Sleeping Pads for Winter Camping

Carol D commented on our post about down filled sleeping pads.

I have owned a Downmat 9 for a couple of years and agree that they are WAY more comfortable than even the thickest Thermarest. However, camping in snow is problematic and the Downmat itself is NOT warm enough. My husband tried it the first time at about -5 celcius, in a tent on snow, with nothing else underneath the mat and was cold all night. He had on all of the available clothes, including a down jacket inside his winter weight sleeping bag and even that didn’t help. Last night I tried the mat outside at -12 Celcius, with a Ridgerest underneath and a winter weight down sleeping bag (rated to -25). I was relatively warm with a moderate amount of clothing on but I could feel the coolness from underneath. If it was much colder outside I think I would have had an uncomfortable night. I think the problem is that the air space in the Downmat is too thick for your body to keep warm when it’s getting cooled from the ground underneath. A Ridgerest underneath isn’t quite thick enough to offset the problem. Plus, the Downmat is quite wide (several cm’s wider than my mummy bag on each side) so much of it is exposed to cooling by the outside air. I still love the Downmat for comfort so I think next time I’ll try a thicker foamie underneath the Downmat, full length, and sleep inside a tent. Hopefully that will be warm enough!”

I suggest the combination of using an inflatable pad on the bottom and a closed cell pad on top for winter camping.  It seems a bit counter-intuitive to use the inflatable on the bottom but it ends up acting like a balloon and floating the closed cell pad off of the cold snow. Inflatable pads provide superior comfort but you can get cold spots where hips or shoulders compress the pad.  Closed cell pad provide superior insulation but don’t provide much cushion. This counter-intuitive stacking of the two is worth trying if you are going to be spending a lot of time sleeping in the snow.

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4 comments to Sleeping Pads for Winter Camping

  • The above commentary seems very strange to me. Having slept in -30ºC with a Downmat 9 on a ground sheet, I can confirm that the measured R-values the companies advertise are, at least in relation to each other, correct. The Downmat 9 has an R-value of 8 where a Therm-a-Rest has, at most, 4.8. I happen to have a short table comparing them on my site from over a year ago:

    It’s outdated now, of course.

    See this explanation of R-value:


  • Ordin Aryguy

    It’s not so much for the insulative quality it provides, but I use a closed cell foam pad between my self-inflator and the ground below. Both in tents and lean-to’s. The reason is that there a million little sharp, pokey things that all want to deflate my air mattress. Winter camping on an air mattress, minus the air, is an uncomfortable proposition at best, and bordering on dangerous at worst. Having an insulating layer is vitally important.


  • Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve found it to be tough enough for my terrain though, which is most often on snow. I misunderstood your comment.


  • Ron

    one thing that concerns me somewhat is potential pump failure of the Exped DownMat. I’ve never used one so I cannot say if that could be a problem or not – one of my basic tenets is to acquire gear that has the least possibility of failure – for example simple foam pads have an exceedingly low failure rate. If I were car camping it may be OK to trade off some risk of failure to the advantage of comfort and ease of use. In the back country dependability becomes paramount.