The Great Sleeping Pad Dilema

My last backpacking trip made up my mind that the self-inflating sleeping pad that I am using is an enormous pain in the butt to stay on top of at night. I figured out that the main reason I have been getting a restless night’s sleep is because I keep waking up to try and maneuver myself back onto the sleeping pad, which when I’m wrapped up snug inside my sleeping bag is an exercise in futility.

The pad I have been using is the REI Lite-Core self-inflating pad (regular size) which weighs less than 2 pounds and rolls up into an ultra compact size. For the most part I love this pad, it’s just impossible to sleep on top of without coming off – which is a significant problem as that’s the sole purpose of the pad! I’ve even tried putting the pad inside my sleeping bag which wasn’t very pleasant and didn’t help with ground insulation, but did stay under me all night. Needless to say I’m not willing to do that again. I’ve also used my friend’s BigAgnes inflatable pad, which is better and bigger than my REI Lite Core but still very hard to stay on.

So what are my options? No pads, foam pads?

I’m thinking of purchasing a Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite closed-cell foam pad and using that on my next few trips. It’s about half the price of the REI Lite Core, easily half the weight, and I don’t have to worry about getting a puncture. In fact the only downside I can think of is the size when it’s folded up, it’s definitely going to have to go on the outside of my pack – but I can think of some good points to that, such as being able to use it seat or sitting pad to keep my butt dry can clean at stops and the bright color will work in my favor to serve as a perfect warning to nearby hunters.

A lot of backpackers have different types and thickness pads for different seasons. So a foam pad would be a good thing to have handy with minimal investment. I also think it would work quite well inside my Hennessy Hammock Expedition Asym, but I’ll let you know how that goes. It may sound good in theory but work poorly in practice, hence the importance of continual practice hikes to familiarize yourself with you gear and find out what works and what doesn’t work before you head off on a multi-night.

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  • http://sectionhiker.com/ Philip Werner

    The z-lite won’t work well with your asym. It’s quite rigid. I think GG sells some thin foam that would work a lot better and that you can roll up.

    A lot of people attach the z-lite to compression straps on their packs or on top if they have a Y-strap. I use mine in my packs as a framesheet which is the optimal way to carry it.

    The only problem with the Z-lite is that it’s a bit hard which sucks if you’re a side sleeper. You might want to look at the pads from Pacific outdoors. They seem really innovative. Practical backpacking had a podcast a while ago with the product manager and the guy really knew his stuff. I was very impressed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Thanks Philip, I has a feeling the z-lite wouldn’t work well with my asym, I’ll check out GG and see what they have. When you say you use your z-lite as a framesheet to your pack do you mean you open it up inside to form the sides of your pack?

  • http://sectionhiker.com/ Philip Werner

    No – both my GG mariposa and my six moons starlite have a pad pocket. You slip the pad in and it becomes the pack framesheet.Otherwise the packs are limp bags.

    I don’t use pads for hammock insulation. You should check out Jacks r better’s The Nest and they’re other hammock underquilts. Expensive, but makes the HH very comfortable down to about 45-50F.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02537129202030681713 squeak

    Try and connect some velcro to your sleeping bag and pad, so they can be stuck together and don’t move apart at night while you sleep.

    I know it’s easier said than done, since you can’t really “sew” the velcro on… maybe some some really hard-core industrial strength glue would hold?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02537129202030681713 squeak

    Try and connect some velcro to your sleeping bag and pad, so they can be stuck together and don’t move apart at night while you sleep.

    I know it’s easier said than done, since you can’t really “sew” the velcro on… maybe some some really hard-core industrial strength glue would hold?

  • Aawwff

    Another great use for these pads is as a camp chair when it’s folded up or as a sitting pad for multiple people when it’s laid out. I also like attaching it to the bottom front straps of my backpack because it props it up when I set it on the ground as opposed to just flopping over.

  • Aawwff

    Another great use for these pads is as a camp chair when it’s folded up or as a sitting pad for multiple people when it’s laid out. I also like attaching it to the bottom front straps of my backpack because it props it up when I set it on the ground as opposed to just flopping over.

  • Aawwff

    You could get a sleeping bag that has a slot on the bottom for you to insert your sleeping pad like the Big Agnes Encampment Sleeping bag. That way the pad will always stay beneath you.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

       Aawwff, both very valid points and great feedback. I had toyed with the idea of getting a BA bag with a pocket underneath, but as I already had a nice bag it seemed a very expensive solution. I do use it as a seat (folded) or sitting pad while on the trail, so it gets plenty of use.

      I’m currently testing some new Gossamer Gear pads and some generic samples sent to me by one of my readers, Patrick Gosnell.

  • Aawwff

    You could get a sleeping bag that has a slot on the bottom for you to insert your sleeping pad like the Big Agnes Encampment Sleeping bag. That way the pad will always stay beneath you.

  • bfgreen

     Aawwff, both very valid points and great feedback. I had toyed with the idea of getting a BA bag with a pocket underneath, but as I already had a nice bag it seemed a very expensive solution. I do use it as a seat (folded) or sitting pad while on the trail, so it gets plenty of use.

    I’m currently testing some new Gossamer Gear pads and some generic samples sent to me by one of my readers, Patrick Gosnell.

  • Aawwff

    Have you tried using it with your Hammock? How did it work out?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

       Yes, it works great but getting it into the hammock and then getting on top if it can be a lot of fun. It adds a great layer of warmth protection for hammock sleeping, but doesn’t really do much to improve the comfort because the hammock is so good already.

  • Aawwff

    Have you tried using it with your HHammock? How did it work out?

  • bfgreen

     Yes, it works great but getting it into the hammock and then getting on top if it can be a lot of fun. It adds a great layer of warmth protection for hammock sleeping, but doesn’t really do much to improve the comfort because the hammock is so good already.

  • chris

    I lay compression straps on the ground at knees and chest. then lay down the sleeping pad. then lay down the sleeping bag. then when i’m in the bag I tighten the straps so they hold the pad, the bag and me in place. it helps a ton.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Does that allow you to move? I can see where you’re coming from and what you’re trying to do, but I’d be worried I was help too tight to be comfortable or to turn over in my sleep.