Questions about Down Sleeping Mats

1:13 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Hello! I am in need of some guidance when it comes to sleeping mats.

I've done a limited amount of camping in the past, but am still very new and very green when it comes to backpacking. I'm a stomach sleeper, and am built like a Hobbit (short and broad), and I don't think the standard width 20" pad is going to work for me. But the large commercial manufacturers of sleeping pads don't make a short (or even regular length) version of their 25" pads; they're all 77" in length, which is massive overkill for me. And a pad that's 25" wide and 77" long can be a tight fit in some smaller tents. So I was thinking of ordering a custom pad from Kooka Bay - and was thinking of going with a 3.5" thick down one, because down is so light and compressible and my aging bones appreciate cushiness. I know the pad would be pricy, but I figure it's a long-term investment.

However, I suspect that in the future I'll be sleeping out in a very wide range of temperatures: the desert southwest in winter, the Rocky Mountains in fall, and the Great Plains in summer. Does sleeping on a thick pad with a very high R value pose any problems in warm weather? Would encasing the pad in a sleeping bag vapor barrier liner offer it any effective protection from my body moisture? Would I be better off going with a thinner down pad or a one with a synthetic fill instead? (I should mention that I'm planning to use a quilt rather than a conventional sleeping bag, as I find sleeping bags too confining. So there won't me much of anything between me and the sleeping mat, unless I fit the mat with a cover of some sort.)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

3:28 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Hey Artemis Happy New Year,

In regards to your sizing dilemma, I have opted to go for a women's size pad for myself in the past as they tend to be around 5' 6" length and have a little more girth.  I don't mind my feet hanging off a couple of inches and appreciate a more efficient pack size and weight.  The only company I saw offer a size (66" x 25" was Alps short MC and the weight was a deal breaker for me.) As far as insulation goes, I believe the r value of most down mats is around 5, almost  equivalent to that of a CCF  or self inflating mat which varies from 3 to 5 and I have slept reasonably cool on both of them in summer months.  Its more about your cover layer as far as cooling goes, unless its ungodly hot/humid at which point your happy to sleep on the ground.  

I got a Big Agnes insulated air core last spring and when I wasn't hammocking this summer I was sleeping very comfortably on that.  Around 50 to 65.  I do encase my pad in a homemade slip cover (cotton) as I only use a quilt or fleece in the summer months and dont like the feel of the sleeping pad synthetic against me. Plus it gets sort of sticky. You could surely use a non cotton material for a cover.  I didn't have any other material handy at the time and am happy to work with cotton in the summer. It has worked out well for me, I used a thin egyptian cotton which I found very breathable and comfortable/

I think a down mat would work out well for all around conditions.  

On a side note my BA insulated air core is insulated on one side.  Had I over heated I could have turned the mat over and it would have been cooler.  If this is the case with a Kooka down mat it adds to its adaptability.  I honestly feel that having an uninsulated mat without a full sleeping bag gets chilly for most summer weather.   FYI I live and hike in Vermont.  Our summer nights can range from 40 to 75.

9:35 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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For winter I use an Exped downmat 9 pump which as you say is huge lengthwise but around 26 inches wide, perfect for my needs.  It's 8R and it sleeps hot so it will not work in warmer weather, but it's the most comfortable pad I've ever used.  The new hand pump feature makes it much easier to inflate, btw.  Having inflated down underneath you ups the rating of my already-warm sleeping bag.

My summer and three season pad is a large Prolite Plus by Thermarest.  It is firmer and only 1.5 inches thick (or is it two inches??) but dangit if it's blown up well the thing keeps me off the ground and has an Rvalue of 3.8---plenty high for colder ground. I would consider this pad to almost be a full all season pad.

Speaking of which, you could check out the NeoAir All Season large which is light and has a R of 5. 

Some people here will tell you to go with two pads in the winter---a foam thingie and then an inflatable---or maybe even two foam pads together.  It gets complicated.  If you have a deck or a porch or a backyard you can try out some combinations before actually hitting the trail.

I need to google Kooka Bay pads again and see what they offer.

11:00 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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If you go with a ThermaRest and use it in the southwest where there are cactus, beware of keeping it rolled up on the outside of your pack. I camp more in the SW than anywhere else and have ruined so many air pads by forgetting its outside my pack and getting it punctured by cactus needles.

I use a Ensolite pad now in the SW and my ThremaRest when up north in Utah/Wyoming. It works for me.

11:25 a.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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I recently began using the Exped Synmat UL7.  Although rated to a 3.1R value, it has been independently tested to over 3.5, which is just about perfect for 3 season use and to about 25F temps.  It is light at 16oz but can be pumped up using your breath because of the synthetic insulation so no need for the integrated pump.  For winter, I would want to go with what Tipi Walter uses or alternatively, add a closed cell foam pad for my UL7.  I found it a lot warmer than the NeoAir FWIW.

12:47 p.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. (And Happy New Year to you all!) I appreciate all the pad suggestions; it's going to be fun checking them out.

