View Full Version : Camping Question: What do you sleep on?

03-20-2011, 01:02 AM
After a brief camping outing this weekend with my wife and son, she has asked that I upgrade some of our camping gear with baby number 2 on the way. So, our current 3 person tent is about to be replaced by a 5 person dome tent, and our 8-yr old leaky Coleman air mattress is out the door. My question is what do you frequent campers out there sleep on? Like I said we had an old double air mattress, and I have a brand new folding military style cot. However, I find myself continuously intrigued by the camping pads I see in the stores, and beginning to lean that way. My primary reason for this is that I would rather have each of us with our own pad because of never knowing how many may be going. This way I can just pitch in a pad for whoever is going, but it could also be used for the infrequent backpacking trip also. However, my secondary reason is because I always hated being that other person on the air mattress who doesn't get any sleep because somebody else on the thing is tossing and turning. Every movement the other person makes is translated over to your side. Thirdly, I could combine a pad and my cot when car camping without the family for a very comfortable nights sleep. So, any thoughts on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Edit: I am not talking about sleeping bags or sheets/blankets, but what you place your bag on when you camp.

03-20-2011, 09:23 AM
Look at the Thermarest pads. I have had one for thirty years. No blowing it up just open the valve and it inflates it's self and has very good insulating property's. I also have a cot that I will put the pad on.

For real comfort I also have a truck camper. I'm old.:biggrin:

03-20-2011, 05:30 PM
I use a Thermarest Ridgerest. Keeps me warm, it is lightweight, and won't get a hole in it. I am considering one of the Thermarest NeoAir pads, but they are pretty spendy at $150. Then again, how much is a good night of sleep worth sometimes... Ridgerests run about $25-30. One of the Big Agnes pads is pretty popular as well. Can't think of the model name, Air Core maybe?

Good call on using pad + cot, more for insulation than comfort.

03-20-2011, 09:21 PM
I didn't vote because I still occassionally use all of the above depending on the situation. Thermarests are great for backpacking where weight and bulk are a consideration. For front country camping air mattresses work well in smaller tents. If your tent is big enough though my overwhelming choice is the deluxe cot and mattress set from Cabelas. Bulky yes but very comfortable. Also doubles as an extra cot when needed for motel stays.


03-29-2011, 06:44 PM
I sleep on a Thermarest Prolite 4 when solo. My wife bought a piece of 2.5" foam from the foam factory outlet that is cut to fit the floor of our tent when we car camp. We cover it with a bedspread, sheets, & a down comforter....its hard to tell I'm not in my bed. :smile:

03-29-2011, 06:52 PM
my thermarest has been to Africa and Haiti with me and will go to Africa again this June for a whole month. We do Island ministry for islands on Lake Victoria and have to live for 2-3 weeks out of a back pack so the lite and stowable self-inflating thermarest is just the ticket as far as i'm concerned. If compact is not an issue, Gander Mntn has some very comfy mats that are more cushiony....Abby and I love our thermarest mats and they have served us all over the world......

03-29-2011, 07:47 PM
I have to say that the overwhelming support of sleeping pads is surprising to me. I am curious if the majority of the pad supporters are base campers, backcountry campers, or both.

Like I said earlier I have a folding military cot that I use for car camping and I am looking for something for the wife to sleep on. So, I am trying to find something for multipurpose use; as in on top of the cot for base camping and then also backpacker friendly. So, I made the short trip over to Blue Ridge Mountain Sports on Sunday and laid on all the Thermarests, Big Agnes, and Exped pads that they had. I am leaning toward either the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core or the Exped SynMat 7.5 with built in hand pump. They had a Thermarest Women's Prolite Plus on clearance, so I picked it up for the wife. I took it to her to try out, and she just laughed at me. She was used to the air mattress, so I got the hint and went to Target to pick up another Coleman mattress. I tried it out when I got home to check for leaks, and within about 4 hours found it about 50% deflated and flat on the floor. So, I returned it and picked up another. This one too lost air within about 6 hours during the night. Once again, I made the return trip to Target, while rapidly losing faith in Coleman products. I gave them one more try, and so far have slept on this one at home two nights without having to refill it. Looks like I finally found her a keeper.

Now I am trying to make up my mind on my pad. The inflatable Big Agnes and Exped pads packed up smaller, weighed the same, and offer better R-values than the similar priced Thermarests. However, the thermarests are very reliable and I have yet to hear of any leaking issues from any of their products. I have concerns with the 2.5" inflatable pads and potential leak issues. I had it put to me this way by another camping buddy of mine who also flyfishes. He said you can read all the reports you want about leaky pads, busted valves, etc., but it is all in how each person cares for their equipment. He asked, "how many rods or DSLR's have you broken lately?". I said I have never broken one of either thankfully. He said, "my point exactly. The person who breaks their gear multiple times is most likely due to poor care and not being cautious with their equipment. No amount of product quality or price can remedy that." Makes sense to me.

