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 Inflatable 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 camping air mattress 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 camping pad 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
Elegear Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping, 4" Ultra-Thick Camping Mattress Pad with Pillow Built-in Foot Pump Camping Sleeping Mat for Backpacking, Hiking, Portable Camping Pad
  • 4" Ultra-thick Sleeping Pad: Elegear self inflating sleeping pad measures 79" x 26" x 4" after inflation, much thicker than other camping sleeping pads on the market. Unlike other cheap thin sleeping pads, this 4-inch thick inflatable sleeping pad will keep you away from the hard ground and won't touch the ground no matter how you flip. You will feel the comfort and security of lying on a home mattress when using our inflatable sleeping pad, and enjoy a good night's sleep during a camping.
  • Top Comfortable Caming Pad: Unlike ordinary thermoformed sleeping pads, Elegear ultralight sleeping pad adopts a unique drawstring support technology. The air support unit can be independently deformed to meet the body curve and effectively disperse gravity, increase the weight-bearing capacity of the inflatable sleeping pad to 800lbs. Plus an ergonomic one-piece pillow, this camping sleeping mat is much more comfrtable than others and will give you top-of-the-line comfort.
  • Built-in Foot Pump: No mouth blowing, no extra pump, Elegear camping air mattress features a built-in foot pump. It takes only 2mins to fully inflate this thick sleeping pad by foot pressing, no mouth, no hands, clean and hygienic, even kids can finish inflating. The double layer valve on the pillow can effectively prevent air leakage and achieve rapid deflation, just remember to close the valve tightly before inflation. NOTE: the inflation time depends on the speed of your foot pressing.
  • Durable & Portable: Ultra-thick waterproof 40D nylon and TPU eco-friendly materials, durable and tear-resistant, make this compact sleeping pad perfect for harsh environments in the field. The thickened film ensures that our self inflating camping pad is effectively puncture and moisture resistant without air leakage. Such a inflatable camping pad weighs only 2.4lbs, ideal for family camping, hiking, backpacking, car trips, or for guests at home.
  • Go Camping With Your Family And Friends: There are 6 buttons on each edge of the sleeping pad, just connect the buttons and you can connect two or more sleeping pads together. Call your family and friends to go camping and enjoy a comfortable night together with Elegear sleeping pads! Tip: it's recommended to connect the buttons before inflating. Elegear guarantees to serve you! Any questions, suggestions and ideas please feel free to contact us, we will offer you a well-pleasing solution!
SaleBestseller No. 3
Sleeping Pad - WANNTS Ultralight Inflatable Sleeping Pad for Camping, 75''X25'', Built-in Pump, Ultimate for Camping, Hiking - Airpad, Carry Bag, Repair Kit - Compact & Lightweight Air Mattress(Green)
  • 【Innovation Hexagon Design】Just Want to sleep comfortably anywhere? WANNTS sleeping pad innovation hexagon design is made special with body mapping technology.No need to suffer with a cheap, flimsy, and undersized outdoor sleeping pad! This quality portable camping pad is perfect,great sturdy and super comfortable - great for any sleep position!
  • 【Foot Press to Inflate-Only 20s Needed】 There is no need to inflate with your hands, mouth, or a pump for our camping sleeping pad. It just only takes 20s after you inflate the sleeping mat fully by stamping the spot of the built-in pump with your foot.With anti-leakage films in the valves, you would never worry about air leaking when using it! Besides, super quick to deflate - take out the deflation plug.It's time to plan a camping and hiking with our innovative camping sleeping pad now!
  • 【Sturdy, Durable, Compact But Lightweight Sleeping Pad】Made with the strongest outdoor-grade material, WANNTS sleeping pad is perfect for any weather conditions. Be able to accompany you on any type of adventure, our camping mattress pad inflates to an impressive size of 75" X 25" and will give you the comfort you need.The sleeping pad is waterproof and only 30OZ weight, making it perfect and super easy to carry for any outdoor activities.
  • 【Get all What You Need for Camping Sleeping Pad】 The package comes with 1 Sleeping Pad, 6 Repair Patch Kit, 1 Storage Bag, 1 User Manual.You can get everything you need for ourdoors hiking, camping,backpacking, trip.
