By T.C. WORLEY
Winter camping rules! I am talking camping on the snow, in cold temps, in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Montana even. Why the declaration, you may ask? Well, my two top reasons are no bugs and no crowds. But winter camping also demands a skill set not needed other times of the year, and you’d better have the right gear for the conditions or you may find yourself heartily disagreeing with me.
This winter, when I’ve gotten horizontal for a sleep in the snow, I’ve counted on a camp pad made for the job. Pacific Outdoors’ Peak OYL Mtn 4-season pad has kept me off the snow and warm. It packs to a size that’s a shade smaller than a paint can, but in size “regular” (it comes in several sizes) it unrolls and inflates to about 20 × 72 × 1.5 inches, and it weighs about 24 ounces. Yes, the OYL is on the bigger side of pads for backpacking, but that’s because it is built for winter, not summer, use.
Some unique features include inflating bermed “rails” to help keep you centered on the pad (and not rolling off onto the cold ground). Its tough nylon fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and a sturdy aluminum air nozzle are nice, built-to-last qualities.
On winter camping trips this year to Wisconsin and in Minnesota, the pad insulated from the snow and served as a solid “bed” outdoors when temps dredged to near zero degrees F. Compared to other pads I own, like the Therm-A-Rest Pro-Lite and the RidgeRest Solar, this one is the best combination of warmth and packability.
If I have a gripe, it’s that with so much bulk the Peak OYL requires a fair amount of huffing and puffing to inflate. However, the payoff is hovering over an inch off the frozen ground, and thus worth it. And if you like comfort all season long, it’s still small enough for warm-season use, making it a great value if you only want to buy one pad for year-round use.
For women, Pacific Outdoors builds a gender-specific pad. Besides being smaller than the men’s version, it offers more insulation in the foot area and increased hip support.
At $99 for the men’s or women’s models, I think the Peak Mtn OYL is a solid buy. There are lighter pads for sure, but this pad is pretty deluxe. For winter camping, for sleeping on the snow, few pads can stack up to the OYL.