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 Camping 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
Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping - Lightweight Waterproof Inflatable Sleeping Mat Built-in Foot Press & Pillow | Button Clips to Attach for Backpacking Hiking Traveling
  • 💦 3" Thick Sleep Supprt: The Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad enable you to making it a double bed, connect 2 or more Sleeping Pads together to create a wider sleeping space. Besides, comes with different colors on the each side, so that you can choose according to your preference. Perfect for any outdoor activities like backpacking, traveling or camping
  • 💦 Unique Inflation Design: RUNACC Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad just press pad with your foot a few times, and it takes one minute to fill up to get a comfortable sleeping pad for camping. which saves 40%-50% inflation time, more labor-saving and quicker than those inflated by mouth blowing or hand
  • 💦 Premium Materials: The inflatable sleeping pad uses High-end 40D nylon combines with TPU, making our Camping Air Mattress waterproof and puncture resistant. After inflated, it is able to support the weight up to 440lb/200kg and it offers plenty of stability and cushion at 200*60*8 cm/79*24*3 in, can work for 24h
  • 💦 Upgraded Inflation Valve: Designed with the separated air inlet and outlet, our Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad features better leak-proof performance. Inflatable sleeping pad with anti-leakage films in the valves, you shall never worry about air leaking. Also easy to deflate, you just take out the deflation plug
  • 💦 Considerate Accessory Included: For better using experience, we provide several transparent tapes in the package, which are intended for sticking on the crack in in case of the situation that the pad is punctured during the travel. It is an idea for home use, office break, outdoor park, lawn, beach, camping and so on. You can take it to anywhere and enjoy the comfort anytime
Bestseller No. 2
YSXHW Self Inflating Camping Pads Thick 4.7 Inch Lightweight Camping Sleeping Pad Ultralight,Compact, Waterproof PVC Inflatable Mat for Tent, Hiking and Backpacking (Black)
  • ✔️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.
Bestseller No. 3
Foxelli Sleeping Pad - Comfortable & Compact Self Inflating Sleeping Mat with Pillow, Lightweight, Moisture-Proof Camping Pad, Perfect for Hiking & Backpacking
  • SLEEP PEACEFULLY, ANYWHERE – No more waking up tired, grumpy, or with a sore back while staying as a house guest, camping or sleeping under the stars with your kids in the backyard. No matter where you are, you can count on a comfortable night’s sleep with Foxelli Sleeping Pad. Our 0.98” ultralight sleeping pads use advanced technology rapid rise foam that adjusts to your body shape, providing ultimate comfort, support, and warmth. Non-slip surface ensures you do not slide during the night.
  • QUICK + EASY AUTO INFLATION – No pump or equipment is needed to set up your pad. Simply twist the valve open, unroll the pad and it will inflate all by itself! For firmer support, add a few puffs to mattress and you’ll have a pad so comfy and inviting, you’ll forget you’re not in your own bed. For a softer surface, gently squeeze out a little air. Pillow can be inflated separately. Wake up ready to explore the great outdoors, while being well-rested with Foxelli self-inflating sleeping pad!
  • LIGHTWEIGHT + COMPACT – No need to carry extra weight while backpacking, camping, fishing, or visiting with family or friends. Foxelli portable, ultralight sleeping mat weighs only 2.42 lbs, and packs down to an incredibly small size (6” x 12.7”). When inflated, becomes large enough (24.61” x 72.05” x 0.98”) to fit adults comfortably. Pad compresses to roll up tightly for compact storage or travel. Each is equipped with a built-in pillow and 2 storage bags for different folding options.
  • NO AIR LEAKAGE – Military grade, heavy duty, polyester thermal fabric guarantees there is no air leakage and you get a durable, waterproof, insulated, abrasion and tear resistant, all season sleeping pad. Every one of our mats is thoroughly tested for leakage before shipping. Our pads are designed to ensure even air distribution inside the padded filling, and are suitable for cold weather, indoor & outdoor use. Two patches are included in case your sleeping pad accidentally gets punctured.
  • RISK-FREE PURCHASE: Don’t worry about missing Amazon’s 30-day return window. We Offer a 120-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee with a 3-year warranty for defects. If you’re not 100% satisfied, we’ll give you your money back. Buy with confidence!
Bestseller No. 4
SEMOO Self-Inflating Camping Sleeping Mat, Lightweight Water Repellent Coating pad for Hiking Camping
  • √SELF-INFLATING DESIGN: Self-inflating/deflating free-flow valve; 1.2 inch thickness when fully inflated with inflatable pillow; Ideal for Camping, Backpacking ,Hiking, Travel & Trekking, and Picnicking
  • √DURABLE AND COMFORTABLE: Waterproof polyester taffeta, ABS quick flow valve, high-resilience sponge filling. Vigorously massage the pad to expand when first used. For increased firmness, pad can be manually inflated by blowing into the valve. Close valve to maintain firmness
  • √CAN BE A DOUBLE SLEEPING PAD: two mats can be buckled together to make an extra large sleeping space
  • √LIGHTWEIGHT AND COMPACT: Compression straps for compact storage and easy transport. with package size of 16 X 7.9 X 7.9inch and package weight of 2.3 lbs
  • √100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE : Each of our inflatable sleeping mats has been through 72-hour leakage inspection before shipping.
Bestseller No. 5
Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad - Mat, (Large), Ultralight 14.5 OZ, Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking, Hiking Air Mattress - Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact, Camp Sleep Pad
  • 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 very convenient to carry. You’ll wish you found this years ago Comes with a sleek storage pouch.
  • THIS TOUGH DURABLE LARGE 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 - HEAVY DUTY RIPSTOP NYLON FABRIC – This lightweight sleeping pad is made of super strong waterproof and camping grade ripstop nylon fabric With a impressive 20 denier thickness used only for the strongest camping equipment designed to last a lifetime in the most severe conditions.
  • HASSLE-FREE LIFETIME REPLACEMENT - 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!

Last update on 2021-04-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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