Saturday, July 24, 2010

Beach mat sleeping pad?

I have been wondering if a straw beach mat would be a suitable backpacking pad for those hot summer months.

I currently use closed cell foam. Closed cell foam isn't really all that cushioned, so I think I could handle the even less cushioning of a straw mat. Site selection can also help. I could sleep on a thick bed of pine needles or oak leaves, if possible.

Closed cell foam is really hot during the hot months. I will often wake up sweating against the foam. I use a quilt so I sleep directly on the foam. It's quite uncomfortable when it's hot.

I bought a straw mat for $4. I think sometimes they are even cheaper. It was not very light but it was huge. It came with 3 panels of straw sewn together. I cut off one panel.

It was about 6 feet long. I'm only 5'3" tall so I cut off a little from the end. This caused the straw to start to unravel. I quickly sewed some light fabric around the cut edge and then I reinforced a few loose places here and there. They don't make these mats to last very long.

With the mat cut to the new size, it feels like it weighs the same as my full-sized closed cell foam. I usually use half a z-rest and half a blue foam pad with velcro to stick them together. The velcro adds weight, so if I just had a torso-length or a pad not cut in half, the foam would weigh less than the mat.

I prefer a full-length pad because I have a quilt, sometimes sleep without pants and don't like having my skin against the floor of my tent or plastic sheet.

Foam is bulky. The straw mat rolls up quite a bit smaller. I can even fit my weekender bear canister inside the Relay with the straw mat. I'm planning a 5 day trip on the JMT next month. I'm not sure if I could trust the mat instead of the foam insulation, however.

I might give this a try next week on a trip I'm doing from Bucks Lake to Highway 36, the midpoint portion of the PCT. I'm sure the loss of insulation will be a bonus at this time of year. I remember being very hot last year.

Why even consider a straw mat? I think it would be a more environmentally-friendly alternative. Perhaps in the future I will weave one myself from spongier cattails or tule reeds, perhaps only torso-length. I guess I kind of enjoy toying with a sort of survivalist mentality. Could I survive sleeping on reeds instead of plastic?

What do you think of this idea? Probably pretty stupid, huh?

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