Gearing Up: DIY Sleeping Pads, Or The Apollo Space Program's Contribution To Backpacking
In the last Conejo Courier, I asked – What does backpacking gear have to do with attic insulation?
The answer, is that attic insulation – the silver coated kind, not the pink fluffy stuff—is a great sleeping pad, and if you do winter camping, an excellent second layer to supplement an existing sleeping pad.
Photo: Silver, bubble-wrap type Reflectix attic insulation, next to a more conventional foam sleeping pad.
Believe it or not, these ultra, high tech pads which are apparently preferred by mountaineering companies on Mt. Rainier to commercial options. This material was originally developed by NASA for the space program, as a commercial spinoff of the NASA Apollo Space Program. NASA used a reflective foil covering to create a radiant barrier for both the spacecraft and space suits to reflect the intense heat of the suns away from the astronauts by day and to reflect internal heat back inside the capsule of space suit at night for warmth. These pads are made out of the same reflective insulation material on the Apollo moon lander. (this material is the shiny stuff you see on the bottom of the Apollo lander).
How do these compare to the commercial options?
Cost Weight R-Value
High Tech Ultra Lite Attic Insulation Pad $ 6.00 8.1 ounces R2.0 to R7.0*
This compares very favorably to the other options on the market. This is actually the sleeping pad I use personally on outings. (yes, there is some argument among adults on self inflating air pads versus this versus foam, comfort, etc... but there is no argument in terms of weight and R-value. And you can't pop them on a rock. And they cost nearly nothing. Perfect for scouts!).
Standard Blue Foam Pad $20.00 13.5 ounces R1.4
Therm-A-Rest Ridgerest Solite $19.95 9.0 ounces R2.8
Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad $49.95 1 lb 5 oz. R1.0
Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite $69.95 1 lb. 12 oz. R3.4
REI Camp Bed $89.50 3 lbs 9 oz. R5.8
This material also makes very good pot cozies (for Mountain House-style quick boil dinners...). Sold in various size rolls, this was cut out of a 48 in x 25 feet roll which cost around $45. 2 sleeping pads cost around $5.62 each if you were to cut the whole role to pads. Apparently these have been a favorite of guides on Mt. Shasta. Weight of a full cut pad is 8 ounces... my foam pad is about the same, 8-9 ounces too.
We've tested this across the troop on both warm and cold outings, and they work great – in fact, I won't go on a snow outing without one (or two) of these for insulation from the cold ground. They turn a chilly night into the toastiest night you'll ever have had on the trail! And they weigh next to nothing!
So, next time you are looking at gearing up your new scouts – you might look at what we've found to be a great, affordable (and high tech) alternative to the usual equipment – made out of attic insulation!