  • 【Buy Two for a Double Bed! Refund/Replacement Warranty】 With buttons on its side, you can easily attach one to another sleeping pad and make it a double bed according to your need. Any question, please feel free to contact us.Our professional customer service is therefore here to do whatever it takes to promise your satisfaction. That's why your purchase comes backed with our incredible warranty; anytime, any reason, no questions asked!
SaleBestseller No. 4
Clostnature Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping - 1.5/2/3 inch Camping Pad, Lightweight Inflatable Camping Mattress Pad, Insulated Foam Sleeping Mat for Backpacking, Tent, Hammock
  • IDEAL COMFORT: When you're in the backcountry one comfort you shouldn't sacrifice is a good night's sleep. A sleeping pad is cheap sleep insurance that offers superior cushioning and support, you won't feel the ground with this foam sleeping pad. Do not be anxious about the thickness, 1.5'' thick is just right to balance comfort and portability. What's more, we offer a limited ONE-YEAR WARRANTY!!!
  • EXCELLENT INSULATION: Waterproof fabric with 1.5'' thick memory foam padding. The camping sleeping pad introduces environment-friendly material without any plastic or chemical smell, this inflatable sleeping pad helps you have a pleasant sleep at night by offering firm support. Up to 4 R-value provides ultimate insulation in cold weather
  • SELF-INFLATING CAMPING PAD: Super easy! No pump is needed, twist the quick valve to inflate in minutes. Roll up the camping mat to deflate. The pillow attached to the camp pad can be used separately, the quick button makes pressure adjustable. Reclaim your time from tedious air-blow stuff
  • COMPACT&LIGHT: Open size: 6'3''x2'x1.5'', rolled size: 13''x6''x6'', weight: 3.1lb. 2 ways packaging design: dumpy or slender packaging depends on your needs. Two straps and 1 storage sack for easy storage and carry
  • Every camping sleep pad has a 48-hour leakage inspection, this allows protection as you use it as your sleeping bag pad, cot pad, camping bed, or hammock pad. Snaps design allows both sides of the foam camping mat to be connectable to double for couples and family
SaleBestseller No. 5
Double Sleeping Pad - Self Inflating 4" Extra-Thick For 2 Person with Pillow Built-in Foot Pump Inflatable Sleeping Mat for Backpacking, Hiking, Traveling, Tent, Portable Camping Mat
  • ☀ EXTRA THICK & WIDE 2 PERSON CAMPING PAD☀ If you are tired of those cramped ones, this double sleeping pad will meet your needs, up to 79.8"*53.5" when inflated, big enough for 2 tall people. The 4" thickness allows your body to keep off the hard ground, providing better support whether lying flat or on your side for a good night's sleep during camping.
  • ☀ EASY TO INFLATE & DEFLATE ☀ The inflatable camping pad is equipped with a built-in foot pump, which can be fully inflated by stepping on it for 1-3 minutes, with no mouth or additional air pumps. The two double-layer valves on the pillows can effectively prevent air leaking and deflating in seconds. NOTE: Inflation time depends on how fast you pedal, and the hardness of the air pad depends on how much you prefer to inflate.
  • ☀ DURABLE & COMFORTABLE CAMPING MAT ☀ 2 Person Camping Sleeping Pad is made of camping grade 40D nylon and TPU-coated hard-wearing and no tearing fabric for many different terrains, durable enough for the harsh outdoors. Ergonomic design and pressure-dispersing water ripple design bring a comfortable camping experience.
  • ☀ THE BEST ULTRALIGHT COMPACT SLEEPING MAT ☀ This double camping mattress only weighs 3 lbs and can be compressed to 12*5.9*5.9 inches, which is as small as a water bottle. With a built-in air pump and pillows, there is no need to carry extra pillows. It fits easily in your backpack, and it's ultra-light and space-saving, you can take it with you wherever you go backpacking, hiking, climbing, camping, and traveling.
  • ☀ 100% RISK-FREE PURCHASE ☀ We offer a one-year warranty for this camping mat. We hope you are pleasure with this 2 people camping sleeping pad! Owning it will bring you more happiness. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to contact us! Besides, this camping mattress is easy to clean, if there is any dust or dirt, just wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Last update on 2024-02-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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