Camping Sleeping Pad Guide

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Do you have a great sleeping bag but you still feel worn out in the morning and your back is sore? The best sleeping bag may be useless without a quality sleeping pad. When lying in the sleeping bag it gets compressed under your body weight and insulation and comfort underneath you are lost.

So a quality sleeping pad is just as important as a good sleeping bag whether you are on an expedition of on a family camping trip. It cushions you from small stones and branches and insulates you against heat loss to the ground

Selecting the best sleeping pad for camping

When you are looking for the best sleeping pad, you need to consider similar criteria as when looking for a sleeping bag.

  • warm: (R-value): good insulation from the ground
  • durable: the mat is used outdoors it should last
  • lightweight: less to carry – gets you further
  • packable: already enough stuff in your pack
  • comfortable: well-rested for the next day
  • no noise: when the mat squeaks with every movement you don’t rest well
  • slip: the best sleeping pad does not help if you are half the night next to the mat

Insulation – The R-value

Besides being comfortable when lying down on, the most important feature of a sleeping pad is proper insulation against cold from below. The thicker the more insulation,  but also the surface texture and the structure play a role. A Honeycomb structure, for example, provides higher insulating performance. To identify the insulation properties of mattresses, the so-called R-value is used, which stands for the thermal resistance of a material or how a material conducts heat. The higher the R-value of a sleeping pad, the better the insulating.

  • R = 1: for 3 seasons, warm nights
  • R = 2: for 3 seasons, temperate nights
  • R = 3: 3 to 4 seasons, cooler nights
  • R = 4: 4 seasons, suitable for winter
  • R = 5: alpine winter bivouacs
  • R = 6: extended winter trips

Different sleeping pads for different requirements

  • Foam pad
  • Self-inflating Pad
  • Very comfortable Air Pad

Foam Pad

ALPS Mountaineering Foam Mat, Regular 375, Green

Foam pads are the simplest sleeping pads, they are made of polyethylene foam (PE). Pay attention that you buy one made of high-quality closed-cell foam. If the foam is of lower quality they wear out quickly and thus loses its insulating effect. Higher quality mattresses made of closed-cell polyethylene foam and are more elastic and pressure-resistant. They also do not soak up water when getting wet.

Foam mats are generally very tough and are less sensitive to punctures, stones and the like. Foam pads differ in terms of insulating performance depending on thickness and the surface. A dimpled or waffle structure creates voids between the mat and sleeping bag, which increases the insulation factor. They are cheap to manufacture, thus cheap to purchase. They are, however, not the most comfortable when compared to self-inflating pads or air pads.

Advantages:

  • Foam pads are lightweight and robust, cheap to buy.

Disadvantages:

  • Bulky when packed
  • Provide less insulation than the latter two.

Self-inflating sleeping pads

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Venture WV Mattress Large

The most popular sleeping pads are self-inflating mats. They use a combination of open-cell polyurethane foam insulation and air for cushioning enclosed in an air-tight envelope.  For transport, the sleeping mat is easily rolled up while the air is pressed out of the foam and the channels. To use it, simply open the valve, allow air to enter and the pad will inflate itself to its original shape as the pores and channels are filled with air.

Compared to conventional foam pads, the self-inflating mat offers the advantage of greater thickness, more comfort, and insulation from the cold ground. The insulation pad should be at least 2 fingers thick, but anything more than 4 fingers thick will not increase sleeping comfort notably anymore. But not only the thickness is responsible for the sleeping comfort of the mat. The structure and material of the foam play a crucial role too.  The best sleeping pads may target the foam to certain regions of the body for support while it is a little softer and more compliant in other areas. Don’t forget to consider the weight and packing dimensions. Look at the surface texture to minimize slippage especially when used on not entirely flat ground or if you are a restless sleeper.

Advantages:

  • Self-inflating sleeping pads provide good insulation and are comfortable to sleep on
  • They can be rolled up tightly and strapped to your backpack
  • Even when punctured, the mat will still provide some insulation

Disadvantages:

  • They are a bit heavier than foam mats and cost more

Air Pad, the most comfortable sleeping pad

Fox Outfitters Airlite Sleeping Pad for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking. Fast Inflatable Air Tube Design with Built in Pump.

These air construction sleeping mats are the most comfortable ones for backpacking. They are modern high-tech camping mats, which are made from air-tight, extremely lightweight laminates. The air chambers of those mats are filled with down or microfiber so they provide much higher insulation (R-value) than foam mats or self-inflating mattresses.

However, they need to be handled with more care, as they can be punctured or ripped easily. When damaged they deflate and their insulation is gone. Make sure you use them with a protective pad (groundsheet, tarpaulin, etc.) If you going remote or at a very low temperature you must have a repair kit or even a spare sleeping pad with you as the repair kit won’t help with large-scale damage or valve problems.

