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Backpacking/Camping Gear Question


jen3kids
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I know a few WTMers are campers and backpackers, so I'm hoping you can offer some advice....  

My question for campers is about gear, particularly your sleeping pad.  I bought a Klymit sleeping pad for last weekend's backpacking trip.  It gets great reviews for back and side sleepers (me!), but I barely slept at all on Saturday night; I could not get comfy.  My one friend had a closed cell pad which was like a board and my other (son's GF) had an insulated inflatable pad which she said was too hot.   Is it possible to over-inflate a sleeping pad so it's too hard?  Would having a small pillow for between my knees help, like I normally sleep with?   Oh, and we were on a platform in a shelter, not in a tent on the ground - perhaps that made it harder?

My dh is away on business, so I have my sleeping pad on our bedroom floor and tried using it last night, but no luck 😞 I just couldn't get comfy, although I was able to have a short nap on it earlier in the day.  Perhaps I am destined for 45 minutes of sleep at a time.  I hope not; I need my sleep after 8-10 miles of backpacking!

 

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When we used to backpack I used an inflatable Thermarest pad. I found it much more useful for keeping warm (we preferred cold weather and winter camping) than getting comfortable. Comfortable and camping aren’t synonymous in my book. 😉 

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22 minutes ago, jen3kids said:

 Oh, and we were on a platform in a shelter, not in a tent on the ground - perhaps that made it harder?

My dh is away on business, so I have my sleeping pad on our bedroom floor and tried using it last night, but no luck 😞 I just couldn't get comfy, although I was able to have a short nap on it earlier in the day. 

 

I think it takes getting used to. I prefer tatami mats for sleeping on the floor. Cheaper option for us are trifold mattress. However those would be bulky for camping or backpacking.

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DH has the Klymit and I have a different inflatable. Yes, it is possible to inflate it too hard that it's uncomfortable; I sometimes have to let air out to be more comfortable. Also, I must have a pillow for my head, otherwise I am miserable.

The Klymit is ok in warm weather; the way it is designed, it does not isolate against the cold well. We found it too cold for winter camping and take an additional ridge rest for underneath.

A platform is definitely worse than natural ground; however, I have slept on my inflatable in a tent floor set up on rocks.

ETA: Sleeping on the mat at home after a day at home - not comfortable. Falling dead tired onto the mat after a full day of hiking with a pack - you'll sleep like a log. It's all a function of being sufficiently exhausted. Ask me how I know 😉

Edited by regentrude
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9 minutes ago, MEmama said:

When we used to backpack I used an inflatable Thermarest pad. I found it much more useful for keeping warm (we preferred cold weather and winter camping) than getting comfortable. Comfortable and camping aren’t synonymous in my book. 😉 

LOL, I was just going to say that when it comes to backpacking, or tent ground sleeping, comfy is very difficult. Due to my permanent injuries from the car accident, I simply do not do ground camping anymore. We van camp and have a foam bed mattress for the back of the van that works for both of us. This way I am not hurting in the mornings so much that I cannot go walking/hiking with dh.

Since fully comfy is pretty much not going to happen, go for warmth because letting your joints get cold makes everything worse. A thermarest pad, as MEmama suggested, may do the trick.

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I have the ridiculously thick thermarest these days.  It cost a pretty penny and it’s not very compact but it allows me to camp with some degree of comfort. The 3/4 length thinner thermarests that we used to use all the time have been passed down to the kids.  

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You can definitely over inflate, I prefer to slightly under inflate my pad and then it’s perfect when I lay on it.  I’ve never heard of an inflatable pad being too hot, but I have heard of the sleeping bags being that way. 
 

As a fellow side sleeper, I have tried the z-lite (foam), prolight (foam/inflatable combo), Klymit Static knock-off, Kylmit Static, and now a Nemo Tensor wide. Only the Tensor is thick (3.5”!) enough that my hips don’t sink to the ground. It’s an expensive pad though and I never would have bought it for myself if my friends hadn’t given me a gift card that covered most of the cost. The Thermorest Neoair has a similar amount of thickness and one of my good friends swears by it, but I’ve never tried it. 
 

Since the z-lite and equivalent knockoffs are very light and not too expensive, you could lay one on the ground with your Klymit over it. If you have a sit pad, you could put the sit pad under the Klymit where your hips would hit the ground for extra cushioning too. 
 

I have spent a pretty penny on getting the right pad for backpacking for me.  If I had to do it all over, and knew I was going to backpack as often as I do, I would have started with a more expensive pad. However, the ones I own that I don’t like work well for my kids. I am fortunate that I was able to borrow gear to try out as well. 
 

