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  1. #1
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    Default Side sleeper - need special pad?

    Hey all;
    I am a side sleeper, and have found that my Thermarest CCF pad and air pad (used together) are not sufficient to provide a good night's sleep. No matter how much air I blow into the mattress, I am sleeping on what feels like bare ground.
    I did notice a slight improvement when I switched from my lighter bag to a winter bag, but that still wasn't enough to make me comfortable enough for a good night's sleep.

    I did some Google searches, and found some recommendations on pads for side sleepers. One is the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite air mattress.
    So I'm curious; what do all you side sleepers who sleep in a tent or tarp use?
    I'm not planning any really long distance hikes at the moment, so I can go with something a bit heavier than what a thru-hiker would use.

    Thanks for your advice
    Arden

  2. #2
    Registered User Turtle-2013's Avatar
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    I have been using a NeoAir for nearly 10 years.... the only thing better for me is a deep bed of pine needles under my ground sheet.... but I usually can't find that at the right time and place ... so, I'll stick with my NeoAir

  3. #3

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    When I use the neoair, I blow it up tight, then after I lay down on it I let out just enough air so that my hip sinks into it a bit. This helps to keep me centered on the pad and not roll off it.

    Unfortunately, this reduces the insulating value at the hips and can be a problem if the ground is cold. I always carry a piece of CCF to use as a sitting pad, so I slip that under the neoair at the hip location and all is good. I tend to roll from side to side every couple of hours.

    In chilly weather like the fall, I use the thermarest Pro light self inflating mattress. It doesn't have as much give as the neoair, but it's still much more comfortable then a CCF pad like a Z-Rest and has a decent R factor.

    There are a lot of factors which can influence how much sleep you get on the trail, especially short trips since your normal wake/sleep cycle gets thrown out of whack. If you can't get comfortable, that complicates the issue. While you might not get a whole lot of sleep, you get some and just laying down for 10-12 hours seems to do wonders.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4
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    I've been using the NeoAir xLite for about 5 years and loved it. When I originally purchased it, I was a stomach sleeper. But I've since become a side sleeper and it's still great for me. Compared to a bed I do find that I do need to change sides from time to time.

  5. #5
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    i'd go with a closed cell foam pad, like a ridgerest or z-rest. remember, pack heavy...it'll make you stronger!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Turtle-2013 View Post
    I have been using a NeoAir for nearly 10 years.... the only thing better for me is a deep bed of pine needles under my ground sheet.... but I usually can't find that at the right time and place ... so, I'll stick with my NeoAir
    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    When I use the neoair, I blow it up tight, then after I lay down on it I let out just enough air so that my hip sinks into it a bit. This helps to keep me centered on the pad and not roll off it.

    Unfortunately, this reduces the insulating value at the hips and can be a problem if the ground is cold. I always carry a piece of CCF to use as a sitting pad, so I slip that under the neoair at the hip location and all is good. I tend to roll from side to side every couple of hours.

    In chilly weather like the fall, I use the thermarest Pro light self inflating mattress. It doesn't have as much give as the neoair, but it's still much more comfortable then a CCF pad like a Z-Rest and has a decent R factor.

    There are a lot of factors which can influence how much sleep you get on the trail, especially short trips since your normal wake/sleep cycle gets thrown out of whack. If you can't get comfortable,
    As a side to side night sleeper this is me. My body wt hovers about 195-205. I'm a 6'4" ectomorph. One thing that helps is dishing out a slight depression in the ground or pine needles where my hip lays when I might lose more wt on long duration several month outings. However, I do tend to get a solid 8 -9 hrs sleep on trail regardless. Nature relaxes my mind which is where I can have issue over thinking things. All lights out no electronics on stealth camping away from the interruptions of others! Sounds of water or wind whistling in the tree tops and a light show that rivals the best porthole view in the Space Station with no yapping trail dogs while cozy warm after a day of knowing in my heart I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing all result in sound sleep. A flat non wet ground also help. Fighting sliding around/down up all night can result in intermittent sleep. 14-16 hr days of actual movement and I'm usually ready to conk 30 mins after stopping for the day. Confidence in one's sleep system and where one has elected to sleep is paramount. Think about it. When backpacking we(I'm) are either sleeping or in camp or on our feet moving. Getting those two aspects right can make or break trips - feet and sleep. Strongly suggest researching foods and drinks that can aid in going to sleep rather than keeping one awake while not over eating just before bed. Foods and lifestyle choices that are anti inflammatory are also useful. Salmon, tuna and other seafood high in B6 are precursors to melatonin. I'm a pesce vegetarian off and on trail. Another option is tryptophan containing small amounts of turkey or chicken. Chamomile and other non caffeine wake up teas and dark chocolate without the sugar and a bit of pistachios or almonds with perhaps some CBD oils added to food round out my pre sleep food and drink go to sleep regimen. Essential oils(just a few dabs on gear) like lavender, valerian, frankincense, cedar wood also have calming affects. In other words it may not be a gear issue but something else that interferes with a sound night's sleep on trail.

