Beneath the Sleeping Bag: A Guide To Camping Sleep Platforms

Ultralite Cot Getting a good nights sleep in the back country can be a daunting prospect, fortunately it doesn’t have to be. Keep reading for a detailed look at all the camping sleep platforms available at ACK.com and to figure out which one is right for you.

First thing to consider when picking a solid sleep platform should be how you like to sleep and camp. Do you prefer firm surfaces? Elevated and cushioned? Will it fit in your tent? These are all things one should consider before making their purchase. Another important consideration is how you will be traveling. If you are backpacking a lighter, more portable platform would be ideal whereas campers taking a car to their destination would do well with virtually any option.

There are a few basic things that you should understand when shopping for your sleep platform. One being that camping sleep systems consist of two basic parts: a sleep platform and sleeping bag. While the other is that camping sleep platforms are the lesser known half of the camping sleep systems and come in various styles: cots, air mattresses, sleeping pads and hammocks. Here’s a look at each:

Cots

Cots come in two styles today, ultralight and standard. Ultralight cots sit just off the ground and use a folding pole frame with a special fabric spread across via tension. Cots were previously a platform that tended to be a bit clunky however, manufacturers are continually tweaking their designs to make these ultralight cots more appealing to campers who are backpacking or do not want to carry a lot of weight around.

Standards cots, on the other hand, are intended for car campers. Generally, they are very easy to setup and are similar in height to a bed. Also like a bed, standard cots offer under bed storage that makes organization easier.

Cots are some of the most comfortable sleep platforms and are most practical during the hotter months as they lack insulation between you and the air circulating around you. However, when used in tandem with a pad or blanket between their cot and sleeping bag, a cot can be a cozy and warm sleep platform during the winter as well.

Shop ACK’s selection of camping cots.

Kelty Good Nite Air Bed
Kelty Good Nite Air Bed

Air Beds

The Air beds appeal is in its similarity to your bed at home. Its comfort and convenience has made the air bed a fan favorite among campers for good reason- its endless options, ease of set up, and the “home-like” familiarity it provides in an otherwise rugged and unfamiliar camp site.

Most air mattresses come equipped with a foot or electric pump to inflate in a relatively short amount of time. Although these beds have been heavy in the past, many manufactures are creating beds that are lighter in weight so that backpackers and car campers alike can rest in comfort during their trips. If you are looking for something that will ease you into a camping lifestyle an air mattress would be the easiest transition from home to tent.

Shop ACK’s selection of air beds.

Sleeping Pads

Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad
Exped DownMat 7 Sleeping Pad

The standard in camping sleep platforms today is the sleeping pad. They come in a variety of styles but in general, sleeping pads represent the lightest and most pack-able option around making it a great options for backpackers as well as car travelers. They provide on average about an inch of padding and insulation, which, while it might not sound like a lot, is a huge improvement over nothing at all. The two most common styles are inflatable and self-inflating, both of which utilize air for cushioning.

Inflatable pads are inflated easily with or without a pump and roll into a very compact size for easy travel. Self-inflating pads on the other hand use special foam that decompresses and fills the air gaps when you unseal the valve and unroll the pad. Resealing the valve traps air within the foam cells and boosts insulation and comfort. However, self-inflating pads are a bit larger when rolled up than air only pads.

Shop ACK’s selection of sleeping pads.

Foam Pads

Light, inexpensive and nearly indestructible, foam sleeping pads are a popular option for campers and those who just want a little something beneath them while they sleep. These pads use a closed cell foam that is particularly effective at insulating when sleeping on cold ground or on rough surfaces that could puncture an air filled pad.

Shop ACK’s selection of foam pads.

ENO Singlenest Hammock
ENO Singlenest Hammock

Hammocks

Much different than any of the other camping sleeping platforms available to back country campers, hammocks offer an intriguing option that many have come to love. Hammocks require minimal set up and are extremely packable and lightweight making them a viable option for campers who tend to pack light. They also offer a unique experience of not sleeping on a flat surface, which for many is an acquired taste.

Hammocks initially offer no insulation, so unless paired with a sleeping pad, they are more suited for warmer  weather. That being said, a wide variety of hammock accessories exist to help you setup and sleep in you hammock comfortably anywhere and anytime.

Shop ACK’s selection of hammocks.

 

Ultimately, when choosing your next sleep platform, you need to consider what makes you feel the most comfortable as well as how you tend to go camping. Are you a light packer versus a heavy packer? A backpacker versus a car traveler? Consider the weight you are willing to carry and the environment you will be in. Once these are taken into consideration check out ACK.com with this handy guide and choose your new portable bed!

Devil’s River Part 2

This is Part 2 (click here for Part 1)  of my series on our Devil’s River kayak trip.

I think one of the worst things about any trip, vacation, or adventure is not knowing what to pack or getting there and wishing you had brought something.  Since I just went through this experience on a recent trip down the Devils River in West Texas, I wanted to share with you what gear worked and didn’t work for us.  Remember what worked for us may not work for you.  Bear and I were Marine Corpsman and Kevin is smarter than MacGyver, so do your homework before setting out into the wild.

When planning a trip, I make sure food, water, shelter, fire, and safety are covered first and foremost.  For food, I first find a Tupperware like container with a lid that seals really nice for a bowl.  This way you can also use it for a semi-dry storage container and you don’t spill anything while you eat.  I also picked up this handy new super spork by Light My Fire.  This was a great piece of gear and survived a pretty harsh trip.  Since you can’t have a fire along the river, we took parts from an old Whisperlite stove I had.  After realizing the burner was missing, I had to pick up a new one.  It worked out great because we found out the fuel mechanism can’t be submerged for long periods or it might not work.  So make sure you put it in something that will keep it nice and dry.

The water containers we carried were Nalgene and Camelbak bottles along with Camelbak packs.  They all worked perfect.  Even though the river has fresh water springs and aquifers pumping into it, we took a water filter that stopped working halfway through the trip.  Go figure.  Get a good water filter!  I also happened to leave my emergency Iodine tablets in the truck.  Drinking river water is not ideal, but I would rather get Giardia than a heat injury.  As for shelter, I have a high-end Kelty tent that has worked great over the years for me.  Any tent will work, however, you really want a tent that has a lot of ventilation, light weight (preferably under 10 lbs), has a great rain fly, and will fit in/on your kayak.

Unless you’re some one of the caliber of Bear Grylls (the guy from Man vs. Wild) you’re going to need a mat to sleep on.  I used a basic $30 Therm-a-rest which worked fine, but a more compact and softer one would have been nice.  As far as a sleeping bag, I recommend you make sure you have a higher end bag that is quick drying.  A cotton or down bag is worthless because they are bulky and if they get wet it acts more like a weight than a sleeping bag.  I also keep it in a waterproof Sealine bag to keep it extra dry.

When doing a long trip through a harsh and dangerous environment you will also need to make sure you have enough medical supplies.  Those dinky medical kits that have Band-Aids, cheap plastic tweezers, and chap stick are not going to cut it. Make sure you have proper medical supplies to treat multiple injuries for multiple days and that you know how to use it.  We had a couple of close calls and the opportunity is there for some pretty gnarly injuries.

In the next blog, I will go over additional gear we took and talk about what worked and didn’t work.  I would also like to say one more thing.  We met some pretty fantastic people on our little adventure that went out of their way to help us.  Kevin, Bear and I would like to say thank you to all those folks.  As for everyone else, make an effort do something nice for someone.  Not only will you bring happiness into their life, but also into your own.  In these times who couldn’t use a little extra happiness.

Marcus Harleson
ACK Pro Staff