In a word: Awesome
Of the 4 most basic items (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), a lot of folks might consider the sleeping pad #1. It’s so crucial to getting a good night’s sleep. Very experienced folks might be able to sleep without one, just like the Yanomamo might run in the jungle without shoes, but for most of us, shoes are necessary for walking and running outdoors, and sleeping pads are crucial for a decent night’s rest.
When I first started out, I went with a cheap closed-cell foam pad from Wenzel. $15, bulky and cumbersome, but not too heavy, and most of all….never fails. it’s been scratched, ripped, dirtied, it’s gotten wet, dusty, muddy, but with all the abuse, it still does its job. Over time, I tried a lot of other pads of different weights, sizes, and capability, most of which required either partial inflation (open cell foam) or full inflation (no padding at all, like a balloon). The problem with many of these others is that eventually, they fail (puncture, ripped seam, cracking from freezing, etc.).
After a number of years, and a few failures, I’ve gone back to closed cell foam, but with a caveat. The old Wenzel, as great as it was (and I still use it when car camping), was just a bit too bulky and cumbersome, so today, for summer backpacking, my goto is the Thermarest Z lite SOL (heat reflective closed cell folding foam pad).
The reasons are simple.
– 14 oz total weight. What? This is crazy, right? Only the skeletal frame Klymit XL, or the Neoair Xlite comes close!
– Closed cell. Going back to closed cell as a general rule had more to do with the perils of punctured inflatables than anything else.
– Foldable. This is key. As you can tell from the photo of the pad in my backpack, the foldability allows me to concentrate the pad at the front of the backpack. As the lightest item, being in the front means heavier items are at the bottom, closest to my back, which maximizes weight distribution.
That last point was the real kicker for me.
For winter backpacking, this pad is nowhere near enough, though possibly a good second layer pad if temperatures are out of control low. But for summer backpacking, there really is no need for that much insulation and thickness. So a simple foam pad is more than plenty.
If you see more experienced backpackers on the trail, very often you’ll see them carrying the pad on the outside. That’s fine for most folks, but it bothers me. I’d much rather have everything fit inside my pack except for items that might be helpful during the hike. The sleeping pad is pretty useless during the hike (unless you want to sit on it when taking breaks….), so getting that inside and out of the way, leaving my external attachment points for things I’d actually use, was key.
For area size, at 20” by 72”, it’s the minimum size for a full body pad (Torso only or 3/4 body length is popular with some folks, but I’m not that tough). I really wish they would make one that is 25” wide by 72” long, but oh well, c’est la vie.
In terms of actual comfort, it does pale in comparison to a lot of other pads out there. It is closest in comfort to either the Klymit XL or the Thermarest ProLite or EvoLIte. It’s not very thick, maybe a half inch in total, so even thinner than my 3/4” Wenzel. It doesn’t have anywhere near the comfort of the Big Agnes Q-Core SL at 3.5” thick, or even the Thermarest NeoAir series. Of course, it’s no comparison to the SeatoSummit ComfortPlus, or even the Ultralight.
In terms of heat reflection, there are plenty of R5 value sleeping pads out there, so 2.6 or thereabouts for the Ridgerest is certainly not in the “uber warm” class of sleeping pads. But while it’s not an insane amount of heat reflection, the Ridgerest does offer a significant boost in heat reflection, and the ridges (hence the name, ridgerest), trap a good amount of heat.
And of course, it’s considerably more bulky than just about every other sleeping pad mentioned.
It is, as noted above, just 14 oz. And that’s a pretty powerful advantage. That’s about 3/4 the weight of the ProLite, and it’s more than half a pound lighter than the SeaToSummit ComfortPlus. Nearly the same savings vs. the Q-Core SL. And would you believe, it’s even 2.8 oz lighter than the Klymit intertia XL or the SeaToSummit Ultralight. Think about that for a second. This closed cell, relatively lower cost sleeping pad is lighter than a skeletal frame and named ultralight sleeping pad from competitors. it’s that light.
For summer (and even late spring, early fall) backpacking, this pad makes up in reliability and lightness what it compromises in size, thickness, heat reflection/retention and bulk.
At the end of the day, if the Ridgerest didn’t fold the way it did, it might not make it as my goto, despite all the advantages listed above.
The particular fold, allowing it to fit in every backpack I own just so, makes the Ridgerest an ideal three season sleeping pad for me.
Hope this helps a little, and happy camping!