I want to thank all of you for visiting this site and for all the consistent stream of positive comments. The thing I hear most often from readers is that they appreciate my honesty. Well, good or bad, I don’t know any other way to do it folks. I created this site because I had a hard time finding good information on the internet from knowledgeable, trustworthy sources. I wanted to create a place where hardcore outdoorsmen, like me, could get the straight scoop on great gear. No hype. No spin. No B.S. I promise independent and objective but opinionated evaluations and recommendations based on my judgment and experience. According to you, we deliver. Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.
So what about all those advertisements and endorsements that are constantly paraded in front of us? Do they mean anything? No, not usually. The fact that some good ole boy with a cheesy cable TV show wears a certain brand of clothing or hangs a particular kind of binoculars around his neck simply means that he was told to use them, paid to use them or got them for free as long as they show up on camera. It is just staged and contrived product placement and hopefully it means as little to you as it does to me. Don’t get distracted by it and don’t let it influence your decisions about what to buy and use because it just encourages the practice. Besides, most of these guys would soil their tidy whiteys if they ever really had to pull an overnight bivy out where it is cold, dark and high. I have seen too many of these home video pseudo-celebrities that didn’t know what a ground pad was for or how to keep themselves dry so why do we care what camo they use. I don’t and neither should you. Oh my, was that a swipe at the establishment? You bet it was and a poke in the eye too.
Nobody tells us what to pick. We promote gear that we like, gear that we use and gear that we believe represents best-in-class regardless of cost. Period. That philosophy doesn’t get me invited to many Christmas parties but so what, I ain’t running for prom queen. You can bank on this. I will not sell out. I will always shoot straight with you. You will always get my honest opinion.
End of rant.
Speaking of sleeping pads. Even the posers have watched enough TV to know that you just can’t plop down on the ground and go to sleep. You gots to have a lil’ sum’n sum’n between you and motha’ erf. Hey, it’s not about keeping your sleeping bag clean or giving you something soft to lay on, although those are nice side benefits. It is about minimizing heat loss by conduction and keeping your sorry ass warm.
Ever watch Les Stroud on Survivorman? He’s the guy that goes out there for real and spends a week in the bush schlepping around 60 pounds of camera gear. No camera man, no support crew. Just Les, his harmonica and a knife. One of the first things he does when he sets up his bivy camp is find something he can use to separate himself from the ground. Cut vegetation, his backpack, foam from car seats, extra clothes or whatever else he can find. Anything to insulate himself from the ground. Why? Because sleeping on the ground sucks. Literally. Even with a sleeping bag. The ground will suck the warmth right out of you.
The mountain men used campfire coals or heated rocks covered with green boughs. Cowboys use their horse blankets (that’s why they use two). The military uses closed cell Ensolite foam. Mountaineers and backpackers use self-inflating mattresses. Regardless of your favorite technique, it is a critical piece of gear that no self-respecting outdoorsman worth his salt would be without but you already know that. The question is which one is the best. The market offers you everything from old school to new fangled. I have been using Therm-a-Rest products for many years and I still think that they achieve the best balance of weight, thermal efficiency, comfort and durability.
My personal collection of Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads ranges from the handy little Trail Seat to the full size and fat Camp Rest. The two dark orange or reddish brown mats were put in service in 1993 and have seen a lot of use. No leaks. No malfunctions. No problems.
I always used their closed cell RidgeRest for rescue work because it can be cut and shaped for patient packaging purposes and the chicken wire that lined our litters had lots of little sharp points. For personal use however, I have always liked the self-inflaters despite the “danger” of a mid trip puncture. The truth is that none of my mattresses has ever leaked. In fact, my old reddish brown mats were put in service in the early 90s and they have seen a lot of hard use. They are a little heavier than the new models but they still hold air and I still use them. I don’t even carry the patch kits anymore if that tells you anything.
Like all those spam emails tell you guys, size matters. You can’t get around the physics. Thicker is better but it comes with a weight penalty. Choose the size and thickness that works for your mission but no matter which model you pick, I can assure you that it is made to last.
Now, normal, more reasonable people, like my wife, might wonder why one person would need more than one of these pads. Even my colleagues wonder why I have seven of them. Well, I will tell you what I told her and maybe you will understand. She did not. Anyway. #1 is the Camp Rest which is the biggest and thickest model I own but they make thicker more luxurious ones now. It is made for use in the back of a truck or on a cot in camp and it makes for a pretty good nights sleep. #2 is the Original Full length model made for carrying on the outside of a pack. It gives me head to toe protection for cold weather and snow in a light weight package. #3 is the Original 3/4 length model which is the same as #2 only shorter. I used it for everything other than cold weather and snow. I got it because it is lighter than the full length model. #4 is the Ultra Lite which is the same length, thickness and thermal efficiency as #3 but lighter. #5 is the new Pro Lite 3 (for three season) which is pre
tty much the same as # 4 but with a few cosmetic differences. I had to buy it because I forgot #4 on one of my trips and there was no way I was going into the field without a ground pad. #6 is the new Pro Lite 4 (for four season) which is the same as #5 but a little thicker for colder weather and I bought it because…I am a professional gear tester damn it and I just wanted it that’s why. #7 is the Trail Seat. In my never ending quest to find the “litest and rightest” combination of gear, I thought that the Trail seat would be a lighter alternative to my Wiggys pillow which I use for a pad to sit on while I am glassing and as pillow to sleep on at night. As it turns out, the Trail Seat makes a terrible pillow, isn’t all that comfy to sit on for hours at a time and isn’t really that much lighter than the Wiggys pillow. Additionally, the Wiggys pillow works great for splinting and patient packaging. The upside to this purchase was that my wife loves the Trail Seat for sitting on bleachers which with three increasingly athletic kids, she does a lot of. See, a win win and everybody is happy.
OK, go ahead and read that paragraph again. In fact, you might want to diagram it out on a scrap of paper or a cocktail napkin. I’ll wait.
Now, I know my readers pretty well and I can anticipate what they are going to say in their comments before they even send them so let me save you the time and address the issue first. Why use the short pads? Simple. Weight. Full length mats are heavier than the short ones. Look, I bivy most of the time right? Which means I sleep with all of my clothes and my boots on. The short mats protect my head, torso, butt, hips and thighs. I put my empty pack under my knees, calves and feet. I get head to toe insulation from the ground with a weight savings. Pretty slick, huh? Another savings afforded to me by the short pads is space. Short pads are folded lengthwise down the middle and then rolled which allows me to carry them inside of my pack instead of strapped to the outside like you have to do with the full length models. I like it better that way and neatness counts for style points.
The point is that a ground pad is critically important and can serve a number of other uses like shade or as a flotation device. Going without one is a rookie mistake. And don’t chince out on this item either. Spend the money and buy the tried and true name brand. If you don’t, trust me, you are gonna be cold.
Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.
Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.