The more bike camping I do, the more obsessed I’m becoming about dialing in the perfect sleeping solution. The “sleeping solution” is defined as: sleeping bag and mattress.
I’ve experimented with a lot of different sleeping mattresses over the years. I’ve also relied on a couple trusted sleeping bags. Like all back/bike-packers learn over time: you can always pack enough stuff to keep you comfortable after a day of exploration, but the cost of that end-of-day comfort can be extremely uncomfortable to haul.
Not surprisingly, I’ve tended to value lightweight over comfort and suffered some cold, sleepless nights as a result.
All of this changed last year with my discovery of the two pieces of equipment I’m covering here: the GoLite down quilt and the NeoAir mattress.
GoLite UltraLite 3-Season Quilt
• PRICE: $275
• WEIGHT: 1 lb 8 oz. (689 g)
• PROS: super comfy, amazing warmth, packs way down, includes storage sack and stuff sack
• CONS: pricey
• MADE: in China
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir mattress
• PRICE: $150
• WEIGHT: 19 oz
• MADE: Made in USA
• PROS: super light, great insulation
• CONS: pricey, repair kit and stuff sack sold separately
GOLITE ULTRALITE 3-SEASON QUILT
Last winter, the PR people for GoLite contacted Out There Monthly and I ended up receiving an UltraLite 3-Season Quilt to review.
The idea of a quilt is that it’s just intended to cover the top of your body—since in a traditional sleeping bag, you’re compressing the down that you’re laying on, and therefore negating any loft or insulative value—what’s the point of adding that extra material and down? So, a quilt is basically a blanket with a foot box and straps to wrap around the sleeping pad. The sleeping pad provides insulation from the bottom.
The quilt is 800 fill down and rated to 20°F. It stuffs down into a bag about the size of a football. Compared to my current bag, the quilt is about a half-pound lighter, about half as bulky, 10 degrees warmer, and about twice as expensive.
Yep, pricey. But the fact is this is the kind of purchase where you spend the money to help shave the last pound or so and reduce the bulk from your sleeping solution.
I’ve used the quilt now for about 10 nights out. The lowest temperature was just shy of freezing. I slept with a stocking cap, mid-weight wool base-layer, and socks (and a belly full of 10-Fidy). I was happy and warm.
The GoLite Quilt has a waterproofed foot box and waterproof fabric around the top of the bag. That’s smart since these are the areas where condensation can build up.
I’m skeptical that the quilt would be as effective with a lesser mattress, but with the new Therm-A-Rest NeoAir, it’s a slam-dunk for 3-season pursuits.
THERM-A-REST NEOAIR MATTRESS
The NeoAir deserves all the awards and recognition it has received since it was introduced over a year ago.
The NeoAir is just heads and tails better than any other mattress I’ve tried that is similar in weight and bulk. When inflated, the NeoAir is about 2.5 inches tall. By redesigning the internal baffling and adding reflective material on the bottom of the pad, Therm-A-Rest has figured out how to make a crazy-light air mattress super insulative. It took a few nights to figure out that the secret to optimizing comfort with this mattress is not over-inflating it.
Given the price tag, I’m thinking a repair kit and a stuff sack should be included. But that’s a small gripe.
When all is said and done: at over $400, pairing the NeoAir with the GoLite quilt is an expensive sleeping solution. But the solution really has proven to be a game-changer for me. I now haul around a lighter, less bulky setup, and I’m warmer and more comfortable than ever when the day is done.