I just bought an REI Lite-Core sleeping pad weighing 27oz. Is this light for a sleeping pad or are there better and cheaper options? The pad cost me $85. Is it even necessary to take a sleeping pad? I haven't used the pad so can take it back if I find a better option.
You got a nice pad. Try it out, go easy on it, and if you really don't like it, you can still take it back. There are 'always' lighter options out there, sometimes cheaper. Example: the typical blue CCF (closed cell foam) pad weighs 7.5oz (according to REI) and is cheaper (Walmart), but its R-Value (how well it insulates, essentially) is much lower at 1.4, compared to your REI LC at 3.2. So there are trade-offs.
If you're only going to be doing summer backpacking in warm weather at lower elevations, a blue CCF pad may be the way to go if money is tight (considering how it "packs" is a different story - it's bulky, obviously). If you'll be camping in Spring and Fall, try the pad you have and if you like it, keep it; don't be afraid to try other pads, though, too. I've tried several looking for a 3-season pad.
For 3-season backpacking I'm now using a Prolite Plus "Short." It keeps me warm and packs down nicely. It's shorter, so it's also lighter (it's 17oz, 47", R3.8). I put my empty pack under my feet at night to compensate; it also doubles as my pack frame when I pack things inside it, as I use a frameless pack most of the time. I tired a few other lighter options at varying costs but like the Prolite the best, so far. For winter I don't mind the bulk of an Downmat Exped 9; it's heavy, but warm and I can actually use that as my pack's frame, too. So, there are certainly trade offs.
Lighter is good as a general rule, but sometimes we go lighter so we can take along a few luxuries. Sleeping well is important!
Most people will tell you it is necessary to take a pad, at least in cooler weather. The pad serves two purposes. Its main job is to insulate you from cold ground (the fill in the bottom of your sleeping bag will compress, and not add any warmth where you touch the ground.)Its second job is to provide comfort, so you don't wake up stiff and sore - assuming that you even get soundly asleep. (See how long you can lie on the sidewalk without anything under you.) How thick a pad you need is strictly a personal preference. Now, depending on how much padding you need to sleep comfortably, you may be able to make do with a closed-cell (non-inlfating) pad. Most people I know, though, want something a bit softer, which means you want a pad similar to what you bought.
No, the pad you bought is not light, by the standards of most folks on this forum. That doesn't mean it's a bad pad, though. It's about typical for a self-inflating 72 inch pad with a 3.5 - 4.0 R factor (which is a measure of how warm it will keep you on cold ground.)
One strategy for going lighter is to go thinner.The pad you got is 1.5" thick; they also make 1" pads that weigh less. (The 72" Thermarest Prolite weighs 16 ounces.) However, some people find them too thin to be comfortable.
Another strategy is to go shorter. I use a 47" pad (often called a "three-quarter length" even though it's really two-thirds length.) My lower legs hang off the end of the pad, which is not comfortable (it bends my knees wrong, since I sleep on my side.) It also means that my legs are going to get cold if the ground's cold. So, how can I use that shorter pad? Well, my pack has a padded framesheet, so I simply empty the pack and place it under my legs, which levels them with my knees and provides enough insulation to keep them warm. (Emptying it is pretty much automatic: after I pitch my tent, get out my sleeping pad and bag, set up my stove, hang my food, put my water bottle where I can reach it, and stuff my rain suit in a stuff sack to use for a pillow, the only things left in the pack are my first aid kit, map, compass, and water filter.)
I think you should go back to REI, with your empty pack, and look at the 1" thick, 47" long, Thermarest Prolite (not the 1.5" Prolite Plus) pads. Lie down on them, put your pack under your feet, and play with the amount of inflation. Lie there for several minutes, in the same position you usually sleep, and see if it's comfortable. If it is, trade the 72" Lite Core in on it - you'll save a full pound of weight and get a little money back to boot. If it isn't, stay with what you've got (or, possibly, trade it for the 48" length to save half a pound and $10.)
I've purposely refrained from mentioning a plethora of other pads, including Big Agnes, Exped, POE, and other Thermarest products. I didn't want to overwhelm you with choices and make this post any longer than it already is. However, if you have the time and inclination, look at all the other options, too - it's a great first step toward becoming a gearhead!
I don't know about you, but my ability to sleep on the ground ended around age 15.
27 oz is a heck of a heavy pad when you consider options like CCF foam and NeoAir. But you have to decide - the considerations are always budget, weight, and comfort. Which is most important?
For me, comfort and weight came first and equally - I have a NeoAir medium, weighs 13 oz. Budget was important too - but as with a good sleeping bag/quilt, I also consider how many of the item I'm going to try and find wanting - the regular self inflating pads are all the same to me, uncomfortable, leading to tossing and turning and no sleep at all, and getting up in the morning with sore joints and hips. So I spent the money, and found that it was well spent on the NeoAir - I typically get an hour or two of sleep at a stretch, waking to turn over, sleeping another hour or two... vast improvement over no sleep.
Yes, you do need something, especially if the temps are expected to be below freezing. A CCF pad will be the lightest and cheapest but provides the least padding. If I could get away with that it's what I would have. Alas, I require actual sound sleep to backpack and be sane/pleasant to companions. So when I can't have my hammock, I take the NeoAir.
If I were winter camping, I'd get a short Exped Downmat. For someone of my stature it would be adequate and weigh about the same as your REI pad, only work for a much lower temperature.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
I chose the same pads Lori did, except I got the NeoAir short instead of medium. The NeoAir is for three season use, and the Exped is for winter. Yes, the Exped short is heavy at 22 ounces (versus 9 for the Neoair), but it has an R-factor of 8+ so it's very warm on cold ground at zero. "Light" is a completely relative term, and depends heavily on the conditions you're anticipating for the trip. (Which I forgot to mention in my original post.)
I do fine with the x-small prolite at 8 oz. I add a 2oz 2x2 ft square REI "blue pad" for my feet, and use my pack for my head. The blue pad doubles for my outside-tent seat when cooking. I sleep curled up, so find that two pads work better because I can arrange the foot pad at an angle to the prolite. I have wondered if your body weight makes a difference. I do not weigh much -is that a reason the thinner pad is OK for me? I find that if I really inflate it, it is too hard and uncomfortable, but if I let out some air it is perfect. I do not find that all my aches and pains are a result of the sleeping pad- I have the same aches and pains the night I get home and sleep in my plush bed. My aches and pains are due to use of muscles and they hurt no matter where I sleep the night after I do a long day. I find Tylnol PM and Benydryl taken at bedtime very helpful.
I do fine with the x-small prolite at 8 oz. I add a 2oz 2x2 ft square REI "blue pad" for my feet, and use my pack for my head. The blue pad doubles for my outside-tent seat when cooking.
This works for me, too.
I think the weight thing may play a part. Even though the CCF sit/foot pad doesn't have as high an insulation value -- nor as much "cush", either -- it's not a problem for my feet, which press much more lightly on the pad than other parts of my body might.
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