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Old 01-03-2012, 11:19 AM   #1
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Winter Sleaping Mat (best bang for the buck)


Im interested in purchasing a new Winter sleeping mat.

I have a EMS Mountain Light 0° Sleeping Bag, Regular

I am seeking a lighweight Winter Sleaping Mat. Possibly one i could use in the other seasons as well.

Best bang for the buck in these three categories:

insulation factor


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Old 01-03-2012, 12:31 PM   #2
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For starters, have you used the 0 degree bag in winter before? IMO, a 0 degree bag is going to be chancy in the Adirondacks in winter. It really depends on the weather and how cold it gets during the night- on some nights, you'll be quite comfortable, but on others, you'll be uncomfortable or even dangerously cold. Personally, I wouldn't attempt a winter overnight without a -10 or -20.

What kind of pad to get really depends on what you want to do with it. Are you just looking for something for 1 or 2 night trips? Or do you want to be able to do longer trips that are 3+ nights and involve moving camp every day?

For winter camping, the best bang for the buck is going to be a foam pad. They are cheap and efficient. The only category they lack in, of course, is the weight and volume- they are big and bulky. However, they keep their insulation properties on long multi-night trips.

The issue with inflatable pads in winter is that when you use your breath to blow them up, water vapor gets inside the pad where it turns to ice, and it doesn't come back out when you deflate the pad. After a few nights of you repeatedly blowing the pad up, this can begin to lower its insulation properties. Typically not an issue on a 1 or 2 night weekend trip, but something worth considering if you're interested in doing some longer expedition style winter trips.

One thing you can do to limit this effect is get a self-inflating pad- a pad that is capable of inflating most of the way on it's own. You just set the pad out, and let it do it's thing for 20 minutes or so. If it's sunny out, setting it in the sun will help too. Usually these pads take a couple of puffs of air to finish the process, but the moisture content inside the pad is significantly reduced.

Personally, for a 1 or 2 night trip in winter, I use a thermorest prolite 4 season full length pad. It's light enough that I wouldn't have any qualms with using it in the summer, although I also have a thermarest prolite 3 season 3/4 length pad for warmer months. In general, thermarest makes great quality sleeping pads. You can check out their website here:

Last edited by DSettahr; 01-03-2012 at 12:55 PM..
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Old 01-03-2012, 12:39 PM   #3
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I have used a zero degree bag many times in the past. I supplement it with an additional liner inside, and a lightweight breathable bivy on the outside, which gives me an additional ten degrees. I do not typically camp in the high peaks in the winter. I have camped many times else where in the Adirondacks, in the winter, and using three or four different weather sites, i can predict the temperature i can expect. I use a standard closed cell foam pad. I was just curious what others used. Since i posted this, a friend has sent me this:

Comparison list

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Old 01-03-2012, 05:19 PM   #4
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Another variable to consider is that not all closed cell foam (CCF) is equal. If memory serves me correctly (which it probably doesn't), evazote has the best thermal to weight ratio.

more than you could ever want to know about CCF and OCF. A bit dated, but still informative:
"There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." -from "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service

My trail journal: DuctTape's Journal

Last edited by DuctTape; 01-03-2012 at 05:33 PM..
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Old 01-03-2012, 07:14 PM   #5
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take a look at the Exped Downmat 9. Its pricey but you do not have to inflate it by breath.
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Old 01-03-2012, 11:42 PM   #6
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I've used a standard Thermarest 1 1/2" thick and full length that must be 15 years old. Their TrailPro would be a good bet from their present selection. I also have a piece of 3/8" foam about 8"X10" that actually is part of my Mtn Smith pack that I place under the pad at the position of my hips. I sleep on my side and the hips compress the pad and often cause a cold spot without the foam underneath. Your fleece jacket could be used as well.
I use a -20 degree bag with a bivy cover , the cover keeps off condensation and adds a bit of warmth. A 0 degree bag would be OK most of the time , use a cover, possibly a Vapor Barrior Liner for multi-day trips, again to keep the insulation dry. If it gets really cold wear your base-layer, colder yet wear your fleece, put on your hat wear your wool socks etc. A 0 degree bag is quite a bit lighter , smaller and less expensive and you're carrying all this other clothing anyway , might as well put it to use when nessary. Eating before turning in and not getting over tired helps.
Oh , and my favorite, fill your nalgene bottle with hot water and slip it into the foot of your sleeping bag just before turning in. Keeps you warm all night and you don't have to melt snow in the morning to start breakfast
I once spent 3 days in a storm at 17,500 feet the temp was -20 degrees wind averaged 75 mph probably 4 feet of snow fell, at one time we had to go out shovel out the tent and re-set it on top of the new snow build a snow block wall etc. I never did get cold with the above sleeping system.
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Old 01-03-2012, 11:44 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Connecticut Yankee View Post
Oh , and my favorite, fill your nalgene bottle with hot water and slip it into the foot of your sleeping bag just before turning in. Keeps you warm all night and you don't have to melt snow in the morning to start breakfast.
If you do this, it's always a good idea to crack the nalgene open after a few minutes to let the heated air escape, which will prevent possible leaking during the night...
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Old 01-04-2012, 09:12 PM   #8
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Exped DownMat 9 Deluxe (Deluxe is wider and longer, keeps your shoulders much warmer and your feet off the ground)

Shane- I've used an Exped DownMat 9 Deluxe for five years and wouldn't go without it. Nothing compares. They're difficult to find on sale, but are worth the wait. Never, never use your mouth for inflation, always the inflator sack.