If stores are open near you, go to your local outfitter or REI and test out sleeping pads to figure out what you like. 
 

I discovered a pillow makes a big difference for me. I had an inflatable pillow that just didn’t work for me, I switched to a Thermorest compressible pillow. It is heavier, but sleeps much more like my pillow at home. Oh and I have to have earplugs too. 

Edited by Rachel
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I have a zenbivy lite pad and they say to Inflate it all the way, then lay in your side and deflate slightly until your hip almost bottoms out.   It is designed that you can deflate a tiny bit at a time though.   It also has an R5 rating for colder weather.

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2 hours ago, MEmama said:

When we used to backpack I used an inflatable Thermarest pad. I found it much more useful for keeping warm (we preferred cold weather and winter camping) than getting comfortable. Comfortable and camping aren’t synonymous in my book. 😉 

That's my worry.  I love hiking and camping, so backpacking is the perfect activity for me.  But I need to be somewhat comfy to sleep.

 

2 hours ago, Arcadia said:

I think it takes getting used to. I prefer tatami mats for sleeping on the floor. Cheaper option for us are trifold mattress. However those would be bulky for camping or backpacking.

Unfortunately, yes. 

 

2 hours ago, regentrude said:

DH has the Klymit and I have a different inflatable. Yes, it is possible to inflate it too hard that it's uncomfortable; I sometimes have to let air out to be more comfortable. Also, I must have a pillow for my head, otherwise I am miserable.

The Klymit is ok in warm weather; the way it is designed, it does not isolate against the cold well. We found it too cold for winter camping and take an additional ridge rest for underneath.

A platform is definitely worse than natural ground; however, I have slept on my inflatable in a tent floor set up on rocks.

ETA: Sleeping on the mat at home after a day at home - not comfortable. Falling dead tired onto the mat after a full day of hiking with a pack - you'll sleep like a log. It's all a function of being sufficiently exhausted. Ask me how I know 😉

The funny thing is our bed is (according to me) ridiculously firm but I slept a solid 8 hours after the backpacking trip.  And, that's also what the thru hikers that we met said - when you're as tired as they are after hiking 18-20+ miles, you can sleep on anything!

 

2 hours ago, Faith-manor said:

LOL, I was just going to say that when it comes to backpacking, or tent ground sleeping, comfy is very difficult. Due to my permanent injuries from the car accident, I simply do not do ground camping anymore. We van camp and have a foam bed mattress for the back of the van that works for both of us. This way I am not hurting in the mornings so much that I cannot go walking/hiking with dh.

Since fully comfy is pretty much not going to happen, go for warmth because letting your joints get cold makes everything worse. A thermarest pad, as MEmama suggested, may do the trick.

 It was plenty warm enough for me on the weekend - not too hot or cold, just a bit humid.

 

2 hours ago, SDMomof3 said:

I am a side sleeper and the Therma-A-Rest lite is be great. https://www.rei.com/product/829826/therm-a-rest-z-lite-sol-sleeping-pad

That's the one my friend had and she hated it!

 

2 hours ago, LucyStoner said:

I have the ridiculously thick thermarest these days.  It cost a pretty penny and it’s not very compact but it allows me to camp with some degree of comfort. The 3/4 length thinner thermarests that we used to use all the time have been passed down to the kids.  

I used to use a 3/4 length self-inflating pad when I took my GS girls camping and I was fine... but that was 15 years ago!

 

2 hours ago, Katy said:

I know someone who layers the inflatable thermarest and the z-fold one.  And someone else who refuses to backpack unless they can use a hammock.

I've seen that layering too, especially in cold weather.  My son says I should just use his hammock, but that would require me to figure out how to set it up!  Perhaps someday....

 

1 hour ago, Rachel said:

You can definitely over inflate, I prefer to slightly under inflate my pad and then it’s perfect when I lay on it.  I’ve never heard of an inflatable pad being too hot, but I have heard of the sleeping bags being that way. 
 

As a fellow side sleeper, I have tried the z-lite (foam), prolight (foam/inflatable combo), Klymit Static knock-off, Kylmit Static, and now a Nemo Tensor wide. Only the Tensor is thick (3.5”!) enough that my hips don’t sink to the ground. It’s an expensive pad though and I never would have bought it for myself if my friends hadn’t given me a gift card that covered most of the cost. The Thermorest Neoair has a similar amount of thickness and one of my good friends swears by it, but I’ve never tried it. 
 

