Right now, I'm really liking the Prolite 3, but this is my thoughts on the others;
I like the looks of Pacific Outdoor more than therm-a-rest, but looks aren't a big concern obviously. Therm-a-rest are US made and Pac. Out. are imported, and I do try to buy American whenever the cost/quality isn't a huge factor not to.
The Z lite is way cheaper, but it has some bad reviews about not holding up and insulating well after lots of use.
The uberlite is the lightest, but it also offers the least amount of insulation.
Warmth is my main concern, not comfort. Cost is an issue too, but I'd gladly spend $75 instead of $30 if the warmth and durability are better in the long run.
Which pad is the best deal? Do the shorter length pads still provide enough warmth to justify even buying one, or should I just go full size if I'm going to get a pad at all? Thanks.
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
If you haven't used a pad before then I can believe that you were freezing your butt off. I've done that once or twice and it wasn't fun. The cold ground really sucks the heat out of you.
I think it takes some experience to figure out the best pad strategy. It's not the same for everyone because it depends on sleeping position, etc. There is something of a tradeoff of warmth vs comfort also. A closed-cell foam (CCF) pad is great on insulating you from the cold ground but not so much on comfort because it doesn't compress very much. It protects you from pointy objects under you but it can't turn hard ground into a soft bed. An inflatable pad is more comfortable but less insulating because the air inside circulates between the warm top (where you are) and the cold bottom.
If you can deal with the CCF pad comfort then the next question to ask is about length. You really only loose significant heat through your torso so a short pad is probably sufficient for insulation. However if you sleep on your back your heels will get a bit sore (and maybe cold) from resting on the hard ground. Make sure you put something under them.
CCF pads like the Ridgerest and Z-lite do eventually compress from use but I'm not sure it's that big a deal. And they're cheap so if it only lasts you for this one season then who cares? The Walmart blue CCF pad (the eggcrate one) is nice and wide and costs like $12 or something. You can cut it down to the size you want. Get one and try it out. If you don't like the CCF pad then you're only out $12.
I know less about inflatable pads. I do own one but I find I don't use it much. It's self inflating (a therm-a-rest) and it doesn't seem that much more comfortable than the CCF pads. I think the thicker pads that are not self-inflating are more comfortable. Some have insulation inside (Big Agnes is the brand I hear people talk about the most) to keep down the convective heat loss but I haven't tried then yet so I can't say. These are more expensive so you want to make sure you really want one before shelling out the bucks.
Pads definitely do help with warmth, which is especially a concern in AK. I've tried a few inflateable thermarests, the old ridge rest, and the slightly newer z-rest. Inflateable pads take longer to set up; you have to wait for them to fill with air, or else blow them up by mouth. I've heard doing the latter can make them mildewy on the inside. No biggie, but it sounds gross.
Inflateables get the nod for comfort, but I can't tell any difference between them and closed cell pads for warmth, at least not at first. Closed cell pads will compress after a few months or years of use depending on how much you use them, but they're cheap to replace.
Durability is a concern for me. Closed cell pads have nothing to hurt, so they can get chewed up by brush and still work fine. You can also trim them to any size you want. I even use my pad in lieu of a tent footprint when I use a bivy. Inflateables can puncture, so it's a good idea to keep a patch kit with you.
Finding a place to stash a pad can be a bit of an issue. If your pack's large enough or you're using a short pad, you can either fold up the pad and use it as back padding inside the pack, or you can let it unroll in there so it stiffens the sides, then put your gear in the middle. I used to lash my pads horizontally on the outside of my pack, but it would always get hung up on brush that way.
I think Gossamer Gear makes thin pads for the purpose of warmth rather than comfort. Might be worth googling.
Loc: Washington DC area
Sleeping without a pad - I'm getting cold just thinking about it.
The closed cell pads like the Ridge Rest are toasty warm and significantly lighter than the inflatable ones. If your only complaint sleeping on the ground is the cold, not the hardness of it, save your money and save weight and buy a closed cell pad! I've been using a therm-a-rest for many years but I'm considering going back to a closed cell matte that I have for the weight savings. I'm sick of the excessive weight of the therm-a-rest and I sleep very soundly when camping.
I learned about under insulation before there were pads. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />
In the early 60s I was on a Scout overnight in the snow above Harpers Ferry. I was sleeping between two blankets inside a sleeping bag and was toasty warm but my tent mate was miserably cold. I was so warm that I gallantly gave him one of my blankets...the bottom blanket. Within minutes I was freezing.
I dropped out of backpacking from the mid-60s through the 70s and upon my return in the 80's was happy to see the marketing of 'pads'. IMO, nothing insulates better for the weight than a CCF pad. But any pad will make a huge difference from going without.
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution
As Heber pointed out “The Walmart blue CCF pad (the eggcrate one) is nice and wide and costs like $12 or something.”
