Gear Guy

What's the best sleeping pad for a kayaking trip in Canada?

I planning a weeklong sea kayaking trip in northern Quebec. I (and my backside) would appreciate any of your thoughts on a decent portable sleeping pad. Is inflatable the way to go? And what about length? We anxiously await your deliberation. Nicholas B. Westmount, Quebec

A: I think inflatable AND non-inflatable. In other words, two pads. Look, my guess is that you'll find yourself sleeping on fairly hard ground, even rocky ground (are you doing the GaspC) Peninsula loop, by any chance?). And with a kayak, while weight is an issue, it isn't near the issue when backpacking or mountaineering. So here's what I'd do: For the main pad, take a full-length self-inflating pad. The gold standard remains the Cascade Designs Therma-a-Rest ($65) in the standard length (six feet). Alternatively, a company called SunnyRec makes a pad with a built-in pillow. It's called the Hexagrip Rebular, and costs $74. Or, the Big Agnes Rem SI Regular ($65) gives you good comfort in a little lighter weight. It does so by trimming some corners and using lightweight materials. I'd definitely go with full-length for the main pad. Long pads are perhaps when camping on snow or ice, as you need the extra insulation, but even on sand or soil they're a little more comfortable and the length adds little weight.

Along with the inflatable pad, toss in a light non-inflating pad. It'll give you a backup in case killer bees attack your inflatable pad, and add a hefty measure of comfort. Mountain Hardwear's Superlight 2 ($65) is a full-length foam pad that weighs less than two pounds. Or, Cascade Designs' Z-Rest in a three-quarter length weighs only 15 ounces and costs $36. By itself it's a little thin, but when used in conjunction with an inflatable it's great.

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