The foundation for a comfortable night in the out-of-doors is a good piece of insulation under your sleeping bag. Summer or winter, in a tent or outside, that pad makes for a softer, warmer bed. On wet ground or snow, it's essential.
A thin pad of closed-cell foam, such as ensolite (more durable) or polyethylene (lighter weight), provides good insulation. Improved designs in closed-cell pads feature softer sleeping surfaces, lower weight, and an increased ability to trap air, resulting in greater thermal efficiency. Other pads use open-cell foam that offers 11 /2 inches of padding, but it makes for a bulky roll and must be protected from absorbing water.
An air mattress by itself is soft but provides no insulation. In fact, the air in the mattress carries heat away from the body. A pad, such as the Therm-a-Rest, that combines the insulation of open-cell foam with the softness of an air mattress is very popular and effective. Insulation pads come in a variety of lengths, but one that's only 4 feet long is usually adequate because you can use items of gear to support or insulate feet and legs. If you're stuck without a pad, use extra clothing, the pack, rope, or boots for padding and insulation.
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