I have a bad back, had major surgery 2 years ago and NEED something comfy. I am looking at an Exped Synmat UL, Big Agnes Insulated Air Core, Thermarest Neoair Xlite. I am leaning towards the Exped as of now. Any input would be much apreciated!
If you want a cheaper option, probably not as durable...pretty much a damn pool float, check out the Big Agnes Clearview pad. I have the mummy and it comes in at 14oz. I usually sleep like crap on a closed cell mat...I slept like a baby on that thing. I'll stick with it till it pops on me one time....I do bring a patch kit with me.
I have both the Exped and the BA. Very similar pads. BA IAC feels tougher and has a higher R value but they both sleep very similar and there's a nice weight savings with the exped. Can't go wrong with either. Both are super comfortable. If you carry a closed cell pad (I carry a 3/4 z-lite sometimes) and put it under the inflatable you protect your pad plus it adds comfort and I have to have something soft to sit on in camp or when glassing. The inflatable isn't always the right choice -- with the closed cell and the exped I weight close to the same as my BA IAC.
The other thing to consider is that if you get the M size, it's narrow. Not sure how much room you need but you may want to step up to the bigger size. I also had neck surgery (major) a couple of years ago and find that the right pillow is key. I pack in a Western Mountaineering down pillow that doesn't have much loft. Ever since the surgery I like a flat-ish pillow, but that helps keep everything in alignment and my neck and back don't bother me when I'm in the backcountry. I consider that a critical piece of the back-health puzzle as a good pad.
We use both the BA IAC and NeoAirs, and I sleep tremendously well on both...like pretty much as well as I do at home, which is great since there is a good portion of the summer and fall when I sleep on inflatables more than in my own bed. The lighter weight of the NeoAir makes it a good choice in warmer (read above freezing) weather, but the BA pads insulate better if you are camped on snow or frozen ground.
I too am picky about my pillow in the field, as poor alignment when I sleep leads to tension headaches....not fun! I have never found a light weight pillow that was the right height, so a few seasons ago I sewed up a set of "pillow bags" out of flannel. They pack down light and compact, but when I stuff my Windblock vest and puffy coat inside they are just the right height and firmness for my neck. Let me see if I can find some photos...
Thats a great idea on the pillow Becca, thanks! And thanks to everybody for the input! Looks like I cant go wrong with either so I am gonna go test them out later this week, will update on my findings. Thanks!
The pillow is a great idea. I use a stuff sack that came with a Patagonia jacket a few years ago. it's super lightweight, has a draw cord, and isn't too bad against the skin. I stuff some puffy in it and then wrap a fleece around it and I have a fleece pillow for sweet dreaming of big rams!! It's about the length of a nalgene and twice the girth. works well.
okay, I undestand your situation all to well. I to have a bad back from an old fracture. The old self inflatable thermarests are not an option for me. As suggested in other posts both the syn-mat, BA, or neo-air all work fine. I actually have all three and actually I prefer the neo-air because of the channels or tubes run horizontial not vertical like the others. That makes better stability when laying on it for those of us with a bad back. My suggestion would to go to your local REI and lay on the floor with all three. The Exped Syn-mat is a little thisker then the BA or Neo-air at 2.8 vs 2.5, might also be a consideration, however one draw back of the Exped is when inflated and laying down on it you can't adjust the air pressure. The valves are underneath you. I like to inflate my neo-air all the way full then crawl in my bivy sack and adjust the air pressure for confort.
I've spent quite a few nights on my 9 oz neo air short. I like my feet elevated anyways so I always put my pack under my feet anyways to keep them elevated and prevent the swelling for a hard days hike if I can help it. Its a LOT of comfort for just a shade over half a pound.