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  1. #1
    Meander-thal cliffmat's Avatar
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    Sleeping Pads for Long Hot Tours...?

    Hi All!
    I'm looking to buy a sleeping pad for a world tour next year, with fairly simple criteria: to be the lightest, most comfortable and durable thing which can be rolled up and stored in a pannier!

    I've read through the forums, and wrestled between the:
    Thermarest (Prolite)
    Big Agnes (air core)
    Exped (Synmat 7).

    I'm happy to spend the money if it's worth it, and so I've carefully considered the Exped (despite the extra 200 odd grams), since it's meant to be supremely comfortable.

    My main question is this: with the presence of fibres (whether synthetic or goose in the downmat), would the hot air and humidity of hot/tropical climes being pumped into it every night eventually cause the pad to deteriorate?

    I have plenty of other questions for my tour, but wanting to start buying equipment for shorter tours this year I'm anxious to sort out my kit!!
    Thanks in advance for all your help!
    Cliff.

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    The ProLite is at most 1.5" thick. The Air Core is 2.5" thick. I think the first thing to figure out is whether you need the extra inch or not. I tried both and found that 1.5" was not thick enough for me. In similar sizes, both are about the same weight.

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    Get the Big Agnes in 48" length. You only need the support from head to hips, but the extra inch of thickness is worthwhile.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I see that REI carries the Exped and probably the others. They have a generous return policy. As you have plenty of time, order all three and take a good look at each. Check out field repair potential. Return the two that don't cut it for you.

    I seriously doubt that the synthetic fill material would be affected by heat/humidity. Down, yes.

    I've used a full size Thermarest for nearly four years and about 100 nights and have done fine on it. Packs 8x10". Carry it and the sleeping bag on my rear rack in a dry sack.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I am impressed with the Thermarest NeoAir. It is very light, packs extremely small, and is super comfortable. Being brand new it is still a bit unproven as far as durability. Also it is pretty expensive.

  6. #6
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We prefer the actual foam mats as they are indestructible! That being said, you will want full-length if you plan to go through cold weather at all. My feet would have frozen solid and fallen off long ago if I didn't have them insulated from the ground!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    extremely happy with my synmat 7 deluxe. played around with thermarests for a bit, but the comfort factor, and the packability won them all over even though a higher price tag and heavier weight. the neoair looked like a good contender for packability - didnt know many reviews and at $130 didn't want to be the one experimenting... however now the reports are coming out that it is durable and worthwhile, just may not be as versatile as your synmat 7 in the same temperatures.
    Currently Pedaling around the world away from a career in Information Technology - Tired of I.T! www.tiredofit.ca
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    At 19 oz, 4.5"x11", and $170 the NeoAir large (77" x 25" x 2.5") is the lightest, smallest packing and most expensive full sized mat out there. But bear in mind that it has an R value of only 2.5 which means (YMMV) that I would be comfortable to only around 25 degrees F.

    Durability hasn't yet been confirmed by numerous real users yet, so I'd hold off until next year to buy it. If you want something now that is proven, I'd go with the Exped Synmat 7 deluxe. But make sure you get the current model with the internal pump, not the one that used its stuff sack as a bellows.....

  9. #9
    Slowpoach
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    There's a new thermarest that is lighter and thicker than the Prolites. I was thinking of getting a Big Agnes Air Core, but the Thermarest Neo Air looks better to me.
    -edit:
    (I've been using a Prolite 3R which is more comfortable folded in half and used as a half-length thicker matress. They're really not that much better than a foam mat when they're that thin.)

  10. #10
    Meander-thal cliffmat's Avatar
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    Thanks for all your thoughts so far -I'm really keen to try them all out, so just need to find a somewhere in UK which will easily accept returns!
    facewest.co.uk looks ok...

    As you say, my main concerns with the NeoAir is the durability, which is still somewhat unknown, and of course the warmth.
    I really like the look of the Synmat with the integral pump - very cool design! Just wonder if it's worth the extra weight and size, and how well fibres survive...!

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliffmat View Post
    As you say, my main concerns with the NeoAir is the durability, which is still somewhat unknown, and of course the warmth.
    I personally am willing to gamble on the durability of the NeoAir, but agree it is unproven. My other thermarests lasted many years and I think the outer covering on the NeoAir is probably just as durable. I suspect it just seems less substantial because it isn't full of foam.

