Monday, July 7, 2014
"Should I Buy a Sleeping Pad with Horizontal or Vertical Baffles?"
That's a great question, and to answer it accurately, we have to ask you one more question. Will you be sleeping in a tent or hammock? If you predominantly sleep in a tent, according to the research and testing I recently completed, I don't think you can make a wrong decision here. If you answered "hammock," skip the next two paragraphs (What is this, a choose your own adventure blog?).
It's true that in the past vertical-baffled sleeping pads were known to "taco," leaving the wannabe sleeper wedged or worse, too close to the edge and rolling off the pad. Big Agnes has taken that feedback to make improvements upon their popular Air Core and Insulated Air Core sleeping pads. I literally just got off of one, and the new design features a berm around the pad's perimeter which effectively cradles sleepers and largely reduces any issues with tex-mex cuisine. It also felt as if the vertical baffles gave alignment to my body as I laid on my back. Plus, vertical baffles allow the pad to slide into Big Agnes sleeping bag sleeves better than pads with horizontal baffles. .
Sleeping on ground with a horizontal-baffled pad is also a go. A few moments ago, I was atop Nemo's new Astro Air (nearly identical to the Astro Air Lite and Astro Air Insulated), and I enjoyed the level of comfort achieved from the contouring feeling which horizontal baffles give. The big benefit of this type of construction is its side-to-side stability. The top baffle is also enlarged, to provide sleepers with a instant pillow.
If you mostly like to sleep in a hammock, that settles it; you want a sleeping pad with horizontal baffles. It alleviates any feeling of constriction by spreading out the material horizontally, rather than being wrapped up like an eggroll. Hammocks alone are rather comfortable, but when a sleeping pad featuring horizontal baffles is brought into the equation, the comfort level skyrockets (IMHO). It morphs regular hammocks from a floating coffin-esque sleep station to a hovering cocoon of cushion.
All in all, technology and gear companies are advancing at a rate which gives benefits to backpackers and campers they could've never dreamed of decades ago. You really can't go wrong nowadays.
But you can still come by and test them out for yourself :)