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Winter Sleeping Pad Puzzle?

North Hancock Slide

I am stumped. I am trying to design a lighter weight sleeping pad system that can stand up to -15 (F) winter temperatures in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Today, I use an 27 oz. Exped Downmat 7 that has an R-value of 5.9. It's filled with down, but very bulky in my pack. I'd like to shave at least 5 oz by replacing it with one or more different sleeping pads.

If you have any ideas or anecdotal experiences you can share, I'd appreciate your input. For example, I don't really know what the target R-value I should be shooting for in these conditions is. The Downmat 7 works great, but may well be overkill. I just don't know.

My current sleep system sleep system components for this winter include:

The bivy sack is needed to keep the sleeping bag dry with the floorless shaped tarp, but may be my only shelter at times in conjunction with a snow shelter. However, I am not interested in sleeping in these all of the time.

Also, my winter pack is a Cold Cold World Chaos which has an inner sleeping bag pocket that can act as a frame sheet and is large enough to hold a regular-sized Therm-a-rest Z-lite. This is not a constraint, but an opportunity for reduced gear volume in the main compartment since I expect that the best solution will require a combination of multiple pads.

If carrying a pad outside my pack is NOT an option (I don't like it – there are already snow shoes, water bottles, an ice axe, and crampons attached externally), what pad or combination of pads, would you replace the Exped Downmat 7 with?

What do you use for a winter sleeping pad(s) and how cold can you go?

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  1. I don't know if this will help but you may be aware that Exped are bringing out I think Jan 1 – the Synmat 7 UL

    Weighing 470 g(just under 16 oz) and 183x50cm,(72x 20 inches) and has thickness of 7 cm,(2.8 inches) it achieves an R value of 3.5. with a packing size of a half-litre (16 oz) bottle.

    Here in the UK I will wait for this and I guess I will use a lightweight foam mat if it gets very cold.


  2. I haven't done any lightweight winter backpacking, but that's something I'm looking to get into this winter or next. So I've done a bit of research on this already.

    Check out http://www.kookabay.com for sleeping pads. He doesn't list down filled mats on his web site, but you can email him for info. The folks at backpackinglight.com mentioned this to me. According to his specs, his mummy shaped down mat with R value of 6 weighs in at less than 19 oz. I think I'll get one of these eventually.

    I don't use bivies because I roll around a lot in my sleeping bag and just don't like being that cooped up, but if you're looking to drop a few more ounces for the top dollar, Mountain Laurel Designs has several really light bivies, too, including a full eVENT one for 11 ounces.

  3. I have used a NeoAir plus Evazote 5mm at ~0F which was warm and comfortable, combined weight 610g (21.5oz).

  4. It's been perplexing me too. In the end I went for a BA IAC. I know you're not a big fan of it's warmth but on looking at it, it's really well manufactured, the sizing is great (152cm is perfect length for me rather than the usual 120/180cm dilemma), and it's comfortable. The purported 4.1 R-rating is probably enough for the -5C temps I'm likely to be getting. I'll be using a WM Summerlite with some choice down/primaloft and seeing how I get on…

  5. Sorry, posting on iPhone so it published before I was finished! As far as -15F (-26C) it seems to me that the best marriage of comfort, weight and wamth is the Downmat. Also it is a well made & reliable piece of kit. That's major consideration in those conditions. A PHD bag may well be lighter than your WM bag and down jackets from PHD would be dual use to supplement it. I don't have any PHD gear but the 900 down used in the Ultra stuff has been reviewed and rated highly both in the UK and in the US. Rab bags are good but probably heavier than the WM and PHD bags. One other thing – Eddie Meechan once did an article in TGO about using dust masks to prevent heat loss through the mouth (comparing the way moose keeps warm). Something to think about ;-)

  6. Guthook – the MLD all event bivy is not sized for a winter sleeping bag, which would compress the Puma's baffles. I know someone that is having one custom all event bivy made by MLD and it is expected to weigh 14-15 oz. I could go that route, but I'd have to wait another 6 weeks and pay some huge tariff. I'm sticking to off-the-shelf on this one.

  7. Mark – interesting, but that will be too late. I'll miss 6+ weeks of the season. Otherwise, not a bad solution with a z-lite. Thanks!

