Speaking of multi-use outdoor gear - there are plenty of lightweight to ultralight packs on the market that utilize closed cell foam bags as a frame for the pack. These packs can even allow you to carry up to 30lbs pretty comfortably if they are designed right. Six Moon Designs had a few packs designed using a pad to replace the support stays in the early days, but switched to a different support system when the resources became lighter for internal suspension frames. Regardless of that you can pack a lot in any of our current ultralight packs by removing the Delrin Stay and using your closed foam pad as the frame if you really want to lighten your load even more. Our Daybreaker pack is another great example of using a closed cell foam pad as a form of pack support. We use an EVA “egg crate” closed cell foam sit pad to provide support and comfort in our day pack and when you want to rest on your trip, you just pull the pad out for a cushy break.
You also don’t have to blow up a closed cell foam pad. Maybe this is speaking to my own neglegence again, but I have become very light headed at higher elevation when blowing up my air pads. Talk about a cheap thrill.
I used to like a soft bed growing up. Waterbeds were the coolest beds when I was seven. Now that I’m older, I look for support and firmness out of my bed. The same could be said about my camp sleeping system. I am a side sleeper, but have always felt significantly more rested when I sleep on my back. I’ve heard you can train yourself to get more comfortable sleeping that on your back too. Regardless of sleeping orientation, a firm sleeping pad can be super comfy to some folks and the closed cell foam pad is firm. They make them comfy enough these days for side sleepers too though. Another trick (that is a bit more meticulous in my opinion) is to shape the ground to the curvature of your body. I don’t know the shape of your body, so I won’t go into the best methods of how to do this, but my dog does this and I hear some people do this too.
Have you ever tried one of those air pads with a layer of body heat reflective material in them? My goodness those things are loud. Closed cell foam pads are not loud.
Another trick I’ve gotten into recently is for shorter trips where I don’t mind the extra weight is to bring the closed cell foam pad to combine it with my air pad. I know. That’s almost an extra pound, right? Well I don’t mind it for the wonderful sleep I get with that combo. The way I see it is that when I’m not thru-hiking or in a situation where I’m not sleeping outdoors every night, I’m not used to sleeping outdoors and might not sleep as well if I’m on just my air pad or on just a closed cell foam pad. But when I combine the two (Maybe I’ll also throw in some form of comfortable pillow. My partner just got the craziest air pillow that doesn’t weigh very much and packs down to the size of one of those circular pb&j sandwiches you can buy premade at the grocery store. Remember when they sold those DIY pb&j cookie cutters that sealed the edges like the pre-packaged ones? I wonder if you can still get those cutters…) my odds get a little better of being more comfortable and sleeping better. This is also a wonderful trick for a warmer night’s sleep in colder conditions where you might need a little extra insulation.
All in all, closed cell foam pads are great. Their weight to benefit ratio is really good and while they may not pack down as small as an air pad, they sure make up for it in their usefulness. I have packed one even when I didn’t really need it just for the extra level of comfort. I don’t want to debate whether that’s ultralight enough or not. I know I have a better time on my trip when I have my trusty closed cell foam pad with me and that’s what matters - having a better time.