A non-Haute Route gear related post for a change. But if you’re in to making your camping kit lighter -read on…
Got hold of one of the “Gossamer Gear NightLight 3/4 Sleep Pads” (not to be confused with the smaller “Torso” Sleep Pad) and have been trying it out in South Wales for the last couple of weekends.
Overall: I plan to use it in future in place of my Prolite 3/4 length though this is just first impressions.
I’ve always been a fan of Thermarests. The 3/4 length 2.5cm mat that I’ve carried for nearly ten years was only replaced last year by the latest version; the Prolite 3/4 length. They’re very comfy for the weight.
But, the stated 370 grams of the Prolite seems to be the lightest of the actual production examples that a recent OM thread could turn up. Mine weighs in at 436 grams.
So I thought I’d try the NightLight which is a sort of state-of-the-art version of a standard foam sleeping mat of the type carried by D of E groups in the British hills (most of whom seemed to be in the Black Mountain range of South Wales last weekend).
I always think you can spot a D of E group a mile off. They’re smaller than your average walker but are carrying packs the size of a VW Beetle. And strapped somewhere on the outside of the pack is a foam mat, looking like it’s trying to soak up all the rain that’s running off the pack just to add some extra weight.
Surely a foam mat is a step backwards?
Well, a stated weight of 7.8 to 8.2 oz (221 to 232 grams – mine is 222 grams) and a very comparable R value of 2.27 (the Prolite is 2.3) means the NightLight needs some serious consideration. Also it can’t puncture. Have you ever tried finding a Thermarest puncture? Even in the warmth of your own bathroom, bent over the bath looking for a stream of bubbles, it’s surprisingly tricky!
At £22 from Winwood Outdoor it’s also not going to break the bank (especially in the context of the amount I’ve spent on gear this year!).
My first thought when it arrived three weeks ago (after about a five week wait as the order came in from the USA) was: “Oh Hell… that’s enormous!”.
At 4’11” (1.5m) it’s 3″ (7.5cm) longer than the Prolite 3 but somehow manages to feel closer to full length. I can get my feet on it if I have my head on a rolled up fleece + duvet jacket. Meaning even with the fractionally lower R value it will provide insulation for almost your whole body whereas the Prolite 3/4 length won’t.
I didn’t relish the thought of strapping it to the outside as even though it’s closed cell foam and therefore shouldn’t soak up water, it would still be a big wet bit of unwelcome plastic in a dry tent at the end of a day’s walk.
Jamming it inside the bag seemed to allow almost no room for anything else (a mistake on my part – I should have known better – but see below!).
But the 214 grams weight saving tempted me.
So we took it and I slept on it the first night on flat, soft grass.
Very comfy. Comparable to the Prolite in fact. Trying them out side by side on a hard floor at home, the Prolite has the edge (just). But, and I’m not too sure of this yet, I have a feeling that if there was a stray point from a rock sticking up into your back, the Prolite would tend to let it “show through” whereas the more resilient foam of the Nightlight might try to “even it out” more. Giving a more rounded and perhaps therefore a less pointy and uncomfortable mat. This seemed to be true of where we camped on Saturday night in fact but as the title says, this is just first impressions here.
But I still couldn’t see how I could take the mat and still fit anything else into the bag!
So, I cut it in half and LB and I tried using one each as a torso mat.
It worked but our legs were on the floor of course. Although a waterproof jacket seems to be capable of providing enough insulation to stop condensation building up on the foot end of a sleeping bag overnight (good tip that) it’s not enough to stop your legs getting cold. “Use your rucksack” some would say. Well, it sounds good in theory but apart from them not being the most lump-free objects to sleep on, after a typical summer day in Wales a rucksack can be holding enough water to make a whole D of E group’s breakfast porridge and therefore isn’t a very welcome tent guest.
Meaning it’s got to be all the mat – or none of the mat. And it’s surely just too big?
But that 214 gram weight saving nagged at me.
And then, I realised that I was being stupid – just let the thing unroll as it wants to and use it to line the inside of the sack. I can’t believe I missed that considering I’ve even wondered about getting a frameless pack and that’s exactly how you give them the required stiffness.
So, I tried that and oddly I think it might be easier since it’s cut in half. I think that sticking the two “egg box” shaped faces together when flat and then rolling them into the bag makes the mat really want to spring open and therefore stick to the outside of the rucksack – giving the maximum room down the “core” of the pack. (The picture shows an XXS Exped Drybag containing my first aid kit at the bottom of the bag)
Which meant it fits in to the Granite Gear Vapor Trail I’ve just bought (only had it out this weekend – great – more on that some other time) along with all the other kit: PHD Minimus sleeping bag, 1 litre pot, MSR stove kit, Rab Drilium, Montane Atomic Pants, Montbell Thermawrap, Jack Wolfskin Gecko micro-fleece and to my amazement the Terra Nova Voyager Superlite tent! I already mentioned I’d spent some money on gear didn’t I?
The bag was a little “taller” than it would have been with the Prolite, but it was that extra 214 grams lighter at last.
LB will try it out next weekend but I think there may be another mat making its way from the USA soon…
(Pictured with a 6″/15cm steel rule for scale – the size of the gap in the middle stays the same all the way down inside the rucksack – it’s just perspective that makes it look like it gets smaller towards the bottom!)