The inclusion of a sleeping pad in your Bug Out Bag seems to be a point of contention on this here internet. Depending on which bugging out website you visit (and there is no shortage of them), you might be led to think a sleeping pad either definitively should or shouldn’t be a part of your Bug Out Bag. My simple answer is: it depends.
I can hear it now: “cool Jake, pick the middle ground. You’re that guy who approaches every two-sided argument and says ‘well, maybe it’s a bit of both’. Way to take the easy way out man.”
I would defend myself, but this is far from a topic anyone should be getting heated over, so I’ll do what I want. Anyways, a sleeping pad is a part of my sleep system, my Bug Out Bag and my bug out plan, but it might not be necessary for yours. Here’s what I own, and why I specifically picked this pad:
The NeoAir Venture WV by Thermarest is my choice for a sleeping pad, first and foremost because I had a gift card for the store I bought it at. Seriously though, it was my pick above all others for a few reasons.
Easy to Set Up/Pack Away
I was really sold on the quick set-up of the NeoAir Venture WV – when I first bought it, I remember coming across the idea that it could be properly inflated with around fifteen deep breaths. Of course I had to test it, and I’m not convinced. I give myself twenty-five moving forward, so as to avoid getting that dizzy feeling, but this is still short enough that you won’t curse not having some sort of air pump with you. Inversely, collapsing it back down is a breeze, and I’ve found that releasing the air valve while rolling it up is very do-able.
It’s Very Small and Relatively Lightweight
Coming in at 1lb. 6oz. (that being the regular size) and taking as much space as my Nalgene bottle, I have yet to own a sleeping pad that provides less bulk. I also don’t need to tie it up with any paracord or twine, as it comes with a stuff sack that isn’t a chore to pack it in. An important note is length – I’m just over 6 feet tall and the regular size works just fine for me.
Admittedly, there were sleeping pads that had better temperature ratings than the NeoAir Venture WV. The reason I selected this specific one was that it gave me 2 inches of clearance off the ground, while providing much more warmth than an uninsulated air mattress that did the same. If you’re in for a cold night (thinking colder than 32 Fahrenheit or 0 Celsius), you can make up for potentially lost heat with various sleeping bag liners or bivvy bags.
Pretty Darn Comfy
If you don’t believe me, take my buddy’s word for it (right, like that’ll do it). I had some buddies over a few months ago, and driving home wasn’t an option. I had exhausted every option for sleeping, a pull-out couch, a couple reclining chairs, everything was being used. Finally, I pulled out my NeoAir for my last buddy, and he woke up in the morning telling me it was more comfortable than his own bed. He was very hungover, but that’s unrelated.
Another important note – I’m primarily a back/stomach sleeper, and I’ve heard folks say they had difficulty sleeping on their side with many sleeping pads. I’ve tried laying on my side and had no discomfort, but I don’t think that qualifies as proof that side-sleepers will be okay with this model or any sleeping pad. I don’t want to deceive anyone!
So, in the end, a sleeping pad of any sort may be an integral piece of your bug out bag, it might not. Weight and warmth are two of the most important considerations, and your bug out plans may need to look different from mine. I hope at the very least it’s something to think about!