New sleeping pad

Monday, 25th June 2012; 11:02 am

Following my ride to Amish country and back, I decided to replace one more piece of gear for the ride up to Hiawatha Country: my sleeping pad.

The one I’ve been using for camping the past 10 years is getting a little beat-up… but that’s not the reason I’m replacing it. It’s because I’m getting a little beat-up. It’s a simple foam pad, intended solely for insulation, not comfort. Sleeping directly on the ground in a down bag in a nylon tent in cold weather can suck the heat out of your body, so you need some kind of barrier between you and the ground. That’s all this does. It provides just a little padding, and with the wear and tear on my body of the past several years – especially the back surgery last year – that’s becoming a problem.

So I went shopping for something more comfortable, and… great scott! You can easily spend well over $100 on these! I probably spent about $15-20 for my current pad. But to get the kind of padding I’m looking for, I need something air-filled, and those are a bit more expensive than just a rectangle of foam, especially if you want it to last.

The next question is self-inflating vs. not. The self-inflating kind have just enough internal rigidity that they fill with air on their own; you just need to seal them up before lying down on them. The down-side of this is that they take some work to deflate. The other kind require you to blow into them. I’m OK with that, and the fact that they’re easier to deflate and stow for travel is another plus. And they tend to be cheaper. Relatively.

I ended up buying the $60 Big Agnes Air Core Mummy. Big Agnes gets good reviews, and this line is the least expensive of Big Agnes’ pads. They also sell a rectangular one, but the shape of my tent calls for the tapered “mummy” design. They also have an insulated version, but I don’t do a lot of camping in the spring/autumn, and when/if I do, I still have the foam pad to use with it.

Some people check out gear at local brick-and-mortar shops, then buy it online for the best price. I do it the other way: I use the Web to research products, then buy them from a local outdoor-gear store. (Which is really handy when you discover that you accidentally grabbed the rectangular version and need to exchange it for the mummy version: no shipping!)

This change of gear poses another change: how I pack the scooter. Because it deflates, this pad packs up much more compactly than the old one. That was even bigger than my tent; this one is even smaller than my sleeping bag. So I’ve had to reshuffle the positions of things on the rear rack, ending up with what looks like a more aerodynamic bundle that will also be easier to rainproof. Win win!

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