03-29-2011, 08:15 PM
I have used air mattress for car camping (it helps convince the wife to get out there) and sleeping pads (the 1/2" foam ones from walmart are cheap and work pretty good) when backpacking although over the winter I got two hammocks and some othe rnew backpacking gear.... can't wait to break it out!

03-29-2011, 08:16 PM
For backpacking camping I use a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad. I really like it. If I'm car camping I'll use a big Aero Bed air mattress.

03-29-2011, 10:10 PM
For backpacking camping I use a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core pad. I really like it. If I'm car camping I'll use a big Aero Bed air mattress.

Currently the Insulated Air Core is leading the way as my choice. Do you use it with a Big Agnes sleeping bag as well? I really like that sleep system that they have. I have found that there are some pretty decent deals out there on last years models.

03-30-2011, 08:35 AM
I have a roll-up air/fiber core mattress with a valve that releases the air pressure to roll up. It works ok if I do any remote camping. However; my body does not like sleeping on the ground much any more.:eek: I usually take one of those inflatable mattresses from WallyWorld if camping with friends.

When I was a kid; my mom always bought us those $.99 cent floats from the dollar store for camping. Of-course; you would wake up flat on the ground as all the air eventually leaked out. Those were some good times when camping and life was simple.

03-30-2011, 09:49 AM
I didn't participate in the poll as we have a certain situation. My wife has back trouble so we don't use the self-inflating matresses anymore. We have gone to the inflatable matresses about 4 inches thick. We don't backpack so weight isn't an issue with us. The answers given seem to be good advice from experienced camper. Should I say happy campers?

03-30-2011, 10:25 AM
after our stay at the Four Season Jackson Hole my wife thinks a Hampton Inn is camping:biggrin:

Back when I backpacked with scouts we had thin pads but space and weight were issues.

If it was a fixed site and a week or longer we used the folding army type cots

03-30-2011, 02:26 PM
I recently changed from a Therm-A-Rest self inflating 1" thick pad to a 2.5" thick Big Agnes Sand Mountain Insulated mat. (It has the exact specs of the Air Core, but is sold at REI Outlet and Sierra Trading post at a reduced price.) The extra thickness, warmth, and reduced weight make the 20 breaths to inflate totally worth it in the back country. The great thing about Big Agnes Mats is they include the stuff sack and repair kit - you have to pay another $20 for those with Therm-A-Rest. To be fair my Therm-A-Rest mat is over 15 years old and has never needed repair, and has been passed onto my 8 year old son. Therm-A-Rest has a super light manual inflation mat, the Neo-Air. It has a lower R value, and is quite pricey at $170; again stuff sack and repair kit are not included. Also worth noting is that the Neo Air is noisy like a compostable Sun Chips bag. I cannot speak on the longevity of the Big Anges pad; due to the substantially greater comfort on my last 2 trips however I doubt I will ever go back to self inflating.

When car camping I use an Aerobed with a battery powered pump.


03-30-2011, 05:06 PM
Currently the Insulated Air Core is leading the way as my choice. Do you use it with a Big Agnes sleeping bag as well? I really like that sleep system that they have. I have found that there are some pretty decent deals out there on last years models.

Travis, I dont have a BA bag yet. I've done a lot of looking but no buying. They have a camp chair that utilizes the sleeping pad. It weighs a couples ounces and is very comfortable. I've had the sleeping pad for around four years and have had no problems.

04-01-2011, 10:44 PM
I've got a BA AirCore pad that I like, when I'm not using my hammock. Pretty comfy and takes up very little space in a backpack (think nalgene-bottle size). Also you really can roll it back up to that size very easily. I got the uninsulated one first and that was a mistake. I really missed the insulation. I sold it and replaced it with the insulated one and am glad I did. I have the rectangular one (not the mummy-shaped one) and it's as versatile as any thermarest. I really like it.

I have little ones so I usually sleep on the ground when they're camping with me. When car camping I bring both a ridgerest/zrest and the aircore pad. I put the ridgerest down first, and put the aircore on top and then deflate it partially to make it softer. Works pretty great.


04-07-2011, 10:47 AM

I made the trek to all the local outfitters checking out everything that they had and taking down the information. I even checked to see if REI had something competitive. I came home and plugged the information into my handy dandy gantt chart program that I use for critical decision making processes like this. :rolleyes: And the winner was.............

The Thermarest Trail Lite pad. Primarily because I found it on sale at a local store for 20% off ($47.99). Otherwise it was a toss up between the Exped Synmat 7 and the Big Agnes Insulated Air Core. So, I went and picked it up yesterday.

Also just bought the little guy a Big Agnes Little Red sleeping bag for future trips. His birthday is coming up, so it is pretty good timing. Really anxious to see this thing when it comes, I think he will love it.

For those out there with an entirely too analytical mindset like myself, you may get a kick out of my Gantt Chart that I used for this purchase. I used this method for camera and lens purchases, and I currently have one for sleeping bags and one for tents that I plan to use in the near future. I am way too analytical, but very rarely do I regret any decision I make afterward. :smile: