Shitty Air Pad 1, Steve 0

Shakeout lessons learned…the good, the bad, and the ugly!

As a last tune-up before my NOBO attempt, I went on a shakeout hike of the AT last week in New Jersey. So the purpose, of course, is to test and prove in real-world conditions my gear and own readiness. And find and eliminate or minimize those elements that aren’t working. To that end, it was a rousing success (even though my lower back is still sore). Here are my shakeout hike lessons learned…the good, the bad, and the ugly!

The Good

Many elements of my gear performed admirably. WooHoo! The Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 tent went up fast, stayed dry at least for the scattered overnight showers we had, and packed up fast. The UL tent stakes worked just fine. The hiking poles continue to be a real help, especially on the semi rocky terrain of that part of NJ. And the phone apps (e.g., Guthook Guides) worked fine, the AWOL AT map was helpful, and my Garmin mini inReach device worked flawlessly as it sent pre-set messages. My rain gear also seems dialed in now, as do my trail runners (Merrell Moabs) and socks produced no blisters or hot spots during the short hikes. Puffy jacket was light, and perfect for the brisk weather. Most other elements of my clothing and gear seem set now to begin a thru-hike attempt.

And we had a beautiful sunset!

The Bad

My Sawyer Squeeze also delivered even though I had a slight glitch with one of the related after-market plastic transfer pieces. My food worked out more or less, but I was so tired and thirsty that I had to force myself to eat. That’s gotta be a first for me. I plan to take another look at my food to ensure I have calorie-rich snacks, especially for the first week. I did of course light my stove and boiled water like the backwoods chef I aspire to be LOL

The EE quilt I brought was warm enough but I didn’t fasten the bottom leaving my feet kinda cold (41F)…but that’s an easy fix for the next time. One of the backpack straps had come loose before the hike but was a quick fix with a replacement strap and fastener.

And the Ugly…

Okay, I foreshadowed this next bit in the post title. My air pad and pillow choices sucked for sleeping. I’m pretty sure I got no sleep. This is entirely my fault in that I never quite got around to using this particular gear until the trail. Yeah, that’s a real no-no. I have trouble sleeping without a pillow and the ones I picked didn’t work out. Also, the shitty pad was hard to stay on as I had to balance myself or I would fall off left or right. The pillows added some additional unbalanced sport to the event and within a few minutes, my lower back started to hurt, seemingly from a lack of support the pad wasn’t providing. I chose the most UL options here but failed to consider comfort, width size, lower back support, and noise. Yeah, I moved around a lot in pain, and the crinkly nature of the air pad just added to the fun. All are being replaced and will be tested ASAP. Suggestions welcome!

A quick shout out to The Trek for their 2021 post on air pads…this was a big help!  If you have a similar issue here’s a great resource.

So all in all a successful AT shakeout hike! Sort of…  I think the shitty air pad still won this round LOL

Thanks for reading. Please follow along with me at for my further misadventures, and also on Instagram @stevemonaco2.  Comments and questions are always encouraged. Cheers!


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Comments 4

  • pearwood : Apr 13th

    Hi, Steve!
    I have yet to test my new pad and pillow. They seem well enough spoken of, but we shall see. These old bones need support if I intend to get any sleep.
    Steve 2

  • Walt Kolb : Apr 13th

    Hi Steve
    I am considering retiring from IT next January or February 2022and thru hiking the AT. I am a couple of years old than you but in fairly good hiking/walking shape. I gave up my car in May2018 and have been walking where ever I want to go. I have to renew/upgrade some of my hiking/camping gear. Mainly sleeping bag and pad. Look forward to your reviews.

  • Peter Schiller : Apr 13th

    If you’re rolling off of your NeoAir pad, I wonder if maybe you’re over-inflating it. I find that my NeoAir XLite is most comfortable when I’ve filled it to the point where it is still kind of limp. Or to put it another way, if I’m on my side, my hip isn’t touching the ground, but is well settled into the pad. Same goes for many inflatable pillows. I find that my Sea-to-Summit Aeros Ultralight pillow is much better when it is under-inflated. That said, both of those products aren’t for everyone.

  • Lisa : Apr 14th

    I have had a similar experience with the NeoAir. It is highly rated but just didn’t work for me. I found I prefer the Klymit V-static air mattress. The v baffles keep me from rolling off in the night and it doesn’t make that obnoxious crinkly sound. The green one has a low R value so it can get cold at night but they also make an insulated version. Good luck!


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