Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Three New Sleep Pads for Your Camping Zzzz's

If you are backpacking or doing ultralight camping of any kind, you want to maximize your sleeping comfort while minimizing weight and bulk in your pack.  I was never a big fan of the self inflating flat pads, they just don't get cushy enough for me.  I want it all--comfort and light weight packability and I also want the pad to do most of the inflation work.  Well here it is, in the Exped Synmat 7 Air Pad with Pump. 

The pad is light weight (though Exped has an even lighter one without the pump) at 31 ounces and has a good R value of 4.9, so it's warm.  The sides are slightly raised, helping to keep you on the mat and more comfortable. There is a smaller and larger size, so if you're not a tall person, you can shave off some extra weight.

It packs down close to the size of a Nalgene bottle and is simple to inflate and deflate and get back into its stuff sack.  I think the packing down is as important as set up, even more important for me because that's the part I don't like.  Set up is fun, tearing down, not so much, so I want it to go smoothly.  The quality is excellent, there's no annoying crinkling sound that you can find in light weight pads, and it just feels substantial. 

I fell in love with Exped's Mega Mat last year and swear it is the most comfortable camping pad on earth.  It's ridiculously off the charts comfortable and if you are car camping, I'd go for that one over all others.  Having said that, the Synmat 7 would still work great for car camping if, say, you were limited on space.  But for backpacking, it's the best of both worlds.
If you don't care about the integrated pump, Big Agnes has a new mat out that packs down smaller than the size of a Nalgene bottle.  The Q-Core, is a light insulated pad weighing in at just 25 ounces for a petite.

This pad features an antimicrobial insulation called X-Static which helps to mitigate odors and beef up the comfort level and warmth. It's got an R-Value of 5 to keep you warm on cold nights and raised outer air pockets which cradle your body and keep you comfortable and cozy.  A generous 3.5 inch thickness is quite comfy and it feels sturdy to me. 

The Q-Core comes in four different sizes, so you can get the right fit. It packs up and right back down easily and I was surprised what came out of its small stuff sack.  You get a lot of bang for your buck here. 

Inflation is not a big deal, the valve has a plastic coated mouthpiece and it doesn't take too long to inflate.  I do prefer self inflation, but it's a trade off.  This mat is pretty great regardless.  I love that you can lay on your side very comfortably and it's quiet and stable. 

Kelty's new Recluse series offer integrated pumps, just like the Exped mat.  They have mummy shaped pads to conform to the shape of your sleeping bag, and they have a rectangular model, the Recluse 3.0.

This one is a full size pad and it works great.  It's a fairly warm pad, with an R-Value of 2.9 (fine for summer), and it's super comfortable.  Weighing in at 2lbs 12oz, it's a little heavier for backpacking and might work best for car campers.

I love the bright orange and the cool little hand graphics at the pump.  The sides, like the other two, are raised and help cradle your body for added comfort. It's easy to deflate and roll back up and fit into its bag with no hassle.

All three pads are PVC free and come in a stuff sack and include a repair kit.