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  1. #1

    Default Inflatable sleeping pads and thru hiking

    Okay, first thread here so be nice

    My husband and I both have inflatable sleep pads (recently got the Neoair Xlites and love them), but we have talked about if we would bring them on a thru hike or not because of the whole possibility of failure like a leak, puncture, rip, etc. We would both like to do a thru hike of the AT one day--so far only done a few short sections, all we have time for with work and kids--so we just ordered a few nicer foam mats to test out, a Zlite and a Ridgerest. Or is this just paranoia?

    Has anyone done a thru hike with an inflatable pad like the original Neoair or something similar? A lot of the hikers we have seen on the AT had foam pads only, and there seems to be a big split on this issue, so I'd like to hear some more perspectives on this.

  2. #2

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    I suspect you'll get a lot of responses... people seem to either love or hate inflatable pads.

    I've had some conversations about it myself, as I'm a side sleeper-- closed-cell foam pads aren't comfortable for me, but like you, I'm leery of my inflatable pad failing. It's not paranoia, but it is something of a risk.

    I decided to stick with the inflatable pad, and do all I could to reduce the risk. I carry a repair kit. The only time the pad is out of its stuff sack/out of my pack is when my tent is set up and I'm making my sleeping arrangements. I make sure to deflate the pad 100% before returning it to the stuff sack in the morning. Essentially, this means that I only place the pad in two locations: in my pack or in my tent. I never toss it out onto the ground, lounge it against a tree, use it as my pack's frame sheet, or anything else. Period.

    I've not hiked the AT, but after about 1000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, my pad has never failed. Will it do so eventually? Probably, as all pads have life spans. But I'm confident that my safety measures are helping the pad to last.
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  3. #3
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    I carried one of the Therma-Rest self-inflating pads (3/4 length, 1") for over 4000 miles and ten years with no issues. The newer blow-up inflatables use even lighter materials and I think they are starting to push the envelope of trading off durability for weight.

    The good thing about the AT is that you are never far from town, the temps are generally moderate and you have shelters the entire way. You will find you worried about things that you didn't need to once you are hiking (and other things you should have concerned yourself you didn't).

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    I carried a NeoAir for 650 miles last year, and used it in my tent, and in shelters, without a ground sheet. No problems.

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    I should also add that that pad also has numerous section hikes under its belt as well.

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    I used a Neo last year on my thru, used it on several section hikes before, and have used it camping and hiking since. I guess I probably have well over 200 nights total sleeping on it and have never had a problem or a leak. I slept in a tent almost every night and when I did sleep in shelters I used my tent ground cloth under the pad.
    If you use some care you probably won't have a problem but I would suggest carrying a patch kit.
    "Chainsaw" GA-ME 2011

  7. #7
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    Paranoid. Do a few shake downs to make sure it doesn't have a manufacturing defect, then remember to check the ground under it closely before you lay on it. And take a repair kit. If you're still paranoid, get a thinlite pad from Gossamer Gear to put under it when you use it, for extra protection. Inflatables are pretty old technology, and surprisingly tough. I've got a 6 year old POE Max Thermo (Ether Thermo 6 now?) that I've used for days in rocky/thorny/sticker country, and I've never had a leak. You've got to remember, insulated inflatables had been around for years before Thermarest lost enough market share to come out with the Neoair, so most of the problems have been solved. I will admit that after inflating my Exped Synmat UL7 last week, I was afraid to take it to Big Bend. It seems pretty thin compared to a POE or BA.
    Last edited by skinewmexico; 04-02-2012 at 13:22.
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  8. #8
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    I thru-hiked the AT with an original neo-air in 2010, staying mostly in shelters. No leaks, until the first trip I took with it after I got home and was interested in backpacking again. Then it leaked right away, go figure. Not a fast leak, however, I just reinflated a couple of times during the night and was fine, and was able to patch it just fine when back home.

    OTOH, on the CDT last year I started with a new neo-air and something like halfway along I had a very slow leak that even later on at home proved too difficult to find. I would only have to reinflate once or maybe twice during the night, but that was enough to bug me, so I got a new one and finished with that.

    I also had a bit of delamination from one of them; not super bad an issue so long as not inflating to the max, but still --- something.

