Tag Archives: backpacking

Sleeping Comfortably with Big Agnes

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the Mother of Comfort…

No Silly! My Honey is fit and cute—Big Agnes is the name of her sleeping mat.

Sleeping comfort is probably the most important thing to get worked out. You could argue that staying warm in winter and cool in summer or that eating for sustained energy is the most important…so maybe it’s a tie with a bunch of other stuff but it is nevertheless super important.

Getting it right is a process that may take trying a few different kinds or having a different kind for different types of outdoor adventure. But being comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep is a top priority. You will also need to think about how far you are willing to carry how much weight. What size is the mat when rolled up in your pack and how will it fit in your tent. Does it have a surface you will slip off of? Will it make a squeak or crunchy sound when you roll over? Will it keep out the cold from the ground below you?

I’ll give you the condensed version of my sleeping mat journey and I hope it helps:

1.I slept in my sleeping bag on the ground without a mat at first. This is the toughest sell your brain will have to do to your body to keep doing it after the first few nights. My buddy Walt did it for a while too and left the shape of his sleeping body in the melted snow beneath him under his tent. It was funny to look at the next morning but he didn’t sleep well. If you are like me, you will have to try it for awhile. I had to know that I was tough enough to sleep on the freezing hard ground…not sure why but I had to find out. I think I had a bit of a romanticized notion from the characters of Zane Grey westerns and Ernest Hemingway’s life in my imagination. After I got that out of my system, I went looking for an improvement.

2. I borrowed a full length mat that was light weight and had a little insulation effect but was very thin. I liked it well enough that when my friend, Randy, got a better one and offered it to me, I received the gift eagerly.

3. I finally broke down and went comparative shopping on line for myself. I hate to shop but I was ready to spend a little money and up my comfort. I learned that the left overs from two seasons back can be bought for about 70% off and my favorite place is sierratradingpost.com.  I settled on the “mother of comfort” a Big Agnes Dual Core 25” wide and 78” long. The outer rib on both of the long edges is bigger around and helps to keep me on the mat when I roll over. It weights just at 3 lb. This is a huge mat for long hikes but I just suck it up and bear the weight for the comfort. I will go back to lighter method but for now because I had endured the cold hard ground for so long, I’m happy with my 3 lb. luxury.

4. I am currently dreaming of a much lighter one with the latest improvements in insulation and only about a pound. I’ll let you know what I decide on…partly because my Honey “hijacked” my Big Agnes:) I happily passed on my greatest sleeping comfort to have her on the trail with me!

Also remember that a rule of thumb for cost is—the lighter weight the higher dollar. In backpacking mats it really is true that money buys quality. Tougher, more insulation and lighter weight will all drive up the cost. Big Agnus has improved their mats each season and if you can splurge get the latest. If you need to be frugal, shop the discounters on line and go a season or two back.

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Do you have a funny sleepless night story? Could you improve your sleep or your Honey’s by getting a better quality sleeping mat? Sorry if you hate to shop but this one could be worth it!