Baffle orientation in inflatable pads

I’ve gotten the bug for an inflatable sleeping pad here and tried the Nemo Cosmo/Astro (horizontal baffles) and Exped Synmat (vertical baffles) pads for a couple of minutes at REI. I’m a side sleeper and read that makes vertical baffles less ideal, I guess because you’re somehow getting stuck in the grooves…not sure if I felt that there at the store but I wasn’t sleeping either!

What are your impressions and opinions about side sleeping on various baffle patterns?

Finally, REI now also sells an Exped SynCell 5 inflatable pad in a diagonal criss-cross pattern. They didn’t have a display model, but they had it on the shelves and it’s on the REI (but not Exped) website. Moving away from vertical baffles?


– Last Updated: Nov-20-14 11:22 AM EST –

I'm not a side sleeper exclusively but do spend quite a bit of time in that position. I normally sleep on a huge Aire Landing Pad but recently accepted an invitation to accompany my best friend on an overnight BP trip. The Landing Pad wasn't an option of course so he lent me a Klymit Static V and I was impressed. I was REALLY impressed when I Googled it the following Monday and saw the price. My response doesn't specifically address the question you asked but I think will prove useful to you nonetheless.

p.s. I also discovered they've come out with an insulated version at an equally attractive price.

Another option
I’m a side sleeper and I have spent at least 25-30 comfortable nights on the REI Incamp pad. It has a higher R value than my Thermarest and it packs down about the same size as the Thermarest.


– Last Updated: Nov-22-14 5:44 AM EST –

I wish I could sleep on my back, but I can't. I've never experienced problems with vertical baffles, but the Exped Downmat is the comfiest I've found. And Exped sticks behind their products; I've experienced that first hand. I WOULD suggest getting a wider pad than the 20" standard pads. Us side sleepers DO need a wider pad or you'll be constantly coming off the pad unless your a small person.

Neo Air

– Last Updated: Nov-22-14 11:31 PM EST –

My favorite is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. The surface pattern is horizontal, but is relatively flat. The mattress has internal triangular baffles that make it very stable, unlike most air mattresses I have tried.

Only negatives for me is the color, (yellow for the Xlite, I'd prefer something more "stealthy"), it is somewhat noisy when you toss & turn, and it is expensive.

Although fabric appears fragile, I haven't suffered a puncture or issue in two years of use, but I treat it with care (only use inside a tent or on a groundsheet). To me, it's so comfortable, it's decadent. No issues with side-sleeping.

I have no association with Cascade Designs.

Greg Stamer

Except in the dead of winter I prefer the old Therm a Rest prolite pads.

I have several inflatable mats
for the last 4 years I have only used inflatable mats as the self-inflating foam ones did not offer enough cushioning if side sleeping. I do have a very thick self inflating one but it is way too bulky for any sort of camping, including car camping. I use it for guests in the house.

I am on my 3rd generation Neo-Air.

The very first one out (lime green) was great but it delaminated. I received a replacement under warranty. The second one did the same and so did the third one. The current one is the XLite and I also don’t like the pale yellow color: it kind of gets dirty very quickly. Fabric is very thin and I punctured several times already. I only use it for backpacking now.

I then purchased a Neo-Air Trekker: a bit heavier but the fabric is sturdier.

The difference (apart from the weight) is the finish on the fabric: slightly softer.

But the biggest difference in the noise, or lack of it.

There is almost no crinkly packet-of-chips noise with the Trekker, comparable to the original self-inflating Thermarest.

I also have Exped Down mat: several warranty claims there too. I find it too narrow but others that I lend it to like it.

And then there is the cheap Exped with vertical baffles. They are more like big sausages than real baffles. Not a fan of those.

Moral of the story: I find the Neo-Air the most comfortable and compact, easy to inflate.

I hang on onto my receipt for warranty claims, something that with the original self-inflating ones I only had to use once in 25 years of camping.