Sleeping Gear

Since I started with the sleeping bag, I thought I’d continue in that vein.  This post may be an ode to my love of all things Therm-a-Rest.  Cascade Designs makes great stuff, and I’ve tried many of their products.  I’ve got a few other sleep related odds and ends that I love, too.

Last year to keep my beloved down bag clean and well preserved, a friend recommended I use a liner.  I kind of disregarded her suggestion, since I’ve had bad luck with liners.  I have the same problem as I do with bags: fit.  The liner I had before was too small around my butt, and hard to get in and out of.  By the time I wiggled into the liner and the bag and zipped up, I felt like I’d run a marathon.  Getting out was a whole ‘nother battle, and woe unto me if I waited until I really had to pee.

Still, it stuck in my mind that I didn’t want to wash my bag too often, and a liner is a good idea.  I thought about making one, but I hate to sew.  Any excuse to go to REI is a good one, and I needed a new flashlight for my keychain and some socks (Smartwool, yum!)  REI now carries bag liners that are stretchy, knitted fabric!  I’ve only used it once, but it was great.  Not too hard to get in and out of, it moved with me, and I didn’t feel restricted.  Perfect!  I think it’s the REI brand.

If you read the sleeping bag post, you may know that I have thermal problems.  I forgot to mention that I get into the bag, get warm, fall asleep, and wake up sweating and fighting for dear life to get out of the bag.  It’s less of a problem with the current bag, since it’s not as restrictive and breathes better.  I don’t get claustrophobia from it like I do with others.  The stretchy liner helps with this, too, since I can move in it.  I look forward to trying it for warm weather camping.  I might do without it for backpacking, or at least leave the bag it comes in behind and just tie a ribbon around it.

Pillows!  Old time campers will tell you to bring a bag or pillowcase and stuff your clothes in for a pillow.  Do you like to wake up in the morning and put on clothing damp with condensation from your breathing?  Do you ever drool in your sleep?  (I know, ew, TMI, right?  Well, it happens.)  No?  Me neither.  I tried this on my first backpacking trip, and wore soggy jeans in the morning.  Not ever going to happen again.  Yes, I know, you’re not supposed to wear jeans…that’s a rant for another day.

For car camping, I take my Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow.  It packs reasonably small (much smaller than a normal pillow), weighs not much, and turns into a perfectly adequate pillow.  I like it so much I gave a pair to friends as a wedding gift.  For backpacking, I have one of those tiny down pillows.  I bunch a jacket up under it, and it’s pretty good.

Sleeping pads.  I think I’ve tried everything.  When I was a kid I used one of those crummy close-celled foam jobs.  It insulated fine, but didn’t provide any cushion and was bulky.  I liked sleeping on the ground without it better.  In my 20s I camped as much as 24 weekends a year for a few years, and my solution was a piece of egg crate foam cut to the size of my tent floor and covered with two sheets sewn together.  It worked pretty well, and as the years dragged by I folded it double.

At some point I tried Therm-a-Rest’s Z Lite.  Same idea as the close-celled foam, but with an egg crate pattern.  Didn’t like it.  Lightweight, but no cushioning, and on a hot night I stuck to it.  Ick!  It might be good for the ultra light backpacking crowd, but that’s really not me.

I hate air mattresses.  I’ve never owned one, but I’ve slept on other people’s.  Ever slept on an air mattress in a truck bed on a chilly night?  Don’t.  They conduct the cold up from the metal really well.  When your partner gets up, you’ll hit the floor suddenly.  Forget it.

When I met my husband, he had this amazing thing he let me borrow: a self-inflating foam pad from Therm-a-rest.  I fell in love with it!  Well, ok, and with him, too.  I don’t just love him for his gear.  Wait, that sounded bad.  Oh, well.  After a while I bought new pads for both of us from Dom’s in Livermore.  We got the BaseCamp pads, which were the cushy ones at the time.  He got a big one, and I got a standard size.  They were great, and I got a Universal Couple Kit to keep them together.  The coupler is the only thing I’ve ever bought from Therm-a-Rest that sucked.  Fortunately it was cheap, and I eventually upgraded to the Down Coupler, which is warm and squishy, packs small, and is lovely.  For camping alone I got a sheet for the pad, which felt good on warm nights and was easy to wash.

For backpacking I use the ProLite Women’s Plus.  It weighs 1lb 4oz and gives me just enough cushion to keep me comfy.

In 2013 I used our first trip to Burning Man as an excuse to buy cushy covers for the pads with memory foam.  We ended up going with cots for the burn, but I love the covers.  It looks like they aren’t made any more.

Last, but not least, is my beloved Tech Blanket by (you guessed it!) Therm-a-Rest.  If it’s hot I use it instead of the sleeping bag.  If it’s cold, I tuck it around my shoulders.  It’s perfect for a nap in the afternoon.

Links to the good stuff:


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