    For colder weather <20 or 25F, I would do as they recommend and use it in combination with a Z-lite foam pad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    For colder weather <20 or 25F, I would do as they recommend and use it in combination with a Z-lite foam pad.
    Which costs an additional $40 and gets the weight up to an Exped Synmat. And they don't yet make the Z-Lite in large.

    Of course the issue with bicycle touring is that you can be camping in the desert one night where you can use just the NeoAir and the very next night be camping at 5000 feet where you'd also need the Z-Lite. So you'd often have to carry both pads anyway. I think I'd rather save the $100+.

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Which costs an additional $40 and gets the weight up to an Exped Synmat. And they don't yet make the Z-Lite in large.

    Of course the issue with bicycle touring is that you can be camping in the desert one night where you can use just the NeoAir and the very next night be camping at 5000 feet where you'd also need the Z-Lite. So you'd often have to carry both pads anyway. I think I'd rather save the $100+.
    I doubt that most of us really need the Z-lite along with the NeoAir. I am not sure how cold it got some nights when I have been on tour, but even when it got cold I have not camped in temps that would require both. On the TA we never had temps that would have required it and my other tours were milder. In the rare case it hits 20 or 25F on a long tour I would just expect to put on all my clothes and tough it out.

    I generally plan my days to avoid staying overnight at the top of passes, still I camped many times at 5000-7000' and not had extreme cold. I think there were a couple times where it would have been brutally cold if I would have camped on a summit, but I descended 1500 feet or more before making camp in those cases.

    If I were to do an early/late season tour where the expected temps were to be 20F or under and the somewhat likely temps lower. I'd carry both or maybe just carry a regular thermarest. Then again I might just plan the trip for a different time.

    If there was a chance that just maybe on a night or two it might get to 20F I'd just plan on toughing out the exceptionally cold night with just the NeoAir and some layers of clothing.

    I guess the NeoAir might not have been adequate for your spring tour in the Rockies, but I doubt that many of us would have planned a tour there at that time.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I doubt that most of us really need the Z-lite along with the NeoAir. I am not sure how cold it got some nights when I have been on tour, but even when it got cold I have not camped in temps that would require both. On the TA we never had temps that would have required it and my other tours were milder. In the rare case it hits 20 or 25F on a long tour I would just expect to put on all my clothes and tough it out.

    I generally plan my days to avoid staying overnight at the top of passes, still I camped many times at 5000-7000' and not had extreme cold. I think there were a couple times where it would have been brutally cold if I would have camped on a summit, but I descended 1500 feet or more before making camp in those cases.

    If I were to do an early/late season tour where the expected temps were to be 20F or under and the somewhat likely temps lower. I'd carry both or maybe just carry a regular thermarest. Then again I might just plan the trip for a different time.

    If there was a chance that just maybe on a night or two it might get to 20F I'd just plan on toughing out the exceptionally cold night with just the NeoAir and some layers of clothing.

    I guess the NeoAir might not have been adequate for your spring tour in the Rockies, but I doubt that many of us would have planned a tour there at that time.
    Of course, you'd agree that what's relevant is the ground temperature, not the air temperature. And if you're in the Rockies, at 5000 feet you're likely not anywhere near a pass.

    If you plan for expected conditions you will suffer when you experience unexpected ones. Like the entire month of June this year in the Rockies. And there were plenty of bicycle tourists this year shivering in their tents .

    Wearing more clothes is not the solution one might think. The relevant factor is the thermal conductance of the compressed material between the person and the ground. Layers of compressed non-insulated clothing or even compressed down will not be very warm. You'd need to have substantial synthetic insulated tops and bottoms to prevent meaningful amounts of heat to be lost to the ground.

    When your insulation fails, heat loss into the earth (a virtually infinite heat sink with thermal conductance much greater than air) can only be countered by the body moving to generate its own heat. That means thrashing about and staying awake all night. Tough it out? Easy to say.

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Of course, you'd agree that what's relevant is the ground temperature, not the air temperature. And if you're in the Rockies, at 5000 feet you're likely not anywhere near a pass.

