Sleeping Pads: I Can't Get No Satisfaction

8:53 a.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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It seems I cannot sleep comfortably when camping / backpacking. I usually use a ridgerest for my sleeping pad (because it's lightweight and durable) and a camping pillow, but I am constantly tossing and turning at night because either 1) my hips and shoulders hurt when laying on my side or 2) my lower back hurts when laying on my back.

I've tried using the Thermarest Basecamp, and my sleeping comfort is slightly improved. Several individuals have told me I need to try a women's sleeping pad because of the extra cushioning for the hips. Others have told me that I need to sleep with a pillow between my knees (if on my side) or under my knees (if on my back).

I've tried several sleeping pad / pillow combinations now (feasible for backpacking), and I still can't get no satisfaction. I've tried, and I've tried.

Any other thoughts on how to sleep comfortably while backpacking that doesn't include lugging my mattress into the backcountry?

10:48 a.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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You are describing the path that led me to hammocks. Any old foam pad is infinitely more comfortable in a hammock and will insulate you quite well.

I have found that since moving into the air, I can sleep on my back (never happened before) and do not move at all at night. No more rolling/sliding off the thermarest, no more tossing and turning.

I am also appreciative of the difference in terms of weight and space - I had to have a two person tent (claustrophobia, and it still wasn't pleasant), sleeping bag, and pad for a total of 8-9 pounds. My hammock, quilts (one for under, one over me), and tarp weigh around five pounds.

I was on the verge of springing for an Exped Downmat when I found hammockforums.net and haven't gone back. Want to buy a tent?

11:03 a.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I have a problem with my sacro-illiac joint at the base of my spine and a leg pillow always helps. But whenever I sleep on the floor, I put my knees at about 90 degrees of my torso to keep pressure off my hips(I have wide hip bones to begin with). If you're laying on your back, try placing a pillow underneath your hamstrings to straighten out your back, or a small pillow or jacket at the base of your spine.

try sleeping on your floor at home and doing trial and error methods each night, it'll prob be better than trying stuff out on the trail and finding out it doesn't work

12:32 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi,

I have a pacific outdoor inflatable and find it better than most. My hips can get a bit sore if I stay too long on one side. For me the secret is moving around. I do it at home as well but usually do it in my sleep without waking but in a sleeping bag I usually wake because I know if I thrash around too much I'll be off my pad! When in the tent I start on my back, then move to one side then the other. It gives every area a break. I never sleep on my pad as well as home just because I am in a mummy bag and in a different environment sleeping on a narrow inflatable object. I would try the pillow between or under the knees first before a new mattress. You my find that the same problem will exist even with a new mattress. Also if you can sleep in the fetal position with knees drawn up this seems to help take pressure off the hips.

1:41 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I was also going to suggest checking out the Exped Downmats. I haven't used them personally though.

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/exped/sleeping-pads/air-filled/

I'd also try a pillow between the knees and other configurations like that. It's something I've done when pregnant and unable to sleep on my back for months.

Good luck.

5:49 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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We have the Exped Downmat and both me and my wife is extremely happy with it. For us the question of hammoc is nonexitstant. How do you put up a hammoc in the winter in a treeless environment? LOL.

The standard width is ok but a litle too narrow if you toss and turn a lot. Then go for the XL version.

7:38 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I have used the Exped Downmat, and do like it better than the Therm-a-rest. (The therm-a-rest mat I have tried are the prolight plus, and the neo air. The neo air was thicker the the pro light, but noisy to sleep on and that kept me up. The neo air packed down a lot smaller and lighter though.) It is thicker and packs down to about the same size as the pro light plus. Also Exped has a synmat, I don't notice difference in confort between that and the down, it was cheaper, but is rated for quite as cold as temps. Other people I camp with have went to hammocks, and are happy with their choices.

8:21 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Any other thoughts on how to sleep comfortably while backpacking that doesn't include lugging my mattress into the backcountry?

Jim Beam always works for me enough of it and you won't feel a thing lol just kidding. I have a bad back so I know what you mean for me my thermarest self inflating mattres and the pillow trick works for me. For a pillow I use my cloths in my sleeping bag stuffsack that way thay are warm when you put them on as well.

8:27 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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You can set your hammock up with a pair of trekking poles.

You can't actually get in it, but if you spent a lot of money on it you can at least look at it.

I once spent three nights in my hammock on the ground, I had to stay out in a clearing (bald) on the mountain due to an ice storm that caused some tree limbs to fall, or at least you got pelted with ice.

If you are in a forested area with leaves and pine straw you can make a big pile to set your tent on, this helps some. I use a ridgerest and do fine, not sure why.

I do think some conditioning helps, like calluses on your hands. The first day of splitting firewood sure hurts, but a year of doing it every day and you're Paul Bunyon.