Since the z-lite and equivalent knockoffs are very light and not too expensive, you could lay one on the ground with your Klymit over it. If you have a sit pad, you could put the sit pad under the Klymit where your hips would hit the ground for extra cushioning too. 
 

I have spent a pretty penny on getting the right pad for backpacking for me.  If I had to do it all over, and knew I was going to backpack as often as I do, I would have started with a more expensive pad. However, the ones I own that I don’t like work well for my kids. I am fortunate that I was able to borrow gear to try out as well. 
 

If stores are open near you, go to your local outfitter or REI and test out sleeping pads to figure out what you like. 
 

I discovered a pillow makes a big difference for me. I had an inflatable pillow that just didn’t work for me, I switched to a Thermorest compressible pillow. It is heavier, but sleeps much more like my pillow at home. Oh and I have to have earplugs too. 

 Wow - you've tried lots of pads!  I used to buy them off of Steep and Cheap for my boys Scout trips, but now I want to buy at REI so I can return if I'm not happy with it.   Doubling the Klymit up with the Z-Lite is a possibility that I may explore on my next trip.....  And yes, I think I'm going to have to pack a better pillow.  I had an old one that I had to fold twice to get any comfort from it, but it kept unfolding every time I moved!

 

1 hour ago, Ottakee said:

I have a zenbivy lite pad and they say to Inflate it all the way, then lay in your side and deflate slightly until your hip almost bottoms out.   It is designed that you can deflate a tiny bit at a time though.   It also has an R5 rating for colder weather.

I just saw an ad from them on Instagram!   I'll check them out.  

 

 

Thanks everyone!  I'm pretty excited because I just picked up a Nemo DragonFly 2P from REI's garage sale area for $180.  It's nearly a pound lighter than my son's old Quarter Dome 2P.  

 

Another question... has anyone ever switched from a sleeping bag to a quilt?  They seem to be gaining in popularity.  I do find sleeping bags a bit confining and usually sleep with them unzipped so I can stick out my 'thermometer leg' as needed.   And, saving a bit more weight with one would make it easier to carry more water.  I like to stay well-hydrated, but I'm considering ditching my 3L bladder and carrying 2 1L Nalgenes instead.  

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7 minutes ago, jen3kids said:

That's my worry.  I love hiking and camping, so backpacking is the perfect activity for me.  But I need to be somewhat comfy to sleep.

 

Unfortunately, yes. 

 

The funny thing is our bed is (according to me) ridiculously firm but I slept a solid 8 hours after the backpacking trip.  And, that's also what the thru hikers that we met said - when you're as tired as they are after hiking 18-20+ miles, you can sleep on anything!

 

 It was plenty warm enough for me on the weekend - not too hot or cold, just a bit humid.

 

That's the one my friend had and she hated it!

 

I used to use a 3/4 length self-inflating pad when I took my GS girls camping and I was fine... but that was 15 years ago!

 

I've seen that layering too, especially in cold weather.  My son says I should just use his hammock, but that would require me to figure out how to set it up!  Perhaps someday....

 

 Wow - you've tried lots of pads!  I used to buy them off of Steep and Cheap for my boys Scout trips, but now I want to buy at REI so I can return if I'm not happy with it.   Doubling the Klymit up with the Z-Lite is a possibility that I may explore on my next trip.....  And yes, I think I'm going to have to pack a better pillow.  I had an old one that I had to fold twice to get any comfort from it, but it kept unfolding every time I moved!

 

I just saw an ad from them on Instagram!   I'll check them out.  

 

 

Thanks everyone!  I'm pretty excited because I just picked up a Nemo DragonFly 2P from REI's garage sale area for $180.  It's nearly a pound lighter than my son's old Quarter Dome 2P.  

 

Another question... has anyone ever switched from a sleeping bag to a quilt?  They seem to be gaining in popularity.  I do find sleeping bags a bit confining and usually sleep with them unzipped so I can stick out my 'thermometer leg' as needed.   And, saving a bit more weight with one would make it easier to carry more water.  I like to stay well-hydrated, but I'm considering ditching my 3L bladder and carrying 2 1L Nalgenes instead.  

I can't say that I have made the switch for outdoor camping. We van camp. But this past spring we van camped when it was still getting down to freezing temps at night, and our two quilts worked very well for us. 

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I have the zenbivy light bed system.  It was not cheap but the sheet and quilt pack down very small.  I am liking it so far as you can clip it likes mummy bag, a regular bag, a top quilt or anything between.