  7. #7

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    Other than the Neo Air (which I haven't tried) I used the Sea to Summit Etherlight Insulated and found it very comfortable as a side sleeper (as a woman). It is ever so slightly wider than the Neo Air but also heavier. I like it for the comfort but also found I didn't like losing the width of the Klymit pad (which I also find comfortable but 5oz heavier).

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arden View Post
    my Thermarest CCF pad and air pad (used together) are not sufficient to provide a good night's sleep. No matter how much air I blow into the mattress, I am sleeping on what feels like bare ground.
    Describe your "air pad", and how/where you are uncomfortable.

  9. #9
    Registered User kestral's Avatar
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    I use a neo air, older version, slightly deflated so it’s not hard, almost so my hip hits the ground when on my side. I also stuff my sit pad (a z pad type) under the hip area. This works well for me. I do have an occasional problem of the z pad slipping out of place and have considered bringing a small strip of that clingy mesh stuff that some folks use under area rugs on wood floors. Saw a guy use this on floor of his silnylon tent to keep his pad from sliding about. You can get this at Walmart, and wash to get off dust and dirt to bring back its stickiness.

    I did find I tended to over inflate my neo air when I first used it.

    Good luck to you!

  10. #10
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    Arden -

    It helps to be utterly exhausted. I know that sounds trite, but if you are going out for just a night or two, if you haven't just finished a difficult hike, etc., the excitement and (relative) novelty factor of sleeping outdoors makes that first night sleep very difficult. I've found, whether at home or outdoors, if I'm truly tired, I'll sleep.

    I use CCF exclusively, but have owned air pads before. I'm side and stomach sleeper, so for me, it's important not to have my ear directly against the pad, for the sound of every slight motion is magnified. [and that's not even with the potato chip bag sound of neoairs!] I've found that using a non-inflatable a pillow when side sleeping helps reduce noise. So do earplugs - I need both. As for stomach sleeping, I don't use a pillow; I just turn my head, so that wasn't good with inflatables.

    Another tip, which may work for any kind of pad, not just CCF, is that I've found that, when side sleeping, it's more comfortable to be something other than perfectly perpendicular to the mat. So I rotate a little bit toward stomach sleeping ... just a little off 90 degrees helps alleviate hip pain. I think rotating a little toward back sleeping does that too, but I'm more comfortable the other way.

    Benadryl helps one sleep if one isn't exhausted.

    Being warm enough helps me sleep. Some people sleep better when slightly cool. I'm the opposite.

    If none of this or tips from others work, you may want to try a hammock. More than a few say it provides the best sleep they've ever had outdoors.

  11. #11
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    I'm surprised nobody has suggested one of the thicker Big Agnes (and still very light) pads yet. Lots of great suggestion above including slightly turning body to keep sharpest points of bones off the ground, adding some CCF padding under the hips, and deflating the pad while lying on it to fine tune the support vs. cushion.
    I'm not lost. I'm exploring.

  12. #12

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    I'm predominantly a stomach sleeper but spend some time on my side too. I moved up to the Neo Air from a T-rest prolite. The depth of the Neo Air is kinder to my hips, which sometimes suffer from bursitis. I too fully inflate then let out a little air so the pad isn't so much like a trampoline.

    Measure or just check specs on your pads and perhaps find another pad that is thicker. I think you will need to move up to a blow-up pad vs self-inflating so be careful about R-values. You might still need a ccf for colder hiking times, depending on other personal factors.
    "Sleepy alligator in the noonday sun
    Sleepin by the river just like he usually done
    Call for his whisky
    He can call for his tea
    Call all he wanta but he can't call me..."
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  13. #13
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    Thanks to all;
    I now have something to experiment with. I have already been doing a few of the things you suggested;
    Lying slightly off-perpendicular. This helps me for a while, but I still find myself turning a lot.
    I am using a RidgeRest pad under a Therm-A-Rest air mattress. I'm not sure what the air mattress model is, but it is green. I bought it a while back.
    I have used nylon straps to hold the air mattress to the RidgeRest pad, otherwise the air mattress slides off. I haven't tried that clingy carpet matting, although I do have a small piece of it I have used for gripping things like stuck lids, etc. I can see how a length of it near the size of the sleeping pad would help keep the pad from sliding around on the tent floor.

    It also doesn't help that I am thin, very low body fat. I am a long distance runner

    Unfortunately, finding pine needles (or dried leaves) isn't always possible. The last use of my gear was actually doing a week of 'car camping' in Vermont. The site was clear of anything soft.
    Perhaps not being tired enough to sleep is my real problem. I seem to recall sleeping easier when I was on the A.T. hiking for the entire day. I may also have used Benadryl and/or Tylenol, but I really don't like the Benadryl, as it makes me really groggy and sometimes aggravated the next morning. Tylenol alone helps without the side-effects of the Benadryl.

    How bad is the crinkle sound of the NeoAir pad? The sound of a potato chip bag in my ear would not make me happy...