If that doesn't work, like tbastress is saying, then I would sure try something like the Exped, maybe a hammock. I don't use a hammock much anymore, but they work great for some.

Do they make a group hammock? (joking)

8:37 p.m. on July 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Have you tried the new NeoAir bt Thermarest? Expensive but the support it gives is unsurpassed.Only weighing 18 oz. for the large,it is constructed with the baffles running perpendicular to your body rather than parallel.At 2.5 inches thick , a side-sleeper like me does'nt wake up with body parts having fallen asleep.I love the space it conserves in my pack.

12:45 a.m. on July 9, 2009 (EDT)
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We have the Exped Downmat and both me and my wife is extremely happy with it. For us the question of hammoc is nonexitstant. How do you put up a hammoc in the winter in a treeless environment? LOL.

 

You put up a hammock in winter in a treeless environment by using rocks and warm quilts or pads in the hammock.

http://www.hammockforums.net/gallery/showimage.php?i=105&c=

Which is not to say that hammocks are superior to tents - just to say that I am tired of hearing the same old excuses to not even think about a possible solution simply because someone has a limited perspective.

If I were traveling exclusively in an alpine environment, I'd probably have an Exped too. But I don't - I travel in many elevations up and down the Sierras, and nine times out of ten, there is a sufficiently sturdy tree or rock to get me off the ground. If I can sleep in the hammock 90% of the time, I'm more than happy to tolerate a few nights on the ground and my gear works well either way.

10:57 a.m. on July 9, 2009 (EDT)
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whistlestop I may have to go buy one of those aeoair and I am defiantly interested in getting one thanks for the tip.

12:36 p.m. on July 9, 2009 (EDT)
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...I am defiantly interested in getting one...

Defiantly? Who are you defying? Who is trying to hold you back? Oh, wait! You meant "definitely". (grammar police strike again - spell checkers don't check grammar)

6:59 p.m. on July 9, 2009 (EDT)
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mike068 said:

...I am defiantly interested in getting one...

Defiantly? Who are you defying? Who is trying to hold you back? Oh, wait! You meant "definitely". (grammar police strike again - spell checkers don't check grammar)

LOL Bill you caught me not paying attention and I'm sure you will again. Not to mention spelling, grammar & punctuation has never one of my strong suits.

1:14 a.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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I am a side sleeper and just can't get comfortable enough with a thermarest or ridgerest. I now use an Insulmat insulated air mattress, and it is wonderful.

10:47 a.m. on July 13, 2009 (EDT)
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I ended up buying a small prolite plus from my local outfitters. I've slept on it twice and it doesn't bother my hips.

I asked if they carried exped, but they did not.

7:36 p.m. on July 13, 2009 (EDT)
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That's great tbastress, I am glad it seems you have a solution!

Is that your young one in your avatar?

11:04 a.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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That's great tbastress, I am glad it seems you have a solution!

Is that your young one in your avatar?

Yes, that's my oldest son (he's 8). I have 4 children ranging in age from 10 to 3.

6:42 p.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Cool, good to see them (all kids) outdoors.

11:10 p.m. on July 14, 2009 (EDT)
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Ether Thermo 6, but don't overinflate it.

5:50 p.m. on July 15, 2009 (EDT)
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I used to use a Thermarest Ultralight when I was younger but now I require a bit more comfort. I purchased a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core and found that the mild annoyance of having to blow the thing up was definitely offset by the overall comfort of the thing. While the weight is not much different than the TR Prolite + at 24 oz the rolled size is the same as my old TR Ultralight (a bit bigger than a 1 litre Nalgene). I got 2 for around 100 bucks so that was good too. I liked it so much I ordered one of their 40 degree sleeping bags for my mostly California excursions to see how well the pad works when housed inside the sleeping bag.

11:30 p.m. on July 15, 2009 (EDT)
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+1 on the Exped Downmat. I was a happy Thermarest user for over 20 yrs, but it finally got to where I just wasn't comfortable enough. The Downmat has been the solution. Plenty comfortable, and unlike a plain air mattress you don't lose heat through the mattress. It mates just fine with a Big Agnes sleeping bag too, so the few extra ounces can be reduced by a lighter bag, without sacrificing comfort or warmth. God I love innovation.

10:06 a.m. on July 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I switched to a Big Agnes insulated air core pad which allows me comfort when sleeping on my side .. i am 6' 1" and weigh about 190 lbs. For a pillow, i use cocoon's inflatable pillow which has enough height to support my head when on my side.

12:30 a.m. on July 27, 2009 (EDT)
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I owned one of those Big Angus insulated air pads for a few days. I slept on it once and promptly took it back to REI. My hips and back hurt on it all night. I just got home from hiking the Narrows Top Down in Zion NP. I took a REI brand 1.5 inch Thermarest knock off and had a great night's sleep.