If you can sleep on hard ground, and your funds are low, then that is probably a good idea for you. Cut it to the size you want. I find putting the bumps down to be more comfortable.
I like PhilBiker’s insight “If your only complaint sleeping on the ground is the cold, not the hardness of it, save your money and save weight and buy a closed cell pad!”
And Wolfeye pointed out “I think Gossamer Gear makes thin pads for the purpose of warmth rather than comfort.”
I always use this (2 oz) in summer and winter because of the following: 1. keeps my sleeping bag from sliding around the tent. This way you don’t have to put sticky stripes on your tent floor that are useless after 4 nights. 2. In summer, this goes mainly under my leg section while I use one of the following under my torso (depends on my mood): a) gg’s NightLight Torso pad bumps down (3.6oz) with open cell foam on top (11x17x1.5, 3.5oz egg crate bumps up) b) Bozeman self inflateable torso pad, 10oz, packs very small c) Thermarest prolite 4, short 16oz (lighter than claimed), pretty comfy d) Woman’s prolite 4 (if doing short days), 24oz. The most comfortable I’ve been on 3. In Winter I use gg’s NightLite 3/4 pad. I even feel my body heat radiating back to me with this combo. Let the Thinlight extend to under your feet. Also put the pack under your feet.
I’m one of the few that tried air mats and couldn’t feel comfortable on them. And I didn’t like the hassle of blowing them up every night for 3 weeks.
IMHO pads make a huge difference. Your 25deg bag will probably be comfortable at 25deg if you use a pad. My overnighter this last weekend proved it to me again.
For me, I don't like CCF because I don't find them comfortable. However, that is all I have. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> Some day, I will get an inflatable. I have tried the self inflatable thermorests. They don't seem thick enough. I will probably get the cheaper BA aircore. They are on sale for $50 at REI now. Maybe I will make one like Bill/gardenville did. Whatever you do, make sure that if it is inflatable, there is insulation inside. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.
Man, I couldn't imagine how cold it would be without a pad. Sleeping bag ratings assume a pad and shelter to come up with their magic number.
I used the Z-lite for a few years, but am now a faithful convert to the Gossamer Gear NightLight torso pad. Warmer, more durable, and lighter.
Something else to consider is with a pad, you open yourself up to a new line of backpacks which use the pad as the stay. I roll up the NightLight and place it inside my MLD Prophet, it makes for an incredibly light and comfortable pack.
Thanks for suggesting Gossamer Gear, I hadn't heard of them before. After checking out their website, I think that's who I'll be buying from. I'm either going to get the nightlight torso length or the thinlight 1/8". One's $9, one's $18. Both are way cheaper than the pads I was considering from REI, not too mention way lighter, and even with the shipping costs, they're not much more expensive than the pad from walmart and these are American made. I'm sure walmart's pad is probably made in China.
Remember, by itself, this is not enough to keep the torso warm in 3 season.
Can you only use a ccf pad in winter? I currently only have a cheap walmart blue foam pad but have been considering a good ccf pad like the zlite or ridgerest but even ridgerest only has an r-rating of 2.6 and the Grossamer Gear is only 2.27. In winter do you have to take two to have a rating of 5.2(ridgerest) to stay warm? Im not sure how ratings work. Whats the avg rating you should have in a pad when winter camping?
My gear is no where near lightweight
I’ve noticed that ratings are all over the map and mean nothing. They’re only good when comparing within one brand.
For example, a prolite 4 reg is an R=3.2, while an gg nighlight is a 2.27. Yet, when I lay on either one (with prolite firm but not bursting), and lay on it on a cold basement cement floor, I will feel the Nightlight radiating warmth back up to me (almost immediately), yet the prolite 4 is still a little cool. The Z-rest is 2.2 and I don’t feel my heat radiating back to me at all. So I would use the zrest in the summer alone. If used in the winter, I would combine the zrest with the prolite 4.
The thinlight/nighlight combo keeps me warm down to 0F but a prolite 4 alone only keeps me warm to 20F. Thus I cannot rely on R ratings for absolute temperature control.
“Can you only use a ccf pad in winter?”
No. There are a lot of variations to try. A CCF is a safe start. Since my winter bag is thick, soft, and warm, I feel comfortable enough with just the thinlight and Nightlight. But I can’t handle that in the summer. Since my summer bag is thinner, I need a little more squishier pad.
1/4" or so. Just kidding. I hiked with a woman that told me her sister never slept on a bed. She just used a pad on the floor. And in many countries they do not have big fluffy beds. So for 3 months I slept on a pad on a carpeted concrete floor. It took a week to get used to it, but after that it was no problem. The effect on my camping sleep was obvious. I slept much better and felt more rested on camping trips. I finally gave up on the pad at home - my wife and kids were starting to wonder if about my sanity - they just don't understand.
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