Product Review: Outback Sleeping Pad
Extreme Outback's Outback Sleeping Pad Short Cuts

By: Kammy Caruss Burleson - 4/2000

Photo by Kammy Caruss Burleson
On first glance, it is hard to tell that this pad could be SOOOooo comfortable.
Kammy Caruss Burleson

Okay, I admit it -- I'm getting soft as I age. I realized last summer that I needed to come up with a new solution for camping to be a more enjoyable sleeping experience. Sure, I used to be able to toss my sleeping bag on the ground, no padding required... then I progressed to using a Ridge-Rest convoluted foam pad... but lately I'd wake up sore all over -- mostly my hips since I'm a side-sleeper. I didn't want to stop camping, but I knew I had to get a better night's sleep while out in the great outdoors. So I started polling friends and other campers for how they deal with the discomfort of sleeping on the ground. Many of them have air mattresses, but after just one comical night on a cold and soon horribly punctured mattress, this did not seem feasible to me -- especially if it meant semi-regular mattress replacement or repair.

Then one day I had the chance to see Extreme Outback Products' self-inflating Outback Sleeping Pad. The first time I saw it puff up after being unrolled, I knew I had to try it out. Since the majority of my camping is car camping, the weight of the pad -- around 11 pounds -- did not faze me in the least. The Outback Sleeping Pad is a foam pad encased in, get this, waterbed vinyl. That's heavy-duty stuff. The pad comes in a 10-inch diameter roll, cinched down with two webbing straps.



Field Testing

After you release the straps and open the flapper valve, it starts to pull in air to "inflate". Just let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and the pad puffs up to its full 4-inch thickness. If you want extra firmness, you can raise the vinyl off of the foam and close the valve to seal in the extra air pocket.

Photo by Kammy Caruss Burleson
This pad dwarfs the full sized sleeping bag...
Kammy Caruss Burleson

Once inflated, the Outback Sleeping Pad is soft and cushy, distributing your weight pretty well. A typically sized person isn't likely to bottom out in it -- I sure didn't. I experienced no discomfort sleeping on my side, as I like, and I never felt like I was going to roll off the side. The pad also did well evening out slightly bumpy terrain. I couldn't even feel 1 to 2-inch rocks under the pad unless I was directly on top of them with my hip or pushing down on them with my hand. An added bonus was that the vinyl wasn't as cold and slippery as most plastics, and my sleeping bag didn't seem to slide off of it easily either.

Photo by Kammy Caruss Burleson
...and the Outback Sleeping Pad barely fits inside this smallish 3-person tent.
Kammy Caruss Burleson

The pad is about 32" x 78" when rolled out flat, definitely large enough for my husband (as if he'll ever get dibs on it). Actually, the pad is so big that only one will fit inside our small "three-person" domed tent, since it is only 80" in diameter. I guess the husband will have to get one of those for himself, too. We may have to consider the double-sized sleeping pad, which is nearly 4 feet wide.

The heavy-duty waterbed vinyl that covers the pad is a great idea. It keeps dirt and moisture away from the enclosed foam, and provides the enclosure to keep air out when rolled up. This type of vinyl doesn't tear easily -- my 130-pound dog walked over it several times without puncturing it with his nails (a regular air mattress doesn't stand a chance of surviving this torture). If the vinyl does happen to get punctured, you don't have to sleep on the hard cold ground, since the inner foam still supports well even with the valve open or punctured vinyl. The pad won't wrap as tightly without an airtight seal, though. You also can fix punctures with a basic waterbed repair kit.

Photo by Kammy Caruss Burleson
Gozar the Destructor fails to live up to his name.
Kammy Caruss Burleson

Because it is waterproof, the vinyl is very easy to clean -- just wipe it off in most cases. If it gets really grimy, then make sure the valve is closed and spray it off with a hose or use a wet cloth and any mild soap. Remember to keep solvents, such as gas, away from the pad as these will degrade the vinyl.

Photo by Kammy Caruss Burleson
A vacuum can compact this pad a bit, but not much more than careful rolling does.
Kammy Caruss Burleson

As large as this pad is when fully rolled out, I expected that it would be quite difficult to roll back up. This was actually easier than I anticipated -- I just opened the flapper valve and pressed my knees into the pad to hold it down as I rolled. When I had it fully rolled up; I closed the valve to prevent air from re-entering the pad. I had a little trouble getting the straps fastened for the first time, since I was sitting on top of them and the pad, but once I got them straightened out, cinching them was a snap. The next time I rolled up the pad I remembered to get the straps into place before rolling it up. The roll I made in the field wasn't much bigger than the original 10-inch diameter. For long-term storage, Extreme Outback recommends keeping it unrolled and inflated, perhaps under your bed at home. This helps the pad inflate more quickly and prolongs its life expectancy.

Conclusions

Sure, the Outback Sleeping Pad isn't something you'd just toss in a backpack to hike 20 miles and camp, but it is "ahh"mazingly comfortable if you can afford the packing room and weight. Of course, you do pay for that comfort, but the single-sized pad is only a little more expensive than the competitions' top unit, which is less than half as thick as the Outback Sleeping Pad. If sleeping discomfort is all that's keeping you from sleeping under the stars, then you'll likely find it to be worth the cost.


Contacts Related Links

Extreme Outback Products
Department ORN
PO Box 3075
Vacaville, CA 95696-3075
Phone: 707.447.7711
Fax: 707.447.7722
e-mail: extremeoutback@prodigy.net.


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