Here's a link to my review of the Big Angus pad: http://www.ismellfeet.com/?p=12

11:35 p.m. on July 29, 2009 (EDT)
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OttoStover said:

We have the Exped Downmat and both me and my wife is extremely happy with it. For us the question of hammoc is nonexitstant. How do you put up a hammoc in the winter in a treeless environment? LOL.

You put up a hammock in winter in a treeless environment by using rocks and warm quilts or pads in the hammock.

http://www.hammockforums.net/gallery/showimage.php?i=105&c=

Which is not to say that hammocks are superior to tents - just to say that I am tired of hearing the same old excuses to not even think about a possible solution simply because someone has a limited perspective.

If I were traveling exclusively in an alpine environment, I'd probably have an Exped too. But I don't - I travel in many elevations up and down the Sierras, and nine times out of ten, there is a sufficiently sturdy tree or rock to get me off the ground. If I can sleep in the hammock 90% of the time, I'm more than happy to tolerate a few nights on the ground and my gear works well either way.

It is quite obvious that NotQuiteThere has never been in the environment I ment, treeless winter conditions. There are no stones there, those who are there in summer are covered in snow. If however a stone stands put from the snow, it is the most windexposed place in the area.

I guess the rescue teams that every year has to assist people with inadequate equipment is tired of hearing them explain why they thought that the gear they had used at home did not cope with the new conditions. Have you ever been out in a snowstorm NotQuiteThere? I think not, at least not in the storms I must prepare for in winter. Even a tent is then sometimes impossible to erect, the only shelter is a snowcave (Which btw is fantastic warm, cosy and silent). I have visited huts where the spade was tied to the chimney, as this was the only object sticking out of the snow. In winter it is mandatory to have a spade.

Dont give me the "You put up a hammock in winter in a treeless environment by using rocks and warm quilts or pads in the hammock"

12:21 a.m. on July 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Dont give me the "You put up a hammock in winter in a treeless environment by using rocks and warm quilts or pads in the hammock"

Please show me where the original poster asked about anything you are talking about. Hammocks don't work for all people all of the time, but you have no clue whether it will work for HER. Do you?

Don't give me the "hammocks don't work because they won't work in this single situation that 99% of most people who go out 3 season camping will never find themselves in." Spare me the lecture - you and all the other hammock hostiles can keep your tents. I'm very glad for you that you're so very happy with them.

12:04 p.m. on July 30, 2009 (EDT)
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Otto and NQT,

Play nice, guys! Remember the rules of Trailspace do require no personal attacks. Your last posts are pretty close to the margins.

You both have good points. There are times and places that hammocks work well, there are times and places where they do not work well. There are times and places where tents work well, and there are times and places where they do not work well. Each has its appropriate and inappropriate locations, and each has its advocates and detractors. So let's agree to disagree and leave it at that.

2:54 p.m. on July 30, 2009 (EDT)
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I'm not wanting to attack anyone, and I don't think that I did - I'm just tired of people dissing gear options simply because it doesn't work for some niche. There are plenty of reasons to use a tent or a hammock. I don't see how someone with limited understanding of hammock camping has any right to flame me because I made a suggestion for the OP's consideration. All I ask is that he pay attention to what I (or anyone else) actually said, and not jump to unwarranted conclusions about gear or the people using it. I would never recommend to anyone to backpack with gear they don't know how to use. I would hope anyone with any interest in hammocking would have the foresight to do a little reading on how to stay warm in them in whatever conditions they are facing, and if they aren't up to that task, they should alter their plans in whatever fashion makes them safe. As far as I'm concerned, the OP made a good decision - she picked something she was comfortable using. I'm not the one up in arms about nothing, here.

10:37 p.m. on July 30, 2009 (EDT)
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....you have no clue whether it will work for HER. Do you?
... - you and all the other hammock hostiles can keep your tents....

This is on the borderline, I'm afraid. Please keep this sort of commentary out of Trailspace posts (sez he who has had his wrist slapped a few times by Alicia and now tries to be civil and not quite so sarcastic, even when provoked). You both have too much positive to contribute without the "Don't give me ..." comments that you both used in the two posts I referred to.

11:00 p.m. on July 30, 2009 (EDT)
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I think the point that sometimes tents and sometimes hammocks and sometimes either are viable options has been sufficiently made.

p.s. the original poster is a he, not a she (just wanted to point that out).

11:08 a.m. on July 31, 2009 (EDT)
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Agreed.... I stepped over to the hanging side after looking at how much weight I was putting on my back just to have a nights rest. Although I have a therm-a-rest ladies pad that I use when in a tent, it dosen't even come close to the comfort and ease of a Hammock.

3:17 p.m. on July 31, 2009 (EDT)
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My husband (6'0", 150# and bony) does not sleep well on the ground and had just about exhausted all the many options for sleeping pads that are light enough for backpacking.

