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
  • 【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 is very suitable for backpacking, family camping, hiking and for use at home for guests.
  • 【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
Elegear Double Sleeping Pad for Camping, 4" Ultra-Thick Self Inflating Camping Pad 2 Person with Pillow Built-in Foot Pump Camping Sleeping Mat for Backpacking, Hiking, Portable Camping Pad
  • 4" ULTRA-THICK SLEEP PAD: Elegear double sleeping pad measures 79" x 55" x 4" after inflation, much wider and thicker than other camping sleeping pads on the market. Unlike other cheap thin sleeping pads, this 4-inch thick self inflating 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 CAMPING 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 wide sleeping pad features a built-in foot pump. It takes only 2mins to fully inflate this thick queen sleeping pad by foot pressing, no mouth, no hands, clean and hygienic, even kids can finish inflating. Two double layer valves on the pillow can effectively prevent air leakage and achieve rapid deflation, just remember to close the valves 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 camping air mattress weighs only 5.5lbs, packs 2 people's sleeping gear in just one, ideal for family camping, hiking, backpacking, car trips, or for guests at home.
  • RISK-FREE PURCHASE: Elegear guarantees to serve you! We offer a one-year warranty for this camping mat. We hope you are happy with this camping sleeping pad! Owning it will bring you more pleasure. If you have any questions, suggestions, ideas, please feel free to contact us! In addition, this sleeping pad is easy to clean, just wipe it clean with a damp cloth and please do not use strong detergent.
Bestseller No. 3
AKASO Sleeping Pad Mat for Camping - Self Inflating Camping Sleeping Pads, Durable Waterproof Ultralight Camping Air Mattress for Backpacking, Car Camping, Hiking, Tent, Traveling (Green)
  • 【Unique Design & Sleep Better】The baffled design is supremely comfortable and keeps the camping sleeping pad from sliding out from under you during the night. Made of high-density nylon material, this 2.2" thick sleeping pad (76'' x 24'') does a great job of mimicking the feel of a normal mattress, let's enjoy the camping night time now
  • 【Protect Your Body & Worry-free】The sleeping pad help you insulate from the cold ground and hard rocks, make you just like sleeping at home but enjoy the camping life. Innovative rhombus and sided square air cell design distribute the pressure evenly, ensuring your body balance and superior comfort for your sleep all night long
  • 【Quick to Inflate & Deflate】With double non-leak air valves, this camping pad is easy to inflate and deflate. It takes a few minutes to inflate with air pump or by mouth, while it takes only a few seconds to deflate due to its separate deflation valve
  • 【Waterproof & Durable】This mattress is waterproof, durable, and tear-resistant, perfect for family camping, hiking, backpacking, car camping, travel and other outdoor activities. It can also be used at home for guests
  • 【Super Lightweight & Compact Easy to Carry】Our lightweight camping pads for sleeping is foldable and can be stored properly in a stuff sack (included) that is as small as 3.94"×7.87". It's compact and won't take up too much space in your backpack or suitcase, you can take this pad anytime, anywhere for any of your outdoor activity
Bestseller No. 4
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. 5
ZOOOBELIVES Extra Thickness Inflatable Sleeping Pad with Built-in Pump, Most Comfortable Camping Mattress for Backpacking, Car Traveling and Hiking, Compact and Lightweight - Airlive2000.
  • 4" THICK FOR MAXIMUM COMFORT in this premium self inflating sleeping pad. You get a very comfy extra thick 4 inch of air padding that protects from rough ground, hard floors, and cold conditions. Providing a true 4-season pad with an estimated R-value of 4. Get a great night's sleep anywhere at any time. Measures 74" x 24" x 4" fully inflated.
  • FAST INFLATABLE DESIGN with Built-in Air Pump. Simply stomp or hand press to inflate. Much easier than blowing it up with your breath or another pump, no batteries needed. And the outtake valve has the double-decked design, one is for inflating or slow release of air for adjusting the firm you like, and the 2nd is for quick deflation. So if you haven't got the skill of built-in pump yet, don't worry, you also can blow it up by mouth or electric pump though that valve.
  • RUGGED LONG-LASTING 75D Polyester pongee fabric with extruded PVC lamination. This is the most durable fabric around used for military parachutes. It's waterproof and warm which will protect you from the wet ground in the most extreme conditions. This sleeping mat will be a perfect match for your tent, sleeping bag, and camping cot.
  • ALTERNATIVE USE This camping mat folds up to a compact 6" x 6" x 14" just right to fit into a backpack or suitcase. Essential for backpacking, camping, car traveling, hunting, beach, etc. Even can be used as a floating mattress for great fun in summer! The Snaps also allow you to connect pads together to create the double camping pads, which provides more room to stretch out.
  • 100% MONEY BACK GUARANTEE ensures this will quickly become your favorite no-risk purchase. Many people are stocking up with several of these to outfit the entire family or share with friends. We committed 90-Days Money Back Guarantee / 2-Year Warranty / Life Time Support, A perfect gift for yourself and your loved ones.

Last update on 2022-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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