Review: Double Sleep Pads

exped megamat duo, sea to summit comfort plus SI double

So comfy, you'll just start nodding off.

Taking it tandem for a better sleeping experience.

As the years tick off the calendar, with outdoor-gear experiences piling up like rock cairns, one naturally begins to follow the path of least resistance. When it comes to camping as a couple, sleep pads are among the first items to be reconsidered. Blowing up two pads, doing ro-sham-bo for the better one, trying in vain to keep them together as you roll around in the night—that nuisance, at some point, drives you to start searching for a tandem pad. After perusing all the options out there, my sweetie and I settled on two: one for car-camping and one for the tent. Both have made our nights spent outside far more enjoyable, for three main reasons: less gear to pack along (one pad instead of two), more options available (individual sleeping bags, tandem bag, or pile of blankets, depending on the season), and zero separation in the middle of the night (at least, the inadvertent variety). Here are the pads we chose, and why.

First up is the big boy, the luxurious Exped MegaMat Duo 10, the camper's version of a Sleep Number or DreamCloud. No exaggeration—with its extra-thick size and integrated memory foam, this thing could double as your guest bed, it’s that comfortable. It comes in three sizes; we chose the middle-of-the-road Duo LW+ (for Long-Wide, I presume), which is 52 inches wide by 78 inches long. It just barely fits lengthwise in the back of our full-sized pickup, with a little room on each side for headlamps, books, and other evening items. It fills up our two-person tent completely, wall-to-wall. Once rolled out, the MegaMat self-inflates to a certain pressure; you then top it off with the included mini-pump. The surface is soft and smooth, but not so much that you slide around on it. And with its R-value of 8.1, it's a fantastic pad for cold weather. But don't forget the warm seasons—I'm looking forward to bringing this along on river trips, too. Also included is a handy carrying case (called the "Sidewinder" stuff-sack), to keep it as compact as possible, as well as protected from splashes and abrasion. Finally, this baby’s just big enough for our dog to join the slumber party, either between us or at our feet. $380;

exped megamat duo 10 tandem sleep pad
Thick, wide, plush: this sucker's the sleep-master, but it's not exactly small. Car- or raft-campers only.

The double-wide Comfort Plus SI from Sea to Summit, while a clear runner-up in the comfort department, is a landslide victor when it comes to size, weight, and packability. For long nights in the alpine, or even a canoe-camping trip with limited space in the boat, this pad can’t be beat. It fits nicely inside our tent, leaving a little room around it for wet clothes and muddy boots. The three-inch thickness offers impressive comfort, as well as a 4.1 R-value, keeping the cold at bay on those chilly fall nights. What really sets this pad apart, though, are the many thoughtful features built in. There's a handy one-way inflation port for easy, hands-free topping-off, plus a rapid air-dump port for a quick, struggle-free roll-up. A fine-tune button lets to you quickly leak a little air at a time, to get that just-right level of pressure. There's even a hook-and-loop system to keep your pillow from sliding around. And at just under six pounds, the Comfort Plus is only a few ounces heavier than two individual pads—a fair trade given all the aforementioned benefits. $279;

sea to summit comfort plus double sleep pad
Compact and light but still pretty darn comfy: the backpacking couple's best friend. (It also fits nicely in the back of a mid-size pickup bed.)

There you have it—two great pads, one for car-camping and river trips, one for backpacking and impromptu overnighters in our small truck, and both for a better outdoor sleeping experience. No more sliding around at night, no more waking up with hips grinding into the ground or truck bed... it's these little improvements that keep us outdoor folk getting out there, year after year, despite the little aches and pains adding up, while so many others have gone to the dark side and bought cushy RVs. As Winston Churchill said, never give in!