    If you plan for expected conditions you will suffer when you experience unexpected ones. Like the entire month of June this year in the Rockies. And there were plenty of bicycle tourists this year shivering in their tents .

    Wearing more clothes is not the solution one might think. The relevant factor is the thermal conductance of the compressed material between the person and the ground. Layers of compressed non-insulated clothing or even compressed down will not be very warm. You'd need to have substantial synthetic insulated tops and bottoms to prevent meaningful amounts of heat to be lost to the ground.

    When your iunsulation fails, heat loss into the earth (a virtually infinite heat sink with thermal conductance much greater than air) can only be countered by the body moving to generate its own heat. That means thrashing about and staying awake all night. Tough it out? Easy to say.
    I think the NeoAir is adequate for most of the places I will tour at the times I will be there. In a very unusually cold month I'd take something different if I knew ahead of time and make adjustments if I didn't. Those adjustments might be:
    • Picking up a cheap foam pad at Walmart.
    • Putting all my clothes on or under me.
    • Staying in a motel, church, or maybe even with a host if those are options.
    • Pitching the tent on some natural insulation like a thick bed of leaves or pine needles.
    • Having something shipped from home.
    • And yeah, toughing it out until I can do one of those things or the weather breaks.

  16. #16
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    If you're doing a world tour, I would strongly suggest you get a solid-core foam mat, nothing inflatable. Our repeated experience is that after 6 months of continuous use, the Prolite will fail. I think the GoingSlowly (goingslowly.com) folks have also had problems with their Exped mats.

    We use the ZLite accordion-style folding mat and find it very comfortable, lighter than the Prolite too. It's just a bit bulky.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  17. #17
    Senior Member trustnoone's Avatar
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    Here's two out of three:

    http://www.rei.com/product/708521

    Lightest and most durable. They'll last several hundred nights on the ground. There is no possible way to deflate them. You may feel a bit creaky in the morning if you are over 40.

    The OR Exped mats are good. I've seen some issues with the ribs blowing out on the downmat 7 but it was probably due to the -40 temperatures.

    I've used self-inflating thermarests in the past and personally I can't stand them. For the hassle of inflating and deflating them they are not much more comfortable to sleep on then a foam mat and hey are relatively heavy. I found the self-inflating system to be unreliable in the past. Though it may be better now.

    Anything you pump air into will be the most comfortable. Personally, if I have to pack it I choose light and indestructible over comfort.

  18. #18
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    I find it interesting that if you go to REI and sort all sleeping pads by customer rating, the highest rated pads are REI-branded (made by thermarest?) "camp bed" models. Good old-fashioned thermarest type self-inflating pads. They're relatively heavy and incompressible for packing, and the least expensive and most durable. My opinion is they sleep better than air mattresses, especially the 25" and 30" width models - which can weigh 4-6 lbs.

    I think it's important to not underestimate a good nights sleep. It's as critical as water and food. It''s primarily what they deprive prisoners of to get them to talk.

    All the air mattresses trailed behind in ratings - most have only 1 or 2 reviews, which is probably not very meaningful.

    I noticed a comments of the neoairs going a little flat in the night, apparently from cooling, as well a number of comments questioning their durability. So, beware ultralight shoppers, no free lunch in sleep gear.

    BTW I have an old Ridge Rest pad, and I have to say it's the worst sleeping pad I ever bought (and I have 7 pads). It compresses to about 3mm thick under bodyweight and provides little insulation.
    Last edited by seeker333; 08-02-09 at 02:27 PM.

  19. #19
    Meander-thal cliffmat's Avatar
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    I'm definately one who values a good night's sleep, especially when there's the potential prospect of having night after night on an insufficient mattress.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Durability hasn't yet been confirmed by numerous real users yet, so I'd hold off until next year to buy it. If you want something now that is proven, I'd go with the Exped Synmat 7 deluxe. But make sure you get the current model with the internal pump, not the one that used its stuff sack as a bellows.....
    Cyclesafe - I take it you have a Synmat? How have you found them in terms of comfort compared to others like Thermarests?

  20. #20
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    I started with one 20x72x1.75" 40oz Thermarest, because I was too cheap to buy something comfortable. Several years later I compounded my error by getting another identical pad because I thought I could double them up for sleeping or lay them side by side in my two person tent when "just chillin'". I also bought a Thermarest chair to go with the Thermarests.

