Mattresses / sleeping pads

28 Apr 2019 13:24 #74952 by Herman
Replied by Herman on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
Are the insulated / high R-value matts ever too warm?

My foam mattress at home is a bit too warm in summer, and I'm wondering if the warmer hiking mattresses are the same. It sounds like combining a standard R~3 inflatable mattress with a closed cell foam one in winter might provide the same performance with more versatility?

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30 Apr 2019 11:50 #74962 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
Herman - that depends on the individual. I am a fairly warm sleeper so I generally only take my Thermarest Ridgerest mattress, R value of 2.4 (if I remember correctly) even in winter. My bag is rated to -10Deg C and I've never really been cold (except in really windy conditions where wind came in at the top of the bag).

My wive once complained of overheating in Rolands cave in June while in her -15 Deg bag, sleeping on an inflatable mattress with an R rating of 5.

The answer to your question is therefore yes, it is possible, but not applicable to all people.
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30 Apr 2019 12:48 #74965 by ASL
Replied by ASL on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
really.. you can't blame the mattress if you sleep in a -15 bag!?

I think the R ratings make a very minimal difference as I have 3 mats of varying thicknesses and can hardly tell any difference. I put it down to marketing yadayada!

I have noticed a huge difference is I sleep on my heavy duty space blanket though. Unlike the mattress it has a larger footprint and forms a protective barrier to cold while also reflecting back warmth. I once had a perfect test scenario that just happened on top of the escarpment in winter - exactly the same tents and make of sleeping bags in both with only our space blankets under us as the difference. We slept nice and warm while the others complained of a really cold night that kept them awake. I was quite amazed at the difference!
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30 Apr 2019 15:03 #74966 by Riaang
Replied by Riaang on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
I can, as my wife had complained of sleeping cold in the same sleeping bag while using a Thermarest Ridgerest mattress on the previous hike also in winter.

Agreed on your ground cover making a difference - we use Du Ponts Tyvek (a building insulator) and this also works really well in keeping you warm.

Bottom line - utilising a couple of items in your sleeping systems will make you sleeping warmer.

One last thing I noticed for sleeping warmer, is the last meal you eat before going to bed, I mean sleeping bag. A rich, oily, calorie rich meal will keep your body working longer to digest the meal and provide energy to keep you warm. A small meal with a low calorie count will certainly make for a colder night. I tested this out once in winter. For 2 nights straight I only had salad for dinner, and I was freezing! The 3rd night I had a big bowl of pasta and it made a huge difference to how warm I slept. So, sleeping bag, insulation material for your ground cover, sleeping pad/mattress and your evening meal will all influence how warm you sleep. 

There are other factors at play as well, but I'm not going to expand on them as the above are the big ticket items. Other things influencing how hot you sleep would be your health status (if you are sick and battling some sort of virus your body will allocate less energy to keeping you warm and more energy to fight the virus), fitness level (fitter sleeps warmer), altitude, wind etc.

Best thing is to experiment and see what works for you :-)
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01 May 2019 11:03 #74970 by Herman
Replied by Herman on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
Thanks guys, useful info. I agree on the space blanket / Tyvek experience, as well as the food. I know people who eat chocolate if they wake up from the cold. The chocolate warms them up enough to go back to sleep. Also works well if someone has mild hypothermia. I have also experienced the difference a space blanket makes - I used a simple Coghlans groundsheet/space blanket from Outdoor Warehouse for many years. Worked really well. I should get one again, unless Tyvek is better, @Riaang?

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02 May 2019 08:44 #74971 by AdrianT
Replied by AdrianT on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
A year ago I hiked with RiaanG and he let me use a Tyvek sheet of his for the Mweni traverse. It worked well. Seemed to help with heat but also it provided for a cleaner area around oneself and it is also lightweight and very tough. I would definitely use that again. Many plastics like to tear at any folds over a period of time. I suspect Tyvek will take a long time to reach that point. Oh, it also helped keep water at bay in a slightly wet Easter Cave!

A tin of sardines at dinner also does the trick on keeping one warm :) 
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03 May 2019 19:02 #74979 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads

Herman wrote: Are the insulated / high R-value matts ever too warm?

My foam mattress at home is a bit too warm in summer, and I'm wondering if the warmer hiking mattresses are the same. It sounds like combining a standard R~3 inflatable mattress with a closed cell foam one in winter might provide the same performance with more versatility?


Echo sentiments from others that there are many factors in this and that experiences will vary from person to person. Ultimately you have to work out what works for you. Sometimes that does mean buying the wrong item unfortunately.

Are you thinking primarily of a Berg context here? If you find that foam mattresses are too warm in summer I'd say you are on the warm-sleeper side of the spectrum and you may find a mattress with an R value in the 3+ range suffices in most, if not all Berg situations. I am a cold sleeper and have used 2 different Thermarest mattresses in the R 3 range in the Berg for many years and found these are fine in the winter in combination with a good sleeping bag. Generally a three season rating is fine for the Berg as you don't often sleep directly on snow. As a comparison, in Canada for many months of the year you are camping directly on very thick snow and I have definitely experienced the cold pushing through my sleeping pad and it is not comfortable! I now have a winter pad that I use for about half the year with an R value of 7 and it is way more comfortable.

The other consideration with using 2 mats is that firstly the foam mats are bulky - its the way we all used to hike but we don't need to anymore. The new mats are awesome the way they pack down into a small size. Secondly you might find that the mats don't always stay on top of each other nicely during the night if you don't have a good sleeping area.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
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04 May 2019 20:53 #74981 by Herman
Replied by Herman on topic Mattresses / sleeping pads
Thanks for the detailed response, Intrepid.

Just to clarify - I am curious because our memory foam mattress on our bed at home can be too warm - haven't had the same problem with my hiking mattress.
I'm thinking of it in a Berg context (as well as the Magaliesberg, Blouberg, etc, which can be much warmer). But by all accounts, it sounds like the R=3 mattresses hit the sweet spot for SA for most people in most conditions

BTW, I usually put my foam mattress under my tent to protect the tent's groundsheet and keep it tidier inside.  It tends to work very well for me and may help reduce the two mattress slipping problem somewhat for tent camping. Won't put an inflatable mattress underneath the tent, of course.

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