Heavy Duty Sleeping Pad

8:14 p.m. on June 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi.  I’m a new hitchhiker from Davis, CA and I have a problem: I need my beauty sleep. 

I’m hitchhiking across the country this summer, and while I plan to use Couchsurfing.com as much as possible, I want to have a pad for camping as a backup.  Since sleeping comfort is pretty much my top priority, I’m willing to spend up to $300 on a good pad, particularly if it can stand up to abuse all summer.  I’m definitely willing to sacrifice weight on the pad if it’s comfortable.

I’m 5’9” and 160lbs.  What are some of the most comfortable and durable sleeping pad models out there if weight isn’t a big issue?  I am going to be hauling it by pack though, so it cannot be too huge!

8:47 p.m. on June 21, 2011 (EDT)
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you don't need to spend $300 on a sleeping pad.

most backpackers today prefer elf-inflating sleeping pads.  if i were buying a self-inflating pad today, i would look at the thermarest neoair, the thermarest prolite, or the exped synmat 7.  the self-inflating pads provide more cushioning and insulation between you and the ground than foam pads, and some can compress to a very small size.  the lightest (eg the neoair or the synmat) weigh about one pound.  you will spend maybe $160 if you pay full retail price, but these are often available for a little less online.  the prolite plus costs somewhat less; it weighs more than the others i mentioned by a little more than one pound.

i use closed-cell foam pads - the thermarest z-lite or ridgerest are examples of this style.  they don't provide as much cushioning as the self-inflating pads, they often weigh slightly more than the best inflatable pads, and they don't squash to a very small size - you either fold them or roll them up, and they take up some space.  because they don't inflate, though, they can sustain a lot of abuse and still function.  these cost 25-50 dollars, usually.  i happen to like this option, but i'm admittedly a throwback. 

8:43 a.m. on June 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Leadbelly --   Tell us more about "elf-inflating sleeping pads".

Are they (the elves) only available during the "off-Holiday (Christmas) season" ???

I think I could use a few (elves) ... and, hopefully, there are female ones.

Also, (and not to single you out as the only offender) ... you seem to NOT capitalize letters, particularly "i"s  (first-person), proper names (such as brand-names of products and gear), and words beginning a sentence.   Can be confusing to a reader (like me), and I am ever interested in postings, here.  Faulty keyboard ("caps" key) ???  I think I have a spare-or-two; can send you.   That is, for a PC, not a laptop.


 Yogi Robt

1:41 p.m. on June 24, 2011 (EDT)
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For durability, check out their Outfitter series. If you want a good night's sleep use the XL. I've tried a 3" Comfort Series in the store. I would have to carry a Serta with get any better. Thirty inches wide too. Won't be rolling off that.

Still not comfy enough? The Comfort series XXL is 4" thick. Ridiculously comfortable and you'll need it to be after carrying it all day because it's ridiculously heavy at 9lbs 14oz. That weight probably doesn't include the stuff sack and straps and it's also the most expensive one at $169. 

If you look around on the internet a little bit you can find them at fairly reasonable discounts.  I would go to a store like Dick's Sporting Goods or Gander Mountain and try out the pads.  Gander had them out for people to try last winter. If they don't just open one up had try it out. You do have to put a couple of puffs of air in thinner ones for them to be comfortable.

I picked up a couple of the Lightweight series long (25x77x2) from steepandcheap.com for $28 apiece. When they get to me I'll probably do a review here.

They also have an interesting size in the Lightweight series called Short MC. It's 25x60x2 and at 2lbs 13oz you could combine two for a 4" pad at less than 6lbs if you don't mind your feet hanging off. The other advantage here is if one springs a leak you still have one.

10:30 a.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Another option for air pads are these from Big Agnes. They are not self-inflating but they are insulated and should be comfortably thick.


11:29 a.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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You can get a Neoair large for 130.00 online from www.Campmor.com

I own a neoair and its very comfortble and packs down. Weighs about 1.4oz it's worth the money for your back..

