Pad or air mattress?

Need to buy a pad to sleep on. I have used a self inflating backpacking style pad on bicycle trips. It worked but wasn’t overly comfortable.

I was just thinking about this last night and realized that weight is not as critical in kayak as backpacking so I could consider something else even if it was heavier. Like an air mattress and a pump. So what are you using and why?

Can’t help you out on this one

– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 9:37 AM EST –

I tough it out and sleep on the ground which is sometimes rough and rocky due to space limitations but I like it that way. Brings back lots of memories and really puts me in with nature.

Where, what temperature?
Air mattress is more comfortable and the old military ones are great. They give you 4 inches of space before you feel the ground. The problem is they have no insulation past the air space.

Therma rest type affairs insulate well but only give you 1 or perhaps 1.5 inches before the rocks change your shape. I have no idea where you live but those are the considerations.

The Old Canadian army air mattresses have a big bladder built in to inflate them, they are fast and easy to blow up but they are kind of expensive even used. Well about the same as a Therma rest.

You will be happy with either and a space blanket under the Air Mattress will sort the cold problem but it is something else to forget, like say an inflator pump for some mattresses.


Thermarest, self inflating mattress.
Comfortable, insulates you from the cold earth and makes sleeping on a gravel bar in the Ozarks, or solid rock in the BWCA enjoyable. I don’t know what kind of self inflating pad you used on a bicycle trip, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about a thermarest being uncomfortable. Mine is only 1 1/2" thick but thicker (bulkier) are available.

Big Agnes pads
Big Agnes makes some inflatable pads that are a bit thicker, I think 2-1/2". Comfy and packable.

I’d be dubious of getting a real air mattress inside a hatch and having much room to spare.

And a 3/4 length these days. Due to the dimensions of what I can get thru the 10" round hatches on the Explorer LV when it is otherwise full of camping gear.

I find a long and thick object is not a great idea. I could pack more casually in my Squall.


– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 10:51 AM EST –

superlight 3/4 length 1 1/2" thermarest that rolls down to 4"x11" plus folding z-lite.

it's kind of an awkward combo in the tent if they aren't secured together but it ensures that the inflateable mattess ONLY gets used in a tent and over the pad.

That leaves the foldable pad available for use OUTSIDE the tent, just toss it on the ground and take a nap or fold it in have and lead against a rock. It's nice having something that can never lose air or worry about where you put it on the ground.

I found I didn't need anything thicker than 2 1/2" for extreme comfort. With the long z-lite folded over two folds for head/shoulders plus the small prolite4 it's pretty comfy. I wish they made a 25"x47"x1.5" mattress because I like the width for turning over but don't need a thick mattress at my feet.

Why not both?
I use an Exped air mattress under my BigAgness with it’s self inflating pad. Very comfy and never cold (20 degree wx) Both easily fit in my Explorer.

option three
a cot. More comfortable than either. That includes a self inflating pad. You will need an extra soemthing for the bottom when it’s cold, but for comfort it can’t be beat.


– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 1:20 PM EST –

My most recent river trip was this past friday & saturday.
I forgot my Thermarest(first time ever) due to procrastination & hurried packing of gear.
That will most definitely NOT! happen again in the forseeable future!

Recently purchased a palatial base camp tent, and cots(seldom get used but much appreciated when they are) for myself & wife. Use our Thermarests on top of the cots. Wonderful!
Having everything necessary for coffee making close at hand & having that first cup while still in a sleeping bag wasn't too shabby either.

While there are certainly good things about roughing it/traveling light; there are most certainly benefits of traveling in style & comfort.

The older I get, the finer the line is between roughing it & suffering needlessly.


I bought a thick REI pad on sale and
am very happy. I canoe camp so the weight or size doesn’t make much difference and it sure is more comfortable than my light weight Thermarest. I don’t think you can go wrong by buying any of the name brand base camp models. They are bulky though and might cause a space problem with a kayak.

in praise of cots
same here, my girls went on a camping trip on asateague, before they got licenses, and I carried all the heavy stuff in my kayak. This time I took a cot.

Same here
I bought a 3" thick REI mattress at their spring sale last year, and it’s extremely comfortable for tent camping.

air mattress
I have a similar issue. My problem is not weight but space, since I don’t have a lot of room in my kayak. I’ve discovered that a single inflatable mattress weighs a lot more than a thermarest, but packs into a smaller volume, so I switched to that. No complaints so far, and it’s very comfortable ($15 for the air mattress at REI)

If you’ve got the space in your yak
Go for it. It would suck, though, if your power inflator got wet and stopped working, or battery died. Try the thermarest “Camp and Comfort” series. Try one thermarest on top of the other.

insulated air pad
I just got a Big Agnes dual-core pad. It is a HUGE improvement over my old thermarest. It has some insulation, which is important–their air-core mattresses can get cold, I understand. Exped makes a similar mattress with down insulation that is supposedly even warmer. My Big Agnes is 20" by 72", and 2.5" thick. It packs down quite small, as small, I think, as my old thermarest. Only real disadvantage is the increased difficulty of inflation, a very small price to pay for such an improvement in comfort. I strongly recommend one of these type pads, they are the wave of the future for backpacking pads.

huge improvement over thermarest
I agree. That was one of the best gear additions I made last season.

Kinda hard
to get in the hatch though I’ll bet :slight_smile:

Camper On Board

– Last Updated: Jan-09-08 6:22 PM EST –

When camping on mountain tops, I felt the self inflatable pad was very comfortable if you put the right amount of air in it. Every likes a different hardness or softness to their pad. My pad can also be converted into a chair w/the chair kit, so it serves double duty.

Of course one of those full blown up mattresses would be more comfortable for many reasons and I have used one when car camping in state parks when I got my dog. I have a bigger tent to accommodate the bigger mattress and a smaller tent for high elevation hiking and camping.

On a side note, my self inflatable pad has never failed me, where the full blow up mattress has left my butt on the ground by the morning many times. I think they tend to have slow leaks.


Appreciate the input. Will try to answer a few questions.

COT is out of the question. This is a low to medium volume boat and it ain’t gonna fit in the the hatch.

PUMP I was thinking hand or foot powered pump. Don’t want batteries that go dead. Try to avoid those where possible. Plus water getting in it. No thanks. Wife picked up a small cheap hand pump for pool toys, I was thinking something like that.

TEMPS Mostly warmer weather. Don’t expect to be out in really cold below freezing weather. But with our crazy weather could happen. During the summer time an air mattress would work. But early spring and fall probably not a good choice.