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  CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Camping Equipment > Sleeping Pads
    What should I use for a sleeping pad?  
    When it comes to variety, you will see a large one when it comes to pads - from the 4" foam to air mattresses pumped up with a foot pump to Thermarest pads - and much much more.

This is very much a personal preference issue, colored by affordability. I find foam to be too bouncy, and air mattresses too much like a water bed, for which I have no tolerance. Packing bulk is also a factor - worse with foam.

My preference is the Thermarest. But, they are spendy. If you can afford it, they are a very good option. They give you the best of both foam and an air mattress. And, they pack up small. They come in several sizes. I am about 5' 6", but got the largest, because I am a tosser-turner. I also got the liner which makes it into a chair. There is nothing like lazing around after your shower on your cushy Thermarest, sipping a good petite sirah out of an acrylic glass. What was that about high tech drag alongs?

Curt Coleman

Be very careful not to get open cell foam. This is the stuff that looks like foam rubber sponges. Generally, if it looks like a sponge, it will act like a sponge. It will wick the cold of the ground (around 45-50 degrees) and whatever moisture there is into your sleeping bag all night long. Miserable! The first Scout campout I did was with one of these nylon covered open cell foam pads. I slept hardly at all and froze in spite of a good sleeping bag and lots of clothes. Thermarests and similar have foam inside of them, but it is in a sealed (air mattress effect) system. All those little air pockets in the foam make great insulation and the sealed system means it can't go flat under you and put you against the ground. It is also waterproof so the water doesn't wick through.

Plain air mattresses are also a mistake in cold weather. The air circulates within them and gives you the effect of sleeping right on the ground as far as temperature goes.

Many of the CO hot days will have cool nights and having the ground cool you further will make life miserable.

The wide versions are far more comfortable. Us older creaky types often prefer the thick ones - especially on those sun-baked hard-as-a-rock fields. Longer is better than 3/4 length so your legs are comfortable, too. After all, you aren't backpacking this thing and can afford for it to weigh 2 or 3 pounds. Yes, they cost a fortune. However, last I heard Thermarests are guaranteed for life. When the foam inside decays (takes about 10 years of heavy use) you take it back or send it in for a new one for free (same size). Our Scoutmaster has done this a couple of times over the last 30 years. A while back the valve broke on my son's after 5 years of heavy use and they fixed it for free (just gave it to REI and they called when it was done). I don't know if the imitations have this kind of support.

Rox Heath

I found a Kelty brand self-inflating sleeping mat called "Ridgeway" at Costco for $36. Seems to be the same thing as a Thermarest but is by far the best price I have seen. It also folds up into a chair or lounger.

Anyone know if it's the same technology? In any case, I bought it and am very impressed so far.

Julie Kay

We bought the Costco Thermarests about three COs ago & have been very happy with them. We've taken them other times too, so they've seen extensive use and are holding up very well. They're thick enough so that I've never felt any bones grinding into the ground, & I frequently sleep on my side too.

Another bonus has been that they provide much more insulation than the Thermarest backpack pads we had been using. Once I was sleeping warmer, I found I was also sleeping better. Overall, the Costco pads seem like a good value. [Editor's note: The Thermarest backpacking pads are their thinnest, lightest pads. If you intend to use these try sleeping on them on a hard surface (like a sun-baked field will be). Many people cannot tolerate this and need a thicker pad.]

Jeanne Gostnell

When filling a Thermarest most people blow them up fairly firm and then after they first lay down they let out some of the air until the pad reaches the correct firmness. Be careful not to let out so much air that your hips rest on the ground. A couple of times we have forgotten to let some air out and woken up with very stiff necks!

Rox Heath

My wife and I are trying to find an inexpensive "knock-off". Thermarests are just too expensive for the amount of use we would give one.

Does anybody have a source?


Curt, If you are in the PDX area, try 'Next Adventure' for an inexpensive Thermarest! They have seconds, and they are not over $50 for a good one. If it matters, I did a lot of research on pads before I bought the Standard Thermarest, and no other pad felt as good. I tried EVERYTHING that REI carries!! Sure, the luxury Thermarests are the most comfortable, but they are bulky and expensive.

Good luck!
Stacey Gray

In the past I have also seen pads at Target. GI Joes or Garts is another possibility. First ask yourself how thick and how wide you want it. Some of the cheap versions can be skimpy, but not all.

Rox Heath

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  Page Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2003  
    CyclingSite > CO Collected Wisdom > What to Take > Camping Equipment > Sleeping Pads  

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