Third(!) Sleeping Pad’s a Charm?

I’ve been researching gear since well before I committed to my hike. It’s become a full-blown hobby, and it’s been so fun to have so many options for everything. It’s also been impossible to make choices, since so many options will check all of the same boxes. This is a particular problem for me, since I’m used to having no more than a few options on any given restaurant menu with my complicated diet, which makes it so much easier to make decisions. Deciding on my Big Three took many months of research and going back and forth in every decision.

Once I purchased each of my Big Three gear, I was totally satisfied and saw no need to switch them out for other brands. Before I dive into my sleeping pad indecision, let me tell you how awesome my Big Three are.

My second night in the Dan Durston X-Mid 1P at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument early last summer. It was a mediocre second pitch, but I’m now much better at it!

Dan Durston X-Mid 1P tent: I came very close to purchasing this in its very first run on Massdrop but kept talking myself out of it because I wasn’t sure whether to choose this model or a Tarptent. I regretted not grabbing one in the first run, so I immediately bought one when the second run was released. It is ridiculously easy to pitch, weighs less than 2 pounds (although it is a bit over spec.), and feels ridiculously roomy with the shape of the vestibules. I also like being able to pitch it at different heights depending on the weather.

Cedar Ridge Outdoors 10-degree extra-short and wide quilt: I knew for certain I wanted a quilt, certainly for the weight savings but mostly for the opportunity to get it made-to-order. Even the petite sleeping bags I can buy off-shelf at REI have a few inches of leftover space in the footbox for me, and I’ve been using a kid’s sleeping bag the past few years. The folks at Cedar Ridge Outdoors were willing to make an extra-short quilt for me, and it fits me perfectly. I also treated myself and got the fabric custom-printed. I had been using a sleeping bag liner for the first few trips with the quilt, and noticed it did make quilt sleeping a little awkward—mostly in not being able to easily feel if there were any drafts—so I’ve dropped the liner and enjoy the freedom of sleeping in a quilt (and not waking up in the middle of the night lost in my mummy bag).

Gossamer Gear Mariposa: So many useful pockets! I was worried my torso would be too small for the small size and that I’m too chesty for unisex straps, but this works! I’ve already developed a pretty organized system, and being able to keep my tent and umbrella in an outside pocket saves me so much space in the interior. Paired with my Thrupack fanny pack, I know where everything is stored and have easy access to everything I need throughout the day.

Embracing the many outer pockets on my Mariposa pack.

And now for my sleeping pad debacle.

After all of my research, I was set on the Sea to Summit Women’s Etherlight XT. I purchased it and brought it on a few trips. I liked it a lot, except that it always lost about a quarter to a third of the air overnight, sometimes requiring me to add more air in the middle of the night. I set it aside for a few months, and decided to search around the used gear forums for another option. Sea to Summit did recently replace my pad (apparently the batch of valves have been known to be a bit funky) so I’m holding onto it for now in case I want a swap during my hike.

I found someone selling a Klymit UL Insulated pad that she had cut down and resealed exactly to my height for a reasonable price. I slept on an uninsulated Klymit pad on all of the camping trips I had done before I begun training for the AT and loved it, so I figured why not try it for the weight savings? It was certainly comfortable and light but noticeably colder than the Sea to Summit mat. The two nights I slept on it were for my Shenandoah shakedown: one very rainy night in a shelter and one stealth campsite on a slight incline. I woke up multiple times with my feet off the sides of the mat and realized it didn’t affect my comfort level, so that made me start to consider my most recent pad purchase.

I bought a short Therm-a-Rest Neoair XLite! I found an essentially brand-new XLite on a different forum that was half the price of a new pad. I tried it out at home but was still unsure of how comfortable I would be. Last weekend, I tried it for a two-night shakedown on the Virginia Triple Crown, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I put my pack underneath my feet, and it was essentially a perfect height to keep my feet off the ground (and only slightly chilly with temperatures in the mid-20s). It’s definitely a bit noisier than the other pads I’ve tried, but I’m committing to it for the start of my hike.

I’m mostly just glad to embrace the short stuff for the weight savings (and added comfort for some items). I feel pretty dialed-into my gear now that I’ve done two shakedown trips, so I can’t wait to actually get to use it all every day on trail.

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