Essentials: The Pads to Pack

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, April 1995

Essentials: The Pads to Pack
By Douglas Gantenbein

It's not all in the name: sleeping pads do smooth over the rocks and twigs, but they also insulate you from the cold ground. A roundup of pads that elevate your body and your body temperature.

Foam is still the lightest and least expensive pad material. For bare-bones backpacking, nothing beats the Cascade Designs Z-Rest ($27), a firm, closed-cell foam pad that's made cushy by an egg-carton-style molded pattern. It weighs but a pound. From Cascade Designs, 800-531-9531. The Metolius Mountain Products Trail-Runner Lite (one pound, seven ounces; $35) mixes closed-cell foam and softer open-cell material for comfort and durability. From Metolius Mountain Products, 503-382-7585.

Cascade Designs's Therm-a-Rest Ultra Lite Long (one pound, 12 ounces; $57) typifies the genre: A self-inflating foam/ air model that's arguably the comfiest of all sleeping pads. A little more exotic is the Basic Designs Ergomat 3/4 Length (28 ounces; $50), with three self-inflating air chambers for custom cushioning. From Basic Designs, 707-575-1220.

When you're not lying on your pad, you might as well sit on it. The Crazy Creek Thermalounger ($40) ingeniously converts a Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest pad into a lounge chair. From Crazy Creek Products, 800-331-0304. Lighter but less convenient is the Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest'R Lite Chair Kit ($35):The system requires you to fold your pad up before you can take a seat--and to remove it before you sleep.

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