    Well, that seemed like a good idea when contemplating my options and their combinations in the REI showroom with the clueless clerk rooting for the larger sale. But when I actually got on the road I found out that the two stacked pads slip and that the issue of comfort also entails the pad's width, the problem of which was exacerbated by the now 3.5" height. And I rarely took the time to set up the Thermarest chair. Oh, and I was carrying 80 oz of sleeping pad.

    My Exped Synmat 7 Deluxe is 2.75" thick and I only bottom out when sitting on it with my knees up. I am 6'2" and 160 lbs and have a long (6'6") bag so I like the 76" length and 26" width. And it's 38 oz. The internal hand pump requires a practice to become proficient, but I have great hopes that I won't miss the self-inflating feature of the old-school Thermarests. I'm leaving for another tour this Friday (Calgary to San Diego), so I'll have some chance for field testing then.

    Cliffmat, I suggest that since you're not leaving until next year you should wait for feedback on the Thermarest NeoAir. With the large at 19oz, I think it could be worth the wait. And the large seems not readily available at the moment anyway. You'll need to think through the thermal insulation issue for yourself: I expressed my view plainly above. But I am functionality first, weight second kind of guy who (tries to) tour warm, safe, not-hungry, and not-thirsty while completely self-supported - other than for consumables like food, fuel, and water. Plus I like to plan for the reasonably unexpected. Do you know that at this moment it is 39 degrees F in Waterton?
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 08-03-09 at 08:05 AM.

  21. #21
    Meander-thal cliffmat's Avatar
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    Sounds great, I just need to try one of those out now before buying!
    Unfortunately I'm going on a tour around Japan in a couple of months time, so I'm keen to buy kit now (which will hopefully suffice for big tour as well)!
    Since it's still likely to be very hot and humid, thats why I was interested in how well Synmats would hold out in those climates (instead of the very cold which they're primarily designed for).

    Being in the UK I had no idea where Waterton was (nor for that matter how cold 39 F was!), but it still seems freaking cold!

  22. #22
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Not the lightest.... Not the smallest but.... hundreds of nights sleeping on my Thermarest Prolite 4 have proven it's durability to me. The NeoAir looks like something in my future maybe.... I live by the replace it when it breaks theory most the time... Might be a long while before that happens.

    Slept on Glaciers many times.... Don't think it gets much colder than that with outside temps 20 below F....

    Your clothes do help despite what was said above. Nothing dramatic but it does help.

    I'd rather tour with to much pad and to little bag than the other way around....
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliffmat View Post
    Sounds great, I just need to try one of those out now before buying!
    Unfortunately I'm going on a tour around Japan in a couple of months time, so I'm keen to buy kit now (which will hopefully suffice for big tour as well)!
    Since it's still likely to be very hot and humid, thats why I was interested in how well Synmats would hold out in those climates (instead of the very cold which they're primarily designed for).

    Being in the UK I had no idea where Waterton was (nor for that matter how cold 39 F was!), but it still seems freaking cold!

    I used to live in Japan. If you are going to tour there in a couple of months time anywhere north of Tokyo in the mountains you'll need to bring cool weather gear.


    Quote Originally Posted by kyakdiver View Post
    Not the lightest.... Not the smallest but.... hundreds of nights sleeping on my Thermarest Prolite 4 have proven it's durability to me. The NeoAir looks like something in my future maybe.... I live by the replace it when it breaks theory most the time... Might be a long while before that happens.

    Slept on Glaciers many times.... Don't think it gets much colder than that with outside temps 20 below F....

    Your clothes do help despite what was said above. Nothing dramatic but it does help.

    I'd rather tour with to much pad and to little bag than the other way around....

    How many times have your heard "I was wearing all of my clothes last night and I was still cold!"

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    Lightest and most durable don't belong in the same sentence.It's one or the other.I like durable and comfy myself.I would tell you what air pad I have,but it's so old I don't remember.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  25. #25
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    We prefer the actual foam mats as they are indestructible! That being said, you will want full-length if you plan to go through cold weather at all. My feet would have frozen solid and fallen off long ago if I didn't have them insulated from the ground!
    +1
    I used this winter camping love em.

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