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. Quick Inflating 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
SaleBestseller No. 1
TOBTOS Self Inflating Camping Sleeping Pad with Pillow, Thick 6 Inch Ultralight Sleeping Pad with Built-in Pump, Lightweight Sleeping Mat for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking, Tent (Grey)
  • 【New Upgraded Extra Thick & Wide Camping Pad】TOBTOS latest sleeping pad is wider and thicker than others on the market. Inflatable pads can be up to 6 inches thick once full of air, which is our biggest advantage. It can stay away from the hard ground and sleep comfortably in any sleeping position.
  • 【Camping Grade Durable Material】This sleeping mat is made of ultra-tough 40D nylon coated with a waterproof TPU coating, providing extreme pressure-bearing and durability. The edge of the camping mat is heat-sealed, so you don't have to worry about air leaks or tears, even under harsh conditions.
  • 【Lightweight & Ultra-Portable】The ultralight sleeping pad can be folded into a compact 10.6"x4.7" size and weighs only 2.36 pounds, just enough to fit in your backpack without adding any burden to your trip. It can be used as camping gear for backpacking trips or for overnight use by guests at home.
  • 【Ergonomic Integrated Design】The camping sleeping pad is equipped with a one-piece pillow that fits to the curve of the head and neck. The sides of the pad are higher than the middle position, it helps to give better support and balance, thus providing effective protection against turning over.
  • 【Easy Inflation & Deflation】No more blowing your sleeping pads with your mouth! It has a built-in foot pump that allows you to inflate it by foot in 1 minute. Simply open the deflation valve and it will deflate in seconds. You can adjust the firmness of the mat by adding or releasing air according to your preference.
Bestseller No. 2
Self Inflating Camping Sleeping Pad - Ultralight Camping Mat with Pillow & Foot Pump Thick Waterproof 3.2‘’ Compact Lightweight Sleeping Air Pads for Tent Backpacking Hiking Outdoor Portable Traveling
  • Longer & Wider Size Camping Air Matterss - Self-inflating camping pads measures up to 78.7" × 27.6" × 3". 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.
  • Sturdy & 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 3 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Compact & 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.
SaleBestseller No. 3
INVOKER Camping Sleeping pad – 3inch UltraThick Elasticity Foam Fast Self-Inflating Insulated Durable Camping Mat with Pillow for Tent Backpacking Traveling and Hiking Air Mattress(Green)
  • SUPER COMFORTABLE & SLEEPING PAD adopts a flat design, which is no different from the bed at home. No matter where you are, accompanying you to any corner of the world, the camping sleeping pad will give you a homely and warm like home. The starry sky in the sky and the sleeping mat on the ground will accompany you to sleep.
  • RAPID INFLATION TECHNOLOGY Sleep mat Using the most advanced Self-inflating technology, rapid inflation in 25 seconds, abandoning the old inflation method, when others are blowing, you have already fallen asleep on your sleeping mat.According to the test of many outdoor testers, the R value of the mat is 9.5, making it a perfect all-season mat;
  • LARGE SIZE Comes with storage bag to keep the sleeping pad in small size when hiking or camping.Inflated size is 77.2” x 27.6” x 3.15”, perfect for any outdoor activity like backpacking, traveling , Beach camping, car travel or camping;
  • SUPER TOUGH FABRIC 3.15-inch thickness FlexFoam and outdoor-grade tear-resistant fabric provide your body with the most comfortable and stable sleep, no longer worry about the stones and branches underground will damage the air cushion.used only for strongest camping equipment. Provides a good balance between comfort and durability. It is Virtually SILENT, WATERPROOF, No more crinkly or squeaky noise, your perfect pad for using in your tent, sleeping bag, or any floor or hard surface;
  • RISK-FREE BUYING Producing products that satisfy customers is our main goal. Try it with confidence, if you don’t like it completely, please send us a message, we will refund you, we also provide free replacement service for life, and the goods do not need to be returned, you only need to send us a message!
Bestseller No. 4
ECOTEK Outdoors Insulated Hybern8 4 Season Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad with Contoured FlexCell Design - Easy, Comfortable, Light, Durable, Hammock Approved - Sub Zero Temp Rating [Fire Orange]
  • EASY TO USE RAPID INFLATION & DEFLATION - Whether you’re setting up camp or breaking it down, the last thing you want is a sleeping pad that takes forever to blow up or pack up. Our innovative rapid one-way valve design makes both setup and stow a BREEZE (less than 10 breaths) unlike any air mattress or sleeping pad you’ve ever tried. We’re confident that the Hybern8 in your backpack will be one of the easiest to use camping accessories you’ll ever own.
  • 4 SEASON COMFORT IN ANY SLEEPING POSITION - Every body is designed as uniquely as the landscapes we love to explore, and the conforming sleeping pad we’ve developed is uniquely designed to support you however you like to catch your Z’s.. whether it’s sleeping on your side, back, stomach, or curled up like a lamb’s back while you count sheep. With 2.5 inches of loft and an R Value of 4.5, the Hybern8 provides 4 season warmth and comfort you can count on to help get you the shuteye you deserve.
  • HAMMOCK APPROVED VERSATILE DESIGN - Getting a good night's rest away from your own bed shouldn't limit where you lay your head at night when you travel. Our patent-pending FlexCell honeycomb design not only contours to any sleeping position, but wherever you prefer to call it a night - whether that’s in your tent in a sleeping bag, or hammock camping under the stars. Unlike the countless ‘rigid’ sleeping pads on the market, ours is flexible, comfortable, and supportive without compromise.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT, COMPACT, AND ULTRA DURABLE - Weighing in at 24.5 ounces and packable to roughly the size of a 1 liter water bottle, the Hybern8 sleeping pad is the bee’s knees when it comes to getting a great night's sleep without having to strap extra gear to your pack and haul it for miles. Just as important, the custom blend of 70 denier woven polyester is built to last with a softness you won't find in a nylon pad. Wear resistant, weatherproof, and built-to-last with zero compromise on quality.
Bestseller No. 5
Sleepingo Sleeping Pad for Camping - Ultralight Sleeping Mat for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking - Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact Camping Air Mattress
  • 2" THICK SLEEP SUPPORT - Want to sleep comfortably anywhere? Then you will love this sleeping pad! No need to suffer with a cheap, flimsy, and undersized outdoor sleeping pad! This quality portable camping pad is perfect; super sturdy and extremely comfortable - great for any sleep position!
  • WEIGHS ONLY 14 OZ AND PACKS DOWN TO THE SIZE OF THIN WATER BOTTLE - perfect sleeping pad to accompany you on your next backpacking trip! This ultra-light and super-portable sleeping pad will fit in any backpack and won’t cause backaches from its weight. You’ll wish you found this years ago; very convenient to carry and comes with a sleek storage pouch.
  • TOUGH, DURABLE, LARGE AND COMFY SLEEPING PAD - made with the strongest outdoor-grade material, this sleeping pad is perfect for any weather conditions. Able to accompany you on any type of adventure, this camping mattress pad inflates to an impressive size of 74" X 22" and 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, camping-grade ripstop nylon fabric. With 20 denier thickness, this sleeping pad is designed to last a lifetime in the most severe conditions.

Last update on 2022-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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