Two other people I've regularly worked and camped with ended up getting the same mat after a bit. One winter weekend where the daytime temp was minus 23* there ended up being a great comparison that night (don't feel sorry for us-it warmed up overnight). Two guys were in the same tent, one with an Exped DownMat 9 DLX, the other with conventional mats. In the morning there was the typical huge body depression in the snow under the conventional mats, but under the Exped there was depression, just flat snow. I get the same result under my mat every time. The mat has great insulating properties and does not let body heat through to melt the snow.

I've been very comfortable in lean-tos, igloos and tents. Igloos being the warmest of the three. It's bulky, but when you use a pulk who cares? I try to bring the Exped on as many trips as possible year round simply because it's so darned comfortable. My skeleton appreciates the comfort more with each birthday. I've also got an Exped 7 Short (found on Steep and Cheap) that is a warm weather alternative. Not quite as comfy after a day's work, but a weight savings. I tend to be a very cold sleeper, so my comfort was worth the price.
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
It's about learning to dance in the rain.
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Old 01-05-2012, 04:45 PM   #9
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A second vote for the Exped - not cheap by any means, but a good, warm night's sleep is worth every penny.
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Old 01-05-2012, 06:57 PM   #10
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Exped nice, not light and pain to inflate

I bought the widest, thickest Exped a few summers ago for kayak/canoe camping and winter camping. I like it a lot, but here are some of my pros and cons.

long, wide, thick, comfy, packs small for boating

noisy when you roll around on it, according to my cocampers
heavy, think app 2 3/4lbs to hike with
expensive but compared to others I think the insulation value was the biggest difference for me

and the biggest pain is inflating it by using the palms of my hands, this is because no condensation builds up from breathing in it. It takes me app 150-160 presses. My wrists do get tired, guess I'm lazy. My friend has one that inflates using a small bag which you squeeze the air into it. I have used it app 10 times over 2 years which comes out to an average of $20 per night.

If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn't buy it because it seems like I'm not doing as much winter camping as I hoped to do, but I'll chime in again hopefully in 2 weeks after a proposed Catskill trip
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Old 01-05-2012, 11:13 PM   #11
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Homemade solution...

The Exped downmat 9 was on top of my list when I started looking at a sleeping pad for my occasional winter trek but in the end, I couldn't see myself spending 200 bucks on a piece of gear I'd only use once or twice a year.

I looked long and large for a cheaper alternative and came upon these guys (an extremely informative and entertaining source of info for winter camping) who promote the "foam/air/foam" school of thought. It made a lot of sense to me and I decided to give it a try.

I already owned a Big Agnes insulated core pad so I visited the local Walmart and picked up a couple of standard (24" wide) blue foam thingies which set me off $10.00 each. Pretty much in line with my budget...

When a friend called late January with an offer for a 2 night wilderness ice fishing expedition in northern Ontario, I was itching to tryout my new winter sleeping system. First experiment was a complete success. With nights ranging between -15 F and -5 F, I remained very warm and comfortable in my 0 F down bag with a silk liner. My only beef (beside the bulk) was the inflating part. What is a tolerable task during the other 3 seasons becomes a chore in winter (especially when the fish don't bite and you end up moving camp each day).

There was room for improvement and I had to find a solution (besides buying a thermarest...). I made a living selling plumbing & heating supplies and specialized in radiant floor heating. One day I saw one of my customers in our parking lot on the tailgate of his truck cutting lengths of insulation which resembles a piece of aluminum foil sandwiched between two layers of bubble wrap. The roll was 5 ft wide and the material approx 1/4" thick. It wasn't too long before I had made a deal for 6 linear feet of the stuff in exchange for a 6 pack of Heineken...

I trimmed a piece of 24" x 72" and I had a brand new winter pad. I soon tried it for a single night out and again, it worked great. The warmest pad I had ever tried. The only problem was the different layers had a tendency to slide all over the place and I had to re-assemble it a couple times during the night. Sheesh, a man's work is never done... Next step was to duct tape the whole thing together at the outer perimeter. It worked fine until I attempted to roll it up. I used it a few times (and loved it) but it soon became a mess and ended up being recycled into an excellent sitting pad and a set of picnic table seat cushions.

I decided to start over with better components (same bubble insulation but used evazote pads and aircraft grade tape) and settled on a folded design which fit perfectly at the bottom of my pulk. This is by far the warmest pad I've ever used. The latest edition was a bit more expensive to make (18 bucks per pad and 20 for the tape) but way cheaper than an Exped. Not as cushy as an inflatable but who cares when rocks and roots lay down far below you.

As a disclaimer, I must say I'm a warm sleeper and often have to vent even during the coldest nights. Your mileage may vary.

Pros: Warm, light, cheap, effortless set/break up, puncture proof
Cons: very bulky, won't win best looking gear contest
Ripples never come back. -Genesis
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