He finally got a Big Agnes REM Sleep Pad (Insulated Air Core 20"x78"x2.5"), and is sleeping better.

Downsides: takes a long time to blow up while I just let my thermarest blow itself up, and it's NOISY. He wears ear plugs so the rustling noises don't bother him, but I hear them. (I also hear his 3-day whiskers scratch against his sleeping bag, so maybe I should wear earplugs also, but I want to hear when bears come into our camp and feel too vulnerable with "earslugs" in.)

A tip for using inflatable sleeping pads in general: be careful not to overinflate, as it will arch your back, resulting in maximum discomfort. If your back feels arched, open the valve while laying on the pad and let air out while your body settles into a more comfortable position. Also to further improve your back alignment, put extra padding UNDER your feet. Your back is happier if your butt is a bit lower than your head or feet.

4:15 p.m. on August 2, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi All: I'm here to make two points; one has been mentioned already, the other not. No one answer fits all. That said there has been a lot said about not over inflating your Thermarest pad (or similiar) open cell, self inflating pad. I'm not sure how you all define that, but that what works best for me, not just letting it self inflate, but blowing it up with some pressure by mouth. I use a 3/4 length Trest in summer and full length in winter camping. I have the older orange colored trests and have used a sit pad under my lowerlegs in the winter on occasion with no ill effects. I certainly agree with the folks that recommend trying things at home first, you only loose and hour or two of sleep if it fails. Good luck. riger

10:00 p.m. on August 11, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi everyone, first time poster.

I don't know if this helps at all, but I know I get a great night's sleep that rivals my bed at home.

I like to motorcycle camp which I know is slightly different, but as you know everyone has their own idea of what camping is. I'm trying to be more self-sufficient when I'm out, but unlike most of you, a few extra pounds doesn't matter that much to me, it's more about the shape and size, and the way it packs.

I sleep on my side too, and the problem I was having was my hips and shoulders. Something I used for years was floating swimming pool mattresses (the type with multiple air chambers). Yea, I'm cheap. My bike has an airpump for flat repairs so it was no big deal. Generally they held up well for the whole trip and I slept well, sometimes they had a slow leak that you woundn't know about until later that night.

I looked at a few different designs and prices at the camping stores, but could never decide on one. They were either too narrow, too thin, or cost too much.

I picked up a few at garage sales just to try, but my swim floats were always better until I came across "The Equalizer" by Basic Designs at an estate sale. It's a little big when rolled up due to the amount of padding, but it has separate air chambers that cradles the hip, and pads the shoulder. The one I have is not a full head to toe pad, so it rolls to about the diameter of others, and you can also use it like a chair cushion. Hell it could be a chair cushion (even though the picture on it shows someone laying down), I don't know... nor care.

Here is "a" link that talks about the inventer. I'm sure there's more sites out there that have reviewed it.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1510/is_n63/ai_7688751/

Dave

8:25 a.m. on August 14, 2009 (EDT)
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+2 on the Exped Downmat 7 which I use for winter and sping/fall when the ground is still cold. I'm a side sleeper too and have dumped ultralight pads in exchange for comfort. I also have a Big Agnes insulated for slightly warmed temps if I want to cut down on weight.

In summer I've been using a Big Agnes Clearview inflatable (13 oz) and like it a lot.

I've been considering getting a Thermarest NeoAir, but figured I'd wait a bit more to see how they really perform for people. All the marketing hoohah in the outdoor industry is a big turnoff for me.

8:53 a.m. on August 14, 2009 (EDT)
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@philipwerner: Let us know more about that Clearview. It would be nice to have an inflatable that weighed less for summer camping, so long as it doesn't run cold. I guess I'm wondering if, even in summer and with the ground below retaining some heat from the day, if it is only 85 deg. below you, would you lose enough body heat through convection to get chilly? I use the Big Agnes bag in warm weather also, so if the pad or mat doesn't insulate, nothing does.

1:49 a.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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TWO WORDS>>> EXPED DOWNMAT!!!

11:57 p.m. on September 2, 2009 (EDT)
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I've heard so many good things about the Exped Downmat but i think Nemo's Tuo Luxury Sleeping Pad is even better because it has two layers of air which are individually inflated (it has two valves) so the bottom layer can be inflated to the max while the top can be fine tuned to your needs.

The downside is that it's 3.6 pounds while the exped is about 2.6 pounds.

Don't take my word for it, I've never tried it myself and I think it's new.

9:05 a.m. on September 6, 2009 (EDT)
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I take both the Thermarest Neo-Air and Thermarest Z-Lite for winter backcountry trips. Both are the same length and width, 85mm combined thickness, R value 4.7, combined weight of 850g (1.9 pounds). I like this set up as I can use either one in 3 season applications. The Z lite makes a good seat on short breaks but can be a bit bulky outside the pack, for me it is worth the hassle for sure. It's a really comfy combo.

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