Winter Camping Sleeping Pads

How do you sleep while winter camping?
I like to bring a closed cell pad for warmth and a Therm-a-rest for comfort.  I see that Thermarest has a new compact mattress – the ultralight NeoAir mattress – that may provide both features in one light package.

The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mattress packs to the size of a one liter bottle and weighs 14 ounces for a regular size.  The NeoAir mattress is designed to be warm to sleep on, thanks to a Reflective Barrier that reflects heat back to the user’s body and reduces convective heat loss to the ground. A 2nd technology, the Triangular Core Matrix, contributes to the warmth by creating a multitude of air cells that minimize air movement and convective cooling. Unfortunately the NeoAir won’t be available until April 2009.  DARN.  Read the whole press release here.

I got a response from Cascade Designs regarding my query into the suitability of this product for winter camping.

I also want to verify with you that the NeoAir is intended as a 3-season mattress. We consider any mattress with an R-Value of 3.0 or below 3-season and 3.0 or above a 4-season.  We rate it the NeoAir with an R-Value of 2.5, which is right in line with our lightest 3-season mattress (the ProLite 3, which next year will be the same R-Value, but lighter and called just the “ProLite) at 2.2 for the unisex and 2.8 for the Women’s model. Our lightest 4-season mattress is the ProLite 4, which is rated at an R-Value of 3.2 for the unisex and 4.1 for the Women’s model. The ProLite 4 is being updated for 2009 as well (available in March), called the ProLite Plus and will remain the same weight, but will be warmer at 3.8 and 4.5.

It appears the NeoAir won’t be that much remarkably warmer.  I may stick with my closed cell pad and regular therm-a-rest.

I also checked out the Thermarest FAQ for information relevant to winter camping and pulled these Q&A.

  1. Which mattress or combination of mattresses do you recommend for snow camping? Many experienced mountaineers and cold-climate adventurers find that using a ProLite 3 or 4 mattress in conjunction with a RidgeRest or Z-Lite pad is a great way to increase warmth without the bulk or weight of a single large mattress. This combo also offers extra puncture protection for your self-inflating mattress. If you were to choose a single mattress for cold weather usage, it should be the Trail Comfort™, which is designed to deliver our best combination of comfort, warmth, and weight. One final snow camping tip: Try over-inflating your mattress with a few extra breaths of air. Your mattress will be a bit more firm, but the added air will increase the foam’s loft for extra insulation.
  2. Can I blow into a mattress if I am sleeping on snow? Yes. Doing so will increase the loft of the pad as well as its warmth.
  3. What about moisture buildup in the mattress when I blow into it? If you let your mattress self-inflate for a while and then add only a few puffs of air, you don’t have to worry about moisture buildup. Even in winter, freezing of moisture in the pad isn’t an issue unless you are doing this daily for months at a time.
  4. Can I ever get my mattress back to the same rolled size as when I bought it? Option1: Fold the mattress several times and sit on it to get most of the air out, then start at the end and roll toward the valve, using your knee as pressure to keep it rolling tightly.  Option 2: Fold mattress in half lengthwise, then fold again. Now sit on mattress and open the valve. When all the air is out, close the valve and roll up your mattress.
  5. What side of the mattress do I sleep on? The side of the mattress with the logo and serial number will most often be made of our nonslip fabric—this is the “top.” The fabric greatly increases friction between your Therm-a-Rest and a slippery sleeping bag, so you stay put on your mattress all night long.

You can read the whole Thermarest FAQ here.


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