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27 minutes ago, Ottakee said:

I have the zenbivy light bed system.  It was not cheap but the sheet and quilt pack down very small.  I am liking it so far as you can clip it likes mummy bag, a regular bag, a top quilt or anything between.

 

What temp rating do you have?  And have you used it in that temperature?  Do you think you're a hot or cold sleeper?

 

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2 hours ago, jen3kids said:

Another question... has anyone ever switched from a sleeping bag to a quilt?  They seem to be gaining in popularity.  I do find sleeping bags a bit confining and usually sleep with them unzipped so I can stick out my 'thermometer leg' as needed.   And, saving a bit more weight with one would make it easier to carry more water.  I like to stay well-hydrated, but I'm considering ditching my 3L bladder and carrying 2 1L Nalgenes instead.  

I haven't because I'm a cold sleeper (I've been known to be uncomfortable wearing wool long underwear in a synthetic zero degree bag at 40F after eating a hot meal), but if I knew it would be warm and I was more concerned about weight rather than cold I'd try it. Especially if you sew it yourself or find a really good deal.

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2 hours ago, jen3kids said:

Another question... has anyone ever switched from a sleeping bag to a quilt?  They seem to be gaining in popularity.  I do find sleeping bags a bit confining and usually sleep with them unzipped so I can stick out my 'thermometer leg' as needed.   And, saving a bit more weight with one would make it easier to carry more water.  I like to stay well-hydrated, but I'm considering ditching my 3L bladder and carrying 2 1L Nalgenes instead.  

My DH is using a quilt for his summer bag. I like the traditional sleeping bag better.

I have never used a bladder and do not find them practical for backpacking because the water filter screws onto the Nalgene, so the clean water ends inside a Nalgene.

Are you going somewhere with sparse water sources, like a desert? If you have water sources close, like a running stream, just take a filter and one bottle and filter as needed.

Edited by regentrude
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Sounds like a great deal on the tent!

I haven’t tried a quilt. I think in the winter I would get too cold, even though down compresses, being inside the bag at least holds in my body heat. I know people seem to either love or hate them. 

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3 hours ago, Ottakee said:

I have the zenbivy light bed system.  It was not cheap but the sheet and quilt pack down very small.  I am liking it so far as you can clip it likes mummy bag, a regular bag, a top quilt or anything between.

I’ve never seen that! I can see that it eliminates the problem of a sleeping bag slipping around on a pad. The flexibility seems nice too. Honestly for a pad and down bag the price isn’t so bad. 

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Exped makes excellent sleeping pads. The MegaMat 10, which i am lying on right now, is less thick than the 15 — around 3” — but is quite comfy and has an R value around 8. The MegaMat 15 is thicker —around 6” — and has a higher R value — around 10. Both are very comfy, can self inflate but often need some help, and are also easy to deflate if too firm.

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7 minutes ago, BeachGal said:

Exped makes excellent sleeping pads. The MegaMat 10, which i am lying on right now, is less thick than the 15 — around 3” — but is quite comfy and has an R value around 8. The MegaMat 15 is thicker —around 6” — and has a higher R value — around 10. Both are very comfy, can self inflate but often need some help, and are also easy to deflate if too firm.

but aren't those very heavy?

ETA: Just googled it. It's 3 lbs 12 oz! And very bulky with a packed size of 31x10. You carry that for backpacking?

Edited by regentrude
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12 minutes ago, regentrude said:

but aren't those very heavy?

ETA: Just googled it. It's 3 lbs 12 oz! And very bulky with a packed size of almost 32x10. You carry that for backpacking?

I do. I just don’t sleep well otherwise. I haven’t taken one on a long trip but will this summer when I head out to Montana.

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The Exped Megamat is my favorite car camping sleeping mat.  It's as comfortable as a bed.  

For backpacking, I would be seriously tempted to bring the Exped.  We have several lightweight pads for backpacking.  None are terribly comfortable for me and I wake up multiple times during the night.

We own one quilt.  It's colder than a sleeping bag, but works fine for summer.  

If you're looking to ditch weight, switching to Smart Water bottles will save a few ounces over a Nalgene.  Check out the ultralight reddit forum for tons of tips.   

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3 hours ago, jen3kids said:

 

What temp rating do you have?  And have you used it in that temperature?  Do you think you're a hot or cold sleeper?

