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Sleeping Pads for Ultralight Backpackers


You can make four-ounce sleeping pads for lightweight backpacking. Just cut them from a plain blue closed-cell foam pad, like the ones you can buy from any backpacking supplier. These sleeping pads are made larger than necessary (usually 2'x6'). The important thing is to have it long enough to reach from your shoulders to your hips. So mark it for that length and cut it.

Cut the width too, a little at a time, testing for comfort as you go. Essentially, you want the pad as small as you can make it, but big enough to insulate your torso from the ground. Your head can be on a pillow made of spare clothes, and your legs can be on your empty pack to insulate them.

Sleeping Pads for Fanatics

If you want to get really fanatical, cut pieces out of the pad. Small holes (1/2") in the pad don't seem to make it any less comfortable. If you cut out a hundred little pieces of foam, you might save another ounce, and when others see your pad, they'll know you are a fanatical ultralight backpacker.

More Comfortable Sleeping Pads

If you need more cushioning, an inflatable sleeping pad isn't out of the question for lightweight backpacking. REI has the Big Agnes Air Core Pad, a 3/4 length pad that weighs only 16 ounces and is an incredible 2 1/2" thick! If anyone out there has slept with Big Agnes, drop an email and let me know how comfortable she is.

There are several self-inflating sleeping pads that are reasonably light. Try any of the suppliers advertising here. At least one of their self-inflating sleeping pads is under a pound.

Natural Sleeping Pads

One way to be comfortable with just a thin pad, or none at all, is to sleep where the ground is soft. Another is to pile up leaves or dry grass to sleep on. Do this only where it won't harm the environment, of course. Scatter the leaves in the morning so they won't kill the vegetation they're on. With about fifteen minutes of work (in the right place) each night collecting materials, you can leave the air mattress home and be more comfortable. A foot of dried grass - now that's a nice camping mattress.


The Ultralight Site | Sleeping Pads for Ultralight Backpackers