What works for me: Mattresses

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Yep I love sleeping, especially after a long days walk. I can sleep in many situations even under the 24 hour sunshine in Lapland (a Buff is your friend). As I have grown older, sleeping has remained easy, but rising in the morning as “fresh as a daisy” maybe more of a challenge. So the combination of mat and insulation for warmth is critical.

I recall that as a hiking youngster I slept on the ground with perhaps a newspaper underneath, however, I soon transitioned to a bracken (and other natural materials) stuffed into a hessian bag (a palliasse) which was an improvement over sleeping on the latest headlines. But I was not satisfied, so I began to explore other options, including testing the venerable Lilo which could do double duty for floating down rivers, an art well practiced in New South Wales on the Shoalhaven.  I often wonder if liloing was the forerunner of pack rafting?

Early in the 1990’s the first self inflating air mattresses appeared in Australia, if my memory serves me correct they were sold under the label of Fairydown, this mattress was a revelation, albeit heavy, and used what looked like a car tyre valve for inflating and deflating. Soon I moved to a shorter and lighter mat, a Thermarest, which still lives in my collection, and still works. The mattress is 120 cm by 50 cm and weighs in at 500 gms, but packs larger than the newer Prolites.

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Later I was attracted to lighter and thicker mattresses and after a brief excursion into Torso pads,

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I decided to invest in a Thermarest Prolite, soon recognising that I prefer full length mattresses also realising that women’s versions provided extra insulation for a little extra weight.

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However, in the past 4 years, I have moved onto (or back to air beds).

Firstly I tried the Exped UL mattresses with their longitudinal tubes, they were comfortable and effective as well as being lightweight and easily packable, but the more I used them the more I felt that they lacked support for a side sleeper, as well the gap between the hip and the ground was reduced thus limiting their insulating properties. (see BPL.Com article for a good discussion of the loss of insulation)

When the Klymit Static V appeared on the market I was impressed with its design, and once I began to use it and I soon felt that it was perhaps the most comfortable mattress I had tried, it is slightly wider than the Thermarests and whilst thinner it provided good support. The down side of the mattress is its lack of insulation, the mattress has an US r-value of 1.3 which means that some form of underlay needs to be considered, especially during the colder months, for example adding a full length foam mat such as a Laufbursche UL Mat will increase the r-value to approximately 3.5 with a combined weight of 680 gms, thus making it a heavy but comfortable proposition. Klymit have released an insulated version of the Klymit Static V (with an r-value of 4.4) but on my scales it weighed close enough to 800 gms which was beyond what I was prepared to carry. (UPDATE November 2014; I purchased an insulated Static V weighing 704 grams, read more here)

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Looking for a lighter option than the Static V, I used the Klymit Inertia X wave in Lapland last summer which I combined with the Laufbursche mat, and this worked okay, but I have since sold the Xwave as it did not provide the support I needed.

Enter the Thermarest AllSeason, with an r-value (USA) of 4.9 or an SI r-value of 0.863, I immediately noticed the reflected heat provided by the baffles inside the mattress as well as the back support the mattress provided. Other benefits included its construction of 70D nylon which hopefully makes it more puncture resistant and its soft to touch upper surface. The mat weighs 556 gms, and is thus slightly heavier than the Static V, but provides much more warmth. I have used the mat for about 10 nights and have been pleased with its warmth and the support/comfort provided. The mattress width of 20” is perhaps smaller than I would like but I have never felt that I am about to “fall off”.

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Colin Ibbotson recently published a review on the NeoAir Xlite, in which he also described his use of a cuben fibre bag to inflate the mattress. Well I love my pillow and after some investigation I found a way to use the Exped Pillow Pump, to inflate the Thermarest. The NeoAir AirTap Pump sold by Thermarest, for use with the included large plastic bag to inflate the Neo Air, can also be used to connect the Exped Pump pillow to  the mattress as shown. For those wondering, the tube does not fit the Klymit valve but I am sure it could be modified to fit.

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I have also seen mentioned the Vaude Norrsken Pump Pillow which may work with a Thermarest and other mattresses with similar valves.

Closed Cell Foam Mats (CCF), I have experimented over years with these mats and whilst I prefer not to sleep on them these days, I often take one for breaks and as “insurance” on most trips. My preferences is the Laufbursche mats, though I have also had success with the Multimats, especially the Supalite XS, with has a length of 118 cm and a weight of 100 gms.

However, my all time favourite CCF mat is the Original Thermarest Ridgerest with a length of just over 120 cm and a weight of 275 gms.

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Do I see myself moving back to CCF mats or Self inflating mats, no. At least not in the near future, though I have experimented with the Nemo Zor and consider it to be a better proposition than the Prolite’s. A review of the Zor at BPL.com can be found here.

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I would be interested in hearing others hikers perspectives on their choice of mats, and what tricks regarding inflating and repairing mattresses they have. Happy sleeping.

This entry was posted in Klymit, Sleeping, What works for me.. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What works for me: Mattresses

  1. I prefer carrying two pads and one is always a CCF for breaks and peace of mind. Currently I am flitting indiscriminately between the All-Season and ProLite with a SOLite or Solar Ridgerest, depending on season.

    One thing I might try in the future is the larger-sized Thermarest pads, cut down to regular lengths. Thermarest's idea of 'regular' shoulder width is an exercise in cutting weight in the wrong area.

