For years my major problem with camping has been sleeping. I am always cold and uncomfortable. My body awakens multiple times during the night, frantically shaking or shocked from being locked in a mummy bag. I finally decided enough is enough! I want to sleep outside comfortably! I want to be able to backpack and still sleep comfortably! So, I've been doing some research because quite frankly there are so many options out there one can get completely lost in cost vs. comfort. I am on a very tight budget so I need to know that I am getting the right product for my need. Additionally, I want my husband to be comfortable too so I have to times whatever I buy by at least 2.
I asked a survivalist friend of mine and he said: When worse come to worse you need to be at least four inches off the ground to insulate your body from the cold (that certainly helped to explain why I was so cold at night all weekend). Then he went on to explain his system which was a series of different bags, mats and a hammock for when the weather was good. I have to say I was still a little bewildered, at least now I understood that step one was a good bag and two was a decent pad.
I finally have a good sleeping bag that I like so my focus here will be on the sleep systems that surround your sleeping bag. That being said my first thing I needed to research was what type of "mattress" systems are out there and what would I personally enjoy? I found an interesting article at backcountry.com This article explains the sleeping systems and lists pros and cons for each. I will only comment on the details that are important to me so if you have additional questions feel free to visit their website.
The first item they talked about was a cot. When I envision cots, I think of nap time in kinder garden but that's just me. Really though, cots have really come a long way and can be quite comfortable. They are easy to set up and keep you off the ground. The problem for me is I only want to spend money once and my focus is on going backpacking for my next survival meeting. There is no way I am going to backpack a cot out into the woods and cots don't keep you insulated from the elements.
The second thing they talked about was an airbed. Personally I can't stand air mattresses and the really good ones cost a small fortune. True they are bed like and come in a range of sizes but they are heavy and require a lot of inflation. Plus, I always find myself sleeping on top of my husband in the morning because they can have slow leaks and are too bouncy.
The next thing backcountry.com listed was pads. My interest was perked here because this is what I had been looking into for a while now. they are packable, durable and provide a moderate amount of cushioning. Unfortunately they too can puncture and get slow leaks.
After that Foam pads were discussed. My interest was also peaked here. Foam pads are often less expensive than air pads. They provide good insulation. They are lightweight enough to backpack and they are puncture proof. On the flip side, they are bulkier than the air pads and their cushioning is very minimal.
The final thing they talked about was hammocks. Don't get me wrong, I like hammocks as a place to lounge in the shade of a tree but sleeping in one? I wasn't convinced. It's true they do keep you off the ground. Hammocks are cool when it is hot and very easy to pack but when it's cold there is no insulation. You have to sleep in a weird position and it's really weird when you try to sleep two people in one hammock. So, I decided the hammock wasn't for me.
To make my decision, I needed some more opinions so I started to look at reviews of different products. The review I found at backpacker.com really solidified my decision to buy an air pad rather than a foam pad. This article discusses the Therm-a-rest Neoair Sleeping Pad (pictured in Pad section above) in detail and gives testament from other contributors as well. I chose it because it's users rave about how it's micro thin layer of aluminum reflects your heat and almost keeps you almost too warm. Plus, it's horizontal network of internal baffles makes it more like a mattress and less bouncy. It's true that my husband and I will both have to have our own mattress but at least we will be sleeping like babies (I hope). The price range on these are $120-$170 depending on the size you buy. I think it was a smart choice but I will follow up and let you know.
If you have any additional comments on the ideal sleeping system be sure to comment below. I would love any and all advice.