When I did my final equipment purchase and sound check before leaving Los Angeles, I thought long and hard about a sleeping mat. “Should I get something soft and light and insulated and comfortable and expensive, or should I get something hard and light and not insulated and uncomfortable and cheap?”
Several experienced bicycle people advised me to get the Sea to Summit Fukpad, a mat that will make you mostly forget you are lying on rocks. I declined.
Thirty days into the trip I had collected a new and fascinating assortment of spinal pain issues. This is a big deal because I am mostly ache-and-pain free. About seven years ago Lauren Mulwitz was fitting me on my bike. As part of her intake she asked me about “Aches and pains. Where are they?”
“I don’t know. Dallas?”
“Quit joking. What are your problem areas?”
“Seriously. I don’t have any aches or pains.”
“You don’t have to be a tough guy. Every cyclist has them, and every man over 50 has them itemized on a spreadsheet.”
“I can make some up for you if that will help?”
She shrugged and went on about her business, fitting me perfectly. But the fact is that I was, unusually, telling the whole truth. I don’t have aches, corporate ladder knees, childbearing hips, trainwreck neck, quick promotion back, plumber’s elbow, pornhub wrist, Barcalounger ankles, none of it.
Well, I exaggerate. The last year my neck has gradually gotten to where I can’t whip it around as quick or as far when I check behind me. I can still do it, but it does actually ache with the first few twists until it warms up.
Anyway, the first four weeks of sleeping on that iron mattress gave me my first taste of what real old age feels like, and man, it sucks. I had to assume a variety of sleeping positions during the night in order to make it through the night. Fetal ball (2 hours), transition to fully outstretched (half hour), transition to left side half-curl (2 hours) followed by right side half-curl (1 hour), ending with fetal ball. And some of the pains were stabbing.
So against my better judgment I located an REI in Bellingham and bought a $136 Sea-to-Summit Fukpad. All I can say is “Wow.”
That’s because there is a square of camping necessities, and the four corners are site, shelter, food, sleep. I had site/shelter/food mostly nailed, but without great sleep you are making a hard job a lot harder. Add to that the fact that you are constantly crawling in and out of the tent, turning all kind of angles to get dressed and undressed, and missing out on a good night’s sleep goes from being a missed luxury to a calamity.
I have slept as well on the Fukpad as I did on the floor of my ex-apartment, which is as high a sleep rating as there is. It also comes with a blow-up bag that combines science, physics, and laziness so that you can inflate the Fukpad to 250 psi even if you have the lung capacity of the typical junkhauler pilot. Probably doubles as a life raft in a pinch.
This won’t solve all of your sleep issues, cuz alcohol, but it solved all of mine.
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