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How to Find the Right Sleeping Pad to Get You Through the Night
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My buddy Rick and I pitched our tent under a clear, star-riddled autumn sky in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest. The mercury, already below freezing, was plunging fast. The night promised to be a frosty one. But we laid out our warm bags and sleeping pads confident of enjoying solid slumber.

The next morning, I awoke refreshed and ready for another day in the mountains. Rick wobbled groggily around our campsite, complaining that his feet had been cold all night. While I'd slept on a full-length pad, he had rolled out a three-quarter-length pad that left his feet dangling on the cold ground.

I share this story not to disparage Rick or three-quarter-length pads, which are certainly a good choice for some people in some circumstances (see below), but merely to illustrate a point. Choosing the right sleeping pad is vital for two reasons:

  • Cushioning while sleeping on the naked earth, and
  • Insulation against the chilly ground, which at any time of year is usually colder than you want to be.

Recent and continuing innovations in sleeping pads give us choices that take some of the"rough" out of roughing it. The first step in buying a mattress is to decide between the two basic types: self-inflating mattresses or foam pads. The next step is to further refine your final selection in terms of mattress length and thickness based on a personal equation that balances weight against comfort, which tend to rise and fall in tandem.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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