Self-inflating mattress or Foldout Pad

hikers' bed rollsBed-rolls for campers, hikers, and backpackers

Most hikers on an extended hike will carry either a self-inflating mattress, or some type of non-inflatable pad. The pictures show a purple mattress (not inflated) and a yellowish foldout pad. Either item goes under your sleeping bag.

If you are looking only for comfort, the self-inflating mattress (this one from Therm-a-rest) is the way to go—hands down. But there are advantages to the pad, and this Z-lite pad (also made by Therm-a-rest) is very popular.

I’ve settled on the non-inflatable pad, and here’s why.

Light weight–Pads weigh less than inflatable mattresses; this pad weighs less than a pound.

Indestructible–No worries about puncturing it, or wrecking the valve.

Convenience–Shake it loose and it’s ready to go. When I take a meal, especially in wet or rocky areas, it’s the first thing I grab to sit on.

Pack Support–As more hikers go ultralight with frameless rucksacks, this pad provides pack support.

I admit that I miss the cushy comfort of an inflatable mattress when I sleep. For convenience, however, especially on breaks, when you want to smother ants and insects with something other than your pants, when you want to rest and air out your socks and footwear, nothing beats the pad. So why not carry both? Well, one day I may.

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

6 thoughts on “Self-inflating mattress or Foldout Pad

  1. One thing you didn’t mention was that inflated mattress don’t help with body heat during those cooler camping times. We take a moment to explain that ‘rolled out’ pads as we call them are MUCH better for this 4 season comfort purpose compared to the air mattress one maybe two season comfort and loads cheaper to buy….*smiles

  2. I was a big fan of a roll up foam matress for years and years but eventually bought a self inflatable matress and have to say I haven’t looked back. I’ve the lighweight version and I don’t find it too much heavier than a foam mat and the shape is more convenient to pack than a foam matress. Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age…

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