Ground Pads

Gossamer Gear Seconds Thinlight Foam Pad, 1/8″ – $18

gossamer gear eigth pad

Weight: 68 g / 2.4 oz
Dimensions: 19.5″ x  59″ x 1/8″
Material: Closed cell cross-linked Evazote foam

I have personally never liked foam pads, because they don’t pack as small as their inflatable brethren. However, most closed cell foam pads are drastically lighter than the ones you have to breathe into. Plus, you save time during set up and strike, not getting dizzy huffing and puffing or deflating the pad each day and night.

As far as the lack of compact-ability, I find that lining the inside of my pack with the foam pad, in a loose coil is the best way to stow it. This way, it provides some structure to the backpack, with all of my other gear nestled in the middle of it. Then it also isn’t hanging off of the top or bottom of my bag, getting caught on all kinds of stuff, and not looking streamlined.

The weight and price savings were enough for me to pick this minimalist foam pad up for my Super Ultra Light kit, though I am not hardcore enough to sleep on only 1/8″ of foam for the entire length of a thru hike.

Gossamer Gear recommends these super thin pads to bolster the warmth rating of other pads by slipping them above or below your existing set up. Also, Thinlight pads are anti-slip and will help keep you in place and not scooching back up onto your pad all night after slowly sliding down.

Definitely not the most comfortable pad out there; you have to be a bit of an SUL nerd and/or masochist to use only this pad for any length of time. Gossamer Gear Thinlight pads are definitely one of the lightest options, though.






Klymit Inertia X Lite Ultralight Sleeping Pad – $59.95

Weight: 173 g / 6.1 oz
Dimensions: 42″ x 18″ x 1.5″ inflated, 2.5″ X 5.5″ packed
Material: Polyester, 30D Top / 75D Bottom

The Klymit Inertia X Lite claims to be the lightest pad in its class. Which class? I don’t know. I’m assuming small inflatable ground pads. At 6.1 ounces, it’s definitely hard to beat. Klymit uses a unique minimalist design approach in most of the pads it manufactures. They have mastered the art of the absence of space. Cleverly, Klymit designs their pads with gaps in the build, where your body doesn’t traditionally make contact or need support.

Not only does using less material save weight, but the holes actually improve the insulating potential of your sleeping bag. Once you lay down on your sleeping bag, the material underneath you compresses, no longer providing warmth. Klymit’s design allows your sleeping bag to fill in the holes in the pad and remain lofted, providing insulation and warmth beneath you. Though the material used constructing the Inertia X lite, has no R-value rating, designing the pad with gaps for your sleeping bag to fill increases the warmth of your sleep system.

I wanted very much to love this pad and make it part of my UL kit, but alas I didn’t fall head over heels. It works, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just not my favorite. First of all, I’m a side sleeper; the body mapping that Klymit uses to decide where to leave holes in their pads is designed around a person lying supine, or face up. So, when I’m lying on my side, I find that some of my body’s pressure points make contact with the ground through the holes, or hang off the side of the pad. However, that is not a design flaw, per se, since I choose to sleep on my side.

Also, since I use a quilt in my UL set up, the whole “sleeping-bag-underneath-you-fills-the-gaps-and-insulates” thing doesn’t work for me, since there is no material underneath you when using a quilt.

I still like this pad in certain settings like quick over night or weekend SUL but comfy set ups.






Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Ultralight Air Mattress, Regular – $169.95

Weight: 340 g / 12 oz
Dimensions: 72″ x 20″ x 2.5″ inflated, 9″ x 4″ packed
R-value: 3.2

I swear by the Therm-a-rest NeoAir series. I’ve had an Xlite since the very first rectangular shaped, 16 ounce model changed the ground pad game. The Xlite, in varying iterations, is the only one I’ve ever used on a thru hike. I have never had any problems with any of the NeoAir pads. No punctures, leaks, or tears ever.

Not only is the NeoAir Xlite very lightweight and compact, but Therm-a-rest also changed the game with its Reflective ThermaCapture™ technology, which traps radiant heat from your body and reflects it back at you. The pads are all constructed with a Triangular Core Matrix™ baffled design, providing stability and strength to hold heavy loads, while also helping to minimize heat loss. 

These Xlite mattresses have a base heat reflective rating, or “R-value” of 3.2 (the “women’s” model has a base of 3.9). The higher the ‘R-value’, the more radiant warmth the pad will provide. For example, the NeoAir Xtherm, for 4 season cold weather camping, has an ‘R-value’ of 5.7.

Some people complain of slow leaks and punctures happening frequently and easily, but like I said, I’ve personally never had any issues with these pads. The only other negatives I can comment on are that the NeoAir is most certainly not the most lightweight option, and that the Mylar/nylon material can be loud and crinkly when you move around on it. The noise has never bothered me.






Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm, Regular – $199.95

Weight: 425.24 g / 15 oz
Dimensions: 72 x 20 x 2.5″ inflated, 9 x 4″ inches packed
R-Value: 5.7

The Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xtherm is the warmer and slightly heavier version of the Xlite. The Xtherm mattresses weigh almost a quarter pound more than the Xlites, but the warmth to weight ratio is way better.

Therm-a-rest recommends the Xtherm series for 4 season and cold weather camping, but they just don’t make since for an Ultralight setup. Heck, even the Xlite is hard to justify for an Ultralight kit these days.









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