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Why standard rolled foam pad is bad?
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Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/28/2012 14:41:00 MDT Print View

Greetings my fellow backpackers!

I use a standard rolled foam pad. It weight 320 gram (11.29 oz) and its great. I saw several UL pads at about 450 gram so can't understand why my pad is bad. It's really cheap ($15 or so) and has reflective layer on bottom.

What do I miss here?


Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
Regarding packability on 05/28/2012 14:50:05 MDT Print View

I hang it on my pack either vertically or horizontally.
And the last thing. I hike in desert and warm climate.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Comfort on 05/28/2012 14:56:22 MDT Print View

Alot of people just can't get a good nights sleep on a closed-cell foam pad. Plain and simple.

Koen Derks
(Pantalaimon) - M

Locale: Netherlands/Norway
Your own way on 05/28/2012 15:12:20 MDT Print View

Just do whatever works best for you!
I can't sleep comfortable on anything <5 cm thickness so I envy you. I have to buy things like Synmat or Neoair/Xlite which are just silly thin plastic bags filled with air for a huge amount of money.

Edited by Pantalaimon on 05/28/2012 15:15:41 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/28/2012 15:39:00 MDT Print View

Nothing bad about such a pad if it's comfortable for you!

A lot of us find that as we get older, our pads keep getting thinner (although of course it's really that our joints get more sensitive), and we have to go to something thicker. This is obviously a very individual determination!

Edited by hikinggranny on 05/28/2012 19:41:46 MDT.

Don Abernathey
(OldGuysRule) - F

Locale: PNW
The ground gets harder with age on 05/29/2012 09:55:16 MDT Print View

The CCF pad is the cheapest and most reliable solution. So enjoy it's simplicity and reliability while you are young.
I really liked my Z-Rest. Have two of them.

But now I'm in a hammock :) Life happens!

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: The ground gets harder with age on 05/29/2012 10:02:20 MDT Print View

Foam pads are why I hated camping as I child. So incredibly uncomfortable.

Steve B
(geokite) - F

Locale: Southern California
Thicker on 05/29/2012 10:26:40 MDT Print View

Tried the Ridgerest Solar pad recently, 2cm thick. I thought that it would be more comfortable than the thinner version. Nope. The foam isn't softer, just thicker. So it was just as hard as the thinner version.

Might have worked if I was bottoming out the thinner version (if I was a larger person).


Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/29/2012 10:36:23 MDT Print View


A good number of people on this forum are very particular about their air pads. I will probably get flamed for my sacrilegious words.

My experience with a variety of air pads is:

1) not reliable: they will leak air, in one or more pinholes. Not right away, but after a few uses. After a long day, I just want to rest, not get frustrated troubleshooting and patching in the dark.

2) not consistent: Air expands when hot, compresses when cold. Air pads are notorious for feeling flat at 2:30AM when temperatures drop, and the sleeper is now troubleshooting in the dark - again. You don't know if its a leak or pad just needs an extra air puff.

3) exhaling your breath into an air pad puts bacteria in it, which turns into mold. A pop work-around is to use the new fancy stuff sacks $$ as an air pump.

4) A foam pad is not as padded as a air pad, but in your Mediterranean desert terrain, the foam pad will never be affected by a thorn or a sharp rock, or a drastic shift in temp.

5) you can always use a foam pad in mid trail as a sitting pad, toss it on the ground, between you and the sharp rocks. Foam take good abuse in harsh terrain. Can't do that with an air pad, it gets shredded.

6) foam pad can be used as backpack padding. Some backpacks have removable stays and padding. Use the foam pad instead, for multi use gear.

7) for the stove cookers, a foam pad can be used as a windscreen, can't do that with a air pad.

8) with the UL air pads, the product reviews have many reports that the seals inside the pads come undone, so instead of 5 tubes long flat air channels, the air pads end up as 2 or 1 big bubbly sausage.

Some people here might use both, air pad and foam pad, for diversification to eliminate single points of failure. to me that is extra weight.

My preference for my sleeping style and body style, is to use my backpack behind my back or under my knees.

Richard Fischel
i picked-up a corrugated lunapad from nunatak on 05/29/2012 10:42:38 MDT Print View

it's a noticable improvment over the typical flat ccf pad. i also got to experince first class customer service from Tom. if you are on the fence of switching between ccf and something that has to be inflated and stands a chance of getting a leak give the lunapad a try.

Koen Derks
(Pantalaimon) - M

Locale: Netherlands/Norway
Re: Re: Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/29/2012 11:04:28 MDT Print View

Roger, can I conclude you don't like air pads/mattresses? :P

You probably just made the longest list of advantages of foam pads :-D If I hadn't experienced trying to sleep on a foam pad, I definitely would have thrown away my airpad after reading your list.

Edited by Pantalaimon on 05/29/2012 11:06:34 MDT.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Re: Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/29/2012 11:21:37 MDT Print View

I don't mind air pads when it doesn't really matter, and it's a perfect gear access setup, like backyard or car camping when you can just grab the cordless air pump, or get an alternative padding from the truck.

but on an outdoors over night or multi day, I don't want to take an albatross, and get stuck with annoying extra gear repairs when I should be enjoying my trip. I feel the same way about Carbon fiber trekking poles. sure they are light, but not durable when I need to depend on it.

