State of the Intrepid – Bedding Mods
The FWC’s original equipment 3-piece queen-sized foam mattress is fine for most folks, but I couldn’t spend more than a few minutes on it. Still too firm, despite FWC’s recently having gone softer in durometer. I wound up yanking out the main section, replacing it with a “self-inflating” sleeping bag pad, an Exped MegaMat 10, which just happens to sleeve perfectly into the hole vacated by the original main foam piece when the bed platform is in its “tucked in” position. See, the basic bed platform can be expanded to full queen width by pulling out a sliding section that then overhangs part of the dining area. I don’t need that extra width, so mine stays narrower, and the single Megamat fits right into the vacated hole.
I’ve found that I can’t trust user ravings about how great a particular mattress is, but I lucked out on this one. It’s basically a layer of open-cell foam inside an air mattress, and in my case, I run it with very little air pressure added. Heavenly, and more comfortable than a residential Sleep Number mattress I’ve had. Your mileage may vary. The Megamat is considered to be a “car camping” pad, since it’s heavier and less compact when rolled than a backpacking pad is. It is best stored open, not rolled, because of the foam inside.
The only thing to keep in mind with it is to think when you travel. If you’re expecting to gain 2,000 feet of elevation, you’ll want to consider allowing air out of it at the day’s start to avoid blowing it out along the way. You’ll know when you’ve lost elevation as soon as you flop onto it at the end of the day. At the extra-low pressures I use, the fill and bleed valves at the head end of the mattress are very easy to get at and use, and the supplied pancake pump is highly preferable to blowing air in by mouth, which the valves are not suited for anyway. Technically, this inflatable mattress is 1/2-inch too long for the Grandby’s available interior width. Big deal. But it probably does make access to the valves more difficult at higher pressures, since the valves are then wedged firmly against the wall and the thing will resist bending the head up for access. It can certainly be done, but you’re likely to find it easier to simply yank the whole thing up and out of place to play with the valves. I just can get away with using such low pressures that the FWC’s roof push-bar and front folding panels do not cause objectionable interference issues when lowering the roof for travel – as far as I can tell so far. Using higher pressures to get comfortable would certainly require opening the MegaMat 10’s exhaust valve a few minutes before lowering the roof, then reinflating it with the hand pump after raising the roof again. A 3″ mattress (like the MegaMat 7.5) may not need this deflation, but the 4″ MegaMat 10 does. Given the huge surface area, even very low pressures can fight the roof coming down all the way. As I recall, the FWC’s standard firm foam is 3″ thick, so there’s your guide. Try the MegaMat 7.5 first in an FWC. The travel alternative of course is to leave pressure up and remove the mattress from the platform area entirely, perhaps draping it over the dining table area. Many complain of cold seeping through the camper platform’s wood base overnight, and have various suggestions about what to add to it. This is a non-issue with the Megamat 10, and probably its thinner brother, the 7.5. Whatever cold you feel will be related to your top covers of choice, not the mattress.
I had trouble with the first Megamat I had shipped from REI to me. Once unrolled, the foam core could not seem to recover its original thickness, or even start. This is a fuzzy area that Exped could do more to aid. The general advice was to simply unroll it and let it sit for a couple/three days. Didn’t help. I figured that mine was simply old stock, and had been tightly packed for too long to recover. I drove it to REI in Phoenix and they happily offered me another. We unrolled it in the store and let it set for a half-hour. Better, but much more time would be needed. The employee who actually owned one was not working that day, so I had to go on faith. I took it home, and a couple of unrewarding days later, I managed to get through to Exped USA to whine. I’d expected it to “self-inflate”, as that’s its category. Nope, the foam will take it up only a third of its full rated four-inch thickness. More of note, it helps to sleep on it a few times, though I figured that would slow the process. Nope. That did the trick, and it seems to not be publicized anywhere. You read it here first. My advice is to see if you can buy a quick customer return at a discount, since the problem is more likely to be impatience and lack of knowledge than anything else. Just don’t expect it to ward off pet claws.
Having been warned away from sleeping bags by the crazies at Two Happy Campers, I opted to wrap the Exped in one sheet and buffer the other pieces in another. I added a conventional foam pillow at the head and another under my knees (back’s screwed up). A flannel top sheet then goes over me, then an old L.L Bean and/or army blanket, as necessary. With flannel PJ’s or sweats, this combo is good for 45 degrees, probably less for a younger person who actually generates mammalian body heat. For me, there’s no point in outfitting for lower temperatures – 45 is the lowest I can breathe in for long hours asleep without feeling some lung issues coming on. Perhaps spray painting an entire car with aerosol spray cans inside a garage wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do when I was an immortal 25 or so, d’ya think? Oh well. If it’s much over 80 degrees, you may as well delay going to bed as long as possible due to the platform’s high location. I figured the MegaMat’s insulation would make warm weather sleeping more of a problem than it actually is. Doesn’t feel that way – the Exped does not have that sweaty wrapped-in-plastic feel. It’s the stratified air itself. Open up more ventilation and watch another movie.
Considering how picky my bod is for sleeping surfaces and how precious a decent night’s sleep is to me, the Exped MegaMat quickly went from “overpriced air mattress” to “best dollar-value essential” practically overnight. It’s now on top of the standard residential mattress I’ve been sleeping on indoors for the last couple of months, too. For what you get, it’s a bargain.