Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

What’s the Most Comfortable Sleep System?

Pain in my shoulders and hips is destroying my ability to camp. Can you recommend the best, most cushioned, and lightweight pad that might help solve this problem?

Question:

Alas, pain in my shoulders and hips is destroying my ability to camp. I can no longer sleep on the ground, even with a thin mattress underneath. What is the best, most cushioned, and lightweight pad that might help solve this problem?

Submitted by - Erin, Alameda, CA

Answer:

Hey Erin,

Say it ain’t so! I think it’s clear that you need a better, thicker, more comfortable mattress. If you’re primarily a car camper and don’t have to worry about lugging a mattress around, that’s no problem. I have some friends that bring along enormous, pump-inflatable air mattresses, like these.  Personally, I’m not a fan of this type, because I feel like they make me roll around too much and I’m always afraid one of my kids will use it as a trampoline. When I’m camping car-side, I always opt for this fat-daddy pad: The Cascade Designs Dream Time. With three layers of plush comfort, I swear to God it’s just as good as my mattress back home. (Maybe it’s time for me to buy a new one!)

Now, if it’s a backpacking pad you seek, it becomes a bit more of a challenge. But by far, the most comfortable pad we’ve found is the brand new NeoAir, also by Cascade Designs. When inflated, It’s thick enough (2.5 inches) that even our 6’8” Editor-in-Chief didn’t bottom out. It weighs just 13 ounces and packs up the size of a can of Fosters. Check out this video review of the Neo Air.

I’m guessing because of your hip and shoulder pain that you’re a side-sleeper. But if you can train yourself to get comfortable sleeping on either your back or stomach, you’ll eliminate these pressure spots. Even if you can make it only part way through the night before you automatically roll onto your side, you should lessen your shoulder and hip discomfort.

Best of luck…whatever you do, don’t give up on camping!

1 Comment

  1. Katie

    If you are backpacking to cut weight, try a thicker (I wanna say we have a 1 1/2″, maybe 2″) Thermarest pad that is a 3/4 length. Dad used one for years for his back (he’s 6’1″), recently gave it to my husband (who also has back problems), he loves it. He actually prefers it to a full length pad now.

Leave a Reply