    I have thought of a hammock. For that, I would have to visit an outdoor store where they have them set up so I could 'test-sleep' a few.
    On the trail, I am sure hammocks are fine, but at established campgrounds like the one I was at two weeks ago, I think they might frown on their use, as they could damage tree bark after a while. Then, we're not really talking car camping here, are we.

    About food: I hadn't really thought about it much, except that consuming anything with caffeine or other stimulant, or alcohol can cause sleep issues. I generally eat processed foods while on the trail, as they are the easiest to prepare. I don't have the equipment, or the patience to dehydrate my own. My meals have been mainly Easy Mac mixed with tuna from a packet, or couscous. I think for a longer hike, I would need to get a bit more creative.

    I guess in the end, it's all about trial and error, as it is impossible to know what will work for an individual until he/she has completed a sufficient amount of experimentation. It would be nice if I could experiment without purchasing the equipment, but I don't have any friends or relatives who are into backpacking, or any type of outdoor sleeping, from whom I might be able to borrow stuff. That said, I seem to recall that one or more of the outdoor stores does have a no questions asked money-back guarantee on equipment. If that were the case, I could purchase the NeoAir pad and try it out (at home?) for a few days.

  14. #14
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    Although you may not have friends or family who are into hammocking, you might not have to rely upon whether an outfitter has hammocks set up in order to try them. Instead, visit hammockforums dot net and see if there's a "hammock hang" in your area. You could bring your tent but I'm sure many people would let you try their own setups, and more than a few might have extra hammocks to borrow. Hammockers have a reputation for being keen to make converts, so I think you'll find ample opportunity to test drive things.

    Basic hammock and suspension aren't expensive either - you could get one suitable for afternoon naps and so forth on the trail, as a substitute for a trail chair say. Granted, that's different than one that may be suitable for overnight use (those could be larger, require bug netting, tarp, and so forth) but you'd at least get an idea.

    As for the crinkle sound of a neoair, I think they've tried to reduce it lately via design tweaks. I'm not sure how successful those efforts have been. But I can tell you that at one point, I could hear the sound coming from a neighboring tent even though I had earplugs in. Maybe on that night I didn't have the best seal on those plugs, and maybe that neighbor had an old model, but the point is they can be loud. However, they are reputed to be unbeatable w/r/t being light, compact, and warm. Everything has pros and cons.

  15. #15

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    ive always had issues sleeping on my side n did alot of experimenting. my best solution....

    put the foam pad on top of the air mat. as someone sugested, overfill the air mat and while laying on it, let out some air so you sink in comfortably.

    the stiffer foam pad distributes the weight more enenly instead of just sinking into a hip hole.

  16. #16
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    You may need to shop for pads closer to car camping gear. I have a BA Triple Core 25x78x4.25 and will say its up to letting anyone sleep regardless of the person or situation. Its basically an inch of foam on a 3"+ air mattress with Primaloft inside it. Its very quiet, plush as hell and insulates well. Obviously is bigger than most require and with some digging around you should be able to find the smaller size.

    Yes it a bit heavy but not getting good rest make even light gear heavy, but my real point is there is gear out there to suit anyones taste and as long as you dont want the lightest and plushest, quietist, smallest packing warmest all in one, someone makes it.
    Because my needs have proven to require less pad than the TripleCore I have moved on to a Klymit but would not hesitate to haul the TripleCore if I were going to be in areas where the ground was always rocky/rough or in cold weather. There is nothing like going to sleep knowing you wont slip off your pad, get cold, have pressure points or be kept up by noise. I smile just thinking about how deluxe the experience is. Research and shop around, your perfect pad is out there.

  17. #17

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    I found a Neoair All Season last year on clearance due to a color change. I used it the last two nights and it was comfortable. I slept mostly on my sides and some on my stomach. Low was only 41F and it was very warm. I did stick a Zlite under it for additional protection.

  18. #18
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    I am a side sleeper and here is my summary. I need a thick pad to be comfortable, but also as soft as I can make it. Like mentioned here, blow it up full then when I am in place I let air out. The goal is to let enough air out so I just don't touch the ground, but stay right above it by the smallest distance. That is the most comfortable I can find in a hikable sleeping pad.

  19. #19
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    As nobody mentioned it, I will do:
    Training to sleep outside of the bed helps a lot.
    Usually I spice up the bigger part of my civilisation life by sleeping outside, on the terrace, in the backyard or on other places.
    This way I'm really comfortable with my sleeping pad (a Thermarest ProLite), the bag, and all the small noises, rustles and winds of the night.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    As nobody mentioned it, I will do:
    Training to sleep outside of the bed helps a lot.
    Usually I spice up the bigger part of my civilisation life by sleeping outside, on the terrace, in the backyard or on other places.
    This way I'm really comfortable with my sleeping pad (a Thermarest ProLite), the bag, and all the small noises, rustles and winds of the night.
    Sounds great in theory until you have actual physical issues that create issues. I didn't used to have an issue with most pads but apparently I've developed a hip issue (at barely-40) that is struggling with most air pads right now. Training yourself doesn't work if it's miserable

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