8:09 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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From here and some review sites, there seems to be nothing but good things said about the Exped Downmat and Synmat.  Can anybody voice some sharp criticism for them?

8:15 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I personally do not like inflating pads. Plain and simply put they can get punctured.

Closed cell foam works well and there is less to worry about. Which in turn gives ya the free space to drive yourself nuts worrying about something else. :)

9:58 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Rick what model?  All the expeds I saw listed were air-core or self-inflating. No closed cell.

10:58 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I don't use Expeds. I posted that link so marienbad could find some criticism.

Honestly I have used mats from Wal-mart(blue) and I cut them down. I also have used/owned a few different Therm-a-Rest pads over the years. Maybe later on down the road when my back decides to cause me grief I may snag up an inflatable. I am not against them(inflatables) but simplicity has alot to do with alot of the items I use.

11:16 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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@Robert Rowe
 I'm suprised you havent heard of  elf pad's.  Here's the theory under which it works.  Not to many people know, but the breath of an elf is magical and a wonderful thing to behold, it smells all flowery as well.  Being magical it has no limit on it's volume.  So somone who knew how to catch these silly little creatures teamed up with a slovic pad company and invented a very compressable, very light weight (for all you ULers) pad that only needs one breath of an elf to inflate it.  It's like sleeping on a magical bed o feathers.  Their slogan is "Elf-Pads, The most magical night of sleep under the stars".  When you order one of these pads you also get and elf and elf care instruction booklet with it.  As elves don't eat very much a little elf chow goes a long, long way. Also they only drink the clean water of the morning dew so no need to pack extra water, hence, they are very easy to pack along.  They also weigh next to nothing.  When ordering your pad you may want to get an extra elf as the mouth piece on the pad will on work if an elf blowes it up.  As elf's are very hard to catch, once you lose one you'll have to wait till you get back from your trip to order another one.  Another added benifit to ordering an exra elf is that if you have two elf's you have a pair and your elf(s) is(are) much less likely to be a  whiny little thing(s).  Also you'll want to stake them out a bit away form high traffic areas as there are really easy to step on.  Also, if you were to step on one then you'd be elfless (if you only had one) and you'll have to scrape it of off the bottom of your boot (it's kinda like stepping on a large banana slug. messy, very, very messy).  I recently checked and you can order either sex of elves.  There are currently only white elves avaliable, but there will soon be other variaties of elves avaliable as the company is just completeing negotiations with a number of other land owners in differing locals.


If you want to spend alot of money on a pad there are many options, but there are many good deals out there on a used pad.  There are tons and tons of used ones out there.  My last one (a Thermorest) I just  got a month ago at my local Goodwill store for 7$.


I still use my old orange cascade design from years past.  They made many different sizes.  In my collection of themorest pads I have some that are 20in,24in and even a folding one that measures 50in across for either one person of very lagre girth or two reg size people, I believe they also made one that was 19in wide.  Length wise mine measure 76in,72in and 42in.  I find the 3/4 or 42in one to be rather uncomfortable.   I know they made some that were 66in long as well. The old thermarest's can be patched with a regular bike tube patching kit, so as long as you dont blow a seam it cost $2 to patch.  One of mine has two bike patches.  Here is one one ebay that is currently at $9 with no bids with one day left.  It is a 20x40 or what again is called the 3/4 pad.


 Here is a 20inx66in (my choice)



I just checked out a silly little pad called a Z-rest and was going to try it out on my last trip until I laid down on it.  It was awful, at least for me.  This is one item I wouldn't use even if someone gave it to me for free.   I never would have gotten to(any) sleep.  These weigh a little more than the new ones but as you will be backpacking across country I think you would be very happy with one of these pads and there are alot of them on Ebay.  Check your local Goodwill type stores and craigslist as well.  Also this is what I used when I backpacked/biked across Europe


Here's is a themorest prolite at $20 with 3 days left. This is a newer model than the ones I have.



