSR Carbon Reflex 1 tent, WM Megalite bag, and short or medium Neoair pad. I've also used a Prolite Plus short pad, before I had the Neoair.)
Another question: with half your pack given to those items, do you still have enough room for everything else you want to carry? If not, could you move some more stuff into the top pocket, or the shove-it pocket?
How much water do you typically carry? If you're carrying two quarts of water in the outside pockets, and a filter inside, and you're walking in well-watered areas, consider whether you could get by with only one quart of water; then you could move the filter to the other outside pocket.
How large is your kitchen bag? If you're carrying a multi-pot cook kit, large stove (MSR Simmerlite, for example) and somewhat bulky food, you might be able to save some space by switching to freeze-dried or freezer-bag meals, which would also let you use a single pot and a smaller stove (MSR Pocket Rocket, for example) - and it may not cost a lot more to replace the stove than to get the Thermarest stuff sack! Also, if you're carrying beverages, you can save some space and weight by drinking water and leaving the drink mixes (and cup to drink them from) behind.
What about your clothes sack? You can eliminate a lot of spare clothes by wearing nylon shorts with a mesh liner (Patagonia Baggies, or similar) and a synthetic T-shirt, and let your rain gear double as a windbreaker and long pants. Doing this, the only spare clothing I carry for a warm-weather weekend is a change of socks. (I realize that, depending on where you hike and when, you may want long pants and a second shirt.) If you haven't bought cold weather clothing, consider down or highly compressible synthetics instead of pile to save space.
Your load doesn't sound too bad, and I think you'll be pleased after you replace the bag with how much space you'll gain.
Your extra clothes don't weigh much, but my guess is that they are bulky when you're out more than a night. You could reduce the bulk by taking a change of clothing for every other day, instead of every day. (Again, how often you change may also depend on where you hike.)
You might want to consider making your next purchase, after your bag, a water filter. This would not only save you several pounds in water weight, but also allow you to take some trips longer than an overnight. (I may have made an erroneous assumption - your last post led me to believe that, because you don't want to use tablets, you're currently limiting yourself to one night trips for which you can carry all your water.)
Vadaar Like others , i also think that a mat on the outside is a really bad idea. In fact I usually only have my tent on the front pocket and nothing else out of the pack. I would urge you to try again to fold your mat smaller. I just had a look at the Thermarest web site . My Pro Lite Plus (w) is listed as "11'x4.8" " stored. I get it down to 11"x5" . This is how I do it. 1) open the valve . Fold the mat 4 times and kneel on it. Close the valve. 2) roll the mat up tight (folded or not vertically makes little difference here) . Let the air out, close the valve. 3) fold the mat in half (vertically) Roll up tight again , let the air out and you have it. I have shown this to others , it works for them too. The trick is,when you start the final folding, to make a very tight first fold, then keep pressing down . Franco
In reality, step one (if you remember to do it...) is just letting the valve open as you still lay on top of it. (before you get up) I roll it up inside the tent
I also have an REI UL Cruise 65 pack (2nd gen.) and stow my ancient 12 year old Thermarest Lite mattress in the bottom of the pack, next to my WM Megalite down bag. I even have room for my TT Moment beside them when stuffed vertically.
Of course I have added REI aftermarket side pockets (no longer sold) on each side of my pack at 400 cu. in. each so my main pack is not overstuffed. I consider the side pockets very necessary for 1st aid kit, stove & related stuff like windscreen, etc., SteriPen & Katadyn ClO2 tabs, funnel, etc. Then there's the potty kit of TP, hand sanitizer in a ziploc and a snow stake/trowel.
Side pockets are essential on any pack for getting at "necessaries" fast.
BTW, my WM Megalite always goes in a lightweight Outdoor Products rool-top waterproof bag. Same for my clean clothes.
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."
Vadaar: I have a couple of questions as to how you are stowing your tent and sleeping bag. Are you rolling them both up and placing them in their stuff sacks or are you just stuffing them into their stuff sacks? Stuffing them inside larger stuff sacks will allow them to compress more, take up less space, and fill up the little spaces left if they were rolled up. If you do it this way, you should find more room in your pack. I too, recommend a water filter or, if the water is not too funky in the areas that you hike, Aqua Mira, or even bleach, would disinfect your water so that you don't have to carry it all.
We had 2 of those (MSR gravity filter) in Alaska and they worked like champs! I carried my Steripen but it was so easy to just open the clamp and fill my container. Several of those on the trip were impressed enough to say they were going to purchase them when they got home.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller
I have a down sleeping bag and a down coat. Both are very lightweight, and oh-so comfy when the north winds blow. Down has the added advantage in that it typically lasts longer than synthetic substitutes, it is lighter and compresses more compactly.
But there is one caveat. If down get's wet, it's miserable and takes forever to dry. It's even worse than cotton. So I am very careful to keep it dry. Both items go into light weight stuff sacks, which I have lined with turkey roasting bags from the grocery store. These bags are super light weight, wear like iron, and are absolutely waterproof when closed off securely.
In 30 years of backpacking I have never gotten my down wet. But came close when my tent lost its waterproofing. Never had a problem with it until I got caught in a heavy and long lasting rain storm. But the turkey bag slipped over the foot of my sleeping bag kept it dry through the night. It was cold enough that I didn't have problem with perspiration soaking my feet.
I also line my food bag and clothes bag with the turkey bags. One other trick I like is a single merino wool underwear and shirt. Merino wool has the advantage that it doesn't collect odors. I just returned from a 5 day 4 night trip to the Rockies. Odor was never a problem. And merino wool has a wider comfort range than other materials. I have worn it hiking when it was 50-90 Fahrenheit and felt no need to add or remove clothing. My shirt is a long-sleeve T shirt so I just roll up the sleeves if it gets a little warm.