Just Jeff's Hiking Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Segmented Pad Extender

I wanted to see how Ed Speer's Segmented Pad Extender (SPE) worked, so I made one. It was pretty simple, but it's not as nice (or as functional) as Ed's model. It works, though...it's really an ingenious product. As the designer (Youngblood) says, it's one of those "Why didn't I think of that?" designs.

I just took a single piece of DWR, about 45"x36", and hemmed around the edges. Then I folded the pad pockets down the sides and sewed, leaving room for a 19" pad in the middle. I didn't have any spandex like Ed uses, so I put in a piece of elastic and some shockcord on the back to keep the pad in. The wing pads are 18"x5", and I leave a small space between them (where the middle opening is on Youngblood's design (the Speer SPE)...the wings cover the area from my shoulders to just above my knees.

It weighs 2 oz and packs down smaller than a tennis ball.

I slept in it with a 3/8" CCF pad and had pretty good results...much better with a SPE and quilt than when I used my two-layer hammock with a pad and a sleeping bag. My bag soaked through because there was no ventilation...but with the SPE and a quilt, it worked fine. Almost as comfortable as an underquilt, and I can keep the option of cowboy camping or sleeping in a shelter if I want to. I might take this instead of my underquilt for some trips. See the quick review below for more details. (BGT reviews of the real SPE are here.)

Notice how the wings wrap around the sides of the hammock and the space between the wings allow it to bend length-wise, too. This keeps the user warm with a narrower pad that doesn't create uncomfortable lumps by buckling.
Top view of my SPE.
Back view of my SPE...you can see the elastic and shockcord that holds the pad.
Detail of the back side showing the tube for the wings.

INITIAL REVIEW:

I've slept in the homemade SPE a few times now....I used a homemade Speer-type hammock and slept in a cotton shirt so I could easily sense any moisture buildup. I used a quilt, so only the DWR and T-shirt were between me and the pad. It got down to ~50F, not much wind to speak of, and a very little bit of drizzle...I slept without a tarp.

I like it a lot. I did feel a little bit of clamminess that I don't get with the underquilt, but I'm sure the cotton shirt exacerbated that. I wasn't overheated...perfect comfort temperature-wise all night once I got settled. Using a 19" pad meant it didn't buckle much...I found a buckle or two when searching for it with my hands, but I couldn't even feel any discomfort from it. I slept on my back and side with no problems.

When I slept in a synthetic shirt, I detected a little bit more clamminess, but not much. I don't know what the humidity levels were on those nights...that could explain some of the extra clamminess.

What I liked:

  • It holds the Speer-type hammock open nice and wide. (My full-length pad bunched up against the bugnet in the HH, but not enough to make any difference in comfort.)
  • With the Speer-type and no bugnet, I could put the foot of the full-length pad over the edge of the hammock so it was actually hanging outside the hammock. The pad was thick enough to cushion my leg from the hammock's edge, and this let me stretch out much more diagonally because my feet were actually over the edge. Very comfortable...just had to be careful I didn't get too far out of the hammock as to be unstable.
  • CCF is waterproof and the DWR is almost waterproof. Underquilt is not.
  • No worries about air gaps and cold spots under the hammock like with an underquilt. You're either on the pad or you're not.
  • I think the weight would come in just under an underquilt with suspension system (JRB is 22oz), but I haven't weighed it yet.
  • It's a lot more comfortable on the wallet...$40+pad for SPE vs $200 for the underquilt.
  • It preserves your ability to cowboy camp or stay in a shelter (even though I don't like shelters, there have been a few times I would have liked to cowboy camp). Or even go to ground, though I don't ever plan to be in a position to have to do that from the cold.

What I didn't like:

  • I needed a bit more fidgeting than an underquilt to get comfortable. This may be a learning curve thing, though. The underquilt has a steeper learning curve than the SPE, though...the SPE is just plug and play.
  • It wasn't as comfortable as an underquilt (but it was close). I felt some clamminess between my back and the pad, and sleeping on a pad still isn't as comfortable as being directly on the hammock, IMO.
  • You still have to worry about staying on the pad. One time I rolled over and my back got cold because it was off the pad. With the SPE and quilt, it was easy to slide back on, but it still woke me up for a second. It happened again when my knee touched the hammock. I'm not a heavy sleeper so waking up a time or two isn't really out of the ordinary for me.
  • The pad is bulkier to pack than the underquilt. If I used a Down Air Mattress (DAM) it might compress as small as the underquilt, but that would be heavier and cost more. A DAM would probably be a lot more comfortable than sleeping on the CCF, too.
  • Since it doesn't fit in the snakeskins, setup took a bit longer...probably only a minute or so, though. Minor issue.
  • It's a bit less flexible than the underquilt. You can adjust the underquilt's insulation performance in a few ways (shaking the down around, loosening the drawstrings, etc). With a SPE, it's with the pad or without...no in-between. Ed recommends multiple pads for cold weather, so you can change the number of pads you put in it if you carry more than one with you, but that gets bulky. I think this would be more of an issue in warmer environments...hasn't been an issue on the nights I've used it.

In short, using the SPE and quilt performed a lot better than my last tests with a sleeping bag and CCF pad. I would recommend a SPE over an underquilt if:

  • Budget is an issue
  • You want to preserve your ability to sleep on the ground or in shelters. Maybe you'll be hiking in areas where you may not have trees, like the desert or above timber line, or you want to stay in shelters sometimes. This is a big issue for some people.

I'd recommend an underquilt if:

  • You can afford to pay for the comfort
  • You know you'll be in a hammock with no need to go to ground

Further testing:

  • I want to see how it works in different environments - humidity level and temperature variation should have an impact

Of note, I haven't tested a PeaPod, which I think would perform similar to an underquilt. I know Ed uses PeaPods with pads inside...should get to some pretty low temps that way.

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