Sleeping Pads for Ultralight Backpackers
By Steve Gillman
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.