Advantages:

  • Air pads provide very good insulation to weight ratio and packing size
  • They’re very comfortable sleeping on

Disadvantages:

  • They must be actively inflated
  • Care must be taken to not accidentally puncture them
  • High price.

Sleeping Pads Summary

Chose a sleeping pad wisely depending on your physical needs, too thin is useless (though still better than no mat). Look for a good compromise between function and comfort.
You want the pad to be:

  • Lightweight
  • Small packing
  • Good protection against cold
  • Protection against rocks and hard ground
  • High lying comfort

Tips

  • Before pitching your tent,  unpack  the sleeping pad first as it takes a while to inflate
  • Careful when inflating by mouth with frost, moisture in your breath may cause ice crystals that damage the foam
  • On long trips or remote, have a repair kit with you or even a spare pad in the group
  • In hot weather leave the valve open to avoid damage by heat-induced pressure, keep it out of the sun
  • Never store the mat rolled up over a longer period, always spread it at a dry place with the valve open
Bestseller No. 1
Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad (Large) - Ultralight 14.5 OZ, Best Sleeping Pads for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking - Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact, Camping Air Mattress
  • 2" THICK SLEEP SUPPORT - you will love this sleeping pad! Want to sleep comfortably anywhere? No need to suffer with a cheap flimsy short outdoor sleeping pad! This quality portable camping mat pad is perfect. Super sturdy and extremely comfortable. Great for any sleep position.
  • WEIGHS ONLY [14.5 OZ] AND PACKS DOWN TO THE SIZE OF THIN WATER BOTTLE - perfect for a backpacking sleeping pad! No worrying about room in your backpack, no backaches due to heavy weight and very convenient to carry. You’ll wish you found this years ago. Comes with a sleek storage pouch.
  • THIS TOUGH, DURABLE, LARGE AND COMFY SLEEPING PAD FEATURES A LIFETIME WARRANTY - economically and practically efficient with an impressive size blown up of 75" X 23." This camping mattress pad will give you the comfort you need.
  • TEAR RESISTANT WITH HEAVY DUTY RIPSTOP NYLON FABRIC – this lightweight sleeping pad is made of super strong waterproof and camping grade ripstop nylon fabric. With an impressive 20 denier thickness, this sleeping pad is used only for the strongest camping equipment designed to last a lifetime in the most severe conditions.
  • HASSLE-FREE LIFETIME REPLACEMENT AND NO NEED TO RETURN - we take pride in our perfect customer service record on Amazon, and we promise to treat you like family - even for gifts! In addition to our lifetime replacement, if you aren't happy with your purchase, we will simply refund your money - no questions asked - just let the reviews speak for themselves!
Bestseller No. 2
Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping - Large 78.7" x 27.6" Ultralight Camping Pad with Foot Pump Thick Waterproof Sleeping Mat for Camping Hiking Backpacking Outdoor Tent Air Mattress
  • LONGER & WIDER SIZE CAMPING AIR MATTRESS - YIVAR Inflatable Sleeping Pad measures up to 78.7" × 27.6" × 2.2". It is able to provide you with a larger relaxing space, allowing you to sit or lie down and enjoy the coziness. You can sleep better under the stars after a long day of hiking.
  • INNOVATIVE BUILT-IN AIR PUMP - Simply stomp or hand press to fully inflate the camping mat in 1-2min, which is convenient and easy. Much easier than blowing it up with your breath or another pump.
  • SUPER STURDY AND EXTREMELY COMFORTABLE CAMPING SLEEPING PADS - To improve softness and durability, our camping air mattresses adopt premium ripstop and waterproof 40D nylon and utilizes TPU lining. Thick 2.2 inch camping pads for sleeping that protect from rough ground, hard floors, and cold conditions. This sleeping mat adopts an ergonomic texture design to the surface, helping people sleep well with more support for better balancing.
  • COMPACT AND LIGHTWEIGHT OUTDOOR SLEEPING PADS - The ultralight camping mattress pad weighs only 28 oz. It easily fits in your backpack and is effortless to carry around. Essential for backpacking, camping, car traveling, hunting, beach, etc.
  • UNIQUE CONNECTABLE & IMPROVED PILLOW - This sleeping pad is equipped with snap fasteners on the sides, with which you can connect two sleeping mats together easily, so as to form a double bed. With the requirements of the cervical spine in mind, we added an ergonomic pillow on this Camping Pad, which will perfectly fit the body curve and provide an excellent neck support.
SaleBestseller No. 3
WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad - Self-Inflating 3 Inches Camping Mat for Traveling, Hiking and Camping - Cold Weather Sleeping Pad for Camping
  • NO MORE BACK-PAIN : The only camping accessory you will ever need! Say goodbye to back pain because your weight is supported by the UltraFlex Memory Foam mattress. Roll over or sleep on your side.
  • COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT : Self-inflating convenience meets air mattress comfort to create the perfect camp mattress for you. Your hiking trips will be comfortable and you will be sleeping like in your own bed. Inflated size is 77” x 28” x 3”.
  • REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN & TEAR RESISTANT : Provides a good balance between comfort and durability. This camping pad is waterproof, tear-resistant and insulates heat. Use this camping mat in any weather and on any terrain.
  • EASY TO INFLATE AND DEFLATE : Self-inflating technology makes it easier for you to use this pad. Come rain or shine or even snow, the WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad will bring you the comfort you need.
  • PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT : What better way to celebrate Christmas than by giving the gift of an amazing adventure to your friends and family? Give one to each member of your family and enjoy a luxurious camping trip together.
Bestseller No. 4
Gear Doctors Self Inflating Sleeping Pad - 4.3 R Four Season Camping pad-1.5 Inch Thick Air Foam Hybrid- Perfect Size Mattress for Camping Backpacking Travel with Insulation for Cold Winters
  • 𝐌𝐚𝐱𝐢𝐦𝐮𝐦 𝐂𝐨𝐦𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐭: Say goodbye to sleepless stressful nights due to restlessness caused by a lumpy, thin, or flat sleeping pad. Now, thinly-cushioned, easily deflated, and poorly insulated sleeping pads no longer have to rob you of precious sleep.
  • 𝐖𝐚𝐫𝐦𝐭𝐡, 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐯𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, & 𝐓𝐨𝐩𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐏𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲: Thanks to the specialized thermo-insulation 4.3 R-value foam of our fully self-inflating compact sleeping pad units, you don’t have to run out of trunk space. Measuring a measly 8 x 12 inches and weighing only 2.2 lbs, our packs fully inflate to a hefty and comfortable 72 inch by 22 inch by 1.5 inch sleeping pad.
  • 𝐄𝐚𝐬𝐲 𝐒𝐞𝐭𝐮𝐩 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐓𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐧: Inflating and deflating our sleeping pads is as easy as 1-2-3. How easy? Just twist the pad’s leak-proof valve and unroll your pad, air starts filling up the pad’s open cell foam. You only need to add a few more puffs of air and your pad can hold its firm shape for days!
  • 𝐓𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐍𝐨𝐧-𝐀𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐢𝐜 𝐎𝐮𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐒𝐡𝐞𝐥𝐥: Not only will our pad’s 75d micro coated green polyester stand up to the test of time thanks to its resistance to water and U.V rays, it has a skin-friendly hypoallergenic outer coat so you’re assured of a comforting itch-free full night’s rest.
  • 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞 𝐃𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐲: Manufactured with the latest high-performance materials technology based on the highest industry quality standards, we stand by our product’s performance even in the most extreme weather conditions. How confident are we of our product’s ability to take whatever mother nature throws its way? We’ll back it up with 24/7 customer support for the life of the product! Just reach out to us and we’ll be sure to get back to you within 24 hours.
Bestseller No. 5
YSXHW Self Inflating Camping Pads Thick 4.7 Inch Lightweight Camping Sleeping Pad Ultralight,Compact, Waterproof PVC Inflatable Mat for Tent, Hiking and Backpacking
  • ✔️COMFORTABLE AND DURABLE: This roomy sleeping pad (75'' x 27'' ) has increased the thickness of 4.7'' for super comfort; it adopts an ergonomic texture design to the surface, helping people sleep well with more support for better balancing. soft and extremely durable, against tear, wear-resistant and easy to wash. Super sturdy and extremely comfortable. Great for any sleep position.
  • ✔️WATERPROOF FLOATABLE: The pad is fully made of 80D polyester pongee with PVC coating, which makes it completely waterproof and floatable on the water as a floating mattress for taking a nap under the sunshine. Max load is up to 700lb. Providing a true 4-season pad. Get a great night's sleep anywhere at any time.
  • ✔️BUILT-IN PUMP: Not to blow your air mattress up by mouth anymore! It features a built-in foot pump, allowing you to inflate it within just 2 min.One foot steps on the hole, the other step one step away from the hole. Repeat this and then it's done. Also we have double deflation valves which can efficiently inflate or deflate.
  • ✔️EASY-PACK TO TRANSPORT: This lightweight sleeping mat (3.1 lbs) is foldable to be placed into a carry size packing bag (included), with a handle on the top, you can take this pad with you anytime anywhere effortlessly. Our durable air mattress is made of lightweight, flexible, abrasion-resistant nylon. The high-quality material used for our sleeping mat is water resistant and rip resistant ensuring you a stress-free, comfortable sleep anywhere in the great outdoors.
  • ✔️QUALITY GUARANTEED: Our 100% satisfaction promise to you. No false claims. We promise to respond in less than 24 hours (many times in minutes). YSXHW always aims to provide best products with best price and perfect service to our customer.

Last update on 2021-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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