Brand: Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC)
Model: Kelvin 3.8 Sleeping Pad
“This is the only sleeping pad I’ll ever need—for my ounce-counting backpacking trips and my weight-be-damned, luxe car camps,” says one tester. That’s because the Astro combo is a pad system that allows you to strip it down or amp it up, depending on the trip. At its heart is a 2.5-inch, full-length mattress that’s insulated with open-cell foam and packs down to about eight by four inches. Alone, it’s as comfortable and warm (down to at least 15°F) as any pad we’ve tried, with a rugged, 75-denier polyester shell that fended off abrasion even on sandpapery slickrock.
The Astro takes some lung power—and three to four minutes—to inflate, but the handy push/pull valve let’s you easily cap it for a breather. (You can also opt for the foot-powered Disco Pad Pump, which weighs 2.2 ounces and costs $40.) For trailhead throw-downs, basecamps, and drive-up campgrounds, slide the Astro into its Pillowtop sleeve. Made of open-cell polyurethane foam, it adds a pound and a half, a few inches of girth when packed, and an entirely new level of comfort.
The combo is like a portable mattress, a full 3.25 inches thick. “It turned our lumpy, rock-strewn trailhead campsite in Capitol Reef into a featherbed,” says one tester. And the price? It looks high, but consider this: If you were to buy a lightweight backpacking pad and a decadent car-camping mattress, you could easily spend more and not sleep as well. Astro: $100; 1 lb. 8 oz.; 20x72x2.5”; Pillowtop: $80; 1 lb. 9 oz.; nemoequipment.com
We’ve designed these to be compact and comfortable. We shed a few grams by using a light foam with vertical and horizontal cut-outs. The rectangular shape with rounded corners feels roomy on the ground but takes up little room in your pack. The 3.8cm thickness keeps the chill away through four-season use. The big valve makes it easy to deflate, and closes again with a simple twist.