    I know nothing about the durability of the xlite model, but suggest that a rough rule of thumb for a new original model neo-air might be "good for about one thru-hike or so". With both inflatable pads and pillows, note that the only leaks I've ever experienced have been very slow ones. The pad is still useable in such a scenario, it's not as if you're going to be left sleeping on hard ground from a pad that simply won't hold air at all.
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

  9. #9

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    Wow, thanks for all the great feedback everyone. Makes me feel better about our purchases of the Xlites. My husband is thinking of selling his large Xlite if he can get just as good a night's sleep on the Ridgerest that is on its way. He is pretty serious about weight too, and his plan is to trim down the new foam pad to 2/3 length. The full length Ridgerest is 18oz I think, and the large Xlite is 16oz I think, so it will be lighter once it is trimmed down, plus it is slightly warmer too at 3.5 R value vs. 3.2 of the Xlite. So many little details to think about it can make your head spin.

    But glad to hear that at least some people have taken their inflatable pads on a whole thru hike and no problems. I always take a repair kit with me. I think the best solution might be to stash my new foam pad at a family member's house when I do a thru of the AT, and if my Xlite pad has problems, get them to mail it to the closest town that I am at.

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    With regard to the repair kit. I've never used it to repair an inflatable pad but I have used them several time to repair other items on a trip, my first use was to repair a below waterline puncture on a wilderness canoe trip. it was my 5 year old daughter who thought of the repair kit. She's now 19 and the patch is still holding!

  11. #11

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    I picked up a prolite when after a couple of months my Zlite had gotten pretty flat. My prolite worked just fine and I saw a lot of people complete thru hikes with the normal Neoair (haven't seen the Xlites yet). I'm sure you could manage to pop them but with the normal amount of care they seem not to get punctured. The biggest issue I saw with the neoairs is that you can run into a common defect where the glue or whatever that separates the chambers comes apart.

    Thermarest will fix or replace your pad if that happens but it can be kind of a pain to deal with when you're out on the trail. Thermarest also hangs out about half way through the AT at trail days and fixes or replaces peoples pads, which came in really handy for some people last year.

  12. #12

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    Treat it with care and it is likely to last a thru. Worst case, you have to try to make a field repair (there are light patches that CD makes for NeoAir repairs) or replace it. Meanwhile you will have a nice comfortable sleep. Priceless.
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  13. #13

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    I will take one with me...and I will love it...
    ...take nothing but memories and pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill only time... (Bette Filley in Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail)

  14. #14

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    I used to sleep on a Z-lite, then I saw someone with a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core in a shelter and asked them if I could lay down on it for a minute to check it out. There's such a big difference between a good inflatable pad and a closed cell one they're not even comparable, IMO. I bought one at my next town stop. I'll never go back now.

    A Big Agnes regular length lasts about 1500-2000 miles for me. I'm quite large, though, they may last longer for someone lighter.

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    I have seen a few equipment lists with a torso-length Neoair over top a very thin full-length closed cell foam pad. The Neo for comfort and the pad to insulate the legs, protect the Neo, and as an emergency back up if he Neo leaks. Not exactly Ultra Light, but a reasonable option for the paranoid worrier who craves comfort (hey that sounds like me).

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    I have seen a few equipment lists with a torso-length Neoair over top a very thin full-length closed cell foam pad. The Neo for comfort and the pad to insulate the legs, protect the Neo, and as an emergency back up if he Neo leaks. Not exactly Ultra Light, but a reasonable option for the paranoid worrier who craves comfort (hey that sounds like me).
    Interesting-- I have done a similar thing when I've gone into the mountains in late fall, to increase the pad's insulation capacity. BTW, in his book, Mike Clelland suggests combining a torso-length pad with a cut-down, knee-length closed cell foam pad (I think he says you can do that with super glue) in order to make a DIY, ultralight full-length pad.

    Wow, far too many hyphens in that. :-)
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by RodentWhisperer View Post
    ... in his book, Mike Clelland suggests combining a torso-length pad with a cut-down, knee-length closed cell foam pad (I think he says you can do that with super glue) in order to make a DIY, ultralight full-length pad.
    Not a bad plan either, but I would not glue them together. I would want the pad available for other uses (sitting on at breaks, cooking platform, providing structure to a pack, etc...)

  18. #18
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    I used a 1/8" thinlight pad for both AT and CDT, putting the ccf pad on top of the neo-air on colder nights, and under the neo-air on not-so-cold nights. Heck, with a thinner inflatable I used a thicker ccf pad for part of the PCT too. I *think* that this approach helped me avoid punctures (of course I have no way of knowing for sure).

    One caveat, however, is that any ccf pad (including one that's just 1/8" thick) can easily pick up embedded tree needles or other similar debris. And then later apply same to your inflatable when pressure points line up in an unhappy way. So if you're going to go for a combination approach like this, I'd suggest that you also follow the process that became just sort of automatic for me each morning: when putting away the ccf pad, feel along it as you go to at least try to reduce anything embedded in it.
    Gadget
    PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO, PNT: 2014+2016

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