|My camp in March on the Black Forest Trail, 35°F|
Getting a Better Night's Sleep in the Woods
I mitigate my night time sleep issues with earplugs, and traded a tent for a backpacking hammock: a cozy and snug nest in the trees. I started with a Hennessy Hammock, and now have four hammocks. I prefer a double-layer bridge hammock to a gathered end hammock, but YMMV.
The bridge hammocks work with my gathered end quilts, but the bridges work best with wider pads of 25 inches. I didn't have a pad that wide, so I put together a little chart to help compare the wider pads. Hopefully ground dwellers (tent sleepers) longing for a wider pad will be able to use this as well.
This isn't a complete chart; there are as many types of pads as shelters on the AT. Instead, this is for the UL or Lightweight backpacker. Price is also a factor; although I personally wouldn't spend $269 for the Exped Downmat UL 7 MW, I feel it's a viable weight option for some people. Looking at the chart, you may think the Thermarests should win, hands down. However, they are a little "potato chip" crinkly, so I suggest you visit your local outdoor sports store and try them out first.
Wide Sleeping PadsStandard backpacking pads are 20 inches wide and 72 inches long. For some reason most wide pads are also made long, measuring in at 77 inches. Someone like me, who is 5'9" and just looking for some extra width, will have to suffer a weight penalty for the extra (and unnecessary) 5 inches of length. One manufacturer has addressed this with the Exped MW, which stands for Medium length, and still Wide.
And the Winner is...I have a Thermarest pad purchased in 1991, which still works great, but it leaves a lot to be desired in comfort and weight. So I took the plunge on a Thermarest NeoAir XLite and an XTherm, which may seem extravagant (especially since I am not a paid product endorser!). But my husband started backpacking this year, so the pads can be used by either one of us.
The XLite is super comfortable for the weight. One pound of yellow bliss, potato chip crinkle sound notwithstanding. Perfect for three season use. I can wiggle and toss and turn in my hammock without hitting the sides or getting any shoulder squeeze.
The XTherm is absolutely, unequivocally, amazingly warm. Did I say I like this A LOT!?
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