If the pad is sufficiently light, I suppose excessive length doesn't matter so much. I don't think a 25" wide, 77" long pad will work in the TarpTent Moment I currently have (because of the way the ends of that tent taper), but I could always replace the Moment with a TarpTent Rainbow, which has a rectangular footprint and could easily accommodate a wide, long pad. That might be the most practical solution in the long run.

I don't mind going with two pads in the winter. Alas, backyard "camping" and short trips to my local state parks are all I'm going to have time to do for the next few months. But I figure that gives me lots of time to try gear out to find the combinations that work best for me in different weather conditions before I go out into places where bailing out in the event of a gear issue isn't so easy.

2:26 p.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Call the companies. You will be surprised by the outcome. I had a short wide thermarest made for no additional cost than a regular short pad.

I know it may sound daunting but you can make it yourself also. Just cut a large pad down to the size you want and sew the hem the edge with some grosgrain ribbon. Have seen many people do this on exped syn and down mats, thermarest prolites and neoairs , as well as do this for repairs.

5:10 p.m. on January 1, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks for the advice, TheRambler. I had no idea Thermarest would do custom work!

I can't be the only person out there who wants a wider pad that isn't extra-long. I wonder why none of the major sleeping pad manufacturers offers a range of lengths for their 25" pads, like they do for their 20" offerings?

10:12 a.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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Wouldn't down under your back just compress into uselessness? I'd go with the Ridgerest; bulky but effective.

11:32 a.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

Wouldn't down under your back just compress into uselessness? I'd go with the Ridgerest; bulky but effective.

 We are refering to down mats such as the Exped downmat 9, http://www.rei.com/product/780365/exped-downmat-9-sleeping-pad-with-pump, and other similar products. These types of pads do not compress, they are just like many other inflatable sleeping pads, these just use down as the insulator and are very effective for the weight vs other options with just foam etc.

In this case the downmat 9 is an R value of 8 at 2lbs 4oz, where as a ridgerest is an R value of  2.6 at 1lbs 3 oz.

12:16 p.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

FromSagetoSnow said:

Wouldn't down under your back just compress into uselessness? I'd go with the Ridgerest; bulky but effective.

 We are refering to down mats such as the Exped downmat 9, http://www.rei.com/product/780365/exped-downmat-9-sleeping-pad-with-pump, and other similar products. These types of pads do not compress, they are just like many other inflatable sleeping pads, these just use down as the insulator and are very effective for the weight vs other options with just foam etc.

In this case the downmat 9 is an R value of 8 at 2lbs 4oz, where as a ridgerest is an R value of  2.6 at 1lbs 3 oz.

I have three of the older Ridgerests, the oldest is just black on both sides, lighter than the newer ones. I have doubled them up before in winter, not bad I guess but I have a Exped Downmat 7M on my "to buy" gear list.

I imagine there will be a big difference in comfort & warmth.

Mike G.

1:09 p.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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I have a Thermarest Prolite 4 (now the Prolite+), which I like quite a bit.

I also have and use a Big Agnes Primaloft Insulated Aircore, which I like as well. The only downside to the BA is that if used for multiple night consecutively you need to use a fill system, otherwise your breath creates a significant amount of condensation on the inside of the pad. 

2:54 p.m. on January 3, 2012 (EST)
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i use big agnes insulated air core for my tent sleeping (winter) i use hammock the rest of the time.. It also works in my chair frame when im indulging myself. 

10:50 a.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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I'll definitely look into purchasing a fill system of some sort. There's no point in getting a down mattress wet from the inside!

11:16 a.m. on January 4, 2012 (EST)
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The most common fill device are dry bags with a nozzle on one corner which attaches to the fill valve of the mat. This let you trap a balloon of air in the bag, then squeeze it into the mattress. pretty cool, though kinda slow. Thre are also compact pumps, which are heavy, and a dedicated fill balloon that is large. 

2:21 p.m. on January 9, 2012 (EST)
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Well, I've had a chance to try the 25" wide NeoAir All Season mat out indoors on a hard floor, and it seems promising. Very comfy (if noisy), and nice and light. I think it may work nicely as my summer-weight pad. I've also placed an order for a wide Exped Downmat 9, which should arrive later this week. Assuming the pad arrives in time, I should have a chance this coming weekend to set up a tent in my back yard and give both pads a "real life" cool-weather workout.

1:14 p.m. on January 16, 2012 (EST)
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down in a sleeping pad ????

2:15 p.m. on January 16, 2012 (EST)
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Down plus air in a sleeping pad. Sure, why not? It's a combination which gives the maximum insulating value for a given weight.

7:08 p.m. on January 16, 2012 (EST)
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Artemis- I'd love to hear your opinions comparing the 2, exped and neo. I'm looking into getting one of the two and I'm not sure which yet. Both look like great products....

9:59 a.m. on January 17, 2012 (EST)
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Sure! I'll be happy to pass on my opinions as soon as I get a chance to play with the Exped mat a bit.

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