Luxury sleeping in cold camping conditions; or another camping product that over-promises and under-delivers? Read on cold campers!
Last March, we decided to film an episode of From The Wild and record The Food Afield Podcast while ice-fishing the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, in Kananaskis Country. Canadian winter camping on the side of a mountain in deep snow would be a good test for some new sleeping kit!
I bought this pad after some extensive research. I am a cold sleeper. Honestly, my sleep comfort determines my enthusiasm about a trip—such a wimp. So I was apprehensive about this particular shoot. For years I just toughed out my cold-weather camping, especially in my guiding and outfitting career. As I grew older and more thoughtful, that attitude has changed, and now I look for every edge to make sure I am comfortable in my tent at night. I've owned different sleeping pads over the years; they've leaked and have either been too thin or too slippery. So each morning, or more accurately, each middle of the night awakening, I've been greeted with sore hips and shoulders or laying on the bare tent floor beside my pad.
When I picked up the XTherm package, the first thing I noticed was the weight and size. I was used to the old foam-style Therma-Rest pads. They were always bulky. According to our kitchen scale, the total weight of the XTherm, though, including the repair kit and inflation sack, is 644 grams. Of course, the XTherm, when thoroughly and carefully compressed, is not much larger than a water bottle...but I have never been that careful when packing it up to get it as small as it was in the factory packaging.
How We Tested The Pad
Kevin Kossowan, Creator of From The Wild, was obviously with me on this trip, and it was interesting because he had also purchased a new sleeping pad ahead of the cold-weather trip. Kevin had purchased the cold-weather equivalent Nemo Tensor Alpine. Unfortunately, he experienced a very uncomfortable sleep that first night. He had even gone the extra mile of laying a reflective emergency blanket under his tent floor. Still, the cold came up through his pad, and he was not nearly as comfortable as I was. His bag was a little more heavy-duty than my old MEC mummy. That wasn't a problem, he said...it was the cold from underneath that gave him so much discomfort.
"The two extra R-values are a bigger deal than you would imagine!"
Looking at the specifications between the two pads, the Nemo weighs 555 grams in total and has an R-value of 4.8. That r-value is the difference, though. The Therm-A-Rest XTherm is a whopping 6.9. The two extra R-values are a bigger deal than you would imagine! I'll take the additional 100 grams for a comfortable night's rest, especially when I see experts recommending doubling-up on pads for cold-weather sleep systems. But, of course, weight means nothing if sleep escapes you due to cold.