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Winter Pad

Updated: Sep 20, 2021


Sleeping in the woods in the heart of winter may not peak the top of your list – it never did mine at least, until the past few years where I’ve grown to recognize the perks. There’s no mid-summer crowds contending for your favorite spot, all bugs (and bears, depending on where you live) are retired for the season, and there’s something mystical about the muted sounds of a fresh snowscape that brings everything in closer. My wife’s side of the family, who immigrated from the Netherlands, often use the word gezellig (gah-zell-egh) to describe all things cozy, nice, close and comfortable. With proper planning, winter camping can be down right gezellig. You and a handful of friends under a clear, star-lit sky, your comfiest camp chair and warmest blanket, all nestled ’round a roaring fire. It’s the perfect late-season medicine for a work-wearied mind, and I absolutely recommend trying it.

If you’re planning a winter outing, something to note is most state campgrounds are closed for the season. Your best bet is to find your nearest national forest ( If you’re in Michigan, try Nordhouse Dunes National Lakeshore or The Manistee National Forest. You’ll need the right gear, and addition to a warm sleeping bag, (I use a 0 degree, down) you’ll need to have a quality sleeping pad with an R-value above 5. This term’s used to describe how well a material or barrier resists the conductive flow of heat. Most camp pads have an R value between 2 and 5. The higher the number, the better protection from the frozen ground. During a Northern Michigan overnight trip last weekend, I tested the Exped Downmat XP 9 M, the latest in down pad technology, procured by our friends at Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus.

I bore some jokes from my buddies for my premature turn-in time, but with a newborn baby at home, I desperately wanted rest. Around 9:00pm I had my final yawn and headed into my tent to take full advantage of peaceful night’s sleep. Sleep is an understatement. I woke only once during the night to pee, and slept like a stone until I heard the boys stoke our fire back to life around 7:00 a.m. 10 hours sleeping in the woods? Not bad. Not bad at all. This pad has a lot going for it. In fact, it’s my favorite to date. It’s very durable, incredibly warm and dow