I think you will find used pads much more afforable than most of the above new pads, esp. the Elf pad which is quite expensive but well worth it.

11:54 p.m. on June 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Here's a completely different idea for you. Since sleeping comfort is what you mention (the 1 and 1.5 inch pads are mainly for insulation purposes as far as my bony hips are concerned) try a hammock. Every time I read about somebody using one they rave about how wonderful they sleep. They don't way much and you could carry one in addition to the standard tent and pad. I just saw a blurb on the news about using hammocks to "treat" insomnia.


There are other brands out there and there is a forum dedicated to hammock camping like trailspace. 

There are disadvantages to hammocks. They are not good in the winter unless specially designed and they are not as good of a shelter from wind and blowing rain as a tent.

4:51 a.m. on June 26, 2011 (EDT)
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marienbad said:

From here and some review sites, there seems to be nothing but good things said about the Exped Downmat and Synmat.  Can anybody voice some sharp criticism for them?

 I own a downmat 7 and i only have a few small problems with it.

Inflating it can tire you out after a long day

It makes a weird noise ever now and then (im guessing its air moving from the pump section)

It is possibly too warm for summer

it's hard to get back into the stuff sack

the paint or whatever it is on the top wears off

6:20 a.m. on June 26, 2011 (EDT)
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@apeman ~~

Brian, that was an hilarious read (re: elves).   I appreciate the good laugh, especially early on a Sunday AM, as I am preparing for worship service.

Thanks for taking the time to craft that.  It's a "classic".  I'm gonna print it, and wall-hang it.

Best wishes,


8:40 a.m. on June 26, 2011 (EDT)
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Exped has been my favorite, as far as comfort and durability is concerned.  I have also been very pleased with their customer service.  Some of the earlier Exped Down Mats had valve issues, and Exped has replaced them with new versions of the same model.

DISCLAIMER - I work in the Outdoor Industry and do retail Exped mats.

6:47 p.m. on June 27, 2011 (EDT)
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Exped Snymat 7 is on my "to buy" list, I currently use a Ridgerest and since I own three of them, sometimes I take two. This gets a little bulky, but it doesn't weigh much at all and two pads are very comfortable to me.

9:34 a.m. on August 17, 2011 (EDT)
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how about the Pacific Outdoor Classic SI inflatable pad, any feedback on that one?

It's cheap and has a high R value of 4.0 and claims to be more durable than the others. The Regular size of 20" x 72" x 1" weighs in at 907 grams (about 200+ grams heavier than the other lightweights). Not sure how comfy goes given its 1-inch thickness.

12:30 p.m. on August 17, 2011 (EDT)
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Exped Exped SIM Comfort MegaMat 10 sleeping Pad


1:19 p.m. on August 17, 2011 (EDT)
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I use Ensolite as my sleeping pad of choice. They are usaully cheap ($5-$10) and are extremely lightweight and durable. I used one for 30 years before trying a ThermaRest pad, then going back to Ensolite a few years later after too many punctures without a proper patch kit in the field.


What my Ensolite looks like flat and rolled. I sometimes take two, comes in handy for a seat, insulating under a stove or a pillow when one is rolled up.

1:42 p.m. on August 17, 2011 (EDT)
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@ Callahan: So how thick is your  Megamat & what do think about its quality, fit and finish?  Would you recomend it and do you feel there are any negitives about it? 

6:10 a.m. on August 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Ever-frugal, I stumbled-upon something I've used to some good-effect ... somewhat "crude", but effective.

I have / had a small roll of unused carpet underlayment ... the green-stuff ... that I use to line boxes when shipping brasswind horns overseas.   I cut it to size with big fabric-cutting scissors or a razor-knife.

As I said, "crude, but effective".   Have also used the stuff for Yoga mats.


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