  2. Thanks Joe, I agree on the combination of a CCF and “another” the All-Season is a nice mat, albeit a little longer (longer than the Static V) than I need. Whether I am game enough to shorten it or other mats I am not sure. I agree about the strange ways to save weight, the tapered Thermarests do not seem to be ideal in my opinion as I can see my legs sliding off the side. If I was to get an X-Lite it would probably be a large which could have about 16 cm of length trimmed, but the weight saving would probably only be about 50 gms, which may not be worth the risk.

  3. I agree Robin, I would look at getting a full length Zor with a weight of 390 gms, combined with a Laufbursche the R Value will be approximately 4 which would be warm enough for most of my trips. BTW I have already patched my Zor, there ws a small pin hole in it, cause, unknown. But a self inflator is easier to patch than an airbed. I have noted your use of a silk or fleece on the top of the mat which is good idea in my view.

  4. There has been some comment that the Zor is not the most robust mat so I shall keep an eye out for punctures.

  5. Even the thicker fabrics can be punctured. But at least with a self inflator some insulation remains when it goes flat.

  6. Closed Cell Foam all the way, at last until a year ago. 😉

    Before last autumn I've had couple of cheap self-inflating (well, they actually didn't but…) mats fail on me and tried also an uninsulated air mat with longitudinal tubes but didn't like it. I'm quite a big boy (186cm, 96kg) and very much a “mixed sleeper”. When sleeping on my back my arms often drop our from narrow mats and if the mat is also thick it get uncomfortable (the air mat). So for me a thick air mat should be around 60cm wide. Original full length Themarest Ridgerest was my favourite for long time and is still one of my favourites, only problem is sleeping with it in huts or shelters or other hard surfaces.

    Last autumn I bought short Thermarest Prolite and really liked it. This autumn I changed to short Prolite Plus for extra cushioning and I like it even more. It works nicely alone during the summer (I use my empty backpack in addition) and in shoulder seasons I add a full length cell foam (anything from thin cheapo one or Ridgerest SoLar in size XL).

    For serious winter use I still go all CCF*. It's fool proof, it's ready to use, it's warm enough and the bulk doesn't really matter in pulka and it's soft enough for sleeping comfortably on snow (for several nights on blue ice I might take something else in addition). And if going with tarps and fires in winter a reindeer skin makes a great mattress but I rarely take it out nowadays (except when working with huskies as they are often readily available on the spot).

    * I'm used to the appreviation CCF. What does the CFC stand for?

  7. Thanks Mark, yeah it is almost embarrassing the amount of stuff in my cupboard, not to mention the stuff that was in my cupboard and now is in someone else's. Admittedly I can sleep on a self inflator and have often been tempted, in some ways i think I need to say “enough is enough” and stick to one option. I will probably persist with air mats until they let me down badly even though I may always be carrying the extra weight of a CCF pad as insurance.

  8. Hi Jaako you are correct it should be CCF mats, the typo has been corrected. The Prolite Plus has been on my radar for a while and its thickness is appealing, i would probably use the women's version which has similar weight to the NeoAir AllSeasons and its R value is the same. More importantly it is cheaper. The key test is comfort and support, my guess is that it will work for me especially once I have “trained” my body to the new sleeping arrangement. You obviously spend more time in harsher conditions than I do, but I would always carry a CCF pad for sitting, extra insulation and for the emergency situation.

  9. Forgot to mention that I also tried small sized Neoair (original) btu had the same thickness/width issue. The Prolite Plus is nearly as cushioned as the Neoair but not quite there. My reasoning is that I'll survive also with a broken self-inflating though of course it won't be too comfortable. If I'd do longer summer trips than the one-week+ ones I'd be tempted to take a short CCF backup as you do. CCF mats also make good improvised splints for emergencies.

  10. Some interesting reading there. This is something that's been on my mind recently as the temps start to dip here. I feel that I'm sleeping colder these days than I used to a few years ago. Last time I was out on snow with my POE airbed mat I was decidedly uncomfortable. Going to supplement it with a CCF mat and see how I get on on my next trip.

  11. I agree completely and that is why I prefer to hedge my bets by using a CCF pad. I would love to be able to try a Prolite Plus but not spend the money first as a consequence I feel there is an opportunity for a “try before you buy reseller” Thanks for the tip on splints makes sense once you think about it.

  12. Growing older = sleeping colder, possibly. I tried POE mats but was very disappointed with them. I would always use a CCF pad in winter as they can be used in a number of ways as seats etc. I will be interested to hear how you get one with the POE CCF combination.

  13. Roger, great post. I have a few mats. For me a self inflating mat is my choice. I have a: Xs Prolite, Mulitmat, 4 season Pacific Outdoors Equipment, and the Zor. I'm very happy with the Zor and on a long walk might add a light CCF mat. Works for me. Not much I can add to this apart from thanks for a good discussion.

  14. Thanks Martin, I agree the xor is a nice mat, and one I am tempted to experiment with more, though I find it hard to be the comfort of an airbed. I almost always carry a CCF mat, and do like the Multimats, light, and pack well.

  15. I have used on several trips the Exped Synmat UL 7. I was also considering the Thermarest NeoAir XLite but I guess ear plugs are needed then 🙂

  16. Hi HikeVentures, I have not used the XLite, but have noticed in the stores that the fabric seems less noisy than the original versions. But if I have been hiking all day then a noisy mat is not likely to keep me awake for long ; )

  17. Pingback: Why I prefer Klymit Mattresses | Nielsen Brown Outdoors

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