 

I bought the 25° bag as likely we won't backpack in under 35 or so nights.   If we winter camp we will have a car so I can add another layer.   I am a middleish sleeper.....at 50 I got from hot to freezing and vice versa in seconds🙄.   Last night it was 45° and I was plenty warm I used it as a quilt, just attached at the bottom.  I wore a quick dry top and lightweight pants and no socks, etc.    

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1 hour ago, Rachel said:

I’ve never seen that! I can see that it eliminates the problem of a sleeping bag slipping around on a pad. The flexibility seems nice too. Honestly for a pad and down bag the price isn’t so bad. 

Watch for sales.  I think I got mine 25% off for Memorial Day.  Not super fond of the color choices....and the fact that the pillow doesn't match....but it all works great.

First night I tried it I just slept on the sheet and threw the quilt over me a bit as it was warm.   Then last night I made the foot part into the regular bag but didn't attaches the sides.  Was plenty warm at 45° with the 25° set up.

The sheet and bag are very slippery due to the light weight compressible fabric.  The regular set might have a nicer feel bit since I am carrying it I went lightweight.

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I like to fast or eat very little the first few days which makes it easier to bring. I actually have a lot of energy while doing so and feel great. Sometimes, I’ll have some olives, nuts or chocolate, though.

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On 6/16/2021 at 8:52 PM, regentrude said:

My DH is using a quilt for his summer bag. I like the traditional sleeping bag better.

I have never used a bladder and do not find them practical for backpacking because the water filter screws onto the Nalgene, so the clean water ends inside a Nalgene.

Are you going somewhere with sparse water sources, like a desert? If you have water sources close, like a running stream, just take a filter and one bottle and filter as needed.

I should be able to get water at any of the places I camp.  Although as summer progresses, it may become more of an issue.....

 

On 6/16/2021 at 9:36 PM, Rachel said:

Sounds like a great deal on the tent!

I haven’t tried a quilt. I think in the winter I would get too cold, even though down compresses, being inside the bag at least holds in my body heat. I know people seem to either love or hate them. 

Yes, I'll need to keep the heat in if I camp in the winter.

 

On 6/16/2021 at 9:40 PM, Rachel said:

I’ve never seen that! I can see that it eliminates the problem of a sleeping bag slipping around on a pad. The flexibility seems nice too. Honestly for a pad and down bag the price isn’t so bad. 

But still a lot of $  I am not quite ready to spend that amount of money.

 

On 6/16/2021 at 10:40 PM, hellen said:

The Exped Megamat is my favorite car camping sleeping mat.  It's as comfortable as a bed.  

For backpacking, I would be seriously tempted to bring the Exped.  We have several lightweight pads for backpacking.  None are terribly comfortable for me and I wake up multiple times during the night.

We own one quilt.  It's colder than a sleeping bag, but works fine for summer.  

If you're looking to ditch weight, switching to Smart Water bottles will save a few ounces over a Nalgene.  Check out the ultralight reddit forum for tons of tips.   

 

Most of hikers I saw last weekend carried Smart Water bottles and a single Sawyer filter.  I had never thought to use them for hiking or camping.

 

On 6/16/2021 at 10:41 PM, Ottakee said:

I bought the 25° bag as likely we won't backpack in under 35 or so nights.   If we winter camp we will have a car so I can add another layer.   I am a middleish sleeper.....at 50 I got from hot to freezing and vice versa in seconds🙄.   Last night it was 45° and I was plenty warm I used it as a quilt, just attached at the bottom.  I wore a quick dry top and lightweight pants and no socks, etc.    

So tempting....

 

On 6/16/2021 at 10:45 PM, Ottakee said:

Watch for sales.  I think I got mine 25% off for Memorial Day.  Not super fond of the color choices....and the fact that the pillow doesn't match....but it all works great.

First night I tried it I just slept on the sheet and threw the quilt over me a bit as it was warm.   Then last night I made the foot part into the regular bag but didn't attaches the sides.  Was plenty warm at 45° with the 25° set up.

The sheet and bag are very slippery due to the light weight compressible fabric.  The regular set might have a nicer feel bit since I am carrying it I went lightweight.

I signed up for their emails, so hopefully I will get notice of their upcoming sales.  

 

On 6/16/2021 at 10:47 PM, BeachGal said:

I like to fast or eat very little the first few days which makes it easier to bring. I actually have a lot of energy while doing so and feel great. Sometimes, I’ll have some olives, nuts or chocolate, though.

Sometimes, I find have to force myself to eat when hiking - no idea why.  I can feel myself fading and then when I eat I feel sick.  Other times I eat ravenously the entire time!   

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