In praise of foam sleeping pads

When I got back into hiking a couple of years ago one of the things I bought was a decent inflatable mattress. And outside of it being a bit noisy I have had no trouble with it and sleep pretty well on it, which is something that matters to me when hiking. Nothing like being exhausted and tired to ruin a trip.

Hadn’t given much thought to changing my pad out but when Naturehike was doing their black Friday sale I picked up a fold-able foam mat on the cheap. Figured it could be useful as a bottom layer for my inflatable in the cold and as spare gear for hiking with my nephew.

Ended up going on a very very hot 4 day trek across the Cederberg wilderness reserve in early Jan and decided what the hell, will give the foam a try. I can survive a couple of days of bad sleep if it is a poor choice. Turns out as a stomach sleeper I found it as comfortable as my inflatable in many ways, nice and cool to sleep on in the heat and just generally easier to deal with than the air pad (Your mileage may vary in comfort terms, I’m pretty light weight stomach sleeper, arms above my head). Not having to deflate and pack in the morning was a nice bonus.

But the revelation for me was its use through out the trip. It was a solid 30-40 degrees for most of the trip, with water being a bit scarce. Come midday any tree I encountered or rocky overhang was somewhere I could throw the pad down no matter how rough the ground was, and have a lovely nap in the shade. Completely made the trip, that without it I think would have been a bit of a slog. I normally carry a little fold-able sitpad, but using the mat was a way better experience as well, you can fold it up as a square to sit on, but a hands width high like a little stool. Great to be even that little bit off the ground in camp.

I’m pretty certain it is not something I want to use by itself in winter, and hiking overgrow trails with it strapped sideways to your pack is a bit of a pain as it gets caught on things. But in summer in rough terrain like the Cederberg the versatility won out, and that is definitely going to be my choice from now on over my airpad.


I’m with you on this one! On Rim of Africa, my inflatable mattress got a puncture, so I ended up sleeping only my foam mattress. After a couple of days I got used to it and actually preferred the simplicity of it. Now I don’t even bother with an inflatable :smiley::+1:

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Hi, is this the one you are talking about?

Yip! That’s the one. Seems to be pretty much identical to the Thermarest Z-Lite as far as I can tell.