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
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!
Bestseller No. 2
Self Inflating Sleeping Pad for Camping with LED Light Lantern, MOUNTDOG Built-in Foot Pump Ultralight Inflatable Waterproof Air Mattress for Backpacking, Camp, Hiking, Travel, Tent(Yellow)
  • 3-IN-1 UPGRADED VERSION: MOUNTDOG camping mat with built-in pillows and camping lights, integrates a variety of camping equipment needs into a small 1.83LB package.
  • EQUIPPED WITH LED CAMPING LANTERN: 5 Light Modes(low, middle, high, strobe, sos) and Free Sturdy Handle and Carabiner, so the camping lamp can be a camping tent light and also carried anywhere. Great for any outdoor activities, such as backpacking, hiking, camping, fishing, repairing car, night work and so on. Need 3 x AAA batteries (Batteries NOT included)
  • 2.75" THICK, DAMPPROOF & PRESERVE WARMTH: Featuring 2.75"/7CM tall after inflated, providing the optimal Comfort and Warmth your body needs for getting a good night's rest. Your weight is supported by dozens of flexing air cells just like a pocket sprung mattress.
  • COMPACT & LIGHTWEIGHT! GET ONE MORE FOR A TWIN BED: This ultralight sleeping mat has a single layer of air cells to give you the Lightest and Smallest packed-volume mat (11”x4.7”) without compromising comfort. Inflated size is 78” x23” x2.75”. Considerate design for hiking trips or any outdoor activity like backpacking, traveling or camping. With buttons on its side, you can easily attach one to another camping pad and make it A Twin Bed!
  • REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN: Heavy-duty 40D nylon + TPU layer(waterproof, heavy duty ripstop, puncture-proof, anti-leakage & anti-skid), all for a nice slumber. No squeaky noise, perfect to lay under your sleeping bag, in your tent, in your hammock, or any floor or hard surface.
Bestseller No. 3
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. 4
WELLAX UltraThick FlexFoam Sleeping Pad - Self-Inflating 3 Inches Camping Mat for Traveling, Hiking and Camping - 3inch Thickness for Better Stability & Support
  • WELLAX COMFORT PLUS SLEEPING PAD provides the optimal Comfort and Warmth your body needs for getting a good night's rest. Make your camp mornings perfect - NO MORE Back-pain or annoying Discomfort from rocky terrain or bumps underneath during your sleep as your weight is supported by the UltraFlex Memory Foam mattress. Roll over or sleep on your side on a WellaX Camping Mat and you won't wobble or bottom out.
  • COMPACT: Self-inflating convenience meets air mattress comfort to create the perfect camp mattress for you. The high-loft comfort (3” inch thick), the compactness (27”x8”), the convenience and the increased 9.5 R-Value. Your hiking trips will be comfortable and you will be sleeping like in your own bed. Inflated size is 77” x 28” x 3”, perfect for any outdoor activity like backpacking, traveling or camping;
  • REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN - TEAR RESISTANT: Laminated 20D Rip-stop Nylon and the TPU Layer. Provides a good balance between comfort and durability. It is Virtually SILENT, WATERPROOF, abrasion / tear resistant and reflects back radiant heat to the sleeper. No more crinkly or squeaky noise, your perfect pad for using in your tent, sleeping bag, or any floor or hard surface;
  • EASY TO INFLATE AND DEFLATE: Advanced SELF INFLATING technology that includes 2 valves, making it quicker to inflate or deflate. Say goodbye to your old Sleeping pad on floor that required either a pump or lots of breaths and effort to inflate. The PATENT PENDING WellaX Sleeping Pad has a R-value of 9.5, making it the perfect All-Season Mat;
  • NO RISK PURCHASE - Making you a happy customer is our main goal. Just try it, and if you don't absolutely Love it, send us a message and we will Refund or Replace your Purchase, NO QUESTIONS ASKED
Bestseller No. 5
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!

Last update on 2021-08-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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