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I currently own the most basic closed cell sleeping pad that one could buy. I'd like to upgrade to a better self inflating pad. I've narrowed it down to about two options:
REI AirRail 1.5
REI Trekker

The first has a higher r-value, is cheaper, and is flat which may be nice when sleeping with another person. However, it's about twice as large as it doesn't fold when wrapping up. Now I'd like to take this on car camps, bike tours, and backpacking. It shouldn't be a problem on my bike as my previous pad is about the same size.

But when backpacking, would there be a significant disadvantage to taking the larger pad? I assume it would have to go on the outside of the pack. Would the smaller one reasonably fit in a pack? It's a pound heavier but I don't plan on going on week long hikes just yet. Is this just a question of whether I would prefer the comfort of a nice pad or the comfort of less clunky gear?

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    I can't see how this is answerable as it stands. It's purely down to preference and also the size of your bag – user2766 Oct 13 '16 at 14:17
  • Do you have a mummy style sleeping bag? – paparazzo Oct 13 '16 at 14:18
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    This is a personal preference question, I for example carry more bedding than most because I like to sleep more comfortably. – ShemSeger Oct 13 '16 at 15:32
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    I don't see this as problematic due to being opinion based - almost all gear related choices involve a degree of opinion. Still we had many such questions which provided useful information about "why" (as njzk2's answer here shows as well). I think that the question would improve if the question is made clearer (e.g. which one is more suitable for tasks x, y, z?). – imsodin Oct 13 '16 at 16:55
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    Everyone, please see this: meta.outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/587/…. Asking "would there be a significant disadvantage to taking the larger pad?" is not opinion based. There are distinct disadvantages of larger/heavier pads and this can be answered. The merits of one pad over another is not strictly an opinion based question. – Russell Steen Oct 13 '16 at 22:14
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For the characteristics of the pads you selected, here is what I can say:

Weight

Crucial when backpacking.

  • 1lbs 1oz (740g) is on the heavy side, but still doable.
  • 2.5 lbs (1140g) is enormous. If you put that on the outside of your pack, it could unbalance it, and pull you backward. Unless you put it at the bottom, but then you risk tearing your pad when you put your pack down.

Packing size

  • 6.5 x 9 inches is ~10L, which fits in a pack.
  • 4.75 x 21.25 inches is ~12.5L. Not much more, pretty thin so you can possible put it in the pack, but the length may be an inconvenience to fill your pack.

R-value

Both are winter-capable values, depending on what the winter looks like where you are.

  • 4.2. Should be good down to -10C (15F)
  • 5.6. Should be good down to -20C (0F)

Comfort

.25" (6.3mm) may make a difference, but that part is very subjective. I find 1.5" (38mm) to be plenty. The shape depends on how you sleep.

Conclusion

If I had to choose within these 2, I would not hesitate and take the AirRail 1.5. But it is still too heavy for backpacking for me, so I would probably not take it anyway, unless I needed the R-value for cold weather.

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    I disagree on "quite heavy for backpacking". 1lb 11oz for a pad is on the heavier side, but is only "quite heavy" if you are trying to go ultralight. (+1 all the same for a informative answer). – Russell Steen Oct 13 '16 at 22:17
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    @RussellSteen agreed, some people may find it light enought, and an inflatable of 1.5" for that weight is not surprising, especially given the high R-value – njzk2 Oct 14 '16 at 3:09
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For 1lbs 1oz (740g) I'd choose an inflatable pad. Mine is 72"x20"x2.5" and super comfortable. It's also warm because your body is not in contact with the ground. It takes a few minutes to inflate by mouth (it's an "air core", no foam inside) but well worth the time.

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