  8. Well, a simple Multimat Adventure (130 g) and your inflatable of choice – Artiach Skin-Micro Lite (360 g), a Mulimat Summit Compact (~560 g?) or even just another Z Lite on top. POE also makes some great lightweight CCF pads for 4 Season use, check them out.

    The secret is location & to camp on top of snow. On top of snow the temperature is usually around 0°C or a bit under, not much colder. So you don't need to much insulation to the bottom – it is a different story if you camp at -20°C on rock or the ground. That allows you to go light and be warm!

  9. Here in the land of snow, ice and reindeers the consensus about winter sleeping pads seems to be around R-value 5.0. Snow is really good insulator so the sleeping pad doesn't have to hyper-ultra-warm as it simply doesn't give any extra benefit. Snow is also quite soft so only thing that you need from sleeping pad is insulation. I would recommend two good CCF pads of your choise. My choise is standard Ridgerest + oversized (60cm x 190cm) 10mm pad cut from big roll on CCF matt. It is over sized as I don't use bivybag so it keeps my sleeping bag out of snow. Has worked nicely down to -28C. But maybe 3/4 GG Thinlight or Nightlight (combined with bagpack under your feet) and full lenght Ridgerest Deluxe would be enough?

  10. Thanks for the advice Hendrik. Unfortunately POE is a train wreck in the states. It is impossible to find their gear in stock – I understand they're having supplier problems.

  11. The R-value of a Ridgerest deluxe is 3.1 vs. 3.5 for the Ridgerest solar. Both weigh 19 oz, but they are monsters to carry and must be worn outside the pack. While it hasn't happened to me, I've seen friends' z-lites shredded by a little winter bushwhacking…actually the snow was so deep that the trail ran through the tree tops, so I'd rather avoid strapping on a large pad externally.

    But you make a good point about the temperature of snow being 0 C. So really a 3/4 Nightlight and a NeoAir should be enough, and together weigh just 17.8 oz. That would save me just under 10 oz and not cost anything since I already own both pads. Make sense? Their combined R-Value = 2.3 + 2.5 = 4.8

  12. What ever your pad (I stay away from air in the winter), add a layer of Reflectix. It's a foil faced bubble wrap used for duct insulation available at most hardware stores by the foot. Cut to a size covering knee to head. It rolls or folds quite small and very light weight. Place it on top of the pad. I keep it on the outside to have handy to sit on in a snow bank during breaks. Try that alone just to check out the warmth it will provide.

    Tip… run lines of thinned silicone caulk to keep it from slipping because it will if you don't. I did both sides. Also… if it works for you, it's cheaper to buy a whole roll at a big box store and split it with friends.

  13. I hate to ask, but what keeps the snow temperature at 0 degrees C?

  14. Couldn't leave this one alone…I just cut down a RidgeRest Solar to 31", so it fits into my backpack's sleeping pad pocket. The Solar has an R value of 3.5 and my cut down weighs 7.0 oz. I will place a regular-size NeoAir on top of that, so although this system weighs a few ounces more, I think it gives me a better safety margin. Final specs then are R value 3.5 + 2.5 = 6.0 with a weight of 7.0 + 14 oz = 21 oz, a weight savings of 6 oz from the Downmat 7. Now I just have to make sure that the rest of my gear fits into the pack because the sleeping pad is a bit thicker than before.

  15. I use a BA insulated aircore with a z-rest down to 0*F. I haven't felt any sense of coldness beneath me.

    I have read posts on VFTT that suggest placing the CCF pad on top of the inflatable pad makes for a warmer set-up but I am not sure I am buying the idea that the order matters (yet) since the total R value is unchanged.

  16. I'm not suggesting any particular pad or combination of pads but it may be worth knowing that Richard Nisley (who operates a lab that does insulation measurements on clothing and backpacking gear and also does a lot of cold weather camping) suggests that pad(s) providing R5 is sufficient for the average male on snow or frozen soil.

  17. The snow surface is at 0ºC (32ºF) because it melts at that temp, and there is lots more snow under it ready to melt. It gets up to that temperature because it is a good insulator, so your body heat is trapped near the surface.

    I've used a blue foam pad and a Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus with my Crazy Creek chair as a torso pad between them. I could tell when I was off the torso pad.

    I find the Crazy Creek really handy for sitting on snow. Much warmer than just plopping down.

  18. Philip, I've got nothing uniquely useful to say about sleeping pads, but I love your pic of Arrow Slide. It looks great picked out in early season snow.

    I'm also interested that you carry a Chaos in winter. I really like Cold Cold World packs. I've got a now-ancient Chernobyl. New Hampshire made — and bomber.

  19. I think that picture was from last year when NatureGirl and I climbed South Hancock. I took that photo on the descent.

    The CCW packs are great. I am eying a smaller one for ice climbing, but I have no complaints about the Chaos. I even got a special one made for me in red, instead of the normal blue. It is unique. Of course, you need to pack light for winter to get away with its smaller volume, but my winter pack is now hovering in the 28-29lb range with all my toys included, from water bottles to snowshoes and crampons. I hope we have a good winter season this year.

  20. You might want to check out the POE SL-Basic paired with another pad, such as a NeoAir. It's only about $25.

  21. Phil,

    Please buy one of the aerogel pads from POE. I would love to get some feedback from someone I trust.

  22. I can't find any to buy. I've given up on POE.

  23. Breaking News!! I just bought a new down pad from KookaBay.com. I got the 18.2 oz, R-value 6 model. The $159 includes shipping. Bender, the owner, does not have a web page up for these products, so email him at [email protected] for more info. He takes paypal.

    72x20x2.5" R6 Goose Down 18.2 oz $159

    72x20x2.5" R4 Synthetic 16.7 oz $145

    72x20x3.5" R6 Goose Down 18.5 oz $159

    72x20x3.5" R4 Synthetic 17oz $145

    In addition, you need to buy an air pump to inflate the down pad (blowing moist breath in degrades the insulation value), so you also need to buy a 1.5 oz Big Agnes Pumphouse<img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=ultrarevie-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001AZ5CKW&quot; width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" /> which doubles as a dry bag.

  24. Does this mean we'll get a new gear review soon? :)

  25. Of course! Probably in mid December. I have a couple of winter trips planned to the whites at the beginning of the month.

  26. Some where at BPL, there are directions that the owner of kookabay listed on how to make a pad of you own.

    Using a rubber-like material and a replacement valve from thermarest all you need is an iron. I made one and it works, but has no fill. It would not be much more of a challenge to stuff down into the channels. Running the tip of the iron over the material melts it together forming the seams.

  27. I think this is what I used from Seattle Fabrics,heat sealable 30 denier nylon ripstop

    There is a 3 page thread at BPL entitled "anyone use a kookabay sleeping pad?" started 1/11/2010. "Bender" the owner of kookabay does answer in it.

  28. Have any of you tried out Stephensons Down Mat. It claims to be very warm and coming in at only 23 oz seems very promising. I m planning to buy it. any useful feedback. Do you think I would need to use it along with a pad ?

  29. I ended up getting the KookaBay DAM, but it was a toss up between it and the Stephenson (in the end they seemed a little odd to deal with, though very responsive). I think you'd want to bring a pad along to sit on in winter (I'm assuming that's when you're going) to melt snow and cook, and as a backup in case the DAM breaks – oh that's funny! My Exped 7 started to leak a month ago and believe it or not, the down fill will still provide some insulation if you lie on it and the mat is not inflated.

  30. Looks like the Neo-air all weather pad, just out this summer of 2011, might be a good choice.

  31. Possibly, although I a Exped down mat, size M is only 3 ounces heavier and a lot more comfortable. I've been using a regular NeoAir for almost 2 years and I still can't say that I love the comfort.

  32. Going with a logical approach to the subject – having only experience down to single digits (F); I would think a z-rest and neoair 4-season would be the best combo due to function, however heavier at full length for both. Reason being is the z-rest allows for micro pockets of air between the pads and as I recall the neo-air 4-season has a respectable R value itself. So, the question is, can the length be modified to accommodate the weight goal? Personally, I use a large (yellow 25″ wide) neoair cut down to 54″ long with a full length 1/2″ thick plastezote pad from Suluk46. I’m 6-2 and 200lbs, my calves and feet hang off the neoair but are insulated from the ground by the foam pad. I compensate for any heat loss differential on my feet by carrying two boot liners which I rotate. I like this for long trips because the few degree difference on by lower legs acts therapeutically to reduce soarness from hiking long days. My combo weighs 13 ozs for the neoair and around 5ozs for the plastezote pad. I look forward to an update on the subject.

  33. Lambomba, How do you “cut down” the NeoAir? I have the XL Version, but I don’t need the extra length. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anywhere one can buy a wide, but shorter, air pad.


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