Gear Guy

What's the lightest, most comfortable sleeping pad?

My wife and I love snow-camping in the Teanaway in spring, and would like to reduce the bulk and weight of packing both a self-inflated and closed-cell mattress. I have heard about new, Primaloft-equipped products from the likes of Therm-a-Rest, Big Agnes, and InsulMat that insulate with Primaloft, and they all seem much lighter and less bulky. But would they do the job without also having to carry closed-cell foam? Scott Maple Valley, Washington

A: That's an interesting question, Scott. Let's start with Therm-a-Rest's ProLite 4 ($90;, from the company that largely created the self-inflating mattress industry. This pad employs lightweight fabric and foam, plus some judicious trimming of its shape, to come up with a pad that's adequate for winter use but still very light (one pound, eight ounces). Alas, it's not as warm as Cascade Designs' "regular" mattresses. Nonetheless, you could pack along your closed-cell pad as well and still be carrying nearly a pound less.

ProLite 4

Big Agnes' Insulated REM Insulated Air Core pads ($70 in regular length; are interesting creations. New on the market, they're air-filled mattresses containing Primaloft, which adds insulation while still allowing the comfort of a true air mattress (not air and foam). Big Agnes uses temperature ratings rather than R-value, so it's a little tough to compare to the ProLite, but the Air Core is rated for three-season use and down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. So on the face of things, probably not quite as warm as the ProLite 4. But more comfortable. And very light—only one pound, four ounces.

InsulMat, your other consideration, also doesn't list an R-value for their Max Thermo ($54; This pad, like the Air Core, has insulation inside the air-filled tubes, but it too is rated as a three-season pad.

Bottom line: I think you're still stuck with the closed-cell pad. But, you could pack any of these pads, still save some weight, and probably add some comfort!

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Cascade Designs
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