BalloonBed Original Sleeping Pad Review

Name: Mark Verber
Age: 42
Gender: Male
Height: 5'10" (1.8 m)
Weight: 180 lb (81 kg)
Email: email address
Region: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Date: August 22, 2005

Item

Review Item: BalloonBed Original Sleeping Pad
Manufacturer URL: http://www.balloonbed.com/
Manufacture Year: 2005
Listed weight
: 100g (3.5 oz)
Weight as delivered: 85 g (3oz) + .7g  (.2 oz) for a night of balloons
MSRP: 18.95 GBP (~US$38 depending on exchange rate)

Description

Brownish green fabric holster to hold balloons, small sack made from the same light material to hold all the items, balloons, and a small hand pump.  While the fabric might be 60cm x 120cm (24" x 48") when laid flat, with the balloons inserted the pad is 40 cm x 120 cm (16" x 48") which is significantly narrower than most other pads.  Hand pump has a cute picture of a clown.

Field Conditions

40-11K ft.  Sleeping under a Nunatak Ghost down blanket.  Night time low temp between 45-55F using just the balloonbed, and between 30-50F with a combination of the balloonbed and the Gossamer Gear Thinlight Pad 1/8" foam pad.

Performance

Ten  minutes to assemble.  The hand pump is surprisingly effective, though when I finished pumping the seventh balloon I was glad to be done. Inserting the balloons into the pad was strait forward

I found that the balloonbed was more cushioning than a therm-a-rest ultralight pad or closed cell foam pad, but less cushioning than insulated air mattresses such as the Big Anges Insulated AirCore.  If I stayed in a single position I found the pad wide enough, but I found when I switched sleeping positions (from say on my back to on my side) I often rolled off the pad and then need to reposition the pad and myself.  Plenty warm for 55F sleeping with a quilt.  Below 55F the lack of insulation is evident and I started to get chilled. I found that I had a very hard time sleeping when using just the balloonbed when the temperature got down to 45F. When combined with a 1/8" foam pad I found that I was comfortable down to around 35F before I noticed a chill reaching me through the two pads. My experience with the balloonbed staying inflated has been very mixed. I have had a number of trips when the balloonbed made it through the whole night or when just one of the balloons popped. I found that a 20F drop in temp didn't cause the balloons to shrink noticeably.  On the nights that one of the balloons popped,  I had a raging debate with myself: live with the missing tube and just go back to sleep, or climb out of bed, dig out another balloon, blow it up, and then go back to bed now that I was fully awake.  The first time this happened I pulled out my max-thermo (this was a test trip) when the temperature dropped to 50F and I was starting to get cold in addition to having a missing tube.  On later trips I tried sleeping with a popped balloon. I found that if I pushed the pad together the missing space I could go back to sleep and the pad worked moderately well. I found that is was easy to replace the popped balloon, and would recommend that options. Alas, I have had a few nights when nearly all the balloons popped or leaked so much air that the balloonbed was pretty useless for padding or insulation. Why the near total failures on those trips? I can't identify any root causes. At the present time I would say that using a balloonbed is a risky proposition.

Durability

Only used it for a 21 of nights so far.  12 of the nights I made it all the way through the night. On 5 on the nights, 1 balloon popped. 4 of the nights I lost nearly all the balloons.  I don't reuse ballons between nights.

Summary

If you are trying to go super-ultra-light, and can't hack sleeping on a foam pad, the balloonbed might be just the ticket to drop a pound or so from your kit weight.

Things that I liked::

Things I don't like:

Backpacking Background