BackPacker Magazine Gear Finder
See Products: Search & Rescue (SAR), Personal 2-way radio, Binoculars, Digital Cameras,
Eating and Cooking Utensils, Camp stoves - Alcohol Stoves (soda can stove),
Sleeping Bags, Packs, Tents, Pads, Poles, Personal Locator Beacons
Guides in recreation: Boots | Backpack selection, size, features
Gadgets Fabric and Leather Protectants - waterproofing
Outdoor Stores / Web Shopping
Reviews:
Reviews | OutdoorGearLab
Gear Reviews | Backpacker Magazine
Outdoor Gear Reviews | Trailspace
Hiking Poles:
See: Top Picks for Walking Sticks or Hiking Staffs at walking.about.com I like poles with knob on top which unscrews, so you can mount a scope or camera. I built an adapter so I can hook two together to make a long pole for rigging lines in trees.

Folstaf fly fishing wading staf folds to 9 in weighs 14 oz $130
LEKI Sierra Antishock Trekking Pole
Tracks Compact Travel Staff, Trekking Poles & Walking Staffs | Campmor

Back country ski poles can double as hiking poles: Telemark Pole Review Some also double as an avalanche probe:
Black Diamond Carbon Probe Ski Pole from Backcountry.com
LEKI National Geographic Meridian Poles (avalanche, camera mono-pod)

See: Telemark Pole Review
Hiking Poles &Amp;Walking Sticks at backpacking.net


Sleeping Pads:
Product type Dimensions packed weight R-value price
Therm-a-Rest Neo Air All Season air mattress 72 x 20 x 2.5 9 x 4.3 1 lbs. 4 oz 4.9 $140
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm air mattress 72 x 20 x 2.5 15 oz 5.7 $180
Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp Sleeping Pad self-inflating air/foam 72 x 20 x 2 4.8 x 21 2 lbs. 9 oz 5 $70
Therm-A-Rest Backpacker Plus self-inflating air/foam 72 x 20 x 1.5 5 x 21 2 lbs 4 oz 3.5 $60
REI Camp Bed 3.5 Self-Inflating Pad self-inflating air/foam 72 x 25 x 3.5 6.25 x 26 5 lbs 7 $100
Big Agnes Air Core Pad - 3/4-Length air 48x20x2.5 3.5 x 7 16 oz 1 $45
Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad - Regular air 72x20x2.5 4 x 8 in 22 oz 1 $50
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Sleeping Pad - Regular air 72x20x2.5 4 x 9 14 oz 2.5 $150
Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad closed-cell foam † 72x20x0.75 20 x 5.5 x 5 2.2 $35
Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite Sleeping Pad closed-cell foam 51x20x0.75 20 x 5.5 x 4 10 oz 2.2 $30
Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest Sleeping Pad closed-cell foam 72x20x0.625 7.5 x 20 14 oz 2.6 $25
NightLight™ Sleeping Pad closed-cell foam 29x19x0.75 3.7 oz 2.6 $25
Egg Crate Mattress Pad * open-cell-foam 72x20x1.75 5.5 x 20 $18
Memory foam mattress topper open-cell-foam 72x32x1.25 $40
Gel Foam Mattress Topper open-cell-foam 72x34x2 $19
Therm-a-Rest Camp Seat self-inflating air/foam 16x16x3 16x3 12 $30
Types of Foam:
† Ensolite is a particular brand of closed-cell foam and sometimes used generically to mean closed-cell.

EVA - Ethylene vinyl acetate - Closed-cell foam, popularly known as expanded rubber or foam rubber.
Polyethylene foam is a strong and resilient closed-cell foam.
Polyurethane can be closed or open-cell.
Closed-cell, has a superior effective R-value of over 6.0 per inch.
Closed cell offers an R-value of over 6.0 per inch and open cell offers between 3.0 and 3.9 per inch. Closed cell foam is virtually impermeable to air, while open cell foam allows far more air and vapor into the building interior.


The Therm-A-Rest NeoAir series improves air mattress performance with multiple horizontal baffles in two sections with the top separated from the bottom by a silver urethane that reflects your body heat back to you, keeping you warmer. The small horizontal triangular chambers trap air and prevent it from circulating so there is a lot less collapsing of the mattress as you shift your weight also.

* The first sleeping pad I got around 1970 was egg crate open-cell foam the standard of the day for backpackers. Open-cell is a lighter more fragile foam, that's comparable to a sponge. Because open air cells can squish further, they feel softer and have more "cushion", but as a result have to be either larger or heavier to compensate. They can also absorb moisture. I had the taylor at the Sierra Designs store in Berkeley make me a cover with water resistant nylon on the bottom and less slippery cotton on the top.
A review for hospital mattress topers says "The bumps and dips of the offer breathability, shock resistance, good support and reduction of pressure points, bed sores and heating during sleep."

The only open-cell foam pad I found was the Dual Foam Camp Mat, but 1.25 in it is not enough padding to be comfortable. You can get a 1.5" full size foam mattress topper from Bed Bath & Beyond ($25) and cut it in half to make two pads.

Air mattresses were the standard for car campers.

Backpacking air mattresses are light and provide more cushioning, however they are subject to leaks and are poor insulators. However they are becoming more popular because of their compactness and new models add some insulation.

The preferred pad today is the self-inflating air/foam, a combination open cell foam enclosed in an air-tight cover, you roll it up compressing the air out of the foam for carrying and open a valve to let air in to inflate it for sleeping.
You usually have to blow some more air in to get it completely inflated.

Comments at BackpackingLight.com Forums
Self-inflating or pump inflated mats will accumulate moisture if you are in any sort of humidity and subject to dew point temperature drops. Pumps will lessen the problem, but not eliminate it.

In one 5 night Grand Canyon trip this past February, filling my Exped UL7 with a pump, I condensed enough moisture to watch it puddle on the inside when held vertically.

Several methods of removing moisture were listed at the above forum. Most involve getting warm dry air in to absorbe the moisture.

The problem with inflatables is they are subject to punctures and pure air mattresses are cold.
Closed cell foam (ensolite, blue foam) are better insulators but not as comfortable.

For expeditions that involve camping on snow or glaciers, a combination of "blue foam" (the closed cell foam) and an inflatable. That way we get the advantage of the softer inflatable, which is on top of the closed cell foam that provides the automatic backup if the inflatable develops a leak (a flat inflatable is really cold and really miserable on the rocks and sticks under the ground cloth).

Forum comment on Air vs Foam: "The real question should be "which will keep you more comfortable" on the ground (warmth being only part of the equation). I'd go for foam personally. I find pure air mattresses to be annoying because of the way they feel under me, too bouncy. A 3" thick foam pad will keep you very warm and will feel like a real bed. It may even be warmer, I don't know. The air mattress has no conductive material inside it, except air (which will initially sap your heat). The foam pad has almost as much air plus a support system of foam that not only insulates you from the ground but holds your heat close to your body.

Note: The new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir pads have two sets of tubes one on top and one on the bottom to give an R factor of 5-5.7.

The Nov. 2011 Backpacker Magazine gave the Therm-a-Rest Neo Air All Season their Editor's choice hall of fame award.
OutdoorGearLab gave the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm their editors choice rating.

Inflation pumps for air mattresses:
The Microburst inflator is battery powered 1.5 x 2 x 2.75 in 2.3 oz (1.5 x 2 x 2.75 in) $30-40 + batteries (3 AAA lithium)
  Silicone compound nozzle fits over the valve of most air mattresses.

Thermarest NeoAir Pump Sack

The Exped Schnozzel Pumpbag $30 works like a bellows

Do it yourself inflation bag using a garbage bag.

See:
Men's Sleeping Pad Reviews - OutdoorGearLab
"sleeping pad" | The Equipment Shop at American Alpine Institute
How to Choose a Sleeping Pad: Expert Advice from REI
Sleeping Pads Guide... How To Pick The Best Sleep Pad For You.
Sleeping pad - Self-inflatable vs. standard foam cell - Trailspace.com
Backpacking Sleeping Pads - The Secret to a Restful Night on the Trail
How to Select a Sleeping Mat - Wenzel

Terms:
blue foam - Closed-cell foam
Ensolite - Trade name for a kind of closed-cell foam.
EVA - Ethylene vinyl acetate - Closed-cell foam popularly known as expanded rubber or foam rubber.
PVA - polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) copolymers based on vinyl acetate (VAM) (EVA emulsions)

Other:
Water Containers | Water bottles | Hydration systems
Water Filters and other water purification
Backpack selection, size, features here
Tents
GPS
Backpack lighters (wind proof)

Stores/Mail Order
See Outdoor Products (REI, Campmor, EMS).

last updated 16 July 2014