As our family tries to squeeze the most out of the last days summer vacation, our son is trying to find and build the perfect campsite in the woods around our house. His first attempt was a small teepee made of sticks, leaves and pine needles built on a steep hillside. Despite my attempts to reason with him that this wouldn't work, he won me over with his enthusiasm. I was sure he'd see the light when we couldn't get our sleeping pads inside, but we managed by overlapping them and letting out feet stick out the back! Even when I didn't move I constantly felt my sleeping bag sliding off my pad down the hill. If the experience hadn't been so "awesome" for him, it would have been one of my worst night's sleep ever even if I hadn't awakened with a slug on me!
So when the tent went up two days later in a semi-flat clearing, I was almost eager to join him and test some gear. My wife picked up an Exped Downmat which seemed like the perfect extravagance to lure me out of my comfy bed. The only hitch was that it's too wide to fit in the sleeve of my Big Agnes Heart Mountain 30 degree superlight sleeping bag. Never-the-less the 800 fill down bag felt like a bit much for this outing. So out came my old Sierra Designs synthetic mummy bag.
But when I started overheating all bound up in the mummy bag I decided to fetch the Big Agnes bag. Much roomier and more comfortable, this would also give me a chance to see how the Big Agnes sleep system feels without a pad inserted in the sleeve. Not only did the bag's un-insulated side expose me to the cold when I rolled over, but I spent considerable energy sliding back up my pad all night as the ground's slight incline was less than ideal. (My son ended up curled up in a ball in the bottom corner of the tent in the morning; very cute but shivering cold.) Conclusion: a proper fitting pad is recommended to go with your Big Agnes sleeping bag for a reason.
It's hard to knock the Downmat, but my right side was sore from my rough night 48 hours earlier. When my side lodged in the deep trough of the Downmat's vertical baffles I was feeling it in a way I wouldn't have a pad with horizontal baffles like the Nemo Astro Air pad. Then in the middle of the night I felt the urge to let out a little air but there was a fat plug instead of a screw valve which would have let me make micro-adjustments. What the Downmat did better than I needed was keep me warm. While not recommended for a cool summer night, later in the fall this might be just the right go-to sleeping pad. Conclusion: a comfortable night's sleep can be found by using sleeping bags and pads with a temperature rating matching conditions. Yes dear, I do need that new 45 degree summer sleeping bag.