Self-Inflating, Indeed!

A couple of times since March I’ve chatted about a sleeping pad I’ve been eyeballing from a cottage manufacturer. I finally ordered one, and it arrived on Saturday. Introducing my first foray into self-inflation, the Hiker Hunger Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad:


I paid the reasonable sum of $46.99 for this slice of on-the-ground comfort, and though I’ve yet to give it a proper testing, my initial impressions are very positive, which dovetail with the reviews I’ve read on it. For the detail-minded, here are the key specs as printed by the manufacturer on the stuff sack itself:


The only listed spec I took issue with was the 13.4″ height. The sack itself may be that tall, but after inflating, deflating and returning the pad to its sack, I found it came in at exactly 10″ top-to-bottom. When loading a pack, those three inches will make a difference…

Being a somewhat bony side/stomach sleeper, I couldn’t see myself getting much comfort from a thin, closed-cell foam pad, so I set a minimum thickness of 1.5″ during my search for the perfect pad. I also wanted an R value of at least 3.0, and it had to weigh less than two pounds. Check, check and check. It packs up a bit bigger girth-wise than I expected, but for the price/comfort, not a deal breaker by any means. The materials and construction inspire confidence; but in case I do something dumb, the company graciously includes a patch kit tucked away in a small pocket inside the stuff sack.

I pulled the pad from its matching bag, spread it out on the floor, opened the valve and walked away for ten minutes. When I returned, it was ready for the three or four breaths it took to get it to my desired firmness, a far and pleasant cry from the dizziness-inducing air mattress inflation experiences of my youth. I crashed on it in my usual sleeping positions for twenty minutes to test it out, and found it comfy in its intended context. I did not test it with my sleeping bag; I’ll wait to do that when I can actually take it outside. A carpet laid over a concrete floor isn’t exactly duff-covered terra firma, but it was close enough for me to do a decent trial. And I came away very pleased and impressed with my latest gear purchase. Kudos to New England-based Hiker Hunger!

Can’t wait to try it out in the Virginia woods. And as soon as I do, I’ll post a real-world review in this space…



Ordered, Finally!

Three months ago I posted about my discovery of a sleeping pad from a cottage manufacturer that intrigued me. I had intended to order one shortly thereafter, but life and its corresponding fiscal responsibilities got in the way, so I postponed.

Well, as has been the case with the purchase of much of my gear, I was able to order one after receiving a gift card, this time for Father’s Day. It’s due to be delivered on Saturday and I’m anxious to mess with it, as I’ve never had a self-inflating pad before. My experience with sleeping pads up to this point has been with the summer season air mattress, those of the blow-air-until-you’re-dizzy type. It will be a treat indeed to watch it expand itself to near-capacity with just a few breaths from me to complete the process. Theoretically, at least.

Sadly, the first time I use it may be on a carpeted concrete floor. I’m still without my own mode of transportation for another week or two, so no immediate trips to the woods are planned. It will still be fun to give it a whirl with my sleeping bag, though using a 20-degree sack inside an air conditioned home pinned at 70 degrees might be a bit of overkill.

I wonder what the neighbors would think if I pitched my tent on the front lawn and broke it in for real…

The Return of Squiggly Sticks

When I announced to friends and family that I was moving to Virginia and looking forward to hiking the hundreds of miles of trails in this state, many of them had the same initial reaction: venomous snakes! Having lived eleven years in Missouri and run on various trails, I’m no stranger to the occasional copperhead. I may even have encountered a timber rattler or two; I blasted past several diamond-patterned slithery serpents without stopping to identify their type.

But during the decades I lived in Maine, I only recall seeing three snakes. And there are no venomous ones native to the frozen tundra there. So I’ve grown complacent over the last six years, knowing that any “squiggly stick” I encounter is overwhelmingly likely to be just that.

The other morning I was out for a run in my new home state and, in the early morning light, approached a squiggly stick in the middle of a quiet street. At first I wasn’t concerned, then I remembered where I was and slowed. As I grew nearer, I was able to identify the critter stretched out on the asphalt in front of me: It was a squiggly stick. Relieved, I booted it to the grass and kept on running.

It was an important reminder that I’m back in the land of venom-totin’ pit vipers. And not every squiggly stick I encounter will be one, especially when I strap on a pack and head to the lush greenery of the Virginia woods…