My experiences are for my terrain and climate in Southern California, which for Gregory's locale is similar weather.

Someone on the east coast might have perfect experiences, I don't know. I can only speak about my area and my sleeping style.

We share experience feedback, and let the buyer beware.

Edited by RogerDodger on 05/29/2012 11:50:10 MDT.

Ben F
(tekhna) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/29/2012 12:49:14 MDT Print View

Conversely, I'd rather take the time to repair the air pad and enjoy the trip because I'm getting a good night's sleep. I'm not a functional human being without good sleep, and I've never slept well on foam pads. Whatever downsides you list to air pads are rendered moot by the need, for me, of getting good sleep.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Why standard rolled foam pad is bad? on 05/29/2012 12:57:30 MDT Print View

I go back and forth. I love the comfort of air pads (especially my 3.5" car camping pad), but I also love the durability of foam. There is nothing better than just throwing down a piece of foam where ever you like without having to worry about popping it. Foam takes abuse, pure and simple. And really, 15 years later, I'm still scarred by the time I cowboy camped on a big piece of sierra granite, and just has I was about to doze off, my inflatable pad took a crap. That sssssss' sound haunts me.

I found this thread just as I was about to pull the trigger on a nunatak luna pad. I never had a Mt. Washington but I"m anxious to give this a try.

Steve B
(geokite) - F

Locale: Southern California
20 inch wide... on 05/29/2012 13:26:30 MDT Print View

I don't understand the width of pads. Most are 20 inches. So if you are a back sleeper, your arms are either hooked across your body somehow, or on the ground. If you are a side sleeper, most foam pads are quite uncomfortable.

I would try a Luna pad but at under 20" width, not worth it. Unless I tape two pads together. Hmm, there's an idea...


Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
decent points on 05/29/2012 14:34:43 MDT Print View

Some of the points roger raises are true, although not nearly as annoying as he finds them.

Issue one is just failing to properly clear the flat area under your tent/tarp, that's user error, nothing else.

Only pad failure I ever had was when i was using a big old thermarest that I had attached to the outside of my pack and on a hot day I stumbled into a prickly desert plant, which pierced 5 layers.

That wouldn't happen now though, the pads are so small they are in my pack, all safe and sound.

Sadly, not a single one of the negatives outweighs the simple fact that I never slept even reasonably well using foam, 3/8, 1/2, made no difference, first time I ever actually had a decent night's rest was using air, thermarest.

problem with ccf is you can't inflate it a specific hardness, it is what it is.

The way you sleep also makes a monstrous difference, if you sleep on your side, there's simply too much weight for a normal thickness foam pad to cushion, it's physics, force per cm2, nothing more. Even the 1" thermarest prolite can be made stiff enough for my body.

Also depends on body weight, it's all physics again, nothing theoretical. If you sleep on you back or stomach, you can use foam, I could easily do that if I could distribute my weight a bit more. Also depends on if you move when sleeping. A lot of things, some people I know just pass out, on their backs, snoring, all night, and are like rocks. Those people of course I'd rather die than go camping with, which is another question and problem.

Other factors that can obviously massively influence reliability of air is user weight, if they grasp that if they plunk their 180 pound body onto the mattress thoughtless, they can weaken delicate seams. So body weight, actual practice in using the air mattress, are also going to be major factors, but for some reason people tend to ignore such fundamental points when considering the functionality of something, a 200 pound person plumping down on the mattress, puts huge force and pressure on the pad, a 140 pound person gently placing their body on it with consciousness that this is a non robust part of ones equipment can easily get hugely different results. The drag is that the old thermarests, the original green/tan ones, were far far far more robust than the new untralight stuff, and probably were much more tolerant of abuse and less prone to failure I'd guess. And if a 200 pound, or 180, person is lying on a mattress all night, moving, they are putting a heck of a lot more force and pressure on its seams and construction than if a light person is doing the same thing. Basic physics again, seems odd to not always prominently note ones weight before deducing any larger wide spread observations on something.

And habits, like, run into campsite at dusk, toss down mattress, bivy, fail to clear space, of course you're going to puncture the air mattress, that's a given. I spend a fair amount of time clearing the space, always, without exception. I'd like to not have that worry as much, though those pricklies will puncture silnylon just as readily as your air mattress, so I just do it. House wrap as a ground cover, heavy but would probably help, to some degree, no idea on how puncture resistant it is though, the msds pdfs would show that I believe if you know what the numbers mean.

So it's not really a choice, the human body needs rest, especially when undergoing physical exertion daily, and if you can't sleep on a foam pad, it's irrelevant what advantages it has. Carrying the patch kit does not kill m e, I'm not a cripple yet, nor am I racing anyone to see how many miles of nature I can pass per day successfully, so I carry what I need to carry, it's nto rocket science here.

One great tip I got from reading these forums was to mix , ie, use a 1/8" evazote type pad under the air mattress, and that's especially relevant with these new hyper thin fabric light ones that are coming out now. Then you have the sit pad too. If you use stiffer, like 3/16", it rolls up tight enough to make a pack frame that works. With thinner, you can use a folded 3/8" pad, two sections, to wrap the 1/8 up with. Great for sitting, great for meditating, whatever.

I actually agree with the pluses of ccf, and as soon as someone starts selling 1" or 3/4" ones made with the new foams, if the weight is comparable to air mattress plus under foam pad, I think I'll contemplate switching to that, though it won't be quite as good as a 1" air mattress since you can't overinflate closed cell foam, obviously. But my guess is for lighter bodies, a reasonably thick high end foam pad can work for some people who find that a prolite type pad works for them. Big, bulky, has to be carried externally, yeah, but like roger notes, it's basically indestructable in terms of punctures and so on.

Lawson was talking about stocking some size or other but there's been no sign yet of that, I'm going to buy one if he gets a 1" that is not too heavy, say around a pound or so, and try it, I'd rather use ccf too, but I have to sleep at night, just is one of those weird biological things.

Edited by hhope on 05/29/2012 14:46:15 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Air pad on 05/29/2012 14:38:02 MDT Print View

While I agree that CCF foam pads have their advantages, I would be screaming with pain all night if I tried to use one! It's a matter of aging! Here's how I progressed or regressed, depending on your point of view:

Teenager--no pad at all
20's and 30's--CCF foam pad
40's and 50's--standard Thermarest self-inflating (one of the earliest)
Late 50's to late 60's--Thermarest LE--also self-inflating--2 inches thick and heavy
Late 60's-mid 70's--POE Insulmat Max Thermo (insulated air pad, 2.5" thick)
Current--3.5" thick insulated air pad from the late lamented KookaBay

So far I have had no problems with leaks or punctures with any of my inflatables. I certainly hope that continues!

Harald Hope
(hhope) - M

Locale: East Bay
user error is my guess in many cases on 05/29/2012 14:51:47 MDT Print View

Mary, I think a large percentage of failures are user error, at least judging from what I see in terms of care given to stuff as rule. Some failures due to other factors like I listed above, weight, treatment, etc, then a tiny segment that is actually just a manufacturing failure or issue.

As soon as I got my new prolite, and especially the neoair, I got a thin under ccf pad for it, the material of the pad is just very thin, and there is not a magical way to make thin material as strong as thick material when it comes to punctures. pads plus under pad comes in at about 1 pound give or take, which is fine with me. That's about what a thick ccf pad will weigh give or take.

It's kind of obvious to me that there is a set of of people out there who simply do not really have a sense of mechanical things and limits, and who don't pay attention to directions and guides etc, I see that in the stove threads too, where people talk about people blowing up pressurized white gas stoves, which really almost never happens unless you violently and consistently overpressurize them in the real world, fail to lubricate the insertion points, yanking tubes out of seals instead of gently twisting them out, thus over time degrading the seals, and so on. Lack of mindfulness, that is, to put it into Buddhist terms. Or putting pack weight ahead of functionally required weight, a point raised recently here in the Skurka interview with golite people, when it finally dawned on him that functionality should be put first, not weight... the light flickers on....

I'm definitely going to try a thick ccf if someone starts selling them, I saw a bpl member who lives in sweden was using a thick one, looked like 3/4" at least, maybe 1, in his pictures he posted of a bushwhacking trip he took.

Edited by hhope on 05/29/2012 15:07:04 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
My two cents on 05/29/2012 18:41:03 MDT Print View

I have used half a dozen inflatable pads over the last 15 years or so and never had one fail on me,.

My current pad of choice and by far the most comfy is a regular Exped Synat UL and depending on
season will supplement with a 1/4 Zlite, 1/2 Zlite or regular Ridgerest Solar.

If I did get an unrepairable puncture I hope I would be sufficiently warm enough with the foam I carry for that season, in winter I would double over the Ridgerest.

A good nights sleep and peace of mind is worth the few extra ounces.


Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: user error is my guess in many cases on 05/29/2012 21:55:35 MDT Print View

In many cases yes, but not all. In my case, a seam blew. After that I tried a self-inflating thermarest (let's say late 90s, so early in the technology) and it blew at some point. I ended up going back to the old blue foam with eggshell glued on pad, loved it, and still have it though its battered to hell. Inflatable pads make for great sleeping, but I think deep down most of us are still a little ambivalent over their durability. Hence so many carrying another pad to put underneath, which, to me, should be unnecessary. I was reminded of all this recently when I took my 6 yo son out for his first backpacking trip a month ago. He used an old 3/4 ridgerest of mine. He slept on it, used it by the fire dragging it around as the smoke shifted, schlepped it up a big boulder to lounge and read a comic book, and so on. Watching that (while using an older prolite 3) I was reminded of how much I miss the durability of CCF. Drape it over a log and lean back for some comfort, that's what I want in a pad (while of course getting a good night's sleep, there's a reason I'm no longer using a ridgerest)!

By the way, here is the link to the mentioned thread on Lawson EQuipment potentially developing a thicker foam pad.

Edited by mediauras